Local Heart, Global Soul

April 14, 2015

Canals, Tunnels… Beautiful Light And Pitch Black Darkness…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Last summer some friends took me out for a Saturday day trip to the Noord-Braband Dutch town of  ‘s Hertogenbosch for a day trip.

Because they also had a visiting overseas guest they had been reading up on tourist information for things to do as an easy day trip and a series of interesting boat trips around the historic inner city had grabbed our interest as a good choice.

We’ve chosen to only do one of the boat trips today and are finding the guided tour very enlightening. Due to the narrowness of the canals in some places, the boats here have all been especially built, and when they say that sometimes it’s a tight fit, they really mean it.

Other sections of course are no problem, but basically when the guide says “duck” and “please keep your hands, camera’s and elbows within the confines of the boat”  he means that too, all of very good reason. We also learn that not only were many of the canals covered in order to provide space for homes and businesses, but that on many occasions “business” took place on the waterways themselves, the longer tunnelled sections  of canals being infamous as meeting points for illicit liaisons, smuggling of contraband,  hideaways for thieves and probably every sort of illegal trade over the centuries.

To prove just how hard it would have been to catch people, (and after due warning as not to scare small children and those of fragile sensibilities) our guide turns the boats lights, and we are instantly plunged into the deepest darkness, with only the eerie lapping of the water around us.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

I am not claustrophobic but can easily imagine that these long and often curving tunnels, where no exit light can be seen from whence you came or to where you are going,  must have struck terror in the hearts of the strongest enforcers of the law, especially in the days when superstition ruled and those you were tailing were ruthless.

It does not surprise me that few dared follow criminals down here, if it’s this eerie and pitch dark in the day time, I can only imagine how much worse it would be to navigate here at night.

The canals vary greatly in size and the amount of building above them varies from a simple walkway, a single house or building to entire streets, so the tunnels also vary greatly in size and length.

In some areas the light bounces up from the water at just the right angle to create moving patterns on the tunnel entrance or bridge above,  a beautiful sparkling, mesmerising display.

Some tunnels have what look like vents (often this was the “well” for the family above, and buckets would be lowered to fetch water), there are also bat houses built into the roof at regular intervals along the tunnel system and in a few places, large spider colonies in some of the alcoves (one piece of information I really didn’t need to hear).

At one point a strange “roof” appears in the tunnel (second photograph in this post) it’s a roof from down here but above us it’s the floor of the city stadhuis (city council / city hall) …when they renovated it they added a special perspex floor section where the public inside the building above can watch the tourist boats glide past in the tunnel below.

We are also told that above us in one of the tunnels is a “Hema” (a large department shop of a national chain) and somewhere else the tunnel goes right under a bank.  They probably have some very interesting security measures for their floor.

The covered canals go quite literally under modern life… and walking around on a street or in a shop or house above you would be oblivious to what was solid beneath your feet and what was not. One of our fellow passengers asks about the dangers of flooding, apparently the risks are negligible due to the heavy regulation of water levels by pumping, and this has been significantly increased after some close calls in recent decades.

The inner city canals and tunnels have been more highly regulated too, especially since their biggest renovation in the 1970’s, many of the stone rainwater drainage shoots have been removed because they were causing damage to the canal walls, many side doors into private houses have been sealed off for security and maintenance reasons, many “roof” well holes closed off to prevent accidental drownings etc. There is still enough individuality and quirkiness along the route and it’s unique style makes it well worth a visit in person.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

 

March 25, 2014

Waterways And Parting Ways…

Filed under: City Centre,DELFT,LIFE,PHOTOGRAPHY,THE NETHERLANDS — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
Tags: , , ,
(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

There is something peaceful about waterways: they are often the quiet, restful spaces between the bustling busy streets, they reflect the sunshine, clouds and patterns of the surrounding trees and buildings.

In my last post about Velvetines’ adventures I will leave you with a pictorial post about Delft’s canals. Velvetine has squeezed in all sorts of adventures, tried new culinary delights, seen many new places, put up with and survived the chaos that is Family Kiwidutch.

Her bags on this day back in the summer of 2012 were being packed and we were making ready our goodbyes, trying to hold back tears as we have had so much fun and parting is always the sticky bit that we never do particularly well.

