Going Dutch

We made The Netherlands the third country on our two-week tour.  About 20% of The Netherlands lies below sea level and for this reason, Italians named the country “Paesi Bassi.”  Because of the low, flat land, it is a perfect spot for agriculture and one of the reasons why the country is famous for its spring tulip farms.  I actually planned this two week trip around the tulips blooming in late March, but to our dismay, Europe had an unbelievably cold winter and on our arrival, the tulips were still hiding.  I was pretty disappointed!  Nevertheless, we saw some of the flowers in the greenhouses at the Keukenhof Gardens in Lisse, a pretty awesome MC Escher museum in The Hague, visited the UNESCO World Heritage windmills in Kinderdijk, and toured world-famous Amsterdam.

We went to the Keukenhof Gardens hoping that some of the tulips would be blooming, but the famous striped fields were still barren.

Instead of the fields we saw these, which are beautiful, but not the same.

Pallets of flowers in the greenhouse

Pallets of flowers in the greenhouse

Several of the tulip varieties

Several of the tulip varieties

Hybrid tulips

Hybrid tulips

Lovely little flowers (sorry, I don't remember their name)

Lovely little flowers (sorry, I don’t remember their name)

<3

<3

The Dutch are famous for the wooden clogs.  I didn’t buy a pair of the crafted shoes.  Instead, I got a pair of cushy house slippers that resemble the clogs.  :)  According to one site I found:

Wooden shoes have been popular in the Netherlands for about 700 years. Wooden shoe wearers claim the shoes are warm in winter, cool in summer and provide support for good posture. The wood also absorbs perspiration so that the foot can breathe. Wooden shoes, as icons of Dutch culture, appear in customs such as the practice of young Dutch men presenting their fiancees with a pair of carved wooden shoes.

I think I need to size down!

I think I need to size down!

Before I go on, I want to mention that The Netherlands has more bikes per capita than any other country in the world.  In fact, the country averages more than two bicycles per person!  Wow.  We definitely saw evidence of this.

Line for the cross walk in The Hague for bikes

They even have a parking garage just for bikes in Amsterdam!

Amsterdam bike situation

The Hague (Den Haag in Dutch), is the home of the Queen of The Netherlands and the International Court of Justice.  Because of its importance with criminal prosecution, The Hague is one of the most important cities for the United Nations, along with New York, Vienna, Geneva, and Nairobi.  We, however, decided to visit the city to see the MC Escher Museum.  Escher, a Dutch born artist, often used mathematics to twist, bend, and distort the norm to trick the viewer’s mind.  Early in his life, he took several trips to Italy and Spain, which greatly influenced his work.  Specifically, the mosaics at the Alhambra inspired him to use tessellations in his art.   In Italy, he was fascinated by the idea of perspective and often drew cities from a birds’ eye view or a frog’s view.  He loved Italy so much that he decided to settle in Rome with his wife.

Entrance to the museum (which was once the Queen's house)

Entrance to the museum (which was once the Queen’s house)

ne of his woodcuts of Calabria, Italy

One of his woodcuts of Calabria, Italy

Birds eye view inside St. Peter's (Vatican City)

Birds eye view inside St. Peter’s (Vatican City)

San Gimignano, Italy

San Gimignano, Italy

MC Escher often used his graphic design skills for advertisement campaigns and even stamp designs.

One of his advertisements

One of his advertisements

Dutch stamp

Dutch stamp

Infinity was also a recurring theme in Escher’s pieces.  In a series of drawings, he attempted to use the circle as a boundary and show a repetitive action disappearing into infinity.

Infinity

Infinity

He also loved to use reflection to draw self portraits.

One of his most famous works

One of his most famous works

We replicated the drawing!

We replicated the drawing!

An optical illusion in the interactive part of the museum (sorry about the quality; it was taken from a tv screen!)

An optical illusion in the interactive part of the museum (sorry about the quality; it was taken from a tv screen!)

His most famous works, of course, are the infinity buildings like this:

Belvedere

Nearby, in Kinderdijk, there is a series of 19 windmills that were deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.  According to the information signs at the site, the windmills were built to fix problems with flooding.  They stated:

Problems with the water level became more and more apparent from the 13th century. To get rid of the excess water in the polders, long canals were dug. These canals are called “weteringen” and you can find them all over Holland.  This method remained sufficient for only a few years. The ground level fell yet again because of a structural issues and the level of the river rose at the same time, requiring an additional way of keeping the correct level of the water in the polders.  It was decided to build a series of windmills which would pump the water into a reservoir (boezem) until the level of the river had reached a level that pumping the water into the river was possible again.

The windmills are no longer in use today.  In fact, most of them have been converted into homes!

View of several of the windmills spread across the fields

View of several of the windmills spread across the fields

We caught it right at sunset; it was a breathtaking site!

We caught it right at sunset; it was a breathtaking site!

Another sunset view

Awesome reflections

Another sunset view

Another sunset view

Lovely

Lovely

Last but not least, we spent a couple days in the very cold and very windy city of Amsterdam. Our first stop was the really amazing public library.  It was eight floors (if I remember correctly) with a really nice cafe on top.  If only I had designed this for my library  project in architecture school…….

Public Library

View of the children’s area on the 1st floor; Check out Ellie the Elephant!

Media area with tiered computer stations

Another view of the children’s area

Relaxing!

Reading pods that look like aliens/welder masks

Walking around the city, Amsterdam had a definitive architecture style.

Train station

This is a mall!

Canals of Amsterdam

How many (very large) shutters can you fit on one building?

We visited the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam, but photos were not allowed.  It showcased the house that Anne, her family, and another family (8 people in total) lived in for a few years before they were discovered and taken to concentration camps.  The museum also housed one of her original journals.  We also walked through the famed “Red Light District,” but I refrained from taking photos of the women posing in the windows.  I must admit, it was a strange sight seeing the women pose like they were items on a menu.  All in all, Amsterdam was a lovely city, although I think I would have enjoyed it more with a few more degrees and a little less wind.  :)

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  1. […] years ago, Bobby and I traveled to The Netherlands specifically to see the famed tulip festival.  Unfortunately, we were a little trigger happy and showed up a bit too early to see any blooms.  […]