In the dog days of July when most of the world is slurping down umbrella cocktails at the beach we had such an occurrence in Amsterdam. Yes in July! But dont take my word for it. Check out the photos I have submitted for your appreciation.
You can actually walk fifteen minutes from Oslo Central Station and dip your toe into the Oslofjord. The country is a natural wonderland with endless forest, rivers, lakes, wild nature and opulent fjords. And its citizens have a long established tradition of
preserving the ecosystems and wild nature through sweeping environmental policy to protect its generous gifts. Standing at the mouth of Oslofjord the seamless panorama is overwhelming. As if this breath taking view isn’t amazing enough the architecture is streamlined in the style of Neo Scandinavian design. Very linear and contemporary.
Norwegians boast a strong penchant for the arts and theater. Coupled with a robust economy and practically zero crime makes Oslo the ideal place to whittle away a lifetime. The country is also cash rich due to the discovery of oil in the 70’s and 80’s. Which you get a chuncky piece of if you are lucky enough to have a Norwegian birth certificate.
The Dutch have a well kept secret. And it goes by the name Maastricht.
Bordering Belgium, resting at the very bottom of Holland but utmost in the hearts of every Nederlander, this jewel of a city is unequivocally among the top must see destinations in the Netherlands. Maastricht proper boast a vibe that is different from Holland North . Eccentric in design yet whimsical by nature. The people too pride themselves on their unique lineage in this region known as Limburg due to its definitive Belgian influence. Even the dialect is a bit softer as my ear for the Dutch language was trained in Amsterdam. In a country so small it’s diversity is a wonderment perhaps even the dutch take for granted.
Maastricht stands alone in it’s glory. It does not attempt to compete with its larger more well know brethren cities to the north. It is complete and secure in its own identity and uniqueness, blending the cultures of Belgium and the Netherlands.
In Maastricht you are encouraged to stroll the old streets and delight in the delirium of authentic Dutch charm thought to have long ago abated.
The cleverly alined houses bunched together along the Maas river invites you to traverse the bridge and experience the coziness of a southern Dutch village the way it was meant to be. The center of the fanciful hamlet transforms fluidly into openness giving way to a peacefulness almost tranquilizing. A place of arresting beauty, resonating with ethereal charm, awash in the residuum of a bygone era. The bridge at the Mass river is said to be one of the oldest in Europe. The Romans began building it 2000 years ago. It was left there for all to cross. Now is the time to treat yourself to Maastricht.~ZT
It’s been a very difficult time the past few days in the Netherlands. Just last week there was immense celebration and euphoria coming off the success of the Dutch National team’s performance in the World Cup. Now, we are experiencing a complete pivot of emotion due to the cowardly attack on flight MH17. This despicable and shameful act of shooting down a passenger plane filled with innocent people. Three of which were infants.
To say we are outraged does not begin to reflect how we feel. But we, and I mean “we” as a collective world community need to go beyond our feelings of mutual outrage. We must pull together in a concerted effort and act. We need to collectively galvanize our outrage into action against Putin and his criminal regime. Let them know that no matter how cowardly, heinous, and vile their terrorist acts are the peaceful communities of the world will never succumb to their will. And this act only solidifies the resolve of peaceful people of all nations.
When it comes to air travel, the peaceful nations of the world share a bond. A common thread of decency. A reciprocal agreement, a sacred trust that we signed onto to secure safe passage for one another and our families. It is this sacred trust that allows us to travel safely and freely from country to country without the fear of cowardly acts such as this incident.
The international community should bring charges against those responsible with this crime and if found guilty, isolate these criminals within the self imposed prisons of their own making. We must let them know that there are a thousand lights in the forest, burning brightly and together they, we, create a firestorm with such an intense flame it will burn the paws off any bear in it’s path. You will never break us.
Our hearts are with the families at this difficult time.~ZT
Ahhh…Saturday morning, the sun is shinning, not a cloud in the sky and nary a football hooligan in sight. What a great day to be in London! As the occasion calls for I suppose I should make like a proper English chap, put on my Windsor cap and skip over to Kensington. I’m catching the tube to Notting Hill for a bit of slacking off, British style! You are welcome to join me if you like. If you fancy walking that is!
