Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,
Nicholas
nwhyte

A weekend in the north: Kinderdijk, Keukenhof, Leiden, the Hague, Delft, Den Bosch

It was Anne's birthday yesterday, and I had some recent good news at work, so we celebrated by going to the Netherlands for two days with F (U went to respite care). It was a good trip.

Kinderdijk

Kinderdijk was a regular excursion for my family when we lived in the Netherlands in 1979-80. The 19 windmills remain a striking picture against the stark landscape.



F was also intrigued by the (decommissioned) Wurlitzer jukebox in the Buena Vista cafe where we had lunch, a different take on rotational technology.



Keukenhof

The farthest point of our trip from home was the flower gardens at Keukenhof, not really my thing (a birthday treat for Anne) but I had to admit that they are pretty spectacular. Photographs can't really capture the majestic sweep of 7 million flowers carefully arranged and curated, but I've tried.



The gardens are also enlivened by sculptures, such as these three women created by Berita Valk:



And this pair, "Freedom" and "Endless" by Karel van Wijngaarden:



Fans of Watership Down will be relieved to know that we also encountered the Black Rabbit of Inlé, and lived:



Leiden

Then it was on to Leiden, for a chat with sierra_le_oli and family, and Indonesian dinner in the Sumatra House (recommended; inexpensive and tasty). We walked around a bit the next morning, making comparisons with our local university town, but I seem to have taken only two photos, one of the Weighing House and one of the Town Hall framed through the trees at the top of De Burcht, the medieval fortress at the core of the city.



I had lived very close to there in 1979-80 and we detoured past my old house, but did not take pictures.

Escher in the Palace

The main collection of works by the great artist M.C. Escher is in a former royal palace in the Hague. You can see all the familiar prints (some of them apparently more recently produced than others), but also Escher's diaries, working drafts and Italian sketches which led to his later work, and some works that I was less familiar with. Here, for instance is an early tesselation, Eight Heads:



And here's a take on Relativity that I don't think I was familiar with:



And you can pose with a reflecting sphere yourself - here is the birthday girl, the rest of us visible in reflection:



The museum building itself is interesting; Queen Emma used it as her base in town after she retired from the regency which she had exercised in the 1890s, and between 1945 and 1984 her daughter, grand-daughter and great-grand-daughter used it as the royal office in the Hague. Panels in each room describe the former furnishings, which have now almost all been removed to make way for Escher prints.

We had lunch in a Belgian-themed cafe (little change there, I know) and moved on.

Delft

I had chosen Delft as our penultimate destination because, skimming through the available information, I'd formed the impression that there was a major exhibition of his work there in the Prinsenhof. In fact there is only one of his works on display, Het Straatje, The Little Street, a work of the late 1650s on loan from the Rijksmuseum. (This isn't my picture of it, it's a public domain one from Wikipedia.)



Once I'd got over my disappointment at the lack of other Vermeers, I had to admit that the organisers have done a brilliant job of historical detective work to identify exactly which buildings in Delft are shown in the picture. They make a convincing case that it was Vermeer's aunt's house at 42 Vlamingstraat, not all that far from the museum, and you are more or less encouraged to go and see for yourself, even though the current 40 and 42 Vlamingstraat are much more recent buildings and only the passage in between is claimed to be original.



The Prinsenhof was also the location of the first assassination of a head of state with a hand-gun, when the Dutch leader William the Silent was laid low in 1584. The marks left by the fatal bullets in the wall of the staircase have been preserved for posterity.



A sombre version of the Wilhelmuslied is on constant loop, and illuminated silhouettes illustrate the assassin and his victim. Some of the younger tourists were playing Dead William, and I reflected that you can play similar games in a number of other paces around the world. Though in Sarajevo you'd have to lie down in the middle of the road, so it wouldn't be safe.

Den Bosch

Finally, we stayed last night in Den Bosch, currently celebrating the 500th anniversary of the death of its most famous son, the painter Hieronymus Bosch. We had unfortunately missed the main exhibition of many of his paintings, which closed a couple of weeks ago; but we enjoyed wandering around the city (another restaurant to recommend: the Picasso); and there was a live jazz festival as well. But at the end of the evening, the jazz stopped for a few moments for Bosch By Night, an ambitious and amazing projection of Bosch's concepts onto the fronts of several houses on the main square, including the one he actually lived in. Apparently it had to be drastically revised at a late stage when one of the medieval buildings that was supposed to be part of the projecting surface collapsed. But it's pretty spectacular all the same. (This isn't my recording, it's from the local broadcaster.)



And so we woke up this morning and came home, collecting U en route. It's a public holiday today so we are enjoying the last of the long weekend.

My photography during the trip was made greatly more enjoyable by using Instagram, surely the most good-humoured of all social media channels, where the default behaviour of users is to be nice to each other. If you want to follow me there, I'm @nwbrux (as I am on Twitter, for the same reason - @nwhyte had gone.)
Tags: life: family, world: netherlands
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