Here is a puzzle hike for you!

The Urban Hike: Where Were We??

Good morning you all, everywhere (but mostly in The USA - nice to see you checking in!), A friend suggested that it would be fun to let yo...

Monday, 29 May 2017

All Gardeners Unite!

Good morning to you!
This glorious sunny morning (the fifth in a row, we Dutchies don't know what has hit us!) I would like to share my passion for flowering plants with you all.

Begonia 'Angel' in my tiny garden.
When I was a teenager, I watched my Mum on her knees in her (very large) garden, and I can remember thinking I couldn't see the attraction. At all! Of all the boring things to do!

But when I moved into my first very own house when I was 28, the gardening bug attacked. I looked at the tiny neglected plot in front, and thought I should "do" something with that. So I dug it over, and nicked some wild rosebushes from our local dunes (money was tight. Come to think of it, things haven't changed in that department), and accepted some seedlings from my old downstairs neighbour, and was chuffed to bits when the children of my street voted my flower bed the best.

Then, at 34, I moved into my very first actual house -with-a-garden, and went wild. Amongst the unpacked crates and boxes were dozens of seed trays, the entire house smelled like a greenhouse and family and friends coming round to view the new house were bewildered and asked if all that earth around wasn't bad for my (9 month old) son.
I adored my garden.
But alas. After 27 years the marriage failed and I had to leave my garden behind.

And here I am, in a temporary garden, which I inherited from my landlord and is user-friendly (as he complacently informed me when I signed the lease) - meaning filled with evergreen shrubs, two ailing Japanese acers and just day lilies and alchemilla by way of flowers.
I have no funds to spend on my garden to speak of; so what to do with this rather green-on-green greenness?
My solution was pots. For, as I convinced myself, the money spent on flowers in pots is well spent, as I can simply take the pots along when I have to move out again.


So in between all that green (you can just see the lilies and leatherleaf in the photo below left), I have now dotted my flowers.
I have added ferns (I love ferns, they remind me of England) and splashed out on Campanula and Hydrangeas (that last was a bad choice, although looking good. But it needs constant watering; my soil turns out to be parched in that spot).
A friend surprised me with a box of Spanish daisies, which are everywhere.
And yesterday I bought some French pelargoniums to replace the pansies, who are on their last legs by now.

Before work, I take my first cup of herbal tea outside and water my plants, and the world is at peace for a few blissful moments.
And I think that is the essence of gardening for me.

One of the flower boxes

However sad I am, with stuff going on, with the violence in the world, I always recover when I am amongst my plants. They comfort, and bring joy. 

Fuchsia and the violets
Yes, we do have rain, and lots of it usually.

So there you are. Everyone should start to tend a garden, and the world would be at peace. Easy-peasy solution to heal the world :-)

Have a good day (in your garden!)

Monday, 8 May 2017

The Urban Hike: Den Briel

Good afternoon to you all.
I am writing to you looking out on a grey overhung sky, so I am certainly hoping that you are enjoying better Spring weather!

part of the Den Briel ramparts

The poppy was last Saturday, when it was sunny and lovely.
Anyway, I totally ignored the fact that it was grey and chilly and windy and threatening to rain yesterday, when I took another urban ramble. This time I walked around my old haunt, Den Briel (or Brielle as it is also known), to view a WWII event.

The "Americans" 

Den Briel is a famous town, and its fame is based on a long-ago battle. Well, battle...Opinions differ quite a bit, there are two versions, and the truth lies somewhere in the middle I suspect!

The official town council version: On April 1st, 1572, the Spanish enemy who had the Dutch Provinces in its Roman-Catholic claws were defeated in the battle of Den Briel. They were beaten and chased out of the town by the Watergeuzen (noble and courageous seafaring Dutchmen who came by ship), effectively starting the end of the 80 year (!) war against Spain. Encouraged by the example of noble Den Briel, other towns followed and threw out the Spanish enemy.

The historical version now adopted through new evidence: On April 1st, 1572, the Spanish enemy who had the Dutch Provinces in its Roman-Catholic claws saw the changing of the wind, knew they were in for a beating, and fled Den Briel, leaving the town gate wide open for the Watergeuzen (assorted rabble who came by ship)to march into the town, killing and/or maiming those unfortunate Spaniards who were not swift enough.

My version: On April 1st, 1572, Spain had a tough time hanging on to this soggy, wind-flogged piece of land, filled with a troublesome stubborn race of merchants, fishermen and farmers who wanted nothing to do with Roman-Catholics any longer and especially not Spanish ones. It came to blows when the Watergeuzen, tired of being on their ships and in search of food, water and women, decided to berth in Den Briel. The Spaniards lost.

And there you are; you can pick the version which appeals to you most.