Just outside of London proper, fifteen minutes by the underground, the world’s oldest underground rail system, is the quaint area in west London know as Notting Hill. I boarded the tube at King’s Cross station and exited at Notting Hill gate. The early morning rain had given way to golden strands of sunlight, a slight breeze but weak by London standards. A perfect day to muck around in Knotting Hill. I began my requiescence with a quiet stroll down Pembridge road. The houses were awash in the brightest pastel colors. As if Van Gogh used his color palate to splash each house with elaborate hues of brilliance. Then though better of himself and applied a different palate on the next street. Completely out of character for a borough of London. But that is the curious charm of Notting Hill. Diffused of the grit and bite of the central area, it is flirtatiously unapologetic for it’s unabashed liberalism. Yet still retaining that essential Anglo ambiance.
Walking down Pembridge, around the next corner I came to Ladbroke Square. Bright colors give way to dusky browns and variant shades of umber colored houses, uniquely stylized from the Victorian era. Adjacent are the gardens of Ladbroke which is used as an ideal picnic spot by locals. Sandwiched in between two rustic looking antique shops was a quaint little book store. I half-heartedly expected Hugh Grant to emerge at any moment! Just ahead of me the crowds thickened as a flurry of activity began to create quite a stir.
At the intersection I saw what all the hubbub was about as I approached the infamous Portobello Road Market. There were so many people moving every which way in what can only be described as orderly pandemonium. The ruckus ensued throughout the market as each shopper searched for that special item to fill their sack. The Notting Hill market is one of west London’s great attractions. Vendors line the street selling wares ranging from antiques, trendy souvenirs, vintage clothing, dusty old books and a few relics from England’s illustrious past. You may even find an ancient English artifact tucked away in a dusky corner ala Indiana Jones. I spied a vintage rugby ball that was quite worn and looked as though it had seem it’s share of games. After a trite bit of haggling I quickly snapped it up from the vendor and stowed it in my bag.
Just beyond the market the area presents a more affable surrounding. The combination of posh restaurants, ultra chic shops and earthy local pubs give the streets sort of a cool vitality. There is usually a street band or two playing for coins adding a festive feel to the atmosphere. All this and more for the price of a tube fare!
After a day of haggling with street vendors and some fiesty street dancing I felt like getting lost in one of those old book shops!
Still no sign of Hugh Grant!-ZT
After a couple of hours of trekking the Thames it was now time to replenish my energies. If bangers and mash, or fish and chips is not your cup of tea there are plenty of restaurants around central London to quell those annoying hunger pangs. Today I was in the mood for pizza and I heard that Franco Manca had a new restaurant on Lordship lane. Franco Manca is renown for it’s gourmet pizza using slow rising pizza dough featuring wild boar and other exotic beasts! Ahhh..I mean meats! Londoners in the know site it as the best pizza in London. I can personally attest to this after a superb course of the wild boar pizza washed down by a local craft brew. Feeling replenished I was off to explore what else is new and old in London!
A lot of people don’t like London. For the life of me I cant figure out what their reasoning is. It is a city I have visited many times and will always be a special place that I will return to over and over again. Aside from the fact that it is the most visited city in the world, the truth is, it’s extremely hard to have a bad time in London because it never seems to disappoint. Unequivocally, London is one of the top three cities on the planet and one of the few that is not overrated.
Despite some of the more prurient references afloat regarding England’s capitol, London beams with character and radiates with other worldly charm exclusive only to this legendary city. It has a splash of naughtiness and is forever finding ways to shake things up and make itself more interesting. There are two characteristics that set London apart form other large metroplexes. First, no matter how many times you visit you will always discover something new. Second, you can count on finding something old. Very old.
A blend of what’s new mixed with what’s old.
The first thing new thing you will notice when arriving at Heathrow Airport is the newly renovated Terminal 2. T2 is completely redone to the tune of 2.6 billion pounds! Ouch! The terminal houses 63 shops and restaurants sweeping panoramic views overtly —glass windows. Describes as the worlds first green airport because it operates on solar panels, LED and natural lighting. It is also the home of a new sculpture entitled “Slipstream” by artist Richard Wilson. An homage to aviation and the worlds longest continuous artist sculpture. It is a rare thing indeed that an airport is a tourist attraction in itself. Brilliant!
