John & Anne Wiley

2018/10/31

Amstel Dawn

We woke early in Amsterdam, eager to soak up more of it in the brief time we had there. Choosing the Lima Cafe at the left in this pic, we talked over breakfast about where to walk next.

164300 Morning Stroll

164300 Morning Stroll

Then we wandered some streets we’d not explored with Richele, taking in the architecture and of course I snapped some building ornamentations like this historic one.

5906 Symbolic Emblem

5906 Symbolic Emblem

This modern building also evokes a ship, along with a hint of ecological balance in its sod roof.

5907 Green Roof

5907 Green Roof

Grand old buildings testify to the power and importance of the Netherlands (Holland) in past centuries, and to the science and engineering that drained the land and enabled massive structures to stand amid canals.

5942 Grand Buildings

5942 Grand Buildings

We detoured past the central train station, where a sea of bikes begs the question of how anyone could find their own.

5950 Land of Bikes

5950 Land of Bikes

The station is where people on bikes and on foot, in trams and buses, and a few in cars all come to ride fast trains to other towns and cities. The building itself is also intriguing, and today we were taking more time to check it out.

5951 Ornate Station

5951 Ornate Station

The building above the main entrance has a wind direction indicator on the left and a clock on the right, with lots of ornamentation in between.

5972 Above Main Entrance

5972 Above Main Entrance

Sculptures adorn the walls and lintels, each telling different stories that unaided observers like us could only guess at and be inspired to return.

5977 Diversity

5977 Diversity

The cathedral stands straight and tall among a herd of buildings each leaning slightly shoulder to shoulder as if holding one another up.

5982 Shepherd and Flock

5982 Shepherd and Flock

I liked how this building ornament complements mementos on the windowsill above.

6004 Spanning 385 Years

6004 Spanning 385 Years

Eventually we  reached the Vondelpark recommended by several Dutch friends, and relished entering this gateway to an urban paradise.

6056 Island of Nature

6056 Island of Nature

As with all great urban parks, it has many sanctuaries along winding footpaths.

6063 Quiet Water

6063 Quiet Water

Countless spots beckon, and different people are each drawn to their own relaxing place.

6071 Choices

6071 Choices

Here the people of Amsterdam mingle with their neighbors and visitors from around the world, in hushed harmony.

6075 Gentle Mingling

6075 Gentle Mingling

After this all too brief breath of silence, we made our way back to the station for a quick trip to the magical 10th century city of Haarlem.

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2018/10/29

Amsterdam

Our warm and fascinating time in Hamburg ended at the train station, where we enjoyed people-watching and perusing the variety of colorful cafes and shops.

091148 Hamburg Station

091148 Hamburg Station

The train ride was fast, comfortable, and relatively inexpensive but by far the best feature was the people! A girl’s soccer team quietly brought life and smiles to the car we chanced to choose.

111730 Quiet Delight

111730 Quiet Delight

This composite of three screencaps from a panoramic video was our best effort at capturing the whole team. Soon we were in the capital of Netherlands where a dam on the river Amstel in the 12th century grew into the bustling bike haven of modern Amsterdam.

5905 Busy Sidewalk

5905 Busy Sidewalk

This main square had enough space for the sidewalk crowd to spread out and give an impression of what it’s like on a quiet day.

5888 Cobbled Square

5888 Cobbled Square

I found the buildings fascinating, especially the ornamentation of course. Like the open clock tower carillon.

5886 Carillon Sculpture

5886 Carillon Sculpture

Nearby was a pointed and windowed dome with crown splash topped by a “gyroscopic” golden orb reflecting the clouds.

5898 Golden Globe

5898 Golden Globe

There was a noisy busker putting on some sort of show. I snapped the international tourists in front of the distant 3-line gold-lettered transparent banner in the center that reads, “Truthfulness Compassion Tolerance.”

