Thursday, August 27, 2015

Breda, Den Bosch & Amsterdam, Netherlands

I love castles and medieval fortifications and that's a sure way to get a city on my "must visit" list. Breda castle stands near the city center of Breda, population 180,000. Notice all the bike racks
This is a view on the other side of Breda castle. Note the opening for entering via the water. Unfortunately the place is off-limits to visitors. Why? It's an active military facility--the Royal Military Academy. The service academy for the Dutch army and Dutch air force.
 One of the squares in the city center of Breda.
 It's market day in Den Bosch, population 145,000.
Oh, oh, in the market there's a stand for stroopwafels. Don't get me started on stroopwafels---I love 'em! This sweet Dutch speciality consists of taking two thin layers of baking dough and sticking'em in a waffle iron, then taking a syrupy concoction consisting of brown sugar, butter, syrup and cinammon and smearing it between the two thin waffles.  
 This is the pot of warm carmel-like syrup used to slather between the waffles. Magnificent!!!!
Den Bosch was added to my list of cities to visit due to still having medieval ramparts. The wall and moat still encircle the city center.
I've been to Amsterdam before and this time didn't spend much time in the city center. (been there, done that). Here's the impressive central train station.
 Outside the Rijksmuseum, the most famous museum in the Netherlands.
 Very touristy spot: outside the Royal Palace at Dam Square.
 This was the original Heineken brewery--now a tourist attraction.
Directly across a canal from the original Heineken brewery is the unmarked head office of this famous beer. No signs anywhere on the building. Why? One reason: years ago one of the Heineken family members was kidnapped
This is Amsterdam Arena. Located about eight miles from downtown Amsterdam, it's home to soccer club Ajax. It seats 53,000 for soccer and 65,000 for concerts. I've been to Amsterdam before and stayed in the city center. This time I elected to stay out in the suburbs--next to the arena.
Get out of Amsterdam and it's beautiful farmland, with picturesque villages and paved bike roads running alongside canals everywhere. In this photo you can (barely) see Amsterdam Arena in the distance.
 These red and white signs give directions for cyclists.
A family lives in this windmill.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Ghent, Belgium

Rats!  I arrive in Ghent, population 250,000, only to find the city center awash in workers setting up bandstands everywhere. This upcoming weekend herald's the arrival of a huge jazz festival. Of course, the stages are being erected if front of the town's most photogenic structures. Still, Ghent is a feast for the eyes.
The belfry of Ghent was completed in 1380. With a height of 298 feet this bell tower holds bragging rights to being the tallest in Belgium.
 Band stages being setup along a canal.
 Massive medieval churches are everywhere.
 A block away yet another church.
 Smack in the middle of town stands Gravensteen castle. Surrounded partly by a moat.
 Castle entrance. Gravensteen dates back to 1380.
 Way in the back (behind the truck) you can see Gravensteen castle.
 Canal view.
 Restaurant overlooking canal.
 Large statue in front of church.
 Colorful small square.
Street view.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Bruges, Belgium

Bruges, population 117,000, is an absolutely gorgeous city. The whole city center is an Unesco World Heritage site.  This is the main square.
 Another view of main square
 Beautiful medieval structures.
 City hall in main square.
 Dating back to 1240, this is the belfry of Bruges in main square.
 Canals everywhere. Bruges is often called the Venice of the North
 Boat tours via the canals.
 All modes of transport.
 This tree looks happy.
 Only downside to Bruges is cycling over the cobblestone streets.
 Tourists like carriage rides.
 Brick structures everywhere.
 Cozy house on the water.
 Brick house.
 Entry way.
Narrow alley.

Antwerp, Belgium

It's a rainy time in Antwerp (population 510,000) but it's manageable with on/off periods of rain. Partially rebuilt in the 1800's, Castle Steen stands guard on the Scheldt river.
 Steen literally means: "The Stone".
 Antwerp's city hall dates back to 1565.
 Closer look at the statue.
Antwerp's city hall may take center stage in the main square but, all these other buildings in the square also date back to the 16th century and are a real delight.
 The Cathedral of Our Lady is the tallest structure in Antwerp.
 So many cool buildings to see in Antwerp. This one stands on the main pedestrian shopping street.
 Concert hall.
 Like the brownstone.
 Backside of brownstone church.
 Side view of Antwerp's central train station.
 Built in 1905, front view of central train station.
 New museum on riverfront.
 In many European countries prostitution is legal. Many cities have a red light district.
By accident (really and truly) I was walking through this area in late afternoon and noticed the lack of people except for a smattering of men. I started seeing all these storefronts with red neon lights and barely dressed women sitting on stools in the windows waving at me.
Don't have close-ups as it felt weird taking out my camera and snapping pictures.