Sunday, 17 December 2017

The Netherlands

Well, Christmas is nearly on us!  We got back from Amsterdam and immediately started decorating since we're having family over here for Christmas this year.

But before I get on with the cards, let me tell you about a week I've just spent in Holland.  Now, Holland isn't a place I'd normally come in the winter, but one of our daughters was speaking at a symposium in Rotterdam, so we accompanied her and her family there for a few days because there was space on the boat where she was staying.

We thought Rotterdam is amazing, despite heavy rain, sleet and hail, because it has so much interesting architecture and many individualistic small shops.  Our boat was near the towering modern Market Hall, which is spectacularly decorated as you see. (In this photo, you're looking up towards a very high arched roof.   The hall is just one of many interesting buildings in Rotterdam, and there's more info about it here, in case you're interested). It's a great space to wander around and it contains lots of food stalls and little places to eat, including one of the best tapas bars outside Spain. 

We were staying on the water so spotted all kinds of maritime curiosities, ranging from historic boats to this floating jacuzzi floating cheerily along in the freezing cold.  They all seemed to be having a great time and waved cheerfully to us as they passed.

Although Rotterdam was largely rebuilt after the war it has plenty of quaint corners. Here is the ladies' restroom in a Turkish restaurant we visited one day for lunch. 

There are also many original and quirky small shops and eating houses, and when the rain laid off for an afternoon we thoroughly enjoyed walking around and looking at them.  This ornament caught my attention in a home design shop.  The lion is made of silk of various types and about 7 inches long. I considered buying but it's too big for our little tree, and perhaps the lion looked too cute. But really it was too expensive. 

After my daughter and her family returned to London,  T. and I went on to Amsterdam. To be honest, this was probably a mistake, since Amsterdam had seen some very heavy snow and did not seem set up to deal with it at all. They didn't even clear the pavements, so getting around was a problem, specially since the public transport also got snarled up.  Still, we did risk it and were rewarded with some beautiful scenes. The image below reminds me of a still from a film - but what kind of a film? Magic? Mystery? Something sinister?  Dickensian? 

And here is another scene I liked. I was specially interested in why the abandoned umbrella on the right. Why had its owner thrown it away?  So maybe this movie would have been one of those mysterious, slightly surreal continental ones. 

Eventually the snow melted and Amsterdam became even colder, but also beautiful in a different way.  We had a walk through the Vondelpark with numerous families playing with sledges and throwing snowballs in the sunshine, and enormous willows leaning over the lake in the morning sun.  

and ducks looking a bit disgruntled as they tried to fight their way through the ice. 

We visited several museums, but the highlight for me was "Ons' Lieve Heer op Solder" a remarkable 17th century house in central Amsterdam whose top two floors were converted into a Catholic church.  

This church, which is still consecrated, has been restored to how it looked in the 1860s, with the woodwork painted pink and a full sized pulpit hidden away inside the column on which that left hand cherub is standing.  ( I wish I could get a photo or film showing how ingeniously the pulpit, complete with steps for the priests, unfolds).

At present, there are several Nativities placed in various corners of the largely unaltered old house (in fact, it is three houses, knocked together). An artist called Clemens Merkelbach van Enkhuizen was so dismayed at seeing Amsterdam's churches destroyed that he set himself to recording them and their more unusual contents, and has made a collection of church art and sculpture.  The nativity figures come from his collection. 

My favourite was the one shown below.  It's several feet high and full of detail, angels, animals and domestic details of all types - can you see the knife grinder towards the top of the scene? 

I hope you've been having a good run up to Christmas. I'll try to post again before the big day, and also answer the very nice comments to my last post.  I seem to be disorganised at the moment, so if I don't succeed before the 25th, have a lovely holiday!


  1. I love Holland. We used to go to Amsterdam every year but haven't been for several years but seeing your photos has sparked my interest again, but maybe in the summer! One of my favourite places to visit was Anne Frank's house.

