A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Weimerrv

Our last night in Amsterdam…..sigh

Boy I’m glad we’re going home!

70 °F
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Well today was all about two things, museums and beer. After a nice breakfast in the hotel, we took a brisk walk to the Van Gogh museum. Here we saw many of his paintings and drawings including Sunflowers and Irises. There were also paintings and sculptures by his contemporaries- Corot, Degas, Rodin, Pissarro, Renoir, Gaugin and Monet. A veritable feast of Impressionism. The only thing spoiling it were people flouting the no pictures rule and taking selfies and other annoying things. A wonderful collection and we enjoyed it.

We had some time to kill before our tickets to the Rijksmuseum, so we looked around for something to do and the Heineken Experience seemed to be just the ticket. The tour was an interesting look at the process for making Heineken beer. It was interactive and had some Disney ride qualities to it. They’ve been using the SAME special yeast for 150 years and only 11 people know what it is. The tour ended of course at the Heineken bar and i sampled the product ( just to make sure it was safe for anyone using our blog info for travel) and I can tell you it does taste very good. Beth may have a different take since she doesn’t like beer……

After the refreshing beer, on to the Rijksmuseum. The museum is organized by time periods. The second floor being the golden age of Dutch power. The 2nd floor was purposefully built to house Rembrandt’s masterpiece, The Night Watch. This extremely large painting was one of several to grace the hall of the rich “watchmen” of Amsterdam. We talked with a guide and he gave us a quick history of the painting from Rembrandt’s time to the present. At one point in the 1700’s the painting lost about a foot of width on each side, due to it being too large for the space it was being hung in….sacrilege! In the last 50 years it has been vandalized twice, once with a knife, scratching it and once with acid, melting the protective varnish. The knife attack can still be seen but the acid attack has been completely restored. In this museum you were allowed to take pictures, so we obliged and took a lot of them. I think we got “arted” out after about 2.5 hours and decided to call it a day and check out a shop we saw earlier that sells delft tiles.

We found the shop and bought something for the house. We were quite tired by this time and wanted a drink and a snack. We found a shop selling delicious French fries and Heineken beer( of course), with wine for Beth. Today we had the second most steps, almost 20000, of the whole trip. We are tired but we love Amsterdam and hope we return someday.

Sorry I blogged so many days in a row today…..

Tomorrow back to the good old US we go, a little heavier (weight-wise), a little wiser and certainly very happy with the trip. Fantastic!

Posted by Weimerrv 19:22 Archived in Netherlands Tagged amsterdam Comments (1)

Amsterdam, the Venice of the North

Water, water everywhere

70 °F
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Amsterdam, like Venice is below sea level and the structures are built on wooden piles. Interestingly, wood does not rot if its not exposed to air, so some of the piling are centuries old. Our tour today took us through a couple of neighborhoods, a description of the canals and how they have changed and a revealing description of “the thrifty Dutch”. Most houses are very narrow but tall and deep. The reason for this is that you paid taxes based on the width of your house…talk about tax policy influencing behavior! So we saw row after row of narrow homes connected together. Some you could see where the quality of the piling was not up to snuff. Those homes tended to sag to the left or right. In the Jordaan neighborhood many of the transverse canals were not perpendicular but set at a 60 degree angle so many of the homes looked like the Flatiron building in NY. Tough to find furniture to fit that angle.

We walked through the 9 streets, the main shopping district, to the central market and on to the Royal Palace and New Church. It seemed like a long walk, mainly because you have to dodge so many bikes.

it is said that Amsterdam has 750,000 people and 1.5 million bikes, I think that is true. When asked how deep the canals were our guide replied, 3 meters: 1 meter of mud, 1 meter of bicycles and 1 meter of water. The water was very clean; it just looked dirty due to the muddy bottom. Many, many boats are on the canals and we saw several for hire that provided a full bar for your one hour tour. You definitely had to keep your wits about you when walking, dogs, bikes and cars….oh my!

Posted by Weimerrv 16:57 Archived in Netherlands Tagged amsterdam Comments (0)

We leave Germany behind, on to the Netherlands!

Yes, the windmills are still be used

68 °F
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We left Germany in our wake and arrived at Kinderdijk, The Netherlands. This is a charming small town where they still have 19 working windmills…at least one is from 1600’s and still pumping water. Since most of the Netherlands are below sea level, a series of dikes and canals have been built over the centuries to drain the swamps and provide agricultural land. The windmills are a marvel of mechanical engineering. They have the ability to be turned to catch the wind, add cloth to the arms make them more sail-like and provide more speed and when the wind blows too hard they can be braked. They can operate with winds from 4-40 knots. These marvels can pump up to 16000 gallons an hours. All to keep the water from the fields and into the canal and out to sea. The windmill housed the family of the Miller and the Miller could never be more than 50 feet away from the mill. The main components are made of wood with 2 metal shafts and stone bearings. Oak, red oak and lignum vitae are the different woods used.

