Day By Day

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Through the Heart of Europe -- Part 13, Antwerp

We disembarked in Antwerp, and took a walking tour of the city.

Bicycles and poetry.

Along the riverfront.

A riverside statue commemorating a local legend about a giant who would attack local boatmen [when they were drunk].

This is the Antwerp "Steen" [stone fort] that guarded the harbor. It was first constructed in the fourteenth century and has been renovated several times since.

This is the Antwerp "meat hall" [Vleeshuis] which housed the butchers guild. The bricks and sandstone were selected and organized to make the whole structure look like a thick slab of meat. The style is called, in Dutch, "speklagen" which means "bacon layers".

Beside the meat hall is the "blood mountain". Butchers would slaughter animals at the top of the rise and the blood would drain down both sides.

Nearly every block boasts one of these statues of the Virgin Mary. They testify, not to the devotion of the Antwerpen, but to their ingenuity. Street lanterns were heavily taxed by local authorities, but religious shrines were tax exempt, so every time residents or merchants wanted to light their streets they erected a statue of the virgin and claimed that the light fixture was part of a shrine.

The "Grote Markt", Antwerp's central square, dominated by the Cathedral of Our Lady, constructed in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth centuries over the site of a Thirteenth century chapel.

The city hall, decorated by flags of all the nations that maintained embassies in the city.

Guildhalls. The tallest one is that of the archers guild, which was charged with the defense of the city. It was the most prestigious guild and one of its most famous members was Peter Paul Rubens. The medieval buildings burned in the mid-sixteenth century and were rebuilt in Renaissance style. The statue in the foreground illustrates another local legend. Supposedly an evil giant named Druoon Antigoon was terrorizing the local populace, but a Roman soldier named Silvius Brabo killed him, cut off his hand, and threw it in the river. This incident supposedly gave the town its name [hand werpen] which means hand thrown.

Renaissance style houses and shops.

A sixteenth century workers house.

These statues honor the artisans who worked on the cathedral.


One more game, one more level, and I will eat.

A warehouse for goods shipped from the Belgian Congo.

The green square "Groenplaats" which features a statue of Rubens and in the background stands the tower of the Cathedral.

Looking back at the cathedral from the river.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Through the Heart of Europe -- Part 12, Willemstad

Heading south from the Kinderdijk our next stop was Willemstad, a sixteenth-century fortified town named for William of Orange, the leader of the Dutch revolt against Spain. The town has been preserved much as it was centuries ago, but its most striking features [the fortifications themselves] are best seen from the air. Unfortunately, we were on foot so we could not see them in their full glory.

There was a small carnival in town when we arrived, but since it was early morning when we passed through there were few customers to be seen. 

Willemstad is a small town, only about 2,000 residents, and will not be growing in the future because the government has banned development in the area, which is preserved as a living museum.

The oldest reformed church still standing in the Netherlands.

Approaching the town center.

A canal [really a large moat] runs around the periphery of the fortifications.

The windmill that regulates the water level in the canal.

Commerce on the river and a modern windmill.

Resuming our southern journey into Belgium we eventually approached Antwerp. This is the view from our mooring site on the River Schelde.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Through the Heart of Europe -- Part 11, the Kinderdijk

Our next destination was the town of Nieuw-Lekkerland, not far from Rotterdam. Our purpose was to visit the famous Kinderdijk.

On our way we passed some glorious scenery.

And finally docked within easy walking distance of the Kinderdijk.

Kinderdijk is Dutch for "Children's Dike". The name derives from an old story about a disastrous flood that took place in 1421. After the flood a wooden cradle was seen floating on the water, rocking from side to side. Upon inspection it was found to contain a cat, that had been leaping from side to side to keep the cradle from taking on water, and a baby, safe and sound. The story has passed into English folklore as "The Cat and the Cradle".

Near the entrance a small fisherman.

This is what everyone expects to see in Holland. Here at the Kinderdijk the nineteen working windmills are not just a tourist attraction -- they actually serve to pump water out of the canals and into a reservoir to maintain water levels [although most of the pumping these days is done by deisel engines.

We were able to enter one of the windmills. Here are wooden clogs worn by the mill keeper, a bit embarrassing for our guide who had just informed us that nobody in Holland today wears such uncomfortable shoes.

Inside the mill.

Look, sheep!

A watergate near the entrance,


Then back on board our boat for the next leg of our journey through the waterways of the Netherlands.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Through the Heart of Europe -- Part 10, The Kroller-Muller Museum

After Bonn the boat headed down the Rhine toward Dusseldorf while several of us boarded a bus for a side-trip to see the magnificent collection of 19th and 20th Century art at the Kroller-Muller Museum in the Netherlands.

Along the way we passed this estate where Audrey Hepburn spent her final years.

The museum is surrounded by a sculpture garden set in a lovely deciduous forest. Here's a piece near the entrance.

And inside the entrance, more sculpture.

"Desire, deserve, delight".

But the real treasures in the museum are the paintings, many by Van Gogh and other late nineteenth century artists. Here are some of the most famous:

But there are also things on the wall like this.

Aaaah, Monet...



The snack bar where we rested for a bit.

Back outside, wandering through the sculpture forest.


Then back on the bus for a return to our boat.