She’s tired of course because we have worn her out but we just (half) jokingly told her to make good use of the fourteen hour plane trip back home to Singapore to catch up any sleep she lost at our place and we will of course see her S’pore when we next pass through on our way to New Zealand sometime in the future. Velvetine is someone that  Himself and I find intelligent,  funny, good company and easy to get along with, she’s a  fellow Foodie and she and I, with our love of detail, architecture, old buildings, churches, stained glass and quirky things are kindred spirits so hanging out together is never a bore.  Living half a world away from one another, we can of course only see each other every few years, but we know that each time that moment comes and we are back in each other’s company, the threads are picked up  from where we last left off, it’s like our last meeting was only yesterday. True friends can stand the test of time and distance, and Velvetine is one of these. When true friendship is in your heart, your friend is really only a heartbeat away.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

April 6, 2013

Big Houses, Cramped Houses and Feathered Homes in the Smallest of Nooks and Crannies…

Filed under: PHOTOGRAPHY,THE NETHERLANDS,UTRECHT (Province) — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
Tags: , , ,
(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

I’m taking you on a retroactive tour of Utrecht’s canals… we did this trip with one of my New Zealand cousins and his family a few years back and it’s taken me until now to sort through the photos and tell you about our adventures . We’ve left the inner city canals with their distinctive upper and lower “streets/ quays”  behind, and have now branched out to where the smaller waterways join larger ones.

The houses around the canals here are generally far bigger, the exception being the smaller rows of alms houses built by the rich for the poor, widows and the like (first two photographs).

They sit in the shadow of their rich owner dwellings, small in comparison and first I thought “nice to get a house if you were poor and in desperate need”…  except it wasn’t actually a house the poor would get… it was just one single room and no matter how big the family of the widow or poor person was, all had to be squeezed into their one room.

I supposed that in the centuries before welfare benefits and social housing, these cramped conditions would have been most welcome since the alternative would have been the street… but all the same,  it can’t have been comfortable or easy living for people who were already at the bottom of the heap.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Just a low and unassuming bridge marks the junction of “Nieuwegracht” (New Canal) and “Oudegracht” (Old Canal), much of the New Canal having been dug by hand.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

There’s a lock that marks the main waterway connection with Amsterdam, as well as many smaller waterways that connect to various nearby districts.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

This bridge is  called ” The Ladies Bridge”…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Back in the city centre, we learn that a large building on the upper street level is the ancient  “Kastel Utrecht” (Castle Utrecht)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

A multitude of bird-life inhabit the canals too, we saw many riverbank nests on the more open and grassy parts of the canal, but also a next of chicks tucked neatly into a crevice deep under a bridge, and a crow who was being a tad fussy about the position he needed to be in, in order to drink from one of the rain water drainage pipes that  empty water from the street above, into the canal below.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Everything we saw from the water gave us a new perspective of how the water transport system used to work here, and since we also learned that some of the larger refuse collections are still made using barges on the canals,  evidence that the water transport system is still effective indeed.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

February 24, 2013

Like Bridge Over… (Lots of Water)… I Will Raise Me Up…

Filed under: PHOTOGRAPHY,THE NETHERLANDS,Traditionally Dutch — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
Tags: , , ,
(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Everyone knows that the Netherlands fights a constant battle against water.

From the fabricated story of  the little boy who saved the day by putting his finger in the dyke, to the massive sea walls and protective sea defence system that connect to an intricate pumping system that pumps the country dry 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year.

Without them the water-table would rise to it’s natural level and flood much of the country that stands below sea level.

Being masters of claiming land back from Mother Nature means compromising too, once you pump the water off the land you need somewhere  for it to go and this means more little waterways than you can count, from tiny canals that run like stripes though farmers fields to large marine highways that transport everything from pleasure-craft to huge industrial barges.

Canals often follow roads and bridges allow access over them to houses, farms and villages so of course there are bridges galore.  As we follow our brother in law to the place where his little sailing boat is currently moored, I start taking photos of just a few of the bridges that we see…

Many of them are simple lifting bridges that will allow the smaller type boat traffic to pass beneath once the middle section is raised, others are more fixed but raised to allow the same.  The windmill may be an internationally known icon of The Netherlands but these little lift up bridges are everywhere and as much a true symbol of the country as the mills are… let’s take a look…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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