Local Heart, Global Soul

April 29, 2013

Pigs Might Not Fly, But They Do Raise The Roof!

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Today’s post is about a family outing that we made to Plaswijkpark in Rotterdam a few weeks ago.

After checking out some of the outdoor activities, Kiwi Daughter and I find ourselves  making for the nearest indoor attraction because once again the drizzle is back.

The building  we head towards  incorporates a feature that I’ve become familiar with in the Netherlands but have never seen elsewhere outside the country.

This feature is a Dutch “hooiberg” (haystack). As you know, space is limited here so instead of large sheds to put hay in, the Dutch have perfected a compact method where the hay barn can actually be expanded and retracted in size vertically.

Here’s how it works: the hay barn is square and there are four very large poles at each corner. The roof has holes in each corner too and a special way of locking the roof into position. Depending on how much hay is in storage, the roof is raised or lowered and locked into position as required, so the hay remains compact and dry. This particular hooiberg  (pronounced “hoy berg”)  has a piggery incorporated into the lower part of it  so I wanted to search for a picture of one that was solely a haystack.  The best photo I could find showing the design principle was here in an advertisement for a book on how to build an East Netherlands style haystack:  http://www.blurb.com/b/154378-een-oost-nederlandse-hooiberg-bouwen 

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

I love the ingenious design and to want to photograph them if we are out and about but sadly most barns are behind farm houses so I’ve gotten so far are mostly blurred glimpses. Annoyingly the one and only occasion I have ever seen one fairly close up, I didn’t have a camera on me (a mistake I don’t intend to make again)  so should I find another one  in the future where a more detailed look is possible, I will make a blog post for you.

Inside we find that this is where  several families of pigs live. a very large sow is  laying sleepily  in the corner whilst her three inquisitive offspring play “investigate the visitors”.

The word for “piglets” in Dutch is “biggetjes”  and these biggetjes  take a shine to Kiwi Daughter who is very happy to stroke their heads. Then one also take a fancy to her jacket and tries to take a bite.

It might have also been trying to suck on it, or just be inviting her to play but it definitely wanted to hang on to her. It’s still quite a small animal and not very strong so Kiwi Daughter  laughed said she was fine with it, after a minute of  asking it what it wanted with her jacket, she gently prised it off.

I think that sign said these were a curly haired breed of  pigs, and certainly they were very distinctive looking.  Further along there were more enclosures with other animals but we pass by these for the moment because there is one enclosure that Kiwi Daughter  really wants us to go to next…

(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)

April 19, 2013

Dutch Swimming is as Easy as A,B,C…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

One of the things that is standard practice in the Netherlands is that very strong emphasis is put on the necessity of children having swimming lessons.  This seems a very logical idea in a country where canals are almost everywhere and kids accessibility to water is usually only just a short distance away.

The ethos of the importance of learning to swim well is in fact so strong here, that one of the swimming staff I spoke to said that 96% of children in the Netherlands learn to swim and get all three swimming diplomas, which I think is an amazing credit to Dutch society and demonstrates a huge level of recognition of the responsibility needed when surrounded with so much natural water.  It may also be a reason why the Dutch often do well competition swimming all the way up to Olympic level.

There are three main national diploma’s called the “A”, “B” and “C”  that need to be achieved  and the idea is to both teach water safety to children and confidence and enjoyment in recreational swimming and water sports.

Before children start with their A, B,   and C diploma’s, there are also three “Puppy” diplomas that introduce young children to basic water skills, include play with water skills and promote confidence …things like getting your face wet, holding your breath underwater, opening your eyes underwater and the like.

I’m ashamed to say that growing up in New Zealand I never learned to swim particularly well,  I can do a few basic strokes if forced and can’t open my eyes under water. I usually wear glasses or contact lenses and without these, in the water can’t see very well, my lung condition means I can’t hold my breath particularly well either so combined with my lack of confidence in my swimming skills, I never feel particularly safe in deep water.

I would of course not hesitate to jump in to save my kids (or any child) but if I’m really realistic I am hardly going to have the physical skills to be a hero lifesaver. Baywatch material I most certainly am not.

