Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Time for one more stop.

When Monday arrived and it was time to head back to Germany none of us was ready to say goodbye to Holland so we made one last stop in the town of Gouda. What a wonderful place to visit! It has a typical Dutch square in the center with a gothic town hall and cheese weighing house in the center, canals, bridges, a windmill and of course CHEESE! One other highlight was the St. John's church. The 16th century stained glass windows in this church are world famous and rightly so. St. John's is the only church in the country in which the original glazing is preserved in its entirety. Each window is incredible, we could have spent hours looking at them. There were viewing telescopes in different places in the church so we could see the detail. How fortunate that the people took the care to remove the windows and hide them in bunkers for safekeeping during the war. There was an exhibition about this and also about the original full size drawings or "cartoons" or "cartons" that still exist and are a valuable treasure for use in restoration and are an art form in their own right.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Open Air Museum

After we finished up at the Windmill museum we headed over towards Enkhuisen to visit the ZuiderZee open air museum. If we had known it was so extensive we may have spent our entire day there because we ran out of time to see it all. They even have an indoor portion that we didn't even get close to.

The open air museum is set up like a couple of villages that depict how life was by the see around 100 years ago. The homes and buildings have been brought there from different places all around. We got to go inside most of the buildings and there were displays and people in period costumes demonstrating things and explaining what there was to see. It was interesting comparing the way of life to what we have learned from other museums like it in Germany and also in the U.S. In Germany, particularly the Black Forest the houses are HUGE while the Dutch houses at this museum were quite small with the people sleeping in little cubby hole cabinets in the walls! Colin had fun learning to play with some of the toys from that time and there was an older gentleman visitory who was glad to show him just how it was done. We all wish that we had had more time to experience the whole museum.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Windmills and Wooden shoes....

Sunday we spent a VERY wet morning at the Windmill museum of Zaan Schanz. Our first purchase even before we entered the museum was to buy ponchos and another umbrella and even with those we were soaked. At least our cameras stayed dry!

We spent the most time inside the working dye mill called "The Cat". The pamphlet we got said it may be the only working dye mill in the world. It was very interesting seeing all the stones and gears and things that make up the works of the mill. Of course we had to pet the resident cat too.

When we got to Holland Colin decided that he wanted his souvenior to be a pair of real wear, not to just display in his room. At Zaanse Schans they had a wooden shoe workshop, museum and store so we got to learn about and see a pair of shoes being made, and it was the perfect place for him to be fitted with his shoes. He wore them the rest of the day because his sneakers were soaked through by the time we got there...and do you know what...he was the only one with dry feet after that!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Our Amsterdam Adventure

We started out by taking the "Fast Flying Ferry" into the city from a town right around to corner from where we were staying. It was a type of watercraft that just skimmed the surface of the water and took us right to the main trian station in Amsterdam. We then got our streetcar passes and took the streetcar to the Van Gogh museum. photos allowed, but rest assured we saw a HUGE collection of famous and lesser known works of his, including "The Potato Eaters", "Vincent's Bedroom at Arles", and "Self-Portrait Before Easel". Vincent Van Gogh is my favorite artist so it was a treat to get to see so much of his artwork in real life. Once we finished there we walked down the street to visit the Rijks Museum. It is being renovated now but they have a collection of most popular works on display in a special "Masterpieces" exhibit, the highlight of which was Rembrandt's painting "The Night Watch".

After a picnic lunch in the park we took a walk along the canals and houses to try to visit Anne Frank's house. We were not the only ones to have this on our list of things to see and the line was much longer than we were willing to stand in so we moved on. We gave ourself a little walking tour of the streets and canals, enjoying the architecture between there and Dam Square. Our feet were ready for a rest so we took a boat canal tour to finish out our day before heading back to catch our ferry.

The schedule we looked at and the lady at the desk in the youth hostel both said that the last ferry left at 7:30PM so we were at the stop at 7:00. Bill was a bit concerned that we seemed to be the only people waiting for this ferry and I tried to remain optomistic, but as it got closer and closer to 7:30 and nobody else came and neither did the ferry we looked around and found out that on SATURDAYS the last ferry comes at 6:30! We went back into the main train station and talked to the info lady about what our options were and she advised us to take the train to Haarlem where there is a large bus station and catch a bus to where our car was parked. This ended up working for us and after a bit of confusion about which bus to take we finally got back to our car. Like Bill said to Colin..."that's what makes trips like this memorable."

