Holland was a hoot. (previous Europe post) We’ll be back. We said that six times before and sure enough we went back. Seems as if we have a January/February 2020 stay lined up. We did a winter stay two years ago; not sure if it is best for bike riding.
As of 09 May 2017, The Netherlands has a reciprocal health care agreement with Australia. Guaranteeing Medicare – aligning reciprocal health care, which is good (for me) and others in similar situations. Getting old and shoving in implants makes travel insurance very high so thankfully we live in a country with good health care willing to share their good karma with eleven other countries: Belgium, Finland, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, the Republic of Ireland, Slovenia, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. So, there is our list in the future of places to age gracefully in. Of course, we go to the States in a couple of months for three-months and my insurance for that little trip costs more than the air fare. Not fair. And I am an American. Go figure.
30 August 2018
We left our Airbnb river tugboat, (see, https://neuage.me/2018/12/08/utrecht/) walking ten-minutes to the number four bus and arriving at Utrecht Centraal an hour earlier than we had planned. As we were taking five trains to Hamburg, saving money instead of one train, the ICE, which was twice as expensive, we got the first train to Amersfoort, had a snack at the train station and got ourselves to Hamburg, changing a few times along the way, by four pm. Narda’s friend Mau met us at the station and took us to our hotel a couple of blocks from the subway and a couple of blocks from her house.
We have stayed at the Centrum Hotel Commerz, Altona a few times. It is inexpensive, near Mau’s and the train station and it has a nice breakfast spread. It reminds me of the Fawlty Towers series, not in how the owners act but in how it looks; small, funky, a fussing-about man and his wife, but they are good.
Narda met Mau at a music summer school in Budapest thirty years earlier and they have been friends ever since. We had breakfast together at the hotel the next morning and spent Saturday wandering around the Altona Park of Hamburg, ending at the Elbe River and taking a bus back. Because we have been to Hamburg several times before, most recently in February 2017, we won’t post much here (see “2 February Thursday DAY 69 of trip” https://neuage.me/2017/02/13/two-ponts-and-a-castle/). Suffice to say, we happily got lost and sometimes found how to get to the next spot following a map. And when we are unable to find where we are headed we tend to explore where we are; which is what travel is really about.
We went with Mau to the train station on Sunday and took the ICE to Berlin. Earlier this year we rode many trains in India, including a seventeen-hour overnighter (https://neuage.org/India/). Long story short; the ICE is nice. Choose the quiet car – silence is golden and all that. Of course, people listen to music, videos, whatever, (on headphones) but they don’t talk on phones or to one another, OK, we did talk a bit, but there were only a few people in our carriage. It is an hour and forty-two minutes (yes, the Germans do on-time well, and so do the Indians, usually).
We also met Mau’s parents at the train when we left. It was fantastic to see them again, a family of wonderful musicians. I have enjoyed meeting them a number of times over the years, once also in Australia when Hanno (Mau’s dad, a great jazz pianist) came to watch a big band gig I was playing 2nd alto in (The Little Big Horns). This visit in Hamburg was the first of three times in this trip seeing my good friend and her 11 year old son. Precious times of reconnecting.
Our Berlin hosts, with who we traded houses, met us at the Berlin station and drove us to our new home. They had already stayed at our home in Adelaide a few months ago when we were away in India. Frank and Wally took us out to an Italian restaurant, showed us around Berlin a bit and left us to our own discoveries back at their home. They have a second home and are staying there for the month of September while we make hay with their home. It is a nice German home, very comfortable and full of art as Frank is an artist. Frank and Wally are living in Frank’s art-studio several blocks away. The next day Narda and I spent the day at home, writing, doing photographic stuff and looking at some of the things we would like to do during our month in Berlin. Narda plans our world-trips and I plan stuff to do when we get to where we are going. Of course we overlap but that is the big picture. I have found us an electronics fair to go to and lots of street art things to see. We will do the tourist stuff too. The idea of home-exchange is to live like a local.
In the afternoon Wally and Frank took us to their daughter’s home. A very large apartment in a building from the 1930s. My impression of Berlin was that it was leveled during WW 2 but there are many buildings from the early 1900s as well as some from the 1800s.
We had some really interesting coversations with our new German friends. They are actively involved with helping a young Syrian refugee find a job, learn the language and get settled. It is great to see this side of the ‘refugee crisis’ in Europe. The daughter and her freind also told us some of their experiencees with Osho as their guru. This resounded with us, as we had spent time in Pune, India quite recently in a town where the movement is alive and well, and you often saw the participants walk around our neighbourhod in their maroon gowns.
