Dutch dog walk – part 2

Back to that long walk we had with the dogs and family in Holland – one of the things I love about that area is that most of the houses are very individual, generally designed by the original owners and built by a local builder. So below are a few of the rural houses we passed whilst walking the dogs.

Thatched House

Dutch House

Dutch house + topiary

The hedge and trees in the photo below look like they’ve been trimmed by manicure scissors, and apparently the man who cuts it does it all by eye, no guide string required.
Dutch House + Hedge

The house below has ‘built in 1918’ on it, it looks fairly modern to me though. I find it difficult to judge how old the houses are as they are all built of the same sort of bricks as nowadays. I haven’t seen any stone built houses there at all. It’s rare to see an unkempt house and garden, Dutch people seem to be very houseproud.
Dutch house 1918

The photo below is one of the roads we were walking on, amazingly straight. If you have no hills to manouever roads around then there’s no reason not to have straight lines I suppose.
Dutch road

We were there in early May, the spring was late, so lots of the trees were just beginning to get their leaves.
Dutch view

Dutch view

The sheep were gathered expectantly at the gate for some reason, but we had to disappoint them, we had nothing for them.
Dutch sheep
We walked round in a big circle and must have gone about four or five miles on what turned out to be the hottest day we had there. Well it keeps you fit!

Dutch Woodland

butterflies

One northern European woodland probably looks much the same as any other although I suppose the woodland in the Netherlands is generally a lot flatter, just as the whole country is.

If you look closely in these photos you might be able to see a bevy of butterflies, small yellow ones that I’ve never seen in Scotland, possibly called Brimstones. They danced around the woods in what must have been some sort of mating jig before fluttering up out of sight.

butterflies

What you definitely don’t get in Scottish woodland is a monument to Resistance Fighters. The one below is in remembrance of the people who were caught in the woods by the Nazis and executed there. It’s a terrible thought in such a peaceful place.

Resistance Monument

We were taking Hanneke’s dog Fleur for a walk here, it’s a regular excursion for her but there are parts of this woodland that she refuses to go into. The atmosphere is obviously too horrible for her even after such a long time. It’s weird the way animals have that instinct.

The photo below is of Fleur on the left and Ziggy on the right. Jack took the photo as I had asked him to take one of them both together but I hadn’t realised that he had cornered them in the utility room. I had to laugh as they are both looking so guilty, all they need is a number hanging around their necks, convict 99 style. I suspect that they aren’t really allowed in the utility room, they look ‘caught in the act’ anyway.

Dogs

I believe Ziggy (my niece Kirsty’s dog) is an American pit bull terrier and is actually a banned breed in Britain as there has been so much trouble with them being very agressive. Ziggy is so placid though and didn’t even retaliate when badly trained small dogs have bitten him in the past. You certainly know when he puts his front paws on your knees though – what a weight he is. You have to be very strict with dogs like that and I’m far too soft, Ziggy would be top dog in no time if he was mine and that’s dangerous.

Fleur is a Border collie/spaniel cross, with the worst traits of both breeds – she’s crazy and nervous but very loveable when she gets to know you. Fleur and Ziggy have more or less been brought up together so they’re great pals. They’re gorgeous but they don’t make me want to get a dog, I’m happy just to walk them and play with them then hand them back to their owners, just as some people do with children. Neither of the dogs are the type to dig up the garden which is a plus, that would drive me round the bend.

De Kruidhof Botanic Gardens, Fryslan, the Netherlands

De Kruidhof 4

We visited De Kruidhof Botanic Gardens again when we were in the Netherlands last month. The last time we were there it was September and the fruit trees were in full swing, this time the fruit blossom was just beginning to bloom, as you can see.

De Kruidhof 6

These botanic gardens are really lovely, but maybe a bit remote for many people, it was very quiet when we were there, just as it was the last time. They are situated in Friesland, north east Netherlands, quite a rural district. They have a good plant nursery attached to them.

Either the box balls below have been too enthusiatically trimmed, or they’re suffering from box blight as so many of them seem to be in the UK. Mind you someone did tell me that the box blight was just a reaction they have to being constantly cut back, that seems a reasonable hypothesis to me. Don’t be so brutal to your box plants and they’ll probably grow well, mine certainly do, but they could be described as being ‘shaggy’ not sculptured.