Last weekend Den Briel celebrated another war remembrance day, namely the liberation by the American troops in 1945.
Even though I am all for remembering those days (if only to learn lessons from historical events - somehow most governments omit to do this), I suspect this is yet another ploy by Den Briel town council to draw as many tourists as possible. And who can blame them?

Quite a few wanna-be American soldiers, complete with tents, material, heavy rolling material and even anti-aircraft guns, pitched their camp on the town ramparts. I must say it always makes me smile, those earnest fanatical historical re-enacting folk. I mean sincerely smile, not condescendingly!
Piet Heine made a short documentary about the mock battle for Den Briel in 1945; this is the link: Mock Battle WWII 2016

South Gate and Bastion
Afbeeldingsresultaat voor Den Briel
the historical town within the ramparts; the route shown is not ours

The ramble:
We started at the South Gate (now less than a ruin), but the actual place where the Watergeuzen entered Den Briel in 1572, and walked along the ramparts, to the "German" camp. Due to the fact it was extremely chilly and there weren't many tourists about (we were their only visitors), they were breaking up camp. 
So we rambled on, stared at by sleepy sheep. 

View on Den Briel from the ramparts, with the Catharijne church

The American camp was next to the North Gate. It was pretty quiet too, but that quickly changed when a long snake of US army trucks and jeeps slowly rumbled in. They had just done a tour of the town. 
I must say this was an impressive sight! Too far away to photograph for me with my iPhone, sorry.

"American" soldier

On the Turfkade, one of the two harbours of Den Briel, there was a war memorabilia market, and that is where we met the re-enactment parade of the troops entering the town. The documentary shows you the aptly named Slagveld side of the harbour (Slagveld means slaughter field).
Personally I thought the Wisteria on the gable of one of the buildings prettier though.

But then I am a self-professed flower geek...
We ended our ramble in one of the oldest bars of Brielle, the Kont van 't Paard (The Horse's Arse), where a band of shockingly young guys played music from the 1940's.

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor Kont van 't Paerd, Brielle

All in all we walked for 1 hour.
If you would like to visit Den Briel, it is 35 km South of Rotterdam, but due to the always heavy traffic in this part of Holland it will take you an hour to get to it from Rotterdam. Getting there by pubic transport will take even longer.
The town is charming, has some nice restaurants and shops, and the town historical museum is worth a visit.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

The Urban Hike: Where Were We??

Good morning you all, everywhere (but mostly in The USA - nice to see you checking in!),

A friend suggested that it would be fun to let you guess at our destination of the latest ramble. So...sure!
Where were we?

It didn't take us overly long to get to this destination. Especially for you lot over there in the good old US of A, or Canada, you are used to driving long distances, so for you this would be like a visit to your local supermarket.
For us Dutchies though, this drive is...well, a proper drive, for which we have to steel ourselves and make sure we have enough provisions etcetera in the car. But one full tank would get us there and back from Rotterdam. (First clue)

This was our aim. It is a museum, and a very modern one at that. On the roof, the tenth floor, there is a Panorama, which gives you a wonderful view over this harbour city. (And there is your second clue!)

This museum has amassed the collections of several old museums in this city. So we saw the most eclectic collection possible, with old paintings, historical earthenware and chamberpots, religion, chocolate tins (third clue),photographs, and a load of boats.

This, (your fourth clue) is a beautiful painting of the quay, with the city in the background. I loved it, the artist has captured the expressions of all those people so well. For instance the woman on the right, in the severe black dress, she gazes into your face with great suspicion! I know that look, it is the exact same look my old neighbour gives me when I'm rolling out of my car with my musician friends!
And the young waiter (in the long white apron), he has the look of a hard working youngster who is used to being ignored unless the toffs need to order another beer. 
The guitar player is in the zone, and has captured the pretty lady's interest.

This was another exhibit which captured my heart. It is part of a pre-Colombian collection.

We went to the roof, obviously, but it was so cold and grey, and the photo has not turned out very well. (Still. It is your fifth clue)

Now, I am giving you a massive, massive hint here: you are looking at the river Schelde.
Well? Have you guessed already? No? Let's continue.

This city used to be part of my country. In fact, it was more important and powerful than Amsterdam at one point. 
They still speak a form of the same language as we; let's say we understand each other's language, but we are very different temperamentally.

The city centre streets are crooked, and so are the shops and buildings. To me, that is quaint. The weather was dismal, so hardly any folk on the pavements to enjoy their beers (sixth clue).
And there were many ancient buildings around, dating from the seventeenth century.

Like the one on the right, with the step gable. 1614, It said.

I like cafĂ© staff with a sense of humour!(The beer brand is your seventh clue; oh, come on, you must know by now?!)