Our hosts said the best option for seeing Berlin was to pruchase either a weekly or a monthly transportation pass. We have use of their car but we did not use it preferring to ride bikes, walk, and public transportation; also, parking is difficult in Berlin. We bought a monthly bus/train/boat two zone pass for 59 Euros ($68 USD). The only limitation is we can only use it after 10 am which gives a great reason to sleep in.
Monday – we did our first day out, taking combinations of five buses and subways/elevated trains, getting ourselves to the Brandenburg Gate and to the Jewish Memorial.Brochures tell us that The Brandenburg Gate is an 18th-century neoclassical monument, built on the orders of Prussian king Frederick William II after the successful restoration of order during the early Batavian Revolution.
The separation of Berlin began in 1945 after the collapse of Germany. The country was divided into four zones, where each superpower controlled a zone. In 1946, reparation agreements broke down between the Soviet and Western zones. Response of the West was to merge French, British, and American zones in 1947 (sidebar – I was born in 1947, also Israel became a nation and India [Indian independence act 1947] became separate from Pakistan, four days after I was born, and of course the start of the modern era of UFO sightings, in Michigan, where I was born, began.) My friend in India interviewed me for her university magazine saying I was the man who was as old as India. We may have become side-tracked here. Moving on.
From 1961 to 1989 the Brandenburg Gate came to symbolize divided Germany, as the Berlin Wall shut off access to the gate for both East and West Germans. It served as the backdrop for U.S. Pres. Ronald Reagan’s famous 1987 speech in which he entreated the Soviet leader, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” (So easy to share our observations of what we saw/learned in Berlin with the wall issues and the wall ‘proposed’ in the States – but we won’t).
The Holocaust Memorial, a block from The Brandenburg Gate, is a moving tribute to the Murdered Jews of Europe. As most museums are closed on Monday, including this, we were amongst a only a few people here. The memorial is made up of two thousand, seven hundred and eleven grey concrete slabs, or stelae. They are identical in their horizontal dimensions (reminiscent of coffins), differing vertically (from eight inches to more than fifteen feet tall), arranged in a precise rectilinear array over 4.7 acres, allowing for long, straight, and narrow alleys between them, along which the ground undulates. There is a heap of information including upsetness about the whole memorial on the internet so there is no point in repeating.
On my birth-day, 10 August, 1947, General Lucius D. Clay reported the release of the last 8 million German prisoners of war and the complete destruction or conversion of all armaments plants in the US-occupied zone. The United States became the first of the four occupying powers to release all its German POWs.
For the whole month in Berlin we rode bikes every day. We have access to a car but never used it. The bus and train system are so good. Most busses are double decker, we would watch for one that had empty seats in the front on top and like any children we would scamper up and settle for our day’s journey which most days was to wherever the bus was going or until something looked interesting.
As the parent of a person who actively (interactively) loved piecing/graffiti/street art I have cast my eye in the direction of urban art over the years (decades). My only real participation was my saying to Sacha that if he got permission to spray paint a fence in our town of Victor Harbor, I would even assist him with his ‘work’. Sure enough, he got the permission from a neighbour and one Sunday the two of us were out doing a fence. 1993. I only was ‘allowed’ to fill in some large areas due to my lack of experience; and well, for being old. After many challenging years of parenting a street artist he did come good and has done wall art for councils in Melbourne. So as the pa of a professional street-artist I looked forward to sharing with Narda this world. ‘Urban Nation: Understand the power of art as a social architect’ https://urban-nation.com/. Where does one start with such an amazing place? It is street art, it is younger people (everyone is younger these days), it is protest, it is amazing, and it is good.
And I was totally hooked. This amazing art, so full of colour, drama, beauty and societal comment was so much fun.
There is a new show of international work every few months. We were fortunate to see two shows and to attend a movie night.