5899 Motto For Our Times

5899 Motto For Our Times

We paused for a delicious meal by a main canal with our wonderful new friend Richele who so richly enhanced our introduction to the city.

170015 Serene Richele

170015 Serene Richele

She helped us find quieter parts of Amsterdam, where parked bikes far outnumber the people on sidewalks.

190144 Bikesterdam

190144 Bikesterdam

We wandered leafy canals and wildly different quarters of the downtown core in this thriving city of culture and contrasts.

190253 Quiet Canal

190253 Quiet Canal

After a fabulous dinner she guided us to our hotel in the dusk, and we paused to take in the reflective canal.

205247 Reflections

205247 Reflections

2018/10/25

Potsdam & Hamburg

Our second day in Berlin began with a morning stroll around our hotel, where we enjoyed being invisible “old” people for these kids outside a school.

094538 Contrast

094538 Contrast

It was interesting to see some contrast with kids this age outside our local schools. For one thing, the contrast in attire. Another was a total absence of trash on the street, and we saw not a single smoker. With limited German I couldn’t tell for sure, but heard no bullying, shouting or derisive remarks despite the conversation being very animated. Being invisible would’ve been even more fun with fluent German to understand exactly what they were talking about.

Soon we joined Wolfgang and explored on our way to a train, pausing to drink in the subdued city sounds of a shaded park with the air and gurgle of this fountain.

113911 War Memorial

113911 War Memorial

We stopped for breakfast at a cafe where I enjoyed studying building ornamentation like this unusual set.

5754 Masked Meaning

5754 Masked Meaning

In the little courtyard a little dog took a little break during a little walk to check out the little fountain, ignoring the little duck decorations that had given a little bird a little startle as it approached for a little splash.

5756 Little Bin

5756 Little Bin

You may have noticed the little orange trash bin.  They’re ubiquitous and somehow rarely seem to be full, yet there’s rarely any trash on the ground.

Wolf had planned a surprise for us, with a short train ride to Potsdam. When he told us, I imagined something about the historic Potsdam Conference held there at the end of WWII. We stepped off the train into a quiet little village core, with no indication of a museum.

125642 Quiet Potsdam

125642 Quiet Potsdam

A short walk from this square is a preserved stretch of the original wartime rail line. Along the sides are cast iron grates inscribed with the date, number, category, origin and destination of handicapped, Polish, homosexual, intellectual, artistic and other categories that the government deemed to be “enemies of the state” who were forced onto trains here during the war.

121138 Silenced

121138 Silenced

We saw a few other people and not one of us said a word as we strolled along the track noticing tributes left by other visitors (some probably surviving relatives), inhaling it deeply in somber silence.

Thanks to his inclusion of places like this in his guided introduction, Wolfgang expanded our first taste of Germany far beyond tourist highlights. This brightly painted building stood out even more as we awaited the train back to Berlin for a truly delicious dinner prepared by Wolfgang’s friends Susan & Mathias at their unassuming little folksy neighborhood Village – Feinkost Cafè.

5759 Happy House & Watchtower

5759 Happy House & Watchtower

If I recall correctly, that distant tower was the cold war West Berlin counterpart, to the radio and spy tower we saw on the East Berlin side from the Reichstag dome. We met up again the next morning for breakfast and courtyard view chat, before Anne and I left for Hamburg.

100226 Farewell Chat

100226 Farewell Chat

A few hours later we were in Hamburg seeking gifts for the kids of our friends there. Along the way we enjoyed wandering into many little shops like this colorful grocery.

155027 Tasty Colors

155027 Tasty Colors

We were pleasantly surprised to find affordable gifts that poked out of my backpack as we walked back to the lovely vacation rental apartment our friends had helped us book.

171326 Bunny & Airplane

171326 Bunny & Airplane

Join us in the next post for our more in-depth introduction to heavenly Hamburg that began the next day.