De Kruidhof 11

In the Netherlands though they have perfected the art of sculpting trees and the photo below is of a tree which is being trained to fit around the metal structure.

De Kruidhof 1

They take tree pruning very seriously. I like naturally growing trees but I also admire the regimented trees too.

De Kruidhof 5

Naarden, the Netherlands

You might know that we recently went on a trip to the Netherlands and Belgium. The Netherlands was mainly to visit family but midway through our visit we drove to Belgium to visit Ypres and some World War 1 sites.

Anyway, on our last day in Ypres we decided to go into the town and make some serious chocolate purchases. As I’m a chocoholic imagine my horror when we got into town and discovered that everything was shut! Apparently it was Ascension Day, a holiday for everyone, even for the shops catering for tourists.

Worse than that though was the fact that we only had around 90 miles worth of petrol in our tank and the journey back to Holland was a 250 mile long one. The petrol stations were all closed too of course. Who would have thunk it! With visions of running out of juice on a Belgian motorway we set off for the journey back and eventually discovered an open petrol station. Phew.

So, back to plan A – which was to visit the town of Naarden in the Netherlands on our way back. I discovered this town when I was perusing a Dorling Kindersly Eyewitness Travel Guide on the Netherlands, that’s a very good travel series I think, judging by this one anyway.

So below is a photo of the town of Naarden which was in full holiday mode, that is – everywhere shut except for the cafes and ice-cream shops, which was a bit of an annoyance as there was a vintage shop I would have gone into had it been open.

Naarden 1

It’s a very nice town, well worth a visit if you’re in that area.

Naarden

Naarden is the location of an old fort, one of those star shaped ones, designed to withstand attacks from all angles.

Naarden 14

It looks spectacular, especially from the air. Below you can see just one wee bit of it. You can walk all around it but we didn’t have enough time, or energy. It was very hot of course with the Netherlands being the hottest spot in Europe that week.

Naarden 11

Have a look at the images of the fort here. It looks fantastic. The distinctive star shape made it a rallying point for allied bombers during World War 2 – on their way to bomb Germany. It was photos like those that prompted us to visit the town, but I must say that the ice-cream there was lovely – and so cheap compared with back home!

Hoof Trimming in Process

Family life in the Dutch side of my family revolves around looking after the four horses. The horses are all getting on, in fact they age between 16 and 38. The photo below is of Odin the pony, he’s the oldest and he had a bit of a cold that day but it cleared up fine. You definitely don’t want to stand too close to a horse with the sniffles!

odin

It’s unusual for horses to live well into their 30s but these ones are so well looked after that it has prolonged their lives. They’re stabled every night and whenever it’s chilly, if they had lived outside on icy fields they would have succumbed to ill health long ago. Tara, the only mare and tending to fat as mares do, needed to have her hooves trimmed and my niece Kirsty went on a course to learn how to do it herself. Unfortunately you can’t see her properly, they are action photos, it’s hard and dangerous work.

hooves

Kirsty has her mum Hanneke helping to hold Tara as still as possible, but she lost patience for a minute there.

hooves

It’s a family effort when Kirsty’s dad – my brother John – steps in to help to smooth off the edges using a rasp.

hooves

Jack and I stood well clear of it all, outwith kicking distance anyway! Those horses are really big and I have a sneaking suspicion that horses resent ‘being in captivity’ and really hanker after running free and independent. Odin makes escape bids every now and again, despite his great age and the life of Riley that he leads.

Groningen, the Netherlands

The city of Groningen in the north east of the Netherlands is very old, it’s first mentioned in documents dating back to 1040. Nowadays it’s famous for its two universities and there are over 50,000 students living in the city. That means there are a lot of bikes around as you can see.

Bikes in Groningen

Bikes outside Groningen University

The last time we were in Groningen we went on a boat trip on the canal, it’s a good way to see the city, without being knocked down by bikes! But this time we wandered around – bike dodging and we visited the museum which is interesting.

Groningen Museum 2

It’s a pity we missed the exhibition they had on of David Bowie’s art although apparently the queues for it were enormous. You can see some images of the exhibition here.

