A day in Delft

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The third day of our recent trip to Amsterdam we took the train to the old city of Delft, the home of Vermeer, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek and Delft Blue pottery, which is just outside Den Haag. On the fast train the journey took less than an hour.

We made our way to the old Market square, which is dominated by the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church – well it was new in 1381!),

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and old Town Hall. It was market day so the square was full with market stalls and shoppers.

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After a look round the market we headed over to the Vermeer Centre, which is in a rebuilt version of the old local Guild of Saint Luke (during the Golden Age this was the Guild that artists were required to join if they wanted to sell their work). The Centre doesn’t own any works by the Vermeer but has life sized e copies of all his known paintings with information about them, as well as multi-media exhibition displays about the life of Johannes Vermeer. It was well worth the visit.

Afterwards we went for a wander around the city, taking in some of the sights on the “Vermeer Trail” map we’d purchased for a few Euros.

It’s a small, picturesque city centre and looked particularly beautiful on a hot, sunny day.

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This is the Oostpoort (Eastern gate), built around 1400. It was from near here where Vermeer painted his View of Delft

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and this is allegedly the location of his painting, the Little Street

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The original buildings are long gone, however.

The day was soon over and we didn’t have time to visit the two old churches. And we didn’t bump into Colin Firth or Scarlett Johansson!

A picinic in the Amstelpark

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After our visit to NDSM we caught the tram back to base to freshen up then picked up some supplies. On a hot sunny summer evening when it would be light until late, what would be better than a picnic in the park?

The Vondel Park in the centre of Amsterdam is well known and frequented by tourists. However, we hopped on a tram headed for the Amstelpark in the south of the city. As the name implies, it’s located by the Amstel river and was originally created for the 1972 Floriade gardening exhibition.

After enjoying our meal, we went for a wander around the park in the evening sunshine.

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This is a rather moving Monument Rozenoord, commemorating an atrocity committed towards the end of WW2 when one hundred and forty men were executed by the German occupying forces at Rozenoord on the Amsteldijk in Amsterdam. Many of the victims were involved in the resistance .

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a large installation consisting of a hundred chairs. The chairs seem to have spread randomly across the field, as if they were still in use a few minutes ago. The chairs are arranged according to the eight dates on which the victims were executed. There is a plaque for the unknown suspects.

Each chair is mounted on an elegant concrete base in which the name and date of birth and death date of each victim is recorded. The Rozenoord monument aims to bring us back to a one-to-one relationship. Each of the hundred chairs represents an individual with their own personality and their own story.

Walking through the park on a warm, sunny evening reminded me of our evening walks through the park in Melbourne last December. The nature of the two parks was very similar as was the weather. But I didn’t expect to see this!

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(There’s a small petting zoo in the park).

We left the park for a short while to walk along the banks of the Amstel

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Rembrandt used to walk along here out of Amsterdam and used to sketch the landscape. Some of his prints included views of Amstel river he based on these drawings.

Just by the south entrance to the park, there’s the Riekermolen windmill. It’s a 1961 reconstruction of an older windmill that stood here from 1636 to 1956 and was active until 1932.

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We went back into the park and almost got locked in when we popped back to have a look at this reconstruction of a DeStil type house

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NDSM

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The second day of our recent trip to Amsterdam we decided to do something different and cross the Ij to the north side of the city. We took of the free ferries from Centraal Station across the water over to NDSM ( Nederlandsche Dok en Scheepsbouw Maatschappij – the Dutch Shipbuilding and Dry dock Company), a former ship yard that is now being redeveloped as a “cultural area”. I’d seen a post by Anabel, the Glasgow Gallivanter who’d visited it with her husband earlier this year, so we thought we’d follow their example. We were lucky and despite a cloudy morning during our visit after midday we were blessed with a hot, sunny day with bright blue skies.

In 1937, the NDSM was the largest ship-building company in the world, but like many European shipyards facing competition from the Far East it declined after the Second World War and went bankrupt and closed in 1984.  Initially it lay derelict but in the 90’s artistic and creative types moved in, squatting and taking advantage of the space offered by the massive buildings.  As is often the case, developers have now started to move in and we’ve seen the construction of hotels, restaurants, offices and housing. One of the cranes has even been converted into an expensive hotel.

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Arriving at the ferry terminal we passed an old submarine moored in the Ij

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and a ship hotel

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Despite this, there’s still a large creative community occupying the old shipbuilding facilities. And like in many such places, the buildings and anything else that isn’t moving is covered with street art.

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We even saw some of the artists at work.