Even the toilets are tagged/pieced more than what would be at the local Ikea,
Wall outside Urban Nation Museum
We took too many photos inside and of street art around Berlin to post here but we did make a slideshow that is worth the visit, https://bit.ly/2AxPl8Q. We went one evening to see the incredible documentary, Happyland, by Australian street and contemporary artist Kaff-eine (http://www.kaff-eine.com/);
“art as shelter. film as connection’. Filmed in Manila’s slum: “We created and installed thirty five large art tarpaulins or ‘art tarps’ which featured Kaff-eine’s portraits of local residents. The art tarps were either used to create or improve shelter, or sold and traded for food and other necessities. The installation process was professionally photographed and captured on film.” “Manila’s slum communities are home to millions of poverty-stricken people. The slum residents who experience the most brutal circumstances are the garbage-picking and charcoal-making communities, whose homes and livelihoods are Manila’s dumpsites. In Kaff-eine’s Phoenix 2015 project, the communities of Baseco and Happyland (from a local word ‘hapilan’ for dumpsite) identified a need for improved housing and shelter. In these wastelands, most residents live in makeshift homes built from scavenged, piecemeal materials and located in areas vulnerable to flooding, typhoons, storm surges and fires.” https://www.cheeseagle.com/happyland/
There is a sample on youtube of the film, well worth seeing if it is in your area https://bit.ly/2HjsUdB. The showings were free. There were only six or seven of us there to watch. Perhaps because it was in English. We got to Urban Nation Museum an hour early because we believed it would be packed. We were surrounded by many empty chairs. Look up Kaff-eine on that internet thingy, she is doing some amazing stuff.
A day of sightseeing got us to the F10 ferry from Wannsee to Kladow.
We did this trip a couple of times. The 20-minute trip is free with the standard A-B ticket (it’s part of Berlin’s official transport network); as we purchased a month pass we are taking several of the ‘free’ ferries. The teen idol, Kleine Cornelia, had her first hit record in 1951, aged eight, with a song written by her father. “Pack die Badehose ein” (Pack your swimsuit”) a cheery tune about a group of children going swimming on a hot summer’s day at Wannsee. The Wannsee Conference; where the implementation of the so-called Final solution to the Jewish question, was held along here, we could see the buildings from our ferry. Don’t think teen idol, Kleine Cornelia was singing about this particular beach. The Wannsee House, site of the conference, is now a Holocaust memorial. Berlin is full of unpleasant history everywhere. There is not much to see in Kladow, another suburb of Berlin, but we did go for walks through the local forest and have lunch in it one day. Another day we took the #218 to the ferry for Peacock Island. The bus ride is rather spectacular as it goes for about half an hour through a dense forest on a one-lane gravel road.
“Peacock Island is a world apart, with the fairy-tale castle and the free-roaming animals. From the ferry dock at the southern end of the island, a narrow path leads past lush roses and dense trees to the castle built in 1794.”
Wow! Great hype. We were pumped. Got to the dock and saw a sign saying the ferry was closed for the day due to a strike or some dumb-ass reason. We were disappointed but not for long. In the distance we saw a large ferry coming our way. We got on without knowing more than that it was headed down the river. It was a ferry to Potsdam.
This was our third trip to Potsdam. On the second one we had taken our bikes and bought the AB pass for them. Potsdam is in zone C. One time, in a month of daily riding, we saw an inspector on the train and of course we didn’t have the zone C bike pass. After close to getting arrested (I may have been a bit rude) we paid the on-the-spot fine and continued our ride. Arguing with a German train inspector is … (use your own adjectives, we did).
Actually I will finish that sentence “arguing with a German train inspector is”… pointless. I left Terrell arguing and went with the other inspector (in case I should try to flee) in search of an ATM. We drew the money out, it took a while, but when we returned, Terrell and the female inspector were in happy conversation talking about their mutual travel experiences. See how travel unites the warring nations. 🙂
The best way to see Potsdam in a day, or afternoon, is on bike. There are bike paths around the Schlachtensee, the southernmost of the chain of lakes surrounding the Grunewald (Green Forest). We were even surprised… coming around a forested area, along the lake, to see many naked people. On the footpath, laying on the lawns, basking in the sun alongside the Schlachtensee. I wanted to take photos of the beautiful lake but Narda thought maybe I shouldn’t.
We weren’t looking for anyplace in specific, just riding through parks when we came across Cecilienhof.
Site of the Potsdam Conference, at Cecilienhof, the home of Crown Prince Wilhelm in Potsdam from 17 July to 2 August 1945. Joseph Stalin, British Prime Ministers Winston Churchill, and Clement Attlee, and President Harry Truman hung out together and shared thoughts; how to administer Germany.
Being with Dutch born Narda, we had to find the Dutch area in Potsdam. There are exactly 134 red, two-storey brick houses, arranged on four squares. Known as the Holländerhäuser (“Dutch houses”), they were built for Dutch immigrants between 1734 and 1742. They make up the largest exclusively Dutch housing development outside the Netherlands.
There are lots of cafes, and shops and cool streets to act Dutch in (not quite sure what that means but I enjoyed myself).
Berlin has 5 other public ferry lines. There are links on the Berlin homepage https://www.berlin.de/ and there is a dropdown menu to choose whatever language floats your boat.