I must admit though that I find it sad that many museums and art galleries are now charging for admission. It cost us 13 euros each to get in. I think it must come as a nice surprise to tourists visiting Britain when they discover that most of the museums/galleries have no entry charges.

If you want to see more images of Groningen have a look here.

Drachten

Drachten

The town of Drachten in north east Holland came as a bit of a surprise to me because there are loads of shops, some of them the same ones you can see on British high streets. It’s a very busy place but driving there you are surrounded by countryside and I didn’t think there would be enough of a population to sustain the shops, but obviously there is.

Drachten

Above is a photo of a sort of pedestrianised town square, but in Holland bikes are everywhere and it seems that if there are rules regarding where they should be ridden, nobody cares much. Everywhere you go you have to keep your eyes peeled for cyclists, often with two or even three children perched on all sides. The large orange and white umbrella canopy thing has a sort of tree of bells under it and they ring out the hours and quarter hours.

Drachten

There’s a dead end canal leading right into the town.

Drachten

Most of the shops were open but some of the smaller ones were closed, it was half-day closing. I think it must be around 45 years since shops in any UK towns had half-day closing.

Drachten

Some streets still had orange bunting up in celebration of a royal birthday.

Drachten

I love the individualism of Dutch houses, you rarely see two the same and they’re often decorated with tiles like this one, or the top section of the windows are filled with stained glass like the one below.

Holland 4 008

Drachten is a lovely town with great shops and if it hadn’t been so hot I would have tried on some dresses in the shops there, I was on the lookout for a dress to wear to G’s wedding. But the heat and the fact that I had two blokes in the shape of a husband and a brother trailing around with me made me think again!

Back Home

We arrived back home in Fife on Saturday night after having been in the Netherlands and Belgium over the past fortnight or so. We had a really enjoyable time although very little went to plan due to the incredibly hot weather that we apparently brought with us! We had driven through hail and snow on the way down to the ferry in Harwich and when we were driving from the Hook of Holland to the north east of the Netherlands we could see rain up ahead of us but never did catch up with it, a lot of the fields were boggy with standing water after days of rain but the next day dawned bright and hot and it turned out that the Netherlands had the hottest weather in Europe while we were there, 29 Celsius / 84.2 Fahrenheit, very hot for May. Strangely the temperature plummeted to 11 Celsius / 51.8 Fahrenheit the day after we left for home, but I feel that I’ve already had more sun than I’ve experienced in many recent British summers. Hurrah!

So we didn’t have a trip to Amsterdam as planned as I couldn’t face being trapped in a hot and bright train to get there, nor did I fancy being in a sweltering city either. The trip to see the tulips at the Keukenhof was kyboshed too for the same reason, but the fields by the sides of the motorways had thousands of tulips flowering away anyway and I managed to get some snaps of them as Jack drove along as you can see.

Tulips in Holland

More DutchTulips

These tulips are being grown commercially, I think they are part of flower trials, but some of them are used to decorate floats in local festivals.

Dutch Tulips Again

After staying three days with my brother and his wife we travelled to Ypres in Belgium, a four hour drive. It wasn’t quite so hot in Belgium, that was our first trip to that country and one we had been meaning to do for years, mainly to see the Menin Gate. We’ve both had an interest in World War 1 since school history days. Ypres is a lovely city, completely rebuilt in the original style as it was more or less flattened during World War 1. It all looks fairly ancient but the buildings are only around 100 years old.

It seems that Belgium in general is a lot more down at heel than the Netherlands, most of the houses are shabbier as are the roads, but in Holland they do tend to be a bit obsessive about their houses and gardens. Dutch gardens and plantings are gorgeous but the style is very different from a typical British garden which tend to be far less formal and sculpted. Lots of gardens have rows of trees that have been manicured into cube shapes or long rectangles like the ones below in the town square of The Hook of Holland, the ferry port. It’s completely unnatural but very attractive even when the leaves have hardly appeared.

Trained Trees at Hook of Holland

The Spell of Holland by Burton E. Stevenson

It was my friend Joan of Planet Joan who pointed me in the direction of The Spell of Holland by Burton E. Stevenson, she’s a keen armchair traveller and you can read her thoughts on the book here.

house 2

I really enjoyed this book and I’m just glad that I intend to go back to visit Holland again sometime in the future as I’ve taken notes of lots of places to visit next time we’re there.

