We’ve now come full circle back to where we started in the Netherlands.
Our base city, Leiden is a city of canals and we are in a very old Dutch row house complete with an impossibly steep and narrow spiral staircase and sleeping in the rafters. On the plus side we have an amazing view of the canal from our living room window ( and the rain, a spin off from Hurricane Humberto which is putting a dampener all over Europe at the present time) and we are right in the centre of things, on the very spot where the Leiden market sets up twice a week. Of course, being the Netherlands, the car is a real liability. We can park right in front of the apartment but so close to the canal it’s hard to get out on the passenger side and nerve wracking to back into with nothing between you and a big drop into the canal. Added to this it’s EU 11 per day for the pleasure. Apparently one car a week goes into a canal here and we don’t want to be that one.
Rotterdam is the city of modern architecture. Following the German aerial bombardment of Rotterdam in 1940 as part of the invasion of the neutral Netherlands there was little left except the ruins of St Lawrence Church. All other medieval buildings were destroyed. It was decided that rather than restoring the Rotterdam of the past, a completely new city would be built. Rotterdam is now a showpiece of modern architecture with some jaw dropping buildings in and around its city centre. There’s the Unilever building ( nicknamed the Bridge) , De Markthal, a cavernous space with apartments on the outside and a food hall on the inside, the apartment block called the cube houses, the one I call the pencil and the ski jump. Rotterdam’s port is massive, on a scale we have never seen before. Despite the devastation of the city Rotterdam has still retained an area of old windmills in Kinderdijk.
The Hague was able to retain many of its old buildings, one of the most striking being the Mauritshuis Museum.The museum itself is a special treat for those wishing to feast on Rubens, Rembrandts or Vermeers. It’s a magnificent castle complete with moat once owned by Johann Maurits, Governor of the Dutch colony of Brazil, on behalf of the West India Company, and also slave trader. Having seen The Glass of Wine and Woman with a Pearl Necklace in Berlin, we added two of our favourite Vermeers View of Delft and Girl with a Pearl Earring. More will follow at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. The Dutch Royal castle, a very restrained building is also here and where the king works and his family live. The Peace Palace, home to the United Nations International Court of Justice is also here in a palace built in 1913.The Hague also has a wide sandy beach which must come alive during the Summer Season.
Amsterdam must be the cycling capital of the world. They start out in kiddie seats and cargo bikes and are still cycling well into their seventies. This seems to lead to great posture and an absence of obesity but can be very intimidating to newcomers. You literally need eyes in the back of your head. It’s also the starting point for many a river cruise and is therefore struggling to cope with the massive influx of tourists. The canals which run throughout the city also add to the congestion. Amsterdam only sustained minor damage in WW2 as following the destruction of Rotterdam neutral Holland surrendered to avoid any of its other cities suffering a similar fate.
It’s the end of summer (and our holiday) The wind in the leaves and the showers which appear out of no where and then just as quickly disappear, remind us that winter is just around the corner. Everywhere is an intense emerald green and there is no view in which water doesn’t play a major role.
Jim has clocked up 7000 kilometres, a remarkable effort which he says will be his final marathon road trip. A marathon plane journey awaits............