After our tour and some shopping, we headed back to the ship for our goodbye cocktail party. What a trip it has been and thanks to the timely rain, we made it all the way by the mighty Magni……well most of the way anyway. We should have sailed on the Baldur, but it was stuck in Budapest.

Tomorrow Amsterdam!

Posted by Weimerrv 16:37 Archived in Netherlands Tagged kinderdijk Comments (0)

Cologne or Colonia since it was founded by the Romans

The Cathedral is stunning

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Our last stop in Germany is Cologne. The town was founded in the year 50 by the Romans. You can still see remnants of the walls and towers that surrounded the old town. Our guides name was Ralph and showed us some interesting sites. The first one was a memorial to Edith Stein, a Jew who converted to Catholicism, then became a nun, earned her doctorate and when the nazis came, they came for her. We had seen a presentation earlier on our trip about her. The memorial was full of symbolism; her face was split in 2 to show her two religions; the tablets containing the Decalogue was broken in two and surrounded by the many shoes of the victims of the nazis…..very powerful.

The Cathedral Church of Saint Peter is a gothic masterpiece from the Middle Ages. It was started in 1248; construction continued for 312 years. Then there was a 300 year gap and was completed in 1880. For 500 years it was the tallest structure in the world and today it is the 2nd tallest cathedral in Europe. It has the largest facade of any church in the world and is made of sandstone.

The city was virtually destroyed late in the war but thankfully, the Cathedral escaped serious damage. The several bombs that hit the church damaged the facade in several places. You can see where it has been restored by the whiteness of the new stone. The church’s exterior has darkened over the centuries, but since sandstone is so porous, it cannot be cleaned without further damaging the exterior.

Cologne is know for the kolsch beer they brew. A top fermented beer served cold and in small glasses, so the beer never gets warm! I must say it is delicious.

We left for an extra excursion to visit a palace and hunting lodge in Bruhl. The two buildings were built for Clemens August, the Archbishop Elector of Cologne - again both civil and ecclesiastical power. He was also the Grandmaster of the Teutonic Order of Knights, so military power as well. Augustusburg and Falkenlust. They were built on a line with a stand of trees in the middle where herons would nest. Clemons was fascinated with falconry and used them to hunt the herons. He would band the herons after capture and set them free. Many would be caught multiple times. The hunting lodge had a room covered in delft tiles showing the hero’s, falcons and life at the palace. Both buildings were beautiful, over the top as these places tend to be. Please check out the entrance hall and stairway to the palace in the pictures.

One last historical tidbit…. Aggripina, Emperor Claudius’s wife was from Cologne and since she couldn’t be from a mere colony, Claudius elevated Cologne’s status to a city.

Posted by Weimerrv 16:33 Archived in Germany Tagged cologne Comments (0)

A few more castles then on to Koblenz

Marksburg castle

79 °F
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Sorry for the break in blogging. The Wi-Fi on the ship only allows 2 devices at a time to connect per stateroom. Since we each have an iPhone and iPad, disconnecting and reconnecting has become almost impossible to accomplish. The blogging is easiest on the iPad and the pictures are on the iPhone and we don’t have enough bandwidth for the pictures to go the cloud so I can get them on the iPad……I know, I know, a first world problem.

On to Braubach and the Marksburg castle. This castle is the only castle not captured or destroyed since it was built roughly 550 years ago. It is situated at the top of a small mountain with clear fields of fire to the river below. There are still 2 families living in the castle; not sure under what conditions. The tour took us through up through the long passage to enter the castle, the keep, battery, kitchen, chapel, noble family bedroom, dining hall, blacksmith shop and dungeon. We saw some interesting displays of armor, weapons, tools and torture devices. To be honest just walking up the rough hewn steps ( in the natural slate bed) to get in the place was torture enough, especially for Beth. Not to mention the guy walking with a cane.

After the castle, we took a short bus ride to meet our ship in Koblenz. Koblenz sits at the confluence of the Mosel and Rhine rivers. At the joining there is a large statue of Kaiser Wilhelm I, commemorating the unification of Germany in 1871. We visited the cathedral and 2 churches but since they had services going on, no interior pictures. The service was actually evensong so we sat for a while to listen. We ate dinner at a nice tapas restaurant in Old Town after checking out a Michelin starred restaurant where the menu consisted of a 9 course tasting menu for 186 euro without wine per person and they needed 2 days warning to accommodate gluten free. The tapas place was way cheaper and good….

One more stop tomorrow in Germany - Cologne.

Posted by Weimerrv 15:41 Archived in Germany Tagged koblenz Comments (0)

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