The Berlin Wall and The Wall Museum East Side Gallery are main attractions. We spent a few days in this area.
The path goes to Potsdam which is some 20+ kilometres but we only went about five K, stopping little towns along the way and further up where it is wider we saw this big-ass barge with a couple, in our age bracket if not older running it. Narda immediately figures she wants to have a barge and navigate it. Being Dutch, with family members who had tugboats, and other vessels, it is in her blood. Of course, I agree but believe we may be a bit old and foreign to start a career as barge drivers.
When we were not hooning about on our bikes and trains, we took random buses. We do this in most every place we go. Our main criteria is, if a bus stops with empty seats we get on. In Berlin it was if there were empty seats on the second story in the front, so we could feel like flying through the streets of Berlin.
We went to so many places that were so old, we felt young. For example, St. Nicholas Church in Perlin-Spandau started in 1240 and complete 1398. In 1806, Napoleonic troops used the church as an ammunition magazine. In 1944 a bombing raid burnt the tower, but they fixed it back up in the 1980s. They have several things from 1398, the alter is new though, built in 1582. I have the information sheet in front of me here in Adelaide (January 2019) so it makes remembering things from four months ago a bit easier.
There are many memorials around the city such as this one,
We took trams to random places in the former East Germany starting from Alexanderplatz, a huge meeting place in the centre of Berlin. As most places in Berlin the ‘Alex’ was pretty much wiped out, though now there are no signs of anything but modern building throwups. With the many museums we managed to get to two. The American Museum and one and Berlin’s East Germany museum. As we were here toward the end of September we went one evening for the Oktoberfest celebrations but by nine pm we were bored and went home.
In the East Germany museum there were displays of how everyday life in the German Democratic Republic looked during the wall division. I thought they looked pretty much like anywhere in the Western world except every apartment looked the same… wait isn’t that how they were everywhere? There was the chance to drive a Trabant, the most common vehicle in the former East Germany and so Narda did. Unfortunately, I missed that exhibit and have no photos as I was looking at the exhibit about nude bathing… and other interesting parts of German life.
While Terrell was busy with the nudes, I found a display of an old ccommunist era Trabant, which was all set up to have a ‘driving experience’ with an interactive screen and real steering wheel, gears and foot pedals. I managed to get it ‘going’ and drove very fast around the neighbourhood, narrowly missing other cars and pedestrians. It was a hoot. Unitl I finally crashed it into a pole. Oh well. Next.
My favourite Berlin iconic food was ‘curry wurst’. Basically yummy German wurst covered in tomato sauce and sprinkled with curry powder. Simple but good. I clocked up 6 meals.
Berlin has been a traditional hot spot for squatters, initially driven by the multitudes of empty properties left by families leaving the former East Germany. We found an area in the Turkish Quarter (Kreuzberg) with a block of apartment buildings with poetic lyrics on banners hanging about the place. As there is a squatter’s museum we passed we tried to find it again but never did. Our host took us to a large area filled with huge Russian statues, The Soviet War Memorial (Tiergarten) erected by the Soviet Union to commemorate its war dead, particularly the 80,000 soldiers of the Soviet Armed Forces who died during the Battle of Berlin in April and May 1945. So impressive I took maybe a hundred photos but two here is enough.
We went to other free concerts, such as the ones offered at The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. There is no entrance fee to see inside the ruined church or to bop around the new one. The church built at the end of the 19th century, bombed to smithereens in 1943, rebuilt in the 1960s, still has part of the bombed-out section, including the bell tower. It is quite impressive to see the ruined steeple surrounded by the ultra-modern skyscrapers around it. We attended an organ concert but didn’t make it to any of their other free concerts or paid ones. Well worth the bother to get to this part of town. See their webpage for stuff (in English and other languages too) https://gedaechtniskirche-berlin.de/. inside the new church – zillions of small blue windows – It is located on the Kurfürstendamm in the centre of the Breitscheidplatz. The Christmas market is near the church, this is an active area day and night with buskers, outdoor concerts, souvenir places and shopping centres. (On 19 December 2016, a truck was deliberately driven into the Christmas market next to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church leaving 12 people dead and 56 others injured). I have this in my Thoughts in Patterns Book 6. (page 27 – print edition) (eBook) (Examine the first fifteen pages for free). Book 6 is from our 2018 travels.
I was taking photos of the area when this little girl walked by, looking at the flowers and memorial to those who had died. (On Google+ here).