2018/10/22

Berlin

The airliner from London to Berlin flew a little lower than the one across the Atlantic, so we were able to see despite some clouds and haze. Somehow we’d expected a more urban landscape, yet the part of UK on our way out was far more urban than this area around the Berlin airport.

103440 Berlin Landing

103440 Berlin Landing

There’s much more open space and even large tracts of forest beyond this apartment area. Maybe people on the other side of the plane saw central Berlin and more city, but we saw mostly forest and farms dotted with small towns and a few small cities. When we stepped out of the arrival terminal, there was a wolf at the door. Our remarkable friend Wolfgang, who’s involved with the German Green Party. He’d taken time off to guide us to the spacious room he’d generously provided.

131252 Room View

131252 Room View

That treed courtyard has many bikes parked along the walls. People everywhere we saw in UK & EU tended to walk, ride bikes, use the busy bus/train/subway systems, and basically use cars far less than in California. On many sidewalks in Berlin we saw little square bronze plaques like these.

124629 Remembering

124629 Remembering

When the family of a holocaust victim agrees, a memorial plaque is placed outside a building where a person was hauled out of their home to their death.  It’s quite sobering to stand there contemplating that and glance up at a window. With so few surviving relatives to give permission, not many of the known victims are honored. Neighborhoods with many Jewish families in particular could have perhaps a dozen or two plaques where it’s many more people could have lived, laughed and played with their German neighbors and friends. All of this seems to have contributed to a lasting change in Germany, with much attention (and laws) directed at learning from this tragic period of world history. At the Reichstag, the main entrance has the statement: “To the German people” (bottom of this pic).

5688 People Power

5688 People Power

There was an interesting mood in the people we saw outside, including tourists like us from other countries. I guess any government of the people faces similar challenges, and I thought about that as we posed with Wolfgang.

5701 Reichstag

5701 Reichstag

We wanted to go up in that dome, and by great good luck there were tickets (free) available for later so we got some. We walked around, and decided to check out the Brandenburg Gate and the plaza beyond.

05706 Brandenburg Gate

05706 Brandenburg Gate

Earlier we’d wandered downtown, seen pieces of the Berlin Wall and been to a cafe. After meandering the Gendarmenmarkt square we had a great chat over dinner in a sidewalk restaurant at the feet of the Concert Hall, then walked more as sunset approached.

5750 Gendarmenmarkt

5750 Gendarmenmarkt

Finally our time slot for the dome arrived and we went up on the Reichstag roof just in time for a glorious sunset.

194150 Reichstag Sunset

194150 Reichstag Sunset

From there we walked up the spiral walk to the top of the dome, where citizens can look down on their Parliament in action. Or in our case since it wasn’t in session, out across the city.

194617 Dome View

194617 Dome View

Later we strolled among small groups walking in quiet conversation, across the river to the train station. Just outside the station was a lively and colorful outdoor market with live music, and you can see it through the windows of the station in this pic.

210814 Berlin At Night

210814 Berlin At Night

Magical end to an enchanted first day in Berlin, thanks to our generous creative host.

2018/10/20

London Gifts

It happened that Tripp’s new “dad” flew her home on his birthday, and we celebrated both our birthdays in London. Gifts all ’round.

5256 Tower Bridge

5256 Tower Bridge

Our first UK day found us strolling walkways on both sides of the Thames, feeling overwhelmed by all this amazing city has to offer. We wandered some streets and many alleys too. If you’ve perused this blog at all you know that I’m fascinated by the innumerable rock formations we’ve seen flying low and slow. One of my theories is that they’re natural “sculptures” so maybe that’s why all over UK & EU my fascination extended to human sculpture, like these building ornaments.

5276 Sculpture Rampage

5276 Sculpture Rampage

London offers an eclectic mix of architectures and a range from ancient to cutting edge. Lunging above the collection, the “Shard” seems to grasp at airliners.