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Our home is our castle...

...well for the weekend anyways.

We found a cool place to stay for our Holland weekend...a 13th century castle that is now a youth hostel. There were all sorts of folks staying there, not just 'youths' and backpacks like always comes to my mind when I hear about a youth hostel. Our room was set up for 3 people and had it's own shower and bathroom and overlooked the moat and front garden. The package we got included breakfast and dinner each day as well as a box lunch and we could have had bicycle rental for a day also but between what we had planned and the weather we didn't get to do any bike riding. What a cool experience...and lots more memorable than staying in a 'normal' kinda hotel. I could get used to this sort of thing!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Sun Sand and Sea

When we first started thinking about our trip, going someplace near a beach was central to our plan. The temperatures were around 100 then and all we could think about was cooling off. The weather has mellowed considerably since then but the call of the waves is too strong for us to resist. After we finished at the cheese market we headed up to Egmond am See, a little beach town just a bit north of where we were staying. I had my own curious reason to go there...last year I almost drove up to a scrapbooking convention that was held there. Maybe next year!
We weren't dressed for the beach so we just strolled and took pictures and enjoyed being there. Not many shells or things washed up on the shore, but there were lots of kids building sand castles, people sitting in their beach chairs reading, kites flying, dogs swimming and people out in the waves windsurfing, kite surfing and sailboating.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


We wanted to take one more trip before Colin starts school and summer is over so we decided to go to Holland. What a wonderful place to visit! We went up Thursday night so we could get to Alkmaar to see the Friday morning cheese market. The cheese porters dress up in their traditional costumes and carry the cheese on wooden sleds to the weighing house, then once it is weighed they take it back outside and load it up on big wagons to go wherever.
Bill first heard about this 12 years ago when we lived in Germany before but we haven't been able to see it until now. The traffic was horrendous and it took us awhile to find a place to park, we worried we had missed it, but there was a lot of cheese to move around so we got lots of good pictures! The town of Alkmaar is quite scenic also...we loved the buildings, bridges, canals and yes...even a windmill right in town. What's not to love?!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Can you visit too many zoos?

Well if you ask that question to me and Colin the answer would require no thought and be a definate NO WAY! We didn't even know they had a zoo in Darmstadt, but when we read about it we put it on our 'must do soon' list and headed out the first free day we had. It is a small zoo, but very well done. They call themselves a "vivarium" which is defined:
vi·var·i·um (vī-vâr'ē-əm)
n., pl. -i·ums or -i·a (-ē-ə).
A place, especially an indoor enclosure, for keeping and raising living animals and plants under natural conditions for observation or research.
They did a great job with their habitats and it was nice to see the animals behaving like we imagine they would in the wild instead of pacing and begging like we have seen before in other smaller zoos. We also got to see some types of animals that we hadn't seen the Mara, which are large relatives of the guinea pig and come from South America, and the Asian bearcat which looked kind of like a wolverine but had a prehensile tail.

We are getting ready to go on a long weekend trip to check back in with us next week to see how that went. TTFN!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Ahhh, its so nice to live in Europe!

Where else can you hop in the car and take a Sunday afternoon drive into France? It was a gorgeous day and we pulled out the map and picked out some roads that were marked scenic, grabbed our cameras and headed out. We found several cute little villages, one that was right on the border between France and Germany. When I was a kid I always thought it would be cool to have a house right on a border (of course then I envisioned straddling a STATE line, not a country line!) and we found a house that had a border gate right out their front door. I had to get some pictures. We ended up touring a fortress in a French town called Bitche (pronounced Beach) before heading back to Germany.

(It has taken me a bit to get online cuz we were having SEVERE computer difficulties...but we have a new machine now and are FLYING! Whoohoo!!!!)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

If at first you don't succeed.....

Try try again! I have been a BAAAD blogger! I can't believe it has been since 2005 since I updated! I am having to figure out how to do everything all over again!

So, without further ado.....I'll start with Sunday. It was so nice out that we just couldn't waste it around the house so we took a ride over to Karlsruhe and visited the zoo. I think that penguin wanted to come home with us, what do you think?