  2. This post is a Christmas present for the eyes! Thank you! I wish I could figure out what I am seeing, exactly, in the Market Hall photo. I am not sure but I know I love it! That snow pea!
    I would totally love to have that restroom in my own house. I know! Crazy! I am a fool for tile! If I did have a bathroom like that, the lion ornament could make a nice addition, hung over a mirror, perhaps. You did get pictures from some noire movie! Love! The umbrella is a prop, we are to figure it out ourselves, I think. And all of the nativities remind me somewhat of Mexico.
    Just beautiful. Thank you!

  3. Enjoyed your post, it's been many years since we've been to Holland, but we always enjoyed our visits there.

  4. What’s lovely pics! Looks a fascinating place - we all want to go there now!

  5. That jacuzzi! Made my blood run cold just to see the photograph!

  6. I'm so glad you enjoyed Rotterdam, Jenny. It is a very special place and I am more than a little attached to it even if I do escape every weekend! How wonderful that you also stayed on a boat! I'm afraid the Dutch never clear the pavements when it snows. We all risk our necks, especially when it thaws a bit and then freezes. I'm not sure why they leave it, but it can be very uncomfortable. I was very wary going on and off the barge when I got back on Monday! Have a wonderful Christmas!

  7. PS, your photos are wonderful! I love the atmospheric Vondel Park images and confess I've never been to 'Ons lieve heer op solder'. In fact I didn't even know it existed. I'll be going to Amsterdam in January, so I'll see if I can find it!

  8. Lovely to read your post Jenny.
    I really enjoyed your commentary and photos, the abandoned umbrella certainly piqued my curiosity too!
    Gorgeous scenery and, my goodness, the detail in that nativity scene is wonderful.
    Have a very Happy Christmas and good cheer to you and yours, Sue xx 🎁

  9. I'm so pleased you went to Amsterdam and braved the footpaths for the photos. The lost umbrella is pure Sherlock Holmes. Those are great photos.

  10. All sounds fun!
    (Upstairs in the Markthal you can even eat a good paella.)

  11. I've never seen an umbrella used when it's snowing. I found that fascinating. So much to look at there, but too bad they didn't clear the snow well. I know a lot of places are not used to getting snow and just don't have the equipment to deal with it. That happens here when the snow makes it down to where it hasn't normally. Whole towns shut down. I'm glad you are home safe and prepping for Christmas. Enjoy your time with family!! :)

  12. Several things here to enjoy Jenny - the high arched decorated roof to the Market Hall, the hilarious jacuzzi floating along the water in the freezing cold, however, but I bet that they were warmer than you. The wonderfully splendid over the top ladies'restroom, and the fascinating surreal snow scene with its abandoned umberella - it would make a good poster for a Hditchcock psycho film.

  13. Hello Jenny,
    What a delightful visit you had to Holland. Those type of trips are best. I am in awe of the church and also the nativity scene.
    Wishing you and your family a very Happy Christmas.

    Helen xx

  14. That first image from Amsterdam...worth the visit

  15. As always, this, too, is a fascinating, interesting post with wonderful photos to help us enjoy your experiences. Thanks you, Jenny! :)

  16. So much of Rotterdam was destroyed during WWII that space was made for new experimental architecture. I'd love to make a visit someday.

  17. It looks like you had a fabulous trip in spite of the weather, it has certainly piqued my curiosity to see these places. Happy Christmas!

  18. Hello Jenny, Those winter scenes are extremely evocative, though perhaps a bit bleak. When I lived in Ohio, weather like this signaled the start of a long, cold winter. Still, winter has a lot of remarkable secrets once you start to interact with it.

  19. What beautiful photos of a lovely country. And here's a funny thing - when we had the snow here, we saw an abandoned umbrella like the one in your photo (well I suppose one umbrella looks much like another), but we wondered too about the story behind it!

  20. amazingly decorated shops dear JennY!

    i hope you enjoyed the stay with you daughter !

    family gatherings on Christmas are best part of the festival obviously .
    I enjoyed the glimpse of amsterdam and this is great that where my son is about to visit in holidays i just saw it through your marvelous photos ,snow withing woods looks pieces of art ,brilliantly captures!!!
    i am hopping my son will share some more ice pics of this beautiful city my friend.

    Thank you for incredible photos and historic sharing !
    this is always wonderful to learn about world's unseen places for me

  21. I've never been to either Rotterdam or Amsterdam, but they both sound interesting. The pictures from the park are both master art works, I think! They'd make great postcards or posters, or framed prints on a wall of a modern minimalist apartment. And yes, they do tell intriguing stories, both of them.

