Travels: Luxembourg, the Gibraltar of the North (June 3, 2014)

Luxembourg

Attractions:

  • City walls and fortress
  • Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial
  • Cathedrale Notre-Dame

In 963 A.D., Luxembourg was officially established with the acquisition of the Lucilinburhuc (Luxembourg Castle) by Count Siegfried of Ardennes in the treaty with St. Maximin’s Abbey of Trier. Considered the “Gibraltar of the North,” the bastions and old city walls are well-preserved and hint of a strong military power during the days of the Holy Roman Empire.

Luxembourg

Throughout history, Luxembourg would be inhabited by the Spanish, French, Austria, and Prussia, until they were finally recognized as an independent duchy in 1868. Today, the people of Luxembourg are trilingual, speaking German, French, and Luxembourgish. Continue reading

Travels in Holland: Kinderdijk (June 1, 2014)

Kinderdijk Located 15 km away from Rotterdam, Kinderdijk is an UNESCO World Heritage site that is reminiscent of the beautiful Dutch landscape: whirling windmills floating on the grassy banks of the marshes. Kinderdijk Our tour guide arranged a private boat for our group that took us down the course of the river and allowed us to admire the breathtaking scenery on both banks. Apparently, people can leisurely walk or bike along the banks; or stop for refreshments at a small café near the entrance. Continue reading

Travels in Holland: Rotterdam (June 1, 2014)

View of Rotterdam

Attractions:

  • Euromast
Euromast, Rotterdam, Holland (2014)

Euromast, Rotterdam, Holland (2014)

As the third largest city in Holland, Rotterdam is a modern port city with a skyline of skyscrapers and few traditional Dutch buildings. It had been rebuilt completely after being bombed during World War II.

During our brief stay, we visited the Euromast. Designed by architect, Hugh Maaskant, in the 1960s, the Euromast’s structure represents a ship’s mast with a crow’s nest, where one can see an amazing panorama of the city. Today, the structure is 185 meters (~607 feet) tall and one of the highest structures in Rotterdam.

Continue reading

Travels in Holland: Delft (June 1, 2014)

Delft

Attractions:

  • Royal Delft Factory

Delft is the home of the painter, Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675), and of the famous Delft Blue ceramics. Historically this town served as the home for William of Orange and the Dutch royal family. Presently, it is the home of the Delft University of Technology.

Delft

With Trafalgar, we briefly visited the town for a porcelain demonstration and for lunch.

Royal Delft Porcelain Factory

Master potter painting the plate

Master potter painting the plate

At the Royal Delft Factory, we learned about the history of Delft Blue ceramics. During the 17th century, the Dutch were inspired by ceramics, especially Chinese porcelain. Wealthy families purchased Delftware as a sign of their prosperity and showed off their elaborate collections. Delftware physically looks like traditional Chinese porcelain, but it is not considered true porcelain. The clay used in Delftware is not kaolin but rather a clay mixture that is then covered with a tin glaze when it comes out of the kiln. Continue reading

Travels in Holland: Den Haag (June 1-2, 2014)

Het Binnenhof at Den Haag

Attractions:

  • Peace Palace (Vredespaleis)
  • Het Binnenhof
  • Grote Markt

Den Haag (The Hague) is Holland’s governmental city. This city set the cultural tone for the Netherlands with its well-preserved landmarks.

Peace Palace in Den Hague (The Hague)

The Peace Palace embodies the idea of world peace and houses international judicial institutions. The construction was mainly funded by Andrew Carnegie in the early 20th century.

Het Binnenhof at the Hague (Den Haag)

The Het Binnenhof is the center of Dutch government. Apparently visitors may take a guided tour through the Hall of Knights and the First and/or Second Chamber(s) of Parliament if there are no political meetings. Its 13th-century buildings are very picturesque overlooking the Hofvijver pond. Continue reading

Travels in Holland: Volendam (May 29, 2014)

Volendam port

Attractions:

  • Henri Willig cheese farm
  • Wooden shoe demonstration

Volendam is a quaint fishing village located northwest of Amsterdam and bordering the Ijsselmeer, a freshwater lake. Frequented by visitors, one can visit the cheese and wooden shoe factories outside of the village prior to exploring the village proper.

Henri Willig cheese factory

Different cheese flavors at Henri Willig cheese farm

Different cheese flavors at Henri Willig cheese farm

The Henri Willig cheese farm at the Alida Hoeve was our first stop. The ladies in Dutch traditional dress showed us how the cheeses were made in the past and the machinery used to produce the round cheese balls or donuts.

Cheese apparently comes in many flavors, including garlic, fenugreek, and cumin. Worth a taste if you like cheese!

Next door was the wooden shoe demonstration. The famous Dutch clog is made of a flexible willow or poplar wood; and can be worn in summer and winter. A machine drills the hole and shapes the wood into a shoe. Then, the shoe is dried and sanded before it is painted in the bright colors and patterns favored by the Dutch.

Wooden Shoe Factory

After the delightful demonstration, our tour group took us to the village for lunch and exploration. As a coastal village, it is known for its seafood (especially eels) and traditions of wearing traditional costume during folkloric events. Apparently, Paviljoen Smit Bokkum is known for its smoked eel, which we regret not trying, and was a favored spot for some celebrities.

 

Travels in Holland: Haarlem (May 29, 2014)

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Attractions:

  • Grote Markt
  • Frans Hals Museum
  • Molen de Adriaan
  • Kathedrale Basiliek St. Bavo [St. Bavo’s Cathedral]
The brave maid and her companion, Haarlem, Holland

The brave maid and her companion, Haarlem, Holland

In the early morning, the town of Haarlem awaits us. We arrive in the quaint town passing by a memorial commemorating the brave maid and her proud companion. Following the lazily, winding cobbled stone paths, we watch as store vendors clean their shop and creative restaurant artists doodle caricatures on the store windows. Then, we enter the heart of Haarlem—the Grote Markt (Big Market). From there, we take in the sights and sounds before choosing our next destination.

Haarlem is a short journey by train from Amsterdam (about 20 minutes) and is easily navigated by foot. Following the main street from the train station, several shops and small restaurants line both sides of the street as one goes toward the town center—the Grote Markt.

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The Grote Markt is the main square with the most important buildings of the town, including the town hall (see below), Grote Kerk (leftmost building in above image), and many restaurants for a savvy adventurer to try. On certain days, there are market days selling clothing and other goods. Unfortunately, the church was closed the day we visited so we could not explore the interior.
DSC05930 Continue reading