5280 The Shard

5280 The Shard

It has at least two public viewing levels, but as with all our adventures the “plan” to get that view didn’t emerge from the “trip” we took. Maybe we can go back some day? Another contrast in architectures and change in plans emerged as we strolled around the Tower of London but didn’t go in.

5284 Tower of London

5284 Tower of London

The next morning we walked again, this time getting a view of the “Walkie Talkie,” “Pickle” and Tower of London amid a flurry of new construction across the Thames.

5385 Walkie, Pickle, Tower

5385 Walkie, Pickle, Tower

We chanced upon the intriguing ruins of the circa 1136 Winchester Palace.

5474 Palace Ruins

5474 Palace Ruins

One of our planned activities was to walk out on the Millennium Bridge and after snapping this we did manage to do it.

5495 Millennium Bridge

5495 Millennium Bridge

It didn’t go all wobbly like in that Harry Potter movie, but the metal deck polished to a brilliant sheen by millions of feet made pix of us on the bridge rather challenging. Out on the bridge were different views of the city, like this perspective on the Tate Modern and the building Londoners call The Vase.

5515 The Vase

5515 The Vase

I didn’t try to find out why Londoners come up with seemingly mocking names for the new buildings they seem to discreetly enjoy watching tourists in awe of. Perhaps to seem indifferent to the style and comfort, or object to the change from what was avant garde one or two thousand years ago? Like the sloping “Cheese Grater” to the right of the conventional (not yet derisively labeled by Londoners we spoke with) tower under construction at the left of this pic.

5534 Cheese Grater

5534 Cheese Grater

We saw people walking along the stony banks of the Thames too, and in places some were beachcombing. Maybe finding ancient artifacts, or valuables lost by tourists. Or just enjoying a stroll like the man in stylish blue hair amid the group on the ruins of a cobbled dock.

5559 Thames Moment

5559 Thames Moment

Amid all the stimulation, bustle and tight-scheduled photo-crazed tourists (guilty) are quieter spots like this shaded park.

5568 Leafy Green

5568 Leafy Green

I think it was under the Waterloo Bridge where we saw people watching people perusing a flea market.

5581 Open Business

5581 Open Business

A basement graffiti and skate park attracted a large crowd (in the distance at the right).

5586 Skate & Paint

5586 Skate & Paint

Sidewalk cafes abound along the Thames walkways, as with many areas of this diverse city.

5588 Giraffe Feel Good

5588 Giraffe Feel Good

There’s public art and music everywhere too of course. We wondered if this brilliant fluorescent sculpture was meant to be a kid slide, but the kids didn’t and the parents kept it all safe.

5592 Apparent Slide

5592 Apparent Slide

A brilliant converted classic double decker doing a brisk business attracted lots of attention, especially from tweens who know what the name means.

5595 Busy Bus

5595 Busy Bus

I was more impressed by this creative addition of two pedestrian bridges astride an old rail bridge, providing a quick and easy connection across the Thames.

5597 Feet & Rails

5597 Feet & Rails

I mentioned before a fascination with sculpture and you’ll see more of that in coming posts from this trip. Meanwhile, here’s an art deco ornamentation in the Old Globe complex that I like. I’m curious what the story is, but to me it evokes a guy in tux & tails.

5640 Bird in Tails

5640 Bird in Tails

This being a hasty taste of a vast and complex city of the world, rather than use the windowless Underground we rested our feet on an inexpensive tour boat back to the neighborhood of our hotel. Along the way we got a narrated review of places visited and glimpses of other areas.

5647 Tourist Time

5647 Tourist Time

I once briefly lived on a small boat, and could imagine how different in the heart of London on a spiffed up tugboat.

5649 Houseboats

5649 Houseboats

Thus ends this sampling of pix from the first stop in London on this adventure. Walking to the hotel from the tour boat dock, we paused for this memento provided by a kind photographer who put down her expensive camera to snap this.

5668 Last of First

5668 Last of First

Next stop: Berlin.

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