01 May 2013

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Guided walk with Ans
Dom
Aboriginal art museum
Lunch on a terrace

A fun few days, but a fairly short blog entry (not the least because I have fallen way behind in writing this!)

We had another excellent walk with Ans on the first, culminating with a visit to the Utrecht Aboriginal Art Museum. Here we found a lot of work from Yuendumu for sale, and going through the Gallery itself, a wide variety of contemporary art.  A few we could pick the regions, however as they only have the artist’s name, and not the community, there was a lot that we couldn’t place.  The exhibition was very good, and there were a lot of fine pieces. After this we had a good lunch sitting out over a canal
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Booked bus ticket to Prague
Dinner out
Utrecht lights at night

The next day we managed to find the Eurolines ticket office.  This is a bit harder than it seems.  You would think that it would be where the bus leaves from, but this is not the case.  It is at a different bus station completely (not that far away, but still) and picked up a couple of tickets.  We had looked it up online, and gotten our dates wrong.  Thinking it was leaving tonight.  However it didn’t leave until tomorrow, so we had to go back and ask Ans if we could stay an extra night.  This was not a problem.

The Crest of Utrecht

The Crest of Utrecht

Later we went to check out Utrecht by night.  This is where they light up the city in different ways.  Some are light installations, others projecting small compilations, and yet more are just coloured lights in the ground.  There is a book that Ans had listing the walk, and also little lit up icons on the street to guide you and let you know when you are near one.  However without the book some were so obscure that you wouldn’t know you were even looking at them.  As with the case of the reflections on water under the bridges…  The Dom was last.  I don’t think I have mentioned the Dom, but it is the tower of the main cathedral that dominates the skyline of the city.  A visual landmark that is seen from almost anywhere.  At night it is lit up as many church towers are, but inside the top are small glittering beams of light tracing along the roof.
However our highlight was a small church, apparently the prettiest in town that was reflecting images of the inside on the entryway.  We were even lucky enough to sneak a peek on the inside, as there had been a concert in there that had just finished, and we were allowed in for a few minutes.  It was a stunning church!

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Walk to Ans’ Garden
Helping out
Locked in the house

On the 3rd, we went to check out Ans’s garden plot on the outskirts of the city.  We got a little confused with directions, and followed the map all the way there through parks with polar bear sculptures (they were a British troop that was part of the Canadian Liberating army during the war) along with other bits and pieces, but on making it to the garden plots, we couldn’t work out how to cross the river.  We wandered all the way around it, at one stage between the highway and the gardens, but unable to cross the water.  We did see Ans from a distance,so knew it was the right place, and possible to get across somehow!  We did make it when we completed an almost perfect circuit of the area and spent the next little while weeding.  Not sure if we did more damage than good, but it was fun on a nice spring day.

Another beautiful spring day.

Another beautiful spring day.

After this we went back to prepare for out bus tonight.  Ans had to go out for dinner, so we bid her farewell, and chilled out until we had to leave for the station (it is a late bus leaving after 11pm).  When we were ready to go, we found out that we were locked inside!  Ans must have appreciated our company so much that she was refusing to let us leave!  Still, there was time.  I am always paranoid of missing things like buses and planes, and always want to get there early.  However it was a good half hour’s walk away. (Un)Fortunately Ans arrived home when we had given up on making it, and were busy trying to call the Eurolines Emergency help number.  Here we got a guy that only spoke French, and was not that much help.  We got him to promise to record the call, so we could say we followed the ticket guidelines for missing the bus (you have half an hour to call after the bus has gone, and for a small fee you can reschedule it).
Ans was quite surprised on finding us still at her place..

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Remembrance day
strolled around town and dinner out
TV footage
Kenyan

The next morning we were on the phone straight away, and that was pretty pointless, as they were asking why we were calling if the bus had left last night?  Well, that is why we were calling. The bus did leave last night.  We just were not on it.  Getting that point across was a bit difficult, and only as we were hanging up did we find out that this person was Dutch, and Anna could have done the entire thing in Dutch, and not English that was not working well.  By this stage we thought we would just go down to the ticket office and explain it for the third time…  This worked.  We were rescheduled for a couple of days time.  Ans?  Can we stay for a few more days?  PLEASE?

The gardens of the Dom.

The gardens of the Dom.

Today is also the 4th.  An important day in the Dutch calender.  It is Remembrance day.  For the end of WWII.  Ans had a friend visiting for dinner, so we made ourselves scarce for most of the day, but we did get to see the new King and his Queen laying the first wreaths at the big war memorial in Amsterdam, along with the rest of the government and military to commemorate the fallen.(on TV)  I am bad with names, but Ans’s friend turned out to be Kenyan, over here to do his PHD in Biochemistry (the same field as Ans worked in).  Too smart for us, but a very nice guy.