And here we are. The end of our ramble. This is on a market square. And no, I did not take a photograph of the world famous city hall with its many flags and gilt statues, as I thought it too garish. I prefer the other side, with the typical gables. Your last clue is staring you in the face, by the way.

Hope you enjoyed this different take on my usual ramble. Leave a comment if you want to check with me whether you've guessed my destination.

Friday, 28 April 2017

The Urban Hike: Nijmegen.

Suffering freezing winds and sudden downpours, my darling daughter
 and myself treated ourselves to an urban hike through Nijmegen.
Town Centre

Nijmegen is practically the oldest town in my country; 
only Batavorum(now non-existent) has been documented as older. 
The Romans thought the high hill next to the river Waal a very 
good vantage point and place to build their army camp. 
Thus Noviomagum was founded.
On the whole the Romans and the Bataven tribes who inhabited the 
river delta and the hills got along. There were skirmishes, though.

Nowadays Nijmegen is a student town, and an eclectic mix of old
buildings dating from the 17th century and hideous new buildings
from just after WWII. If you want to know about this period, have
a look at the epic "A Bridge Too Far". The German army proved rather persistent in wanting to keep Nijmegen occupied, and hence 
the entire town centre was destroyed, only sparing one of the many 
gothic churches.
During WWII

Darling daughter and me started our urban hike on the bank of the
river Waal, where we dropped off our luggage on the wonderful 
river barge b&b Opoe Sientje, which lies moored practically 
underneath the Waal Bridge.

Opoe Sientje B&B

From there we immediately rambled up the steepest Nijmegen 
hill,leading us along the Valkhof Park (the largest green blob on the map above)towards the town centre.
It being Monday, the market stalls rather spoiled the view, but at 
the same time the hustle and bustle was fun to watch.
The Grote Markt proved to be easy to find, as the enormous St. Stevenschurch can be seen from every point in the town. 

Grote Markt with St. Stevens and the Waagh

I like old churches, not from any religious point of view, 
but simply because it awes me that people have built these giants 
without any kind of mechanical device, and they managed to construct 
them without bits dropping off. So we walked around it, spotting a wonderful tearoom in the narrow alley behind it, Philips.

Once of the entrances to St. Stevens

After taking a quick peek inside, we followed the street with the 
most people in it, which went sharply downhill and reminded me of 
Wells (UK), with well water running swiftly down the middle. This 
street had wonderful little shops and restaurants on both sides, 
so we took forever walking down.

One of the very nice shops

We ended up in Kronenburger Park, the other green lung of the
town, and famous to Dutchmen of a certain age for having been 
both the place to meet the ladies of the night and the song by 
Nijmegen troubadour Frank Boeijenthat memorises said ladies. To 
"Leave that world, leave that world,... and don't ask me for 
the right road, because everyone is lost". These last two 
"en vraag me niet naar de weg, want iedereen is de weg kwijt" 
have become iconic in Dutch culture. I'll provide you with a link; 
even if you cannot understand his Dutch (with a thick Nijmegen 
accent), you can enjoy the very good music and Frank's wonderful 
Kronenburg Park - Frank Boeijen

Kronenburger Tower

From Kronenburger Park we walked uphill again, back to the Grote 
Markt, where we had dinner in the Waagh. This word stems from the 
verb "wegen", which means to weigh, and here the goods were weighed 
before they were sold in the markets of Nijmegen. The historical 
Waagh has been city hall and then the local police headquarters for 
a while, but now it is a restaurant, and a very nice one!
Wonderful beer!

After a very good dinner we slogged back to Opoe Sientje, where we 
had a few biological home brews and enjoyed the open wood fire and 
our book before retiring.

The next morning it was still very chilly (5 degrees C, in late 
April!), but we braved the rain showers and took a look at the 
Valkhof ruin, the Valkhof chapel and the Belvedere, before heading 
down the other side of the hill to the Valkhof Museum.

Valkhof kapel (chapel)

Me in front of what's left of the original Valkhof. Note the winter coat!

This tells of the history of Nijmegen, and has many Roman artifacts, 
all found in the cesspits and fields around the town.
It made me reflect that the jewelry of Roman times and of my own 
time hasn't changed one bit. So have we changed ourselves? 
Probably not. 
So much for civilization!

We wanted to visit that tearoom we saw the day before, so 
schlepped our way uphill once more (sorry about all this talk 
about hills, but you have to understand that we are from the 
wetlands, river delta near the sea, flat as flat can be, and 
we are not used to hills!). Afterwards we walked around the 
town centre once again (even though we had walked the same 
route the day before), because we liked it so much.
The Belvedere

view over river Waal from the Belvedere

The nitty gritty:
Nijmegen demands parking fees everywhere! The best thing to do,
if you are by car, is to park in the Eiermarkt parking garage
as they offer a €11,00 day tariff (unfortunately I only found 
this out the second day; the first day I paid over €30,00 to 
park on the Waalkade).
Opoe Sientje B&B is situated on the Lindenberghaven 1C, 6511XT 
Nijmegen, €75,00 a night for 2 persons.
Philips is behind the St. Stevenskerk, in the alley called 
Achter De Hoofdwaght.