I’m highly impressed to see that Dutch swimming lessons have a real depth to their training and take a very practical pragmatic approach. They expect children to learn to swim with their eyes open,  Diploma swimming examinations require children to perform tasks with clothing and shoes on, they need to do things like a forward-roll into the water, clothed, and get themselves out of the water onto a large floating mattress unaided also clothed.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The logic is that the biggest risk of accident and drowning will come when they fall unexpectedly into a canal, or off a boat and there is a high possibility they will be clothed and need to know what sensations of disorientation underwater and weight of the clothes are like should they ever fall into the water in this way.

They are taught not to panic and how to react in a controlled, safe environment and the tasks even for very young children are quite substantial, the First diploma is the “A” certificate and children are required to be able to swim 50 metres in both breaststroke and backstroke and swim 3 meters underwater through a large hole in a canvas panel for instance, and this increases to 75 meters and 6 meters underwater for the “B” diploma exam.

Later for the “C” diploma the kids have to achieve 100 meters swimming, in swimsuit and then swimsuit and clothes, with obstacles and forward rolls into the water, and 9 meters underwater and swimming through the panel with the hole in it.

Children who have not yet achieved their “A” diploma are required to wear inflatable armbands in all public swimming pools until they do, and many school and outdoor organisations will not let children take part in water activities if they have not achieved the three  “A”, “B” and “C” diplomas. Therefore there is also a strong social  and peer incentive for the kids to loose their armbands and gain all of the A,B,C diplomas.

Kiwi Daughter is an amazingly strong swimmer,  she can swim about 24 meters of a 25 meter pool completely underwater and that last meter is annoying her so much that it’s now a goal she’s working on. Himself as house-Papa first took her swimming when she was 6 weeks old and they went pretty much every week for the first three years of her life, and on occasion more when friends came too.  Time constraints were harder to manage when Little Mr. arrived 3.5 years later as I had a bed-rest pregnancy with him  because my oxygen levels were too low and we were in and out of hospital constantly for checks during the third trimester.

Little Mr. had a kidney infection at 11 weeks old and was hospitalised for almost 2 weeks as was I shortly afterwards  for complications to my COPD  lung condition due to reduced medications during the pregnancy.  Little Mr. had many follow-up hospital appointments and whilst they all luckily turned out fine in the end and he went on to be a very healthy toddler,  the contrast in the amount of swimming opportunities he had could not have been greater when compared with Kiwi Daughter at the same age.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

For me it’s really clear that introducing your child to fun water experiences at a very early age, and keeping these opportunities up regularly, must surely influence that child’s confidence and eventual ability in the water.

Little Mr. has achieved his  “A” diploma but is currently being held back for the “B” because they need to build his confidence far more in all areas of the test. He has good swimming days and less good swimming days, some days he just can’t manage the underwater parts of the test at all and we have to heap on the encouragement so that he will continuing trying, whereas Kiwi Daughter very rarely missed the targets and was usually the first,  fastest, strongest and most confident  in her swimming classes.

Little Mr. will get all of his swimming diplomas in the end, as do almost all children here in the Netherlands and I have nothing but praise for the thousands of swimming trainers and volunteers in this country who place an amazing importance and seriously high standard of  competence on the kids because they understand the responsibility of living in an environment where a water related tragedy could often only be meters away.

Many countries around the world could do well to emulate  the Dutch swimming system for kids,  I myself, deeply aware of my own lack of swimming skills can only wish that I had learnt to swim like my children have. Maybe one day when my foot functions properly again I will face my fears and take a few swimming lessons myself. In the meantime I remain firmly planted on dry land as much as possible and take a big breath of relief that my kids are already so much better at swimming than I am.

http://www.npz-nrz.nl/index.php?sid=60

March 23, 2013

A Very Different Sort of Parking Garage…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

In my final post  for the moment about Hollands Spoor Station, I am always amazed about how many people in the Netherlands cycle… in fact there are said to be around 14 million bikes in the Netherlands, and with a population of about 17 million people that’s some serious cycling.

What’s even more amazing is how often these bikes are used… forget just taking the bike out for a Sunday jaunt maybe if the weather is nice, No: the Dutch ride their bikes daily, in rain, hail, sleet and shine.