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Liberation day
Festival
Bus to Prague

Last but not least in the Netherlands was the 5th.  The day the Dutch celebrate the freedom they have. This is a day of festivities after the sombre commemoration of yesterday.  Music, festivals, and of course beer.  Still, we couldn’t indulge too much, as we have a bus to catch.  Needless to say, Ans was off for the day as well today.  However this time we had a magical item.  A key!  Still, it probably would not have been a problem this time, but it was good to have it just in case.  We made it to the station in plenty of time, and caught our bus to Prague…

The famous Dom.

The famous Dom.

So, after all that, a big THANK YOU to Ans for everything, and putting up with us.  We had a wonderful stay, and could have quite happily had you lock us in again 😉

AA

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30 April 2013

Queensday in the Netherlands
Guided tour with Ans
Hand over from Beatrix to Willem Alexander
More vrijmarkt and music
People dresses up
History on TV
Meeting up with old friends

Today is the day!  We started the day with watching the Queen step down.  This was a short simple ceremony where it was ratified by the government.  In this moment a Queen became a Princess.  Princess Beatrix is a hard person to read, and I have no idea on whether she was happy about this, as she can relax into retirement, upset or any other emotion.  However it must have been an emotional time for her.
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After this, we got a guided walk around Utrecht with Ans.  One thing we should say is that Ans loves and knows the city.

Utrecht is a beautiful old city..

Utrecht is a beautiful old city..

It was a great walk through gardens, past historical buildings and along the waterways.  All the time getting the history of the city.  This was much better than many guided tours we have had elsewhere, and if you are reading this Ans, you should consider being a volunteer tour guide for the city.  Seeing the old Uni, and places she has watched change over the years gives depth to a city as only a native can give.
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Back at home we had to watch the next historic part of the day.  The Non-crowning of King Willem.

With a quiet small town feel sometimes.

With a quiet small town feel sometimes.

This is held in Amsterdam, but with TV, you get a better view than in the chilly square.  Although it was a nice sunny day, it would have been at least brisk out there.  The red carpet showing off all the dignitaries that attended.  Here I have to say a few things.  No king or Queen is allowed to attend, as it may detract from the position of the new King, so there were many crown princes or next-in-lines.  Only the Prince of Monaco came as the head of state.

The famous Dom tower.

The famous Dom tower.

 

The princess of Japan got to spend the day out, and everyone was exited about that.  I think that if the press laid off her a bit, she may be able to spend more days out, but that is just my opinion.  The next interesting bit is the Non-Crowning.  A long time ago, one of the Kings decided that although he needed to become ruler, it was not the right time for him to wear the crown.  Apparently this time never came, and none of the Kings or Queens since have worn one.  The current crown is also to big and heavy to wear anyway.  This did not stop his wife Maxima wearing a lavish tiara that was every bit of a crown itself.
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So long and boring speeches (probably more interesting if you understand Dutch) and all the members of government swearing to the new King.  Either swearing before GOD, or just promising support.  Then out along a red carpet for the population to see them, and up on the balcony of the royal palace for all to see.  Not as much pomp and ceremony as the British, but very regal.
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Now that the Netherlands has a new King, we had to go out and celebrate.  Another round amongst the streets where most people were still scratching through the flea market like old hens.  Kids were asleep at their parents stalls with signs out saying that they wanted to sleep their way to wealth.  Others were paying to have the privilege of being egged, and yet more were dancing in the street.  Q34postfeatureA lot of people were dressed up for the occasion, and Orange was everywhere.  Orange jumpsuits, hats and scarves.  Nearly everyone had orange on in one place or another.  My concession to this ritual was to wear an Orange Wuppie on my shoulder (basically a fur ball with eyes and feet).

Good to meet up with old friends!

Good to meet up with old friends!

Later in the afternoon we made our way to the centre to meet up with old friends of Anna’s that she has not seen in years.
It took a bit longer then planned to make our way through the party crowds in the city, got stuck under the Dom tower for a bit, but we got there in time. It was amazing to see them again after so many years and to meet their new family (they have two cute little ones now) But for the rest they don’t seem to have changed much. Still the great people we knew years ago.
Dinner and a few drinks, and it all felt like old times.

AA

29 April 2013

From Nijmegen to Utrecht
Early as weather bad
Utrecht sunny
Met up with Ans
Vrijmarkt
Loosing a dread
Music, beer and poffertjes.

A walk through the markets in the morning, picking up a few bits and pieces.  All the street stalls are out for the weekly market.  Clothing, electronic bits and pieces, masses of cheese, fruit & veg, along with stalls and stalls of mobile phone covers…
We ended up leaving town a bit earlier than expected, as it was a bit dreary.  Overcast with sprinklings of rain.  Not the best weather to be out and about in.