Inside Philips tearoom

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Viggo's Blog - What Does An Easter Bunny Have That I Don't?

Hey there, fans, Viggo here.
How have you all been? Yeah, yeah, I know, it has been a while. Too long, probably, I know you miss me when I don't post.

I've been busy.
It takes up all my energy to keep up with young Bowie, the Brat. He hasn't stopped growing, and it pains me to admit he is now taller than I am... I still have twice his weight and girth though, and I am eating daily to keep it that way.

The trouble is, my woman says, that The Brat eats daily as well. Pfhaw! I eat far more often! Stop interrupting me, woman!

So, today is the day when all people in my hood are rushing around to get the Easter Breakfast Shopping in. I have never seen such nonsense. What is the attraction of those chocolate bunnies, I wonder? And what is the point of all those eggs? I just don't get it.
Mate told me that it is simply a human thing, like they dress in orange and swill beer when there's a football match on. But Mate lives in a household with three males, and my house is a football-free zone with two females in it and an honorary male who only swills beer whilst playing guitar. That doesn't count. Besides, I like beer. He tends to leave his cans and bottles on the floor, so I can have a good sniff and a lick around the rim. His coats always smell interesting too. But I digress.

The Brat has celebrated his birthday last week: 1 year old already. I remember him coming to the house for the first time...such a sweet little thing he seemed. Little did I know...Oh, he runs up to me to lick my chops, and grooms me, and he purrs into my ears, but I know what he is up to!He wants to be alpha cat!

There can only be One Top Cat in this house, and that is ME!
Oh, by the way, did I tell you about the White Goddess? I didn't, did I?
She apparently was on her 9th life already, and she lost it. One day last month me and Mate I were chilling on the pavement late at night, it was a very nice balmy night in fact, and there was a huge earsplitting screeching sound mixed with a sort of thump. And then this dead-sounding quietness all around. So we went to investigate, and we saw nothing at first, but then Nose turned up from the other side street, and he pointed out a very flat thing in the street. You cannot call that a cat anymore, that's rude, so I won't.
Anyway, she always ignored me, the snooty feline, so I cannot pretend I'm sad.
She was mighty sexy. When not flattened.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Garden Delights For Tender Hearts

Hasn't it been a glorious day today?
Well, it has been here!
I've told you before that I live in the wetlands of The Netherlands - the delta of all deltas, where the atmosphere is naturally moist, the humours are damp and the skies are often grey and low.

My violas and English grass - such easy going plants.

So it is not very baffling that we crave sunshine, colour and warmth, especially after the long wet grey winter months.
And then...when the sun does come out, we do too. We rush to our garden centers to stock up on compost, pots and plants. The Dutch summers are short, so there's no time to waste!
I love it. The only snag is that it is an expensive hobby when you buy everything from the center. So this year I decided to sow my own seeds, and hopefully first save myself some money on the plants, and second save myself money again because I've grown a lot of my own salad greens and veg.

Radicchio and sunflowers

So my window sill has been chock full of all kinds of containers holding seedlings. Viggo has been quite annoyed to be unceremoniously shoved to the corner. He has taken his sweet revenge though, by nibbling on the seedlings. Mwah. I have plenty.

They are growing very rapidly, so today I potted them on.

Having my own two cats and most of the neighborhoods kitties around as well, and plenty of song birds, I have had to cover it up with netting.
There's two kinds of lettuce in the 5 black containers, sugarsnaps and swiss chard in the wooden box and right in the back is more lettuce. The rather bedraggled plant in the foreground is a beloved hanging plant I overwintered in the attic. It is a bit sad, because I divided it, which gave it a shock. But it is gorgeous when in bloom and it will flower until the first frost.

This is my herb table, but as you can see I can never resist adding some flowering plants as well.

To add some colour to my mostly green beds, I've planted lilies, which will be in bloom in June/July. I adore lilies; they look lovely and smell wonderful.

the herb table from the side

My part of the town is quite old, and most of the older traditional houses still have a traditional front garden bordering the road, instead of having it paved over and added a well-meant but often puny container with one hugely overpriced shrub (as dictated by stark minimalistic fashion)

This house is not far from my own, and every time I pass it (which is almost daily) I enjoy the magnolia. Isn't it wonderful?

Right. Time to do one quick round with the watering can.
Enjoy the rest of your Sunday!