Due to my lung condition I’m the only non-cyclist in our household, but our home still currently boasts  four bikes, plus  a child’s “step”  (a non-motorised scooter) and a unicycle that Kiwi Daughter is admirably proficient in riding.

Until a short while ago we had several more kid bikes on top of this tally too but they’ve gone to the neighbours after our kids grew a bit big for them.

Bikes here in the Netherlands are regularly seen overloaded with goods you wouldn’t think possible on a bike:  Amongst the things I’ve personally seen locals peddling down the city cycle paths with are:  a mattress for a double bed (I was waiting for a tram and when this guy went past everyone in the tram halt laughed and then loudly cheered and encouraged him on), a man balancing large IKEA-like flat pack furniture, a bedside cabinet perched on the back carrier…

And then there are the human cargo’s: a girl peddling whilst her boyfriend on the back carrier  held on to two crates of beer, one on each side,  a young guy peddling with a girl on the bar, another on the handlebars and a third on the carrier behind, and people carrying  kids, groceries, shopping parcels and flowers in such massive quantities that the tyres were  squished almost flat to the road… and much more too much to detail in one blog post.

As I’ve mentioned before, it’s common practice for Dutch train commuters to own two or three bikes: two will be old bikes that are hopefully not worth stealing… one gets ridden from home to the train station, and left locked up in the bike racks there, the other is waiting in a bike rack at the Station of their destination and get ridden from the station to work. The process is reversed for the journey home.

Often there will also be a “good”  bike at home that lives in the hallway, or in the garden shed if you are lucky enough to have a garden or kept in  a “fietsstalling”  ( with a paid local bike storage business). This is the more expensive bike that’s used for recreational touring,  social trips etc.

This cycle “garage” at Hollands Spoor  is actually rather small if you compare it to for instance the one at The Hague’s Central Station… but the limit  is more imposed by lack of space around Hollands Spoor Station rather than by lack of numbers of bikes needing to be parked.

Over time, I’ve photographed it from a distance, from inside and from the trams that run alongside it:  Let’s take a look…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

January 29, 2013

Breaking News: Handing Over the Reigns of a Reign…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch via NOS TV News)

I’m jumping out of my Harderwijk Dolphinarium posts to bring you some breaking News:

Last evening we switched on the Dutch News at 6.00 p.m. to find that there was only one item of news on the News that evening: The Dutch Queen, Queen Beatrix was scheduled to address the nation on all TV and Radio channels simultaneously at 7.00 p.m.

The Press, Royal watchers and everyone who might be in the know all speculated for the next hour on what the big announcement would be, but only one topic was likely: the news that she would be announcing her abdication.

Unlike English Kings and Queens who as one Dutch commentator rather literally put it:  “die in harness”,  the last three Dutch Monarchs have chosen to hand over the reigns of the job of Head of State whilst their oldest child was still young and strong enough to take over the strenuous duties of constant travel and public engagements. The Dutch Monarch still plays a strong role in Government and affairs of State, so much so that Queen Beatrix has a working place and offices close to the Dutch Parliament.

Some speculated that since not even privileged Royal correspondents who are often privy to inside information had been forewarned of the announcement or it’s contents that possibly there might be a different reason for the broadcast (with reference to the fact that Beatrix’s second oldest son Prince Johan Friso has been laying in a coma in a London hospital since the beginning of 2012 after  being transferred there after being buried  by an avalanche in Austria whilst on a skiing holiday.)

(photograph © Kiwidutch via NOS TV News)

(photograph © Kiwidutch via NOS TV News)

It was correctly assumed that even if there was bad news concerning Prince Friso, that it would not warrant the Queen making the announcement over all TV and radio channels simultaneously.

Indeed the news did turn out to be notification of abdication: Beatrix  will  be 75 years of age in a few days and is choosing to hand the throne over to her oldest son: Prince Willem-Alexander.

Beatrix herself gained the throne when her own mother, Juliana abdicated in 1980 at 70 years of age, taking her lead from Wilhelmina before her who abdicated in 1948 at 68 years of age.

Some Royal watchers already wondered if it might have been expected to  happen a decade earlier when Beatrix’s husband Price Claus passed away in 2002, or when her mother and father passed away in 2003 and 2004 respectively but Willem-Alexander only married in 2002 and I assume she wanted him to have some quality time,  less in the public eye with his new wife and subsequent new family of daughters.