Another area we explored was Potsdamer Platz about 1 km south of the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag. After developing from an intersection of rural thoroughfares into the most bustling traffic intersection in Europe, it was totally wiped out during World War II and then left desolate during the Cold War era when the Berlin Wall bisected its former location. In the last couple of decades, it has once again become a centre. We took Europe’s fastest lift (elevator for the Yanks), to the top (100 metres or about 30 stories) in 20 seconds. It is the coolest lift. At the top there is a 360-degree view of Berlin. We were there on a clear day and though we could not quite see Australia in the distance we did see heaps. Hitler’s Reich Chancellery was just one block away and many other Nazi government things were nearby as well, and so Potsdamer Platz was right in a major target area throughout the war until it was levelled. When the Berlin Wall, 1961, went through the Platz it stayed in its rubble state. Only one building in the whole area remained. To get a feeling for how it was see the German film Wings of Desire https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wings_of_Desire The film scored 98% on Rotten Tomatoes, meaning it is quite good. There is a YouTube trailer of it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Og4Y9gbhqBE Or rent the two-hour movie from YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ehLj4RzUhrs. For more groovy stuff; on 21 July 1990, ex-Pink Floyd member Roger Waters staged a gigantic charity concert of his former band’s rock extravaganza The Wall to commemorate the end of the division between East and West Germany. The concert took place at Potsdamer Platz. The full concert is on several YouTube sites – as is the nature of YouTube, some are better filmed than others. Not sure if there is an official version.
Just a couple of more places/insights. As we often say, “we like to live where we visit”. We try to make minimum stays of four-weeks. Berlin, we need to stay for several months. Everyday we were out and about, though if we had longer we would have had some ‘downtime’, a day at home; perhaps even writing a blog, instead of waiting for three-months later, as is now, to write from memory, Narda’s handwritten notes, my daily textualities, picture-poems, and sorting through, easily, a thousand photos and a lot of video. I am not doing a video for Berlin currently. Just too much else to do in life, and we still have all of Spain to write about.
One of my favourite museums, The Urban Nation Museum for Urban Contemporary Art by far is the best, but up there with the next tier of museums is the American Museum (Allied Museum). http://www.alliiertenmuseum.de Not because I am one of them, but due to its quality of information. It is free, except for a euro to go inside an airplane used during the Berlin Blockade.
A video (in English) tells the daringness of the Yanks during the Soviet blockade to starve out western Germany. We also got to see Checkpoint Charlie buildings. We saw tunnels,how the Yanks did the 1960s in tough times and so much more. Well worth the visits, to see how the locals endured. The last place we will mention is the Spandau castle. We took the train out to the Rathaus Spandau stop (on our bikes). and yes it does look like a girl’s bike, but we don’t call them that. We call them ‘step-through bikes’ as that is their current names and less gender humiliating (for males). I need this type, as at 71, running and throwing a leg over and racing away is difficult!
“Spandau Castle was indirectly mentioned for the first time in 1197. The Margraves of Brandenburg had built it on the site of an old Slavic settlement at the place where the rivers Havel and Spree meet.” http://www.zitadelle-berlin.de/
“The Citadel is home to 10,000 bats every year. They come to sleep through the cold winter. The vaults of the old fortress offer a multitude of hiding places. The brick walls offer one of the most important winter quarters for bats in Europe.” (http://www.zitadelle-berlin.de/en/ )
We went to the bat cellar. Very interesting. I used my phone light to look through the glass. Maybe it isn’t supposed to be done. The bats went nuts flying all over inside their once sleepy enclosure. But we did get to see them in all their glory. Spandau Castle is a good whole day visit. There were maybe five other tourists the whole day we were there. We brought our lunch and thermos of coffee and between the bats and the towers the day was wonderful. Some of the highlights here are the Julius Tower which is the oldest building in Berlin (1500s), which we lumbered to the top of for a spectacular view. The Fortress ‘A masterpiece of Renaissance architecture’ since the 16th century‘ is groovy too.
And that is all we are saying. We loved Berlin, a month is just not enough time there. A short blog like this only scratches the surface of our life in Berlin. We lived life like we do at home or anywhere we nest: we watch Netflix series in the evening, watch Colbert, John Oliver, Bill Maher and other USA real-news in the morning, eat our usual meals which for me is low-carb, organic vegetarian. And with Narda, meat and stuff. Next blog is Northern Spain. Between Germany and Spain, we popped into Great Britain for ten-days. Staying in Horsham, Brighton, and taking a Brittany Ferry from Portsmouth to Santander, Spain, with visits to museums and castles all of which we will share in the Spain blog, coming soon to you, exclusively.