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The main former shipyard building is still used by creatives who’ve built themselves a complex of workshops and studios in part of the massive space. We had a mooch around inside.

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Afterwards feeling hot and thirsty, we wandered over to the “funky” Nooderlicht cafe built to serve the artistic community

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Refreshed, we made our way back to the ferry terminal to take the boat back to Centraal Station. We had plans for the evening.

Back in Amsterdam

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We hadn’t been home long after our stay in Cheshire with Anne and Steve before we were off again. An early start on Tuesday morning setting off at 5 a.m to catch the plane from Manchester to Amsterdam for a short break to see our daughter who is living over there. (Is there a more unpleasant airport than Manchester? If there is I haven’t found it yet!!). We stopped for two night but as we took an early flight out and late flight home, we had more or less four full days to look around. Like Britain, the Netherlands have been having a prolonged period of good weather and we were blessed with long hot days and blue skies which meant that Amsterdam looked particularly pretty.

At the moment my daughter is living on a houseboat on the Prisengracht canal, just by the junction with the Amstel. It’s not a boat as such but what’s known as an “Ark” and it’s effectively a floating caravan!

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There’s loads of them in the canals and river in Amsterdam. Some of them really large and luxurious (particularly those on the larger Amstel waterway).

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As usual we kept ourselves busy, making the most of our time in the city – and unlike our last trip in February when it was freezing cold, like back home in the UK, Amsterdam was experiencing something of a heatwave.

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Coniston Round

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This was a walk I’d wanted to do for a while now – a traverse of the Coniston Fells taking in the Old Man, Brim Fell, Swirl How and Wetherlam. I’d originally booked at the Shepherd’s Bridge B&B for two nights but extended it for another one when the weather forecast was looking better for the Thursday and I wanted a good chance of decent weather and good views.

It was going to be a long day so I set out at 9:30. I’d decided to tackle the round from East to West, starting at Wetherlam and ending on the Old Man. This was mainly because there was a steep section between Wetherlam and Swirl How and I thought it would be easier on my knees going up rather than down.

I started by heading up Copper Mine Valley. The name betrays the area’s history. Coniston was an industrial area from Elizabethan times (and possibily earlier) with copper mines and slate quarries in the valley and on the sides of the fells – and the landscape bears witness to this.

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It must have been an extremely hard life working up on and amongst the fells.

I turned off the valley floor following the path leading across the pass to Tilberthwaite before cutting across to climb up the path towards the first fell I would traverse – Wetherlam.

To my left there was a good view of The Old Man of Coniston

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As I climbed views opened up behind me back over to Coniston Water

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I continued to climb – the summit began to come into view

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I started to get a good view of Swirl How

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I eventually reached the summit.

Looking over towards the Scafells

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Great views with most of the major Lake District fells visible as well as Windermere, Esthwaite Water and Coniston Water.

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It was windy on the top so I found a sheltered spot to have a bite to eat before setting off towards my next destination – Swirl How.  This required descending down to Swirl Hawse before the steep climb and scramble up the Prison Band.

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I don’t know why this broad ridge is called the Prison Band, but for a while it seemed I had been sentenced to hard labour!

I was up on the summit quicker than I expected, again being battered by the wind. But the views were good.

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After a short stop to chat with a couple who’d arrived at the top just before me, and who took a photo of me by the cairn (so I could prove to family and friends that I got there!) I carried on walking along the top of Swirl How before descending down to Lever Hawse and climbing up the next high point – Brim Fell.

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Reaching the summit I headed on towards the final fell to conquer, the highest of the Coniston Fells, the Old Man of Coniston.

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So another short descent before the climb up to the final summit.

When I made it to the top it was quite busy (it always is!) and windy. The views back across the ridge and down to Coniston Water made it worth it!

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And there was Dow Cragg that I’d climbed the previous day

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Now it was time to descend back down to Coppermine Valley. It’s a steep track up to the top and, so, down from the summit!

Looking down to Low Water, the small tarn in the basin below the summits of the Old Man and Brim Fell

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Continuing to descend I passed the ruins and remains of the slate quarries passing a few tourists walking in the opposite direction who asked me “how far is it tot he top?”.

It was quite a walk down to the bottom of the valley but eventually the end came into view

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Reaching the village it was warm and sunny so I called into the Co-op to buy a couple of cold drinks and returned to Shepherd’s Bridge where I spent some time relaxing in the sunshine in the garden.

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A challenging walk but I’d made it in good time and an ambition achieved!