Dutch Monarchs are not “crowned”, but instead inaugurated, and since much of Royal life takes place in and around The Hague where the Queen lives and works and were she opens Parliament each year or Delft where Royal monarchs are buried, it’s traditional that this inauguration takes place instead in Amsterdam and so spreads a royal event a little further around the Netherlands.

(photograph © Kiwidutch via NOS TV News)

(photograph © Kiwidutch via NOS TV News)

The reason for an inauguration and not a crowning is that the Dutch monarch is the Head of State but not head of the Church (as is the case with the Queen of England) and Crowning a Head of State is apparently linked only to those who are also head of the Church in their nations.

The date chosen for the inauguration will be 30th April, already the national holiday in the Netherlands called “Koninginnedag” (Queen’s Day) and since this is traditionally the day when anyone in the Netherlands may hold a flee-market without the need for the usual licence, it become the traditional day of street markets up and down the country where especially children can sell their old toys for a little extra pocket money.

Himself and I are not generally supporters of Monarchy (and to spite me for this I get two of them: Queen Elizabeth as Head of State of New Zealand on my Kiwi passport and Beatrix on my Dutch one) as I find it hard to reconcile the fact that someone who is not democratically elected gets to live a life of privilege on taxpayer expense and worse, that if Lizzy or her offspring chooses to take a jaunt to New Zealand the New Zealand tax payer is expected to pick up the very hefty bill for these travels …for one of the richest women on earth.

(photograph © Kiwidutch via NOS TV News)

(photograph © Kiwidutch via NOS TV News)

At least the British can say that their Queen earns her keep a little by bringing in a few tourists to the UK, meantime she brings the grand total of zero tourists into New Zealand and thanks to the tight knit regulations of the Club called the European Union, no trade benefits either.

It’s not to say I wish them ill, but if I were ever given the chance to vote for a Republic, I would be one of the first at the voting booth to cast my vote. Naturally I might change my tune if Lizzy would be so kind as to return the favour and pick up my bills for a trip to to United Kingdom, hey I’m even cheap because I don’t require half the countries police force to provide security during my visit.

Whilst Himself and I wanted to watch the Queen’s address because it was a historic moment for us as Dutch citizens, Himself’s own republican leanings couldn’t help themselves when it came to light that the inauguration would be on 30th April. He ruefully lamented that technically it’s brilliant timing because Koninginnedag is probably the most nationalistic day in the Dutch calendar, but it will be an especially lousy sales day for about a million Dutch kids as all the adults stay indoors glued to their television sets to watch the Netherlands loose a Queen and gain a King.

The least they could do is to have the ceremony later in the afternoon so that everyone could happily do both but I’m not holding my breath for that one.

Of course we know what will be Page One News throughout the Netherlands tomorrow and in the next months as preparations for the abdication and inauguration take shape… but agree with having a monarchy or not, History is in the making.

(photograph © Kiwidutch via NOS TV News)

(photograph © Kiwidutch via NOS TV News)

Beatrix’s mother: Queen Juliana (who was in ill health when she abdicated)

(photograph © Kiwidutch via NOS TV News)

(photograph © Kiwidutch via NOS TV News)

Beatrix’s grandmother: Wilhelmina

(photograph © Kiwidutch via NOS TV News)

(photograph © Kiwidutch via NOS TV News)

(photograph © Kiwidutch via NOS TV News)

(photograph © Kiwidutch via NOS TV News)

(photograph © Kiwidutch via NOS TV News)

(photograph © Kiwidutch via NOS TV News)

(photograph © Kiwidutch via NOS TV News)

(photograph © Kiwidutch via NOS TV News)

(photograph © Kiwidutch via NOS TV News)

(photograph © Kiwidutch via NOS TV News)

January 1, 2013

Starting 2013 with a BANG!

Filed under: LIFE,PHOTOGRAPHY,THE NETHERLANDS,Traditional — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

New Year’s Eve for 2012 in the Kiwidutch household is turning out to be a fairly low key affair.