  22. I see you have had a pretty nice time Jenny despite on weather in the Netherlands. You made me laughing reading your post, the Jacuzzi is wonderful. What healthy people! The pictures of Amsterdam look so graphical, especially tree trunks. Your experience is very useful for me as I'm going to Stockholm before Christmas :-)
    Have a nice Christmas time with your family!

  23. There's always so much to intrigue, admire and ponder upon in your posts, Jenny. All of your shots show something interesting - the photos of the trees must, surely, inspire a murder mystery of some sort (though I did see rather a lot of abandoned umbrellas at the end of a Glastonbury festival once) and that church is simply astonishing. Have a wonderful Christmas!

  24. Another excellent tour, though i could have done without more snow!
    The tree pics remind me of Edinburgh - in July! I suspect the owner of the umbrella is not far away just blown over by wind and crawling back to where it lies.
    Hidden churches are not unknown and typical over the top RC that one. Good picture in the circumstances.
    I feel for the ducks, ice leads to starving and I am not keen on ice or hunger myself.
    I'm glad you enjoyed the time away.

  25. Thank you for the lovely words and pics re your visit to The Netherlands.
    Have the loveliest of holidays over the coming season of goodwill.
    Kind regards
    Anna :o]

  26. Hello,Jenny Wolf,
    So many things to enjoy in your trip and you were lucky to be able to accompany your daughter!
    I laughed to hear that why you did not buy the lion.I like it too, but, yes, it looks too cute!It is fun to be thinking of how the mystery story goes on. It is my own story though. Enjoy your preparation for Christmas and the celebrations!

  27. I was trying to think if there was anywhere in my part of the world that had a Nativity display and came up with nothing. Enjoyed looking at your pictures, Jenny. Oh to be in Amsterdam now that Christmas is here. Have a nice one.

  28. Now is the time of snows, lights, smiles and warm hearts. Good days to you.

  29. Wonderful ! Wonderful ! Wonderful !
    The first photo is so outstanding. If I lived in a cold, dreary winter day I would come here to lift my spirits.
    The black and white snow photos are Art Show wonderful.
    Have I said how wonderful this post is !

    Merry Christmas !
    cheers, parsnip and mandibles

  30. I enjoyed hearing about your snowy trip to Amsterdam and the photos are wonderful. I was stunned at the fantastic walls in the ladies' restroom - Wow! I love them! (and the sink, too). Those wintry trees look very Gothic to me, and the abandoned umbrella is an intriguing touch. I really feel sorry for those poor ducks on the ice. The church is beautiful - especially the Nativity.

    It has been very cold here in Tennessee but no snow yet. I hope you and your family have a beautiful and blessed Christmas.

  31. Oh Jenny -- what a wonderful trip. I loved Holland when we were there a few years ago. I wish we'd seen the "church" house but I can only imagine it was all the more wonderful at this season. The nativity you showed is drop dead gorgeous, filled with wonderful details. Both of those photos with the trees and snow look like book covers -- keep it in mind!

    Merriest season to you. Sounds like it will be busy and wonderful hosting family. I know it will be very special.

  32. Some very spectacular settings there. The Market Hall roof, the Turkish restroom, the restored church and the nativity scene are all amazing. The snow photos look like something from a Scandi noir drama. There's probably a jaded detective and a blood-stained corpse just out of the picture.

  33. Floating Jacuzzi??!!

    Your post reminded me how we recently had a Dutch friend to stay. He was recounting his parents' generation's memories of WWII and the bombing of Rotterdam. It's amazing how us humans pick up the pieces.

  34. Beautiful photos, brings the holiday spirit to smile time!
    Merry Holidays!

  35. What a wonderful post, as always, with photos of places that I most likely will never see, so I thank you!
    I love the idea of the artist saving the church art and sculpture. Good for him. (I just typed "GOD for him", maybe that came from God!)

  36. Love the shots of the snow. They are dark but truly representative of the season. The insides make up for it in light and color.

    Mersad Donko Photography

  37. That ladies restroom is so beautiful!


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