John & Anne Wiley

2018/11/09

Bridges

Bruges is the Dutch word for bridges, and on this second visit we saw some of them first hand on a canal tour.

6357 Bridge & Swans

6357 Bridge & Swans

There’s a story about the swans in this epic pic too. But in the excitement to share pix from the canal tour I’ve jumped ahead. Our day began after B&B breakfast, walking into town on back alleys where we paused at this flower shop.

6322 Bloom

6322 Bloom

Next door was an interesting facade with heart shapes in teardrop-shaped stained glass windows. Bas relief faces were inset in the brickwork, including two on the curved brick snake shapes above those windows. Out of frame in this pic were more faces and another pair of windows identical except for being upside down. I wonder what the faces, heart and teardrop shapes connoted when this was built.

6333 Forgotten Meanings?

6333 Forgotten Meanings?

The town square was already buzzing by the time we’d wandered our way through quiet neighborhoods outside the main attractions and tour routes.

115021 Another Path

115021 Another Path

We’ve gone on a few tours over the years and enjoyed them. Still, rather than waiting to be led and learning interesting facts soon forgotten, it was wonderful to just follow our whims and sniff out enigmas. That said, having dreamed of it since our first visit long before, the canal tour was Job One for this day! So we stood in that line.  In contrast with the unstructured rhythm of wandering, we stood looking around in detail  and enjoyed that intro to being one of those people in the structured tour.

131545 Outside In

131545 Outside In

Soon we were in a boat watching counterparts approaching in theirs, having been where we were going.

132707 Back & Forth

132707 Back & Forth

On this brief tour we passed beneath countless bridges. Probably a small fraction of the total number in the city of Bruges.

6346 One Bridge At A Time

6346 One Bridge At A Time

Each of the bridges is different, all are interesting, and they accentuate the variety of buildings.

6366 Centuries of Architecture

6366 Centuries of Architecture

Venice of course has plenty of canals and bridges, and like there some of the buildings have boat access and docks built in.

6379 Water Portal

6379 Water Portal

The age and style of buildings covers a wide range, even here in the core of the ancient city.

6385 Tudor?

6385 Tudor?

The colors of buildings differs too, though far less than contemporary cities. Here most are shades of red and white, presumably originating with brick and stucco.

6417 Colors

6417 Colors

Mossy bridges, stepped roof facades and spires all combine for the Bruges look and feel.

6453 Bruges Harmony

6453 Bruges Harmony

Entranced by the canal tour, we set off on foot again and chanced upon Roman ruins next to one of the cathedrals.

6475 Layers of Time

6475 Layers of Time

The streets lead in many directions, each beckoning with fascinations changing with time and season.

6492 Different Journeys

6492 Different Journeys

One choice we made was going into a church overflowing with art and architecture going back into faded history.

6529 Once New

6529 Once New

There’s a Michelangelo sculpture of Madonna & Child there that’s not included in the extensive portion of the building with free admission. Though we did pay (both to see it and to support the massive maintenance budget), aside from the intriguing story it lacks for us the artistry of his Pietà. Somehow I was more captivated by this gated room.

6531 Still

6531 Still

Rather than add more of our 300-some pix from that day, I’ll close with this one that for me captures a sense of the quiet timelessness infused in the people of Bruges amid their millions of wired visitors.

6594 Woman & Wayfarers

6594 Woman & Wayfarers

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2018/11/01

Happy Haarlem

After waking early and exploring more of Amsterdam, meeting up with Richele again in her beloved Haarlem was a surprising change. So nearby, we thought it would be much the same. Though a city, for us it has a more human scale somehow. Like this public market near the cathedral.

6076 Open Market

6076 Open Market

Again with the building ornamentations, I wondered what the story is about the roosters we saw so often.

6077 Wake Up Call?

6077 Wake Up Call?

Another church is now a museum, but it was closed by the time we arrived so we stood outside checking it out.

6082 Museum

6082 Museum

Richele managed to coax the door monitor into letting us inside for a few minutes, which only allowed us to glance quickly. In that brief time, I was most taken by the art created by looking out through hand-blown 17th century glass panes.

6089 Impressions of Haarlem

6089 Impressions of Haarlem

I like the contrast provided by the two more contemporary panes, and wonder how the originals came to be broken and replaced. We wandered more of that open air market, drinking in the colors, aromas and sounds of life.

6092 Taste of Haarlem

6092 Taste of Haarlem

We learned about the “widow’s garden” created some time in the past as a sanctuary for grieving. I guess by now it’s integrated but residents enjoy the extra privacy.

6108 Widow's Garden

6108 Widow’s Garden

Like the Vondelpark in bustling Amsterdam there are many quiet places, but here they seemed to be distributed all around the city. Also like Amsterdam there are of course lots of canals, though I took surprisingly few pix of them on this brief visit.

6111 Duck & Couple

6111 Duck & Couple

There seemed to be more quiet alleys and back streets than we’d seen in Amsterdam.

6114 Quiet Alley

6114 Quiet Alley

There were far fewer tourists, and we saw many Dutch families out for a leisurely stroll, and bikes with kid seats like the one at left in this pic.

6116 Dutch Life

6116 Dutch Life

Of course, plenty of new and interesting building ornamentations abounded for me to check out with a zoom lens.

6121 Tale of Woe

6121 Tale of Woe

I’m curious what’s going on between the two characters at the left of that bas relief. But soon enough I was distracted by a canal, drawbridge, and colorful brick work.

6136 Canal Bridge

6136 Canal Bridge

Before long dusk was approaching and we headed back toward the town square, where something was odd. Distributed around the square, small groups and families had gathered in a large crowd. There was some quiet conversation, but mostly something like silent anticipation.

6159 Strange Gathering

6159 Strange Gathering

Just as we paused to wonder what might be going on, a canon went off and music came from all around us! We hadn’t noticed that musicians were scattered around the square and amidst the crowd. Turns out we had chanced upon the opening of “The Haarlem Culture Festival” which initiates the cultural season for the arts. It was totally enchanting for us to hear the avant garde orchestral music in company of mostly locals joined by a few startled visitors like us. Having once performed in “Fiddler On The Roof” as the tailor Motel, I particularly enjoyed the spot chosen by a reed section.

6177 Roof Reeds

6177 Roof Reeds

The next day of this fast paced trip, we headed for Bruges.

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.

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.

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