We’ve had friends over with their two children, seven year old twins and enjoyed a tapas style dinner from 5 o’clock onwards of all sorts of odds and ends that included roasted potatoes, parsnips, pumpkin, and sweet potato,  boiled carrots (kid favourite) a large bag of giant prawns divided into two lots, half with an indecent amount of garlic and fresh coriander (a.k.a. cilantro) the other also with an indecent amount of garlic and a very decent amount of  fresh chilli.

I made  Piedmontese Peppers https://kiwidutch.wordpress.com/?s=peppers, garlic and herb bread, an Armenian recipe of meat and herbs wrapped in grape leaves, we had a sage,onion, sausage meat and orange meatloaf, fresh cucumber and red capsicums  a cheeseboard and olives and finished off with one of our family favourites: My Aunty Barbara’s Danish Pastry: https://kiwidutch.wordpress.com/?s=barbara.

At 9.30 we set off some fireworks for the younger kids to enjoy and  my brother in law picked up Kiwi Daughter for a sleepover at their place,  our guests departed with their son who is disabled and for whom a whole evening of events is too much, whilst his sister stays here at our place for a sleepover  to keep Little Mr. company.

The rain which has been stuck into the Dutch calendar for most of this year, is continuing true to form tonight which is damping the spirits of some firework enthusiasts but making the fire departments a little happier.

Himself has taken the kids to visit friends just down the road and will be back to ring in the New Year as the local noise level rises to the level of “small war zone”  as more than sixty million Euro’s worth of  fireworks will be exploding as the clock strikes midnight.

Here is just a tiny fraction of the firework display that the Dutch traditionally bring in the New Year with…

It will be a deafening start to 2013,  noisy and exuberant,  full on, as 2013 literally enters with a bang…  However you celebrate your New Years Eve, wherever in the world you are, I wish you a very happy, safe and healthy 2013 full of much laughter, joy and fun ! Happy New Year!!!

(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)

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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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(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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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

November 30, 2012

Ingredient Search: Shortening

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

In my quest to recreate a “proper” Kiwi-style meat pie in the Netherlands , I’ve come up against a few obstacles.

One of them was obtaining metal baking forms to get the classic pie shape. After searching high and low in the Netherlands (understandably) without success because there is no meat pie culture here,  I put it these baking forms my shopping list for our next trip to New Zealand and subsequently bought some in Christchurch New Zealand.

The other thing I was having trouble finding was shortening… a.k.a. lard.

Incorporating a small amount of shortening/lard into your shortcrust  pastry is what gives a flaky crisp bite to the crust rather than a soggy weak doughy mush… but finding shortening was turning out to be more of the hassle than I first thought.

First I asked in the supermarket… big mistake. I was directed to a block of  “bakboter ” which I know is a sort of cooking butter that I know my aunts like to fry meat in. I really didn’t think sounded right for my pastry at all but the lady pulled over a colleague and they both  insisted that this is what shortening was in the Netherlands.  I took some home and made pastry with it on more than one occasion… the pastry survived and was edible but it was light-years away from my Kiwi meat pies in taste.

Knowing that my pastry still wasn’t right my next step was to contact a butcher… and confirmed that what I needed wasn’t bakboter, but  “reuzel” (translates literally as pig or beef fat, lard, shortening).

I now have reuzel sourced from several butchers… if you want to get hold of some, be warned that some butchers no longer stock it because demand is so low these days.

Some would order it for me, one butcher said he only stocks a packet or two at a time and we got the last packet.  Another butcher had two packets and we took both. In all instances the reuzel  was frozen, so be prepared to buy it when you can get  back home in time to get it  into your freezer before it thaws.

One packet cost about Euro 2,50 for 250 grams, the other two at roughly the same weight (pictured in blocks) was a bit cheaper.

Ok, it’s fat, but shortening is also fat (just with a more politically correct name) and yes I have made several test-runs of pastry with shortening in it. The taste was a lot like the classic Kiwi meat pie that I’ve been missing from home.

Bearing in mind that making the pies is labour intensive and is nowhere on any health-food list,  I won’t be making them very often, but when I do I want them to taste like the real thing  and not some lacklustre  imposter, so I figure that the use of a little bit of shortening can be excused now and again.