The book was first published in 1911, Joan has a lovely old copy of it but I made do with a free download from Forgotten Books, if you’re interested you can get it here. The author and his wife Betty hailed from Ohio and were unusual in that unlike most travellers they wanted to see the real Holland so they dodged the tourist hotspots and visited towns which were off the beaten tourist track.

What amazed me was just how little things seem to have changed in the Netherlands over the space of 103 years! All right – you don’t see people going about in their traditional costumes nowadays and the only person I saw actually wearing wooden clogs was selling them, but otherwise there are lots of things which haven’t changed at all.

house 1

I’ve always thought of Scotland as being until recently a strict Presbyterian place, but it’s over 30 years since shops in Scotland started opening on Sundays, and I can’t ever remember anyone avoiding working on the Sabbath day. Stevenson and his wife were surprised by the strict observation of it and it’s still exactly the same today. No shops open at all and my brother’s neighbour once complained about him working in his garden on a Sunday, when he should obviously have been reading his Bible. Jacky of course had a very good answer to that complaint which was – Did you go to church this morning? His neighbour of course replied that he did go to church. J asked him if it had been warm in there and the neighbour replied that it had been nice and warm. So J then said that it was only warm because a man in a power station had been working to supply the energy for it – on a Sunday! So that shut the neighbour up and he never had any problems with him again!

house  very dutch

Stevenson described the staircases in Dutch homes as being more akin to ladders than stairs, and that is true in modern Dutch homes too. I couldn’t believe it when I saw my niece’s stairs. I would just like to know what the statistics are regarding accidents on stairs in Holland. I almost went up her’s on my hands and knees and going down was scary, in fact Stevenson said that he was always tempted to turn around and go down them as if they were ladders. I felt the same!

Breakfasts in Holland were described exactly as they are now, lots of different bread and rolls, cold meat, fruit, cheese and eggs. The only difference was that my Dutch family memebers also ate porridge/oatmeal but that might have been the Scottish influence and it might not be Dutch at all. The porridge was made in a magnetron which is what the Dutch call a microwave. We think magnetron is a much better name – so science fiction-ish so we have given up microwave for magnetron. Obviously those things didn’t exist in 1911 though.

a garden

It seemed that way back when the book was written the men didn’t do much in the way of work, whereas the poor women were run off their feet, usually whilst a man just looked on. They walked for miles with their milk pails on yokes when there were carts which could easily have been used to transport the milk, and the milkmaids. The women were even out scrubbing the streets and I have to say that nowadays in rural Holland everything does look clean and tidy but I don’t think they go that far now.

house distance

I took all of the above photos in or near the small town of Opende in North East Holland. I didn’t see two houses the same in Holland, people seem to design their own homes. I just wish I had thought to take a photo of some of the suicidal staircases. I believe that the third house, which is the one with a for sale sign outside it was actually built in 1911, when The Spell of Holland was published.

If you fancy a bit of armchair travelling yourself you might want to take a look at The Spell of Holland too. If you want to have a look at a Dutch magazine have a look at Seasons here.

The Road to the Hook of Holland

In the Netherlands whoever wins a contract to build a motorway must provide artwork as part of the deal, which is why there are several enormous concrete elephants by the side of the motorway near where my brother lives. They are much bigger than lifesize. I took this photo as we were driving past on our way back home so it isn’t the best, in fact most of the photos I took are quite blurry.

landscape  elephants

The one below is of a rusty ship, rust seems to be quite a theme because there were a couple of rusty houses too.

landscape / sculpture

Below is a photo taken from the motorway on the road back to the Hook of Holland.

landscape  water

And the last three I took from the ferry as we were sailing back to Harwich from the Hook of Holland. It was a flat calm the whole way, much smoother than a train journey, which I found a bit disappointing as I do enjoy a good heaving sea but it does seem to make a lot of people heave in a different way altogether so the lack of rough seas probably came as welcome to most of the passengers.

Hook of Holland 1

Hook of Holland 2

Hook of Holland 3