I agree with Terrell; we coud easily have stayed here for 3 months. I think we will probably return. The city has a very special presence. Full of tragedy and courage, and the memories are everywhere. And full of art and creativity. We also enjoyed the Turkish quarter, another different vibe. One of the highlights for me was the conversations with Frank and Wally. Frank has such a lot of knowledge about Berin’s history, but also about the state of the world and I found his insights so fascinating. They are a very generous couple, both in their dealings with us, their hospitality, and also in their work with the refugees. Berlin made a big impression on me.
Thanks for sharing this moment with us.
Terrell Neuage Thoughts 2019 updated 05 February 2019 Adelaide, South Australia
‘Leaving Australia Book 2‘ (new NOW IN PAPERBACK & AS E-BOOK)
‘ Leaving Australia “Again’: Before the After” (See the first ten pages of each for free) Paperback Edition
(This was written 22/08/18 – and posted mid-December 2018. How time flies)
We have a clip over at YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBJhZgMqB6A
The Netherlands is like my third or fourth home. USA would have to be first as I was born there and spent about 33-years before nesting in Australia, then nine-years back to New York for teaching. Australia would be second with about twenty-six years. China could be third with three years, but The Netherlands could be my third home; this is my seventh trip here and Narda was born in Utrecht and her family here is my family now too. This time we are only here for three weeks. Last year we were in Utrecht for February. This time we can ride bikes heaps. In February we needed to stop quite often and warm up. Another house-exchange; a bike ride to the oldtown which we are doing today. There is no point in timing our excursions based on phone-maps as we get lost too easy. Yesterday, we rode to Harmelen to visit Tom and Ineke. The GPS said 25-minutes, we got there one-hour and fifteen minutes after starting. Tom and Ineke are Narda’s uncle and aunt. We visit them each time we are in town. A side-story; they visited us June 2004 when we were living in New York. We were standing in the Times Square’s area when news of Ronald Reagan dying was being announced. A reporter with microphone in hand was asking folks questions on how they felt with his passing. The reporter asked Ineke and she said, “I’m Dutch, I don’t care”. It was playing live on the big news screen there on 42nd street. If we could have posted to social media, we would have put a video up. Of course, social media was just starting its run of silliness then.
Another aside, a pretty sad one. Just a few months after we returned home, Tom died suddenly at the 25th anniversary party of my cousin Hans. Tom, although we miss him; he was the last of his siblings to die; he died surrounded by his loved ones.
We took the Eurostar from London to Rotterdam on my birthday, 10 of August. We wrote about that in the last blog-thingy. Overnight Rotterdam in a nifty Airbnb space, had a nice breakfast served to us and were soon out the door. Hello Holland!
We got to Utrecht Centraal about an hour later. Utrecht Centraal is the largest and busiest railway station in the Netherlands. Bigger than Amsterdam, it is all new. From there we got a local bus to our house-exchange. We got settled quite quickly and the next day we were out on our bikes to explore The Netherlands. Well actually we went about ten-minutes along a canal to Maximapark, (https://www.maximapark.nl/).
Maximapark is large, larger than Central Park in New York City or the Parklands in Adelaide to give an idea. We explored that on other days; on our first in this area, Saturday, we went to the Castellum Hoge Woerd (museum).
Castellum Hoge Woerd, situated in Utrecht’s Leidsche Rijn neighbourhood, is a modern interpretation of a centuries-old Roman fort. One day in 1997, contractors building the Leidsche Rijn residential area stumbled by chance upon the entire infrastructure of the Roman borde, the border road, the river and a ship. Their big thrill came when they uncovered the Roman ship De Meern I. This inland vessel from 150 AD had to undergo conservation for 12 years before it could be exhibited. See photo below; not sure where the suites and buffet area of this ship are but it surely does not match the cruise ship we were on a year-ago today.
And we got to see what we looked like back in the day when the Romans hung out in these parts, a couple of thousand years ago.
Even though they have spent their life in nearby Utrecht they had never been to this part or this museum. Yesterday (Thursday the 16th) we were with Narda’s other cousin named Hans and his wife and they said they had never been to this park or to this museum either. We told a few other family members, all living nearby, and none of them had been to it either. And these people travel heaps. Hans number two goes overseas a lot for work, Hans number one and family travel a lot around Europe. What is it in us humans that makes us see the world but not our local stuff even if it is historic. “Hey mate, we just found a 2,000 year old Roman ship in the ground”, “groovy, no time to see it, on my way across the pond to see New York City, Paris, Adelaide…”. I am the same. Tourist sites in Adelaide I have yet to see, if there were any in upstate New York I never got to see them either; too busy seeing the world.
