Thursday, July 30, 2015

Utrecht & Gouda, Netherlands

Utrecht, population 330,00, is the fourth largest city in the Netherlands. The first two stages of the 2015 Tour de France bike race were held here last week. Here's a tidbit: construction is starting near the central train station on a three-story structure (cost of almost $50 million). When finished in 2018 it will be the world's biggest bicycle parking station---with space for 12,500 bicycles! Rising 367 feet, the medieval church tower in the background lays claim to being the tallest in the Netherlands.
Seems like every city, town, village in the Netherlands has canals.
This is the former Bishop's home in the old town area.
Heading out of town on the way to Gouda I cycle pass this windmill.
These swans are patrolling their turf.
These yellow trash receptacles are different. Note the brick sidewalk and the red painted wide surface next to it---that's the two-way bike road. You can see a car in the upper right on the car roadway. Cycling is absolutely fantastic here. In America, they'll build a road and as an afterthought put in a bike lane. Here in the Netherlands, building bikeways is an integral part of the road building process.

Passing through a village I thought this was a newly-built brick building. Actually, this castle with a moat around it dates back to the 1600's.
Cycled past this home and did a double take. Methinks someone has a thing for fake animals
Had to snap a second shot to get more of them in.
Saw a sign with the word "fort" on it so I got off the main road and came upon this locked gate. The fort dates from the 1600's and lies elevated on the other side of this body of water
Rode around the perimeter until coming across this signage. You can see the fort surrounded by water. Why? Back in the 1600's there was a whole chain of these forts stretching across the Netherlands. To fend off an invading army the canal gates would be open--flooding the area--except for the elevated fort. Of course, the day I show up is the day the place is closed.
Beautiful city hall in Gouda's main square.
End view of Gouda town hall.
The Tour de France passed through Gouda hence, all the cheese-colored bikes around town.
Entrance to museum.
Museum building.
Another windmill. I thought Dutch windmills were for generating energy to power milling machines and so on. Some were but, the vast majority were used to pump water out of the area. Twenty-five percent of the Netherlands lies below sea level. So, you could find windmills lined-up over an area with each pumping the water higher for drainage.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Amersfoort, Netherlands & Het Loo Palace

Amersfoort, population 155,000, is located in central Netherlands. It's market day and passing through this medieval gate leads to the main square.
 Beginning of shopping street.
Wow, feel's like I'm in the Middle East. I had read stories about the Dutch being upset over the influx  of Muslims.
Never like market days as they usually take place in the photogenic main square with the stalls making it hard to take photos of buildings.
 This medieval church (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwentoren) rises 322 feet.
 Fortification guarding an entry to the city center.
 Kayakers working their way through the canals.
 Tree sculpture outside a museum.
Het Loo Palace lies on the outskirts of Apeldoorn (population 155,000). Dating from the 1600's, it was originally built as a hunting lodge.  The buildings seen in this photo are the horse stables built in 1907 at the orders of Queen Wilhelmina (1880-1962).
The stables could accommodate 88 horses and a section is still in use by the Royal Stable Department in The Hague.
Parts of the stables have been turned into a museum and house various forms of transportation used by the royal family over the centuries. The carriage draped in white is for funerals.
 From the Stables, you follow this road to the palace.
 It's big.
 Closer view.
 Gardens to the rear of the palace.
 Another view of gardens.
Many palaces visited don't allow photographs ("light damages the furnishings") and some, like Het Loo Palace, let you take photos but with no flash--which usually makes the photos come out very dark.
Like the bear rug.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Zwolle, Netherlands

 It's early in the morning when I cycle into Zwolle, population 125,000.
 A canal stretches around the city center.
 Part of the ramparts that once encircled the city center
 Still looking formidable.
 Another canal view.
 This pastry shop gets the two thumbs up from me.
See what looks to be yellow eclairs? Well, they're filled with pieces of bananas and whip cream. Very, very good. It's a Dutch thing--have never seen 'em in another country.
 It's market day and vendors are setting up shop.
 Flowers for sale.
 Last remaining entry gate (from 1500's).
 Flowers & fountain.
Close-up of face. Note the right animals above his head

Delft, Netherlands

 Delft (population 100,000) is a tourist's delight with canals everywhere.  
 See the church at the end of the street? Doesn't something look off about it?
 My eyes weren't playing tricks on me as Old Church, built in 1246, has a pronounced tilt of six feet.
 Oosterpoort, was one of the entry gates into the city and dates from the 1400's.
Canals are everywhere here and right after snapping the photo of Oosterpoort I turn around and see this huge barge cruising past.
 You know I ALWAYS have to check out the sweet shops.
In the middle you see a tray of what looks too be cream puffs with maple topping. Jeez, I had two as the whipped cream filling was unbelievably light.
 City hall building in the main square.
The leaning church is called the Old Church (built 1246). This is New Church (built 1400) and dominates Delft's main square directly facing City hall (talk about separation of church and state). Rising 245 feet, it's the second tallest tower in the Netherlands (if you're like me you want to know the tallest--it's the church tower in Utrecht).
 Of course, I had to climb the church's spiral tower stairs for the view and photo op.
Delft pottery is famous around the world and some street lights are wrapped in it's distinctive blue color.
This is a very common sight in the Netherlands. In the USA it's illegal to transport your child like this.  
 So many picturesque canals.
 Hmmm, not sure what this store sells.
 Garden outside Prinsenhof, a palace in the city center dating back to the 1500's.
 Nice shaded square to have food.
Fun just to wander around and see the old buildings.