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An evening walk

The rain cleared a couple of hours after my walk and the sun decided to show it’s face for a while. This was the view from the garden of my B&B

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I needed to get myself something to eat, so set out towards the village, passing St Andrew’s church on the way. John Ruskin is buried in the church yard and Donald Campbell, who died attempting to break the water speed record on Coniston Water, is buried in a newer graveyard a short distance away.

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Just round the corner, on the main street, I went into the Black Bull for my meal. The pub brews it’s own prize winning ales, but I was disappointed to find that they didn’t sell non-alcoholic brews so had to make do with a Diet Coke.

It was a pleasant evening, so after eating, I decided to stroll down to the Lake for a short walk along the shore and back through the fields to my B&B.

The lake looked good in the late evening light.

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Back in my room I settled down for the evening and watched a film on the Smart TV.  Not long after the rain returned. I was keeping my fingers crossed that it would have gone by the morning.

The National Museum of Finland

We visited the National Museum of Finland on the first full day of our recent stay in Helsinki – on the Sunday afternoon after we’d been to the Didrichsen Art Museum. It tells the story of Finland and its people, going right back to the pre-historic times and is definitely worth a visit to get an understanding of this relatively young nation.

The museum is in a distinctive Finnish National Romantic style building, designed by architects Herman Gesellius, Armas Lindgren, and Eliel Saarinen, directly opposite the Finlandia Hall, close to the city centre. The exterior is rather austere and influenced by medieval architecture but with some Art Nouveau / Jugendstil touches.

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Inside includes murals and other Finnish style Jugendstil features, particularly in the central hall and main staircase. It’s hard to do justice to the ceiling mural in the central entrance hall which depicts scenes from the Kalevala, the Finnish national myth.

There were some beautiful stained glass windows on the main staircase

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The first half of the museum concentrates on the history of Finland from the Middle Ages to the foundation of the independent Finnish State in 1917 (after the Russian Revolution). It’s what I would call a traditional type of museum with lots of artefacts presented in a relatively static way with limited interaction. This doesn’t mean it wasn’t interesting and we learned quite a bit about the history of Finland when it was a colony of Sweden and then, later, a Russian Grand Duchy.

The Medieval room

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A recreated room from the 18th Century when Finland was a Swedish colony – the large white “cabinet” is a ceramic heater – needed in the depths of the Finnish winter!

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The throne used by the Tsar during his visit to Finland when it was under Russian Imperial influence

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The second half of the museum, covering the modern era from the beginning of the 20th Century to the present day was very modern in style with lots of interactive and hands-on displays including this interactive panorama of Helsinki at the end of the Russian era

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and a “book” where the content was projected on to blank pages.

Nationalist feeling was growing in Finland at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th Century – which is reflected in the Jugenstil and National Romantic architecture so prevalent in Helsinki. After the fall of the Tsar, taking opportunity of the Bolshevik policy of  National Determination, Finland declared independence on 6 December 1917. A Civil War followed between “Reds” and conservative “Whites”, the latter eventually being victorious.

At the beginning of WWII Finland was attacked by Soviet Russia leading to a bitter “Winter War” where the much smaller country defeated the Red Army, yet the Moscow Peace treaty ceded territory to Russia. There was a period of peace before war resumed in autumn 1941 when Russia was preoccupied with defending itself from the German invasion.  Power relations had changed and The USSR were now allied with Great Britain, which resulted in the latter declaring war on Finland on 6 December., and Finland was supported by, if not allied with, the Nazis. I felt that although much was made of the hardship and heroics of the Winter War (quite rightly), this aspect was rather glossed over.

After WWII Finland was in a difficult position with a long border with the USSR and and had to balance carefully between the big powers maintaining a neutral stance. Like the other Nordic countries it developed a strong welfare state which largely remains today despite some economic difficulties and the rise of the Nationalist right who are now in Government.

Last year was the Centenary of the founding of the Finnish state and the final exhibit in this part of the Museum was a film show with an image of a Finn from each year from 1917 until 2017 projected on a large screen. Visitors could control both the direction of the film (past to present or vice versa) and the speed.

As we were about to leave the museum we realised we’d missed a whole section devoted to prehistoric Finland, so we went to have a look. Again, it was an interesting exhibition, well presented in a modern way.

Given it’s position in the frozen north, early population was sparse and life would have been hard so no major civilisations developed like in more temperate environments. However there was some migration after the last Ice Age and a number of artefacts were displayed, such as weapons and jewellery.

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as well as displays and models about the environment and how people lived.

We enjoyed our visit to the Museum. There was more  to see and we could have spent longer there, but we were starting to feel tired so it was time to head back to our hotel for a rest and to get ready to go out for something to eat.