If you come to The Netherlands, give Amsterdam and Rotterdam a miss and go to Utrecht. And if you go to Utrecht check out the Castellum Hoge Woerd and Maximapark. Don’t just come to visit us, we probably won’t be here.
The northern frontier of the Roman empire along the Rhine in the current Netherlands was established in AD 47 and abandoned around AD 270. Ships were used to transport troops and supplies to the frontier zones. Now days we speed around on freeways or ride bikes.
We had our lunch in Máximapark (https://www.maximapark.nl/), watched people go by with carts of children, ducks coming and going, the museum, and generally had a best time ever. Máximapark is a place to see, check out their website for stuff happening like free concerts, Australian tourists on bikes… Máximapark is rated number three on stuff to see in Utrecht.
As everywhere in The Netherlands, Germany… school buses are quite personal. A bike full of children on the way home from school.
We spend so many hours each day riding bikes; so fit, though admittingly very sore at the end of each day. Being me, or being the average guy, I noticed the people passing by on bikes or jogging; especially those in their twenties and thirties, forties, fifties, you get the picture. Such nice smiles. Are those females flirting with me? Do they think I am hot? OK! Reality check, those nice smiles are them thinking of their grandfather, maybe even great-grandfather. Maybe they aren’t sexy smiles, just kind-to-an-elderly-person smile. Thoughts of a kindly, frail, a bit-confused, slightly eccentric, OLD, grandparent. Dam! Dutch women have enchanting smiles. I know, I married one.
Riding bikes should not be a challenge. Narda’s 92-yearold uncle who had two knee replacements, one at 91, rides every day. Sure enough I managed to fall off. Twice. The second time was in the old-town, so many folks on bikes, so fast, I moved over and hit the curve and sure enough not only fell but hit my head, lucky I was wearing a helmet; something locals rarely do. Knocked my glasses off, got a few cuts and scrapes, several people helped me up. Shattered ego.
We rode to Utrecht centrum several days, bought and tasted cheese, and took another armful of photos of the Dom (Domtoren, the 14th-century bell tower) as we do every time we come to Utrecht. We go into details of this area in our previous blogs (2009, 2017, 2006). Of course, our old video clips are the best way to see this area: The Dom, Boating in Utrecht, Old Utrecht and of course the one from this trip = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBJhZgMqB6A
Today we went to visit two of Narda’s uncles and a cousin. Remarkable Oom Pete (oom being Dutch for uncle) (remarkable because he had his second knee reconstruction at 91 and is now riding his bike most days). We have stayed with Rienk before and in his 80s is feisty as ever. He has a great German World War 2 boat which he has taken us around the canals of Utrecht.
After two-weeks at our home-exchange we moved to our Airbnb, Tugboat the Anna from 1927, https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/4426214, on the river Vecht. Our host from our house exchange drove us the half hour there which made the transition from a large home to a tiny home easy. We loved the boat and the area. We were here for four-days. The space was small compared to a larger space (and of course a larger space larger than a large space but who is measuring?) but hey, who is complaining? We could bump our head inside our cabin, worry about falling in the river crossing over on the narrow plank to the boat, drop our cameras into the River Vecht or wonder what happens when we poo in the toilet – yes, we can now tell you where it all goes. It goes into the river. Apparently, as we were told, due to the age of the boat, and size, that which goes into the loo goes into the river – directly. Of course, we did not look out the porthole to confirm if anything floated by, saying all that, we did make good meals in the kitchen and spent time riding on the bikes provided.
We rode around the quaint small town of Oud-Zuilen where there is castle, Slot Zuylen Castle. Being the tightwads that we are, we took sandwiches and ate on the lawn of the castle rather than go to the overpriced café and we watched a YouTube video about the castle instead of paying lots to go inside and see it. An economical day out can easily involve packing a lunch and reading internet pages and viewing online clips about the inside of a place. Some museums are surely worth the money and some restaurants are worth the bother but save fifty bucks a day on a three-month trip and that is more than four-thousand dollars. Do a house exchange with a car included and that can be worth more than five-thousand dollars a month. There are ways to do Europe for months at a time on a budget and still have a great time.We found a couple of windmills and did lots of riding on trails into the Dutch countryside. Our hosts in Germany did a four-day bike riding trip recently (Germany is our next blog) and they are 78 years old and they took their cousins with them (both in their 80s). Because of their age they only go thirty kilometres a day then stay at a hotel. Narda’s uncle in Utrecht, after his second knee reconstruction, age 92, rides his bike to his son’s house most days. Hopefully we will still be riding around various countries when we are much older too. The concept of being tethered to a car is a bit repulsive, limiting, imprisoning, crap.