So if you want to make  savoury pie with a crisp and flaky shortcrust pastry,  get friendly with your local butcher and find yourself some reuzel .

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

My recipe called or half shortening and half margarine…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

November 8, 2012

Victoria Enjoys a Long Reign Over Dutch Square…

Filed under: Landmarks,MALAYSIA,Melaka,PHOTOGRAPHY — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
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(photograph © Kiwidutch)

In continuation of recent posts I’m still in Dutch Square, Melaka, Malaysia: and having marvelled at all the surrounding buildings my attention now turns to the fountain in the middle of the Square.

A Malaysian tourist website  called “Attractions in Malaysia” (link at bottom of this post) gave me some background and history of the fountain, although our guide had filled us in on some of the details whilst we were there.

The  Queen Victoria’s Fountain was built to commemorate  Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee and from the website I learned:

The Queen Victoria Fountain was built in 1901 by the British and is still standing as elegant as ever until this very day.

Although more than a hundred years old, this fountain is still functioning well and is probably the only functioning colonial water fountains in Malaysia.

Queen Victoria surpassed George III as the longest reigning monarch in the history of England and Scotland history on 23rd September 1896.

The Queen requested at the time that any special celebrations are to be put on hold until 1897 in order to coincide with her Diamond Jubilee which was later made a festival of the British Empire.

The fountain is a famous backdrop for visitors who come to Malacca as it is so near the Stadhuys and the Chirst Church.

On the tip of the fountain says ‘Victoria Regina 1837-1901, erected by the people of Malacca in memory of a great Queen.”

The Queen Victoria Fountain is probably one of the last traces of the British colonial era in Malaysia and it symbolizes the glorious days of the British colonization in Malaysia in the yesteryears.

Hmm the phrase “glorious days of the British colonization of Malaysia”  was only probably glorious in reality if you were on the side of the colonizers and not one of the colonized… as usual around the world, the locals probably didn’t get an awful lot of say after they were taken over.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

As an aside: Queen Victoria  reigned for 63 years and 7 months, and the current British Queen, Elizabeth II at age 86 has been on the throne for 60 years as of 2012, so would have to be close to 90 years of age if she wants to break Victoria’s record.

(Elizabeth began her reign at 26 years of age, whilst Victoria was only 19  when she began hers but died aged younger at age 81, so literally time-will-tell if history will be rewritten in four years time).

I love this fountain as a work of art too… it’s hard to get the true detail amid the cascades of water but I find the garlands, grapes, ribbons, flowers (and I think might they be pomegranates?) beautiful, with a portrait of Victoria outlined in what I am sure must be raised ceramic tile with a blue glaze background.

I first thought that the larger decoration on the column close to the shield was carved stone, but on closer inspection I now think that it’s also raised ceramic tile.  So readers, stone carving or tile, what do you think this is?

The detail fanatic in me couldn’t resist taking a ton of photos of the fountain for my “arty inspiration folder” which one day when I get a spare moment (Ha!) I will indulge in.  Also I was pleased that  the second photo shows the radio mast, pylon thingy in the background, proof that it definitely hadn’t sprouted out of the little clock tower just behind me.

http://malacca.attractionsinmalaysia.com/Queen-Victoria-Fountain.php

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

April 10, 2012

Dutch Roots Still Growing Strong a Long Way From Home…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

We were due to leave Napier but out of the window of the car I spied a shop called “The Frying Dutchman”  …

What an great name!

…clearly it’s a take-a-way / fish and chip shop, but we have to get going to our next destination so we aren’t stopping this morning.

We have a giggle because in back in Picton we saw a bakery called the Picton Village Bakery which if the decoration of the building was anything to go by, was also run by Dutch people.

Between the late 1940’s and mid 1960’s New Zealand saw a wave of immigration of Dutch people, many of them in trades.

My father was one of them… that’s how I get to have a multicultural family history.

Now that I am back in New Zealand not only as a citizen but also as a Dutch “visitor” it suddenly hits me what an influence the Dutch have had in New Zealand  over the decades.

We didn’t get to stop at these businesses this time but who knows… another trip, another day…  more time…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

October 16, 2011

Brielle, You’re a Star!

Ok, what made me pick out Brielle as a place to visit rather than any other little Dutch town?