The trip to Utrecht was fairly quick, and by the time we got to the station, the clouds had lifted and it was a bright sunny day.  As we were so early, and Ans was not expecting us so soon, we just had to stop off in a cafe with outside seating overlooking the canals for a beer, then off through the city to see Ans.
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We haven’t seen Ans since she visited us when we were working out in the Australian desert, a few years ago, and it was great to catch up with her.  She has a lovely spot on the border with down town on the Canals.  The ideal setting as it is close to everything, but still a quiet street.
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People were already setting up stalls for the Vrijmarkt (flee market).  This is a typical Queensday thing, where everyone gets to do a bit of spring cleaning.

Anything orange will pop up.

Anything orange will pop up.

Selling off old things they no longer need, and at the same time picking up more new things that they don’t need (we think to sell next year!)  Ans wanted a small stall outside the flat, but someone else had already taken it.  We still managed to squeeze a couple of small tables in for a stall.  Officially you are allowed to start selling things at 6pm, but a couple of places looked to be doing a thriving business with “Lay-buy’s”
A few of Ans’s friends came over to contribute to the stall, and we had a chat and drink with them while waiting for the official start.  Then we were off.  The others had to run the stall, so we made our goodbyes and went exploring the city.
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Queens Day Night.  What can you say.  It is a bustling, crowded, colourful extravaganza.  Small stalls everywhere selling 100 year old cameras to desktop computers, clothing and toys, along with nicknack’s to celebrate the Queens birthday (well, her mother’s anyway).  This year it is an even more special day as Queen Beatrix is retiring after ruling for 33 years.  Her son Willem Alexander is taking over.  All this happens tomorrow, so people are partying for the Queen tonight, and the new King tomorrow.
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Imagine a really big market that covers most of the city, with everyone out and about.  People coming in from all the towns around, and everyone is on the streets.  Having said that, it is still quieter than an Egyptian street at midnight!  The most memorable stall was a group of people that thought King Willem needs a beard.  They were collecting hair from people passing by to stick on a portrait to send to the King afterwards.  For this good cause I sacrificed half a dread, thinking that we need to check up on it tomorrow to see how he looks with hair.

Donating a dread

Donating a dread

So the King might have a beard.

So the King might have a beard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
At some stage we made it back for a quick dinner, then out again for the actual night life.  There are stages set up all around the city.  Most of these had DJ’s, but a few had live music.  We tried to make it to these stages, but it was so crowded that you could hardly move.  Trying to pass by a street stall selling beer could take over half an hour.  You needed a second drink before you left the cue from the first. The squares with the stages were so packed it was an impossibility to get through,and you needed to detour through side alleyways that were just as busy, but moving at least.

A fantastic time to be in the Netherlands.  The best side of the Dutch is on show, and although there is so much beer flowing that you would think you were in a beer fondue, people were really well behaved and having a great time.

We can’t wait until tomorrow!

AA

28 April 2013

From Koblenz to Nijmegen
Back in Holland and it smells!
finding hotel
Little bit of old Nijmegen
River views
Left over castle bits

For some reason we ended up going to Nijmegen in the Netherlands.  Not sure why, but that was where the ticket went to.  Well, in fact, we didn’t want to go all the way to Utrecht in one go, and needed to stop somewhere!  Going from Germany, we had to switch trains at Venlo.  A pretty city on the border, but we have been here before, so decided not to stay.  Getting out of the train, you knew you were in the Netherlands straight away.  (Or at least Morocco.)  The pungent fragrances wafting up were unmistakeable.  There was weed in the air.  As most Germans know, you don’t need to go to Amsterdam for a coffee shop.  Any village of more than 10 people will probably have one.  Here somebody was enjoying a last joint before boarding the train to go home.  There was a difference here for me though.  No-one called out “Hay Rasta, wanna smoke?”  Refreshing to say the least.
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On making it to Nijmegen, we found that the station was a small way out of town, and we needed to find a hotel.

A little bit of old town left

A little bit of old town left

The Mercure  at the station was a bit out of our price range, so we lugged our bags down town.  Here we found another hotel that was the same price.  To cut a long story shot, we ended up staying there as nearly everything is the same price here as well. Expensive.

Nijmegen was one of the main liberation points during the war, and a lot of the old town centre has been destroyed.  There were airborne assaults as well as land crossings along the river.  Unlike parts of Germany, they were not rebuilt in the original style, and there are a wide variety of buildings.

but not much of the castle

but not much of the castle

It is the oldest city in Holland, and used to have a large castle.  To our disappointment, we got there too late to see the castle.  By about 200 years.  Most of the buildings were sold as scrap.  The stones crushed to provide a base to the cobblestones in Amsterdam.  There were two sad little sections of the building left though.  N11postrivermaasA good thing about the city is that they have listed all these small or long walking/cycling tracks.  Signposts placed strategicly around to tell you some of the history of the area.  It was well done, and although we never intentionally did any of the tracks, we were constantly stumbling over the signs.
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Down to the river for a peaceful break, looking out over the water and enjoying the evening, then back up to watch the set up for Queensday.  They were starting a bit early here, about midday the day before, so preparations were in full swing.

AA