Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sint-Niklaas; visiting old friends

The Fivez family was very kind to Cyane, taking her into their home to live with their seven children. Papa and Mama are still going strong!

Johan and Wilma de Vos put Cyane up for this visit.

Johan and grandson Tibo. Tibo took the photo above.
Johan de Vos taught Cyane photography in 1974-75 at the St Niklaas Academy of Fine Arts. He later became director for 17 years. Now he is a mediator, author, and photo critic.

Sint-Niklaas; the town

Sint-Niklaas lies southwest of Antwerp a few kilometers, on the way to Gent.
Cyane had lived there on an exchange program more than thirty years ago.
She was happy to go back and visit.
Below is Johan de Vos in front of the Great Market, one of the largest in Europe.

Old and new houses together.
Still doing errands.
The floral shop of Daniel Ost, who has become internationally famous and was written up in the NY Times. The sculpture is a large rendition of a vessel pouring water, with the water and ripples made of shrubs.

Antwerpen; Flanders, Belgium

The old history of Antwerpen/Antwerp is of a port and industrial city. See the central cathedral below framed by the pipes of an oil refinery.

The city is trying to remake itself. One dramatic statement is the architectural Justice Palace for Flanders, overlooking the Schelde river.

Antwerp now downtown seems to drive on tourism. It is a party scene around the old market square. Very diverse crowd.

The new scene seems to echo the rosy flesh of Rubens and the Baroque sculpture.

Belgium Introduction; Part C

Belgian dwellings, communities, and streets in Flanders are constructed of different blocks:
house brick blocks, street blocks, roof tiles, sidewalk blocks.
They really use Belgian blocks in Belgium!

Fishing appears to be a passion.

Belgium Introduction; Part B

More image impressions from Belgium: the importance of the Catholic church.
Belgium stayed under the rule of catholic Spain after Holland won independance in 1648.
Below is the very Baroque St Niklaas church in Sint-Niklaas, Flanders, Belgium.

A Belgian gardener harvesting potatoes.

Many potatoes are turned into pommes frites - french fries. Here is a very Belgian frituur.

A rather seedy looking apartment complex on the way from Antwerp southwest to St-Niklaas.

Belgium Introduction; Part A

The house above was one of the first that Cyane saw in Belgium.
It illustrates the fascination for clipped hedges and sculptures, widespread use of block, and the curious closedness of Belgian houses seen from the outside.
In fact, see below for the clipped hedges gone wild!

The bike path was empty after entering into Belgium.
I wondered where everyone was, and then realized it was midday.
There are lots of cafes everywhere and they definitely get used!
Another difference entering into Belgium was the sudden appearance of flashy race bikes.

Cyane from Breda to Antwerpen; July 26

Cyane says goodbye to Vrienden op de Fiets hostess Annamieke Brosens in Breda.

The kind gentleman below volunteered to show the way to the bicycle path south from Breda along the Mark river.

The Mark bicycle path is generally rural, going past farms and pastures.

To the south, near Belgium, the character changes.
More industrial landscape and the houses have a curious closed in character.

Cyane from Houten to Breda; July 25

Luke van Zijl kindly escorted to the right bicycle path, setting out for a long day south.

Cyane's map was not great. She was delighted to meet these stylish Belgians, who pointed her in the right direction - generally southeast toward Breda and across two rivers.
They, like others, were amazed at this single American cyclist who spoke Dutch.
The maps posted in every town helped Cyane find the way.
There are so many bike paths that it is confusing!
This fine gentleman on a bike stopped to ask if Cyane needed help.
He suggested that she just ride on the path along the highway to Breda - a great idea as she could cycle fast and not stop to figure which way to go. Because of him, she got to Breda on time for the Vrienden op de Fiets guesthome. Dank Uw wel!

Cyane: Amsterdam to Houten July 24

Alan flew home to Pennsylvania July 24 to 29.
His mother Marjorie's cancer has returned.
She did not want us to both come home and stop the trip.
Cyane, with some anxiety, decided to cycle on alone.
The first day she managed to find a way out of Amsterdam and cycle south.
The route along the Vecht river was astounding for the number of big beautiful homes.
Many Dutch cyclists and walkers were out enjoying the fine weather.

After a long day biking south; Cyane found her way through Utrecht and down to Houten.
She was warmly welcomed ant taken care of by Loes and Luke van Zijl, and grandchildren:
Robin and Daphne, below, were wonderful patient teachers for Cyane's Dutch speaking.
Robin with Loes; Daphne holding Sylvester
Loes and Luke are hosts for an organization called "Vrienden op de Fiets/Friends on Bicycles"
There is a network of thousands of hosts throughout Holland and other places too.

Heaven for Bikers

Nederland has it all - and has had for quite a long time.
Everybody bikes.
There really is alternative transportation.
In the picture above, you can see the pedestrian walkway; the bike path; car lane; and tram/bus. This is just for the eastbound traffic; there are four more for westbound.

In addition, the whole country has signs with mileages and directions for bikers.
Below you can see two couples out for a ride discussing which way to go.
Nederland and Flanders Belgium share a system of long distance bicycle paths and "crosspoint" markers. Some cyclists go out with no map but simply a list of crosspoint numbers to follow.

Nederland is way ahead in having biking as a viable transportation; also for commuters.

Everyone bikes; from the time that they can push the bike until very old.

Visiting Kay and Charles July 17-24

Kay and Charles were like angels from heaven, inviting us to stay with them.
Their beautiful apartment is situated near the area built around the 1928 Olympic Stadium.

We had fun hanging out together.

Oreo, Kay, and Charles seen below took us on boat tours of Amsterdam.
This made Alan very happy - see him ooh and aah over architecture and design.

Amsterdamse Architecture

Amsterdam , like all of Nederland, is built on layers of silt/mud, sand, and water.
The mural above right shows Amsterdam with dark layers of mud, whiter layers of sand, canals that carry away surface water, and silvery groundwater visible at bottom right.
Old buildings had short piles to the upper sand layer for stability;
Newer, tall buildings are set on piles into a second deeper sand layer.

Below is the handsome city archive building, in a building in the style of the 1920s Amsterdam School. Note the cyclist whose sweater matches the block pattern.

Many buildings have Art Deco touches that are quite over the top. See door below and frieze above at the top right:

Even new Dutch building, seen below at their World Trade Center, has humorous touches.
This is a statue of a dog in the middle of a business plaza.
The mother cycles by with her child on the bike, next to a roof top garden over parking.

Welkom aan Nederland

We arrived by ferry in Holland/The Netherlands/Nederland on July 17 and set off biking the 20 kilometers from the ferry into Amsterdam without a map. No problem - well marked bike paths everywhere. Great way to see the sights and be introduced to a land.

Nederland is a country of big windmills, still. See Alan on his bike for scale.

It is also a land of small cars? even though the Dutch are the tallest people of any country.

Although the photo was taken in Amsterdam, the whole country is a land of managed water.

And last, but not least, clean windows. Very clean windows.