We had thought dragging our stuff out of the boat area would be difficult but there is a bus stop within walking distance of the river which we managed to keep from falling into and we got to Utrecht Centraal a couple of hours before we had planned. The train to Gouda from Utrecht is only eighteen minutes and the walk to our Airbnb took us half an hour. We are still dragging too much stuff with us and as usual are realizing we need less than we have. Our week rental home was an older arty quaint two-floor plus attic house within walking distance of the old quarter of Gouda. We explored the Church of St John ~ ‘Sint Janskerk’ (The Netherland’s longest church)
built for and by the Catholics in the sixteenth century but after the reformation the Protestants grabbed it and have held on to it since.
In our Utrecht clip there are a few minutes of organ music as well as shots from inside this beautiful building. Included with the entrance fee of about six Euros is a listening device which very clearly explains the many huge stained-glass windows – one of the better information deliveries I have found at any museum. Plan to spend at least an hour here to get the low down on all the capers that went on in this neck of the woods. Wikipedia has lots about it over at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sint_Janskerk and if you want to jump to see just the stained-glass trip hop over to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sint_Janskerk. My suggestion is to just watch our video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBJhZgMqB6A . Better yet check out their page http://www.sintjan.com/ with great photos and stories told. There are many windows like the one below.
Gouda of course is the cheese place and apparently there are seven different types, but I cannot recall which was the best. I think it was the fifth one we tried. We also found out that Gouda cheese accounts for 50 – 60% of the world’s cheese consumption (I read it on the internet).
In the bike-mad country of The Netherlands there is always a better bike – this one below has a bit of a rustic appeal.
Below is a Photoshop rendered image from the centre of town. I manipulate photos for my writings that I post on Twitter (https://twitter.com/neuage), Google+ (https://plus.google.com/u/0/collection/E_6JaB), tumblr (http://neuage.tumblr.com/), pinterest (https://www.pinterest.com.au/neuage/picture-poems-by-terrell-neuage/), behance (https://www.behance.net/neuage), linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/neuage) and most other sharing sites.
Below is the town hall. (not Photshopped) Unlike our house exchanges our Airbnb places usually do not include a bike so we rented one for a day and rode morning to night. There are bike paths to country farms and along rivers. We had lunch beneath this lift bridge below – see our video to see this in action. What we found unusual was that it did not lift at one end but the whole bridge moved up.
And that was The Netherlands, again. I wrote a lot less this time because not only have we done this six or seven times before and written heaps then, but our daily life was riding bikes most of the day, making dinner at home and watching our television shows in the evening. House exchanges were best for us as we could live ‘like a local’ and as we would spend more time in one place, life became a pleasant routine. Of course, we shopped at Jumbo, our favourite grocery store. I was able to fulfil my foody-needs; low-carb, vegetarian, slightly-organic, affordable, tasty, Narda-eye-rolling meals. Next up is Berlin for a month, of course if someone in our family was to read this, they would rightfully claim not only are we past Berlin, but we are through our next couple of stops in the UK and headed off to Spain; but, this is a slower process this time. Earlier in the year when we were in India for three-months we wrote every day and posted many videos. This trip we are just living our life – though most mornings I spend an hour or two on my textual-images that I play around with in Photoshop and other programs and I have listed a few of the places I post them above. I do the same thing back in Adelaide and I have been doing textual illustrations since the 1960s – making this a very routine part of my life. We love to travel – the idea of living life on the road or at home in quite the same fashion appeals to me. At seventy-one having routines is quite comfortable and I write every night and have for more than fifty years and most mornings I find a way to illustrate something I had written the night before; doing this anywhere in the world: in a new setting home, on a plane, train, bus, even in a park using my phone makes this a life that has a continuous flow, with everywhere being home. The only difference is I have a shed full of crap back in Adelaide which is nice and for some reason Narda won’t let me carry it all with me. Narda writes as much or more than me, though she does it by hand and pastes in photos of places, meaning she did not write a lot here, though I refer to her notes for a hook to remember things.
Next little blog will be our month in Berlin. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for sharing this moment with us.
Terrell Neuage Thoughts 2019 updated 05 February 2019 Adelaide, South Australia
‘Leaving Australia Book 2‘ (new NOW IN PAPERBACK & AS E-BOOK)
‘ Leaving Australia “Again’: Before the After” (See the first ten pages of each for free) Paperback Edition