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Well, I thought it would be nice to scout out a place that we could explore on foot maybe next summer that would be close enough to home to do as a day trip but still have something special to see.

The something special in Brielle’s case is that this town is also a star fortress and I’ve taken some photos in Google maps to show you how the town looks from above.

I am always in total awe of the engineers of centuries past who managed to put together such amazing defensive patterns,  so geometrically precise on such a large scale and all without “technology”as we enjoy it today and without the power of flight to look down on their handiwork.

I think that their skill, ability and insight was amazing and probably since architects today are used to having  technology do much of the number crunching, I think  that building one of these from scratch these days without these aids might be a  task beyond any on the profession today.

The symmetry is amazing… lets take a look…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

tunning or what? This is just the view from the car! Roll on restored mobility, I’m really looking forward to walking the whole way around this next Summer!

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Check out the thickness of the walls at the entrance gate…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

October 7, 2011

Groves of Cloves, Seeds and Nettles… in my Cheese!

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Yet another cheesy post, taken from my archive photos as we take a virtual tour through one of The Netherlands best Specialist Cheese Shops: Ed Boele’s in the Fahrenheitstraat in The Hague.

Plain cows’ milk cheeses are of course what the Dutch are famous for.

The Dutch have both in the past and present, exported not only vast volumes of cheese, but also the world-famous back and white super-milker, the Friesian Cow too.

But of course not just cows produce milk… there are also goat and sheep cheeses available  in every cheese shop.  Usually quickly identifiable by their very white colour, these cheeses are often accompanied by a distinct sharpness, even in the young cheeses, and this can be an acquired taste.

When I first came to live in The Netherlands I found these far too strong for my taste, but this is where the little slip of cheese tasted in the cheese shop comes very much in handy. Over the years I have tried many a little slice of goat and sheep cheese and yes, to be honest  most have been beyond me, but over time, I have found several exceptionally tasty but also mild sheep and goat cheeses that I can now enjoy.

It’s always worth a try and who knows, maybe you’ll  find one that suits you too.

Then there are the “cheeses with bits and flavours”. Cheese makers are Foodies after all and what true Foodie doesn’t like a little culinary experiment?

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Brandnetelkaas”  (stinging nettle cheese) contains, you guessed it…. stinging nettles. …and No, they don’t sting at all once they are in the cheese.  There is a distinctive taste to it and it comes with small green pieces of stinging nettle mixed throughout the cheese.

Personally, I’m still working on liking stinging nettle cheese,  not because I actively dislike it but rather because I have  a long list of other cheeses-with-bits-and extras that I like even better.

Amongst others there is ‘knoflook kaas’ (garlic) cheeses, “gerookte kaas‘ (smoked) cheese, capsicum cheese (slightly spicy)…

westfriese-kruidenkaaas *’ (West Friesian herb cheese)  with garlic, celery, chives and paprika,  ‘noten‘ (nuts), ‘fenegriek‘ (Fengeek) ” mosterdzaden‘ (mustard seed)…

peperkorrels‘ (peppercorns) but  there are several others probably top the list of perennial Dutch favourites:  

komijnenkaas‘  (cummin seed cheese) This is another of the  ‘acquired taste’ cheeses and personally, I like it in small quantities.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

I have stood in the shop in times past and watched in wonder as I waited my turn as customer after customer before me buys  a slab of  cummin seed cheese with their regular order of cheese  and I’ve been facinated at the apparent national appitite for this particular cheese.  It’s so popular you can get it country wide in any cheese shop.

kruidnagelkaas‘ (clove cheese) This cheese is a must for any true lover of cloves… and one of my personal favourites.

(*) a small note about the westfriese-kruidenkaaas  I mentioned earlier, it’s fabulously delicious  “as is” on crackers or bread, but I wouldn’t recommend cooking with it because I tried twice. First to make a herb-y cheese sauce and second to mix with  hot pasta.

Both times it the result was excessively salty, even though I added no other salt to the recipes. You win some, you loose some, cooking with this one was a definite fail.

These are just a small selection of the Dutch cheeses on offer… now you see why a shop that specialises in just cheese is such an excellent idea here in The Netherlands… but I’m not finished yet!

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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