My first order of business when I come to London is to stroll the embankment along the Thames. It’s one on the things I enjoy most about the city. Whether you have done it once or a thousand times it’s always a thrill. Walking east you receive specular views of the House of Parliament and London’s iconic time clock referred to affectionately as Big Ben. Just across the river I came upon the fantastic sight of the London eye. For a mere 18 pounds you can indulge yourself with views from atop Europe’s largest Ferris wheel which features as the Brits would say “eye popping” views of London.
The old man frequently had too much to drink. But I was happy to indulge him for he was the most absolute gentleman. His eyes widened as he recounted to me fantastic stories of World War II when he was a child. Stories of strife, courage, raw with the full range of human insouciance and indifference. Accounts told to me first hand from someone who actually was there and lived to tell about it. I eagerly listened, giving my full attention. Salivating at every morsel he uttered. His stories seemed more like fables or fairy tales rather than historical events and personal accounts of someone’s life.
I ordered another round of beers.
It occurred to me that those of his generation who lived through that turbulent time would not be around too much longer to retell these experiences. Most people outside of the Netherlands are familiar with the story of gentle Anne Frank and the horrendous conditions under which she lived. And ultimately died. But living in Amsterdam you come to understand that there were so many Anne Franks. Millions of them with their own stories of human tragedy and cruelty. Not only in the Netherlands but all across Europe. I was privy to receive these stories and deeply honored the old man entrusted me with them. This was the gift he gave to me for the price of a beer. And for that I am eternally grateful. It is a debt I can never repay.~ZT, From My Amsterdam
I jumped up and quickly rushed over to the scene of the accident. The driver on the scooter began to get up as well and she seemed to be alright. However, the older gent was laid out like a rag doll in the rain. He laid there motionless on the bridge, blood gushing from his forehead.
Three people were randomly slung together and shared a fortuitous experience at a bridge on an awful day in the Amsterdam rain. On occasion the three of us still get together for beers. Despite the rain.
I had not seen her since right after I left college. It was not by chance that I was in Copenhagen at springtime. I was here to see someone special and it was in the spring several years ago that I had seen her last. Over the years I thought of her often. Many times while traveling to Copenhagen but managing my schedule to visit her was a regretable mea culpa at best. And for this I felt tremendously guilty. I remember how beautiful she was the first time I laid eyes on her. And the way she looked at me with that wide-eyed far away stare. How could I ever forget our time together. This occasion however would be different. My mind was set in stone. I had to see her again.
It was a bit of a hike from Tivoli where I was staying in the city center. Tivoli Gardens is a grand amusement park of epic proportions just south of Central Station. While the main attractions are the thrilling amusement rides there is a diverse smattering of theaters, concerts, festivals, exhibitions, restaurants and healthy amount of green areas where you can stroll until your heart is content. It is the second oldest amusement park in the world and a magnet for locals and visitors alike.
I walked up the broader boulevards to Nyhavn center. Then a set of narrower streets that wound around and jigsawed every which way towards the direction of the harbor. But I was not in the mood to be caught like a rat in a maze. My gait was purposeful. Resolute, as if driven by an expectancy of some unfulfilled premonition. Each stride bringing me closer to my goal.
Eventually my efforts were rewarded when I came upon the Gefion Fountain, the largest monument in Copenhagen. Lady Gefion in all her glory was as defiant and graceful as I remember. Legend has it that Swedish king, Gylfi offered Gefion all the land she could plow in a single night. Knowing full well she had no means to achieve this task.
But cunning Gefion outsmarted the king and turned her four sons into oxen and and thus achieved her reward. This fountain celebrates her victory. However lady Gefion was not the reason I came this way. I tossed a coin into the fountain in hopes that I would return someday soon and pushed onward.
After a short jaunt through the gardens on Langelinie promenade the path brought me to the inviting shores of the Oresund straight which lead to the Baltic sea and my journey come to an end.
There she was. She had not aged at all. So poised and as beautiful as ever. Stoic and forever vigilant in her task watching over the harbor just as Hans Christian Andersen intended. The Little Mermaid.
Copenhagen is actually quite small compared to most capital cities in Europe. It is the prized gem in the crown of the Danes dating back to the Viking era. The hearty Danes do not hibernate during the cold winter months so there is plenty of activity and much to do to keep everyone busy. However the radiant Baltic sun combined with the crisp Nordic air makes springtime the ideal season to experience the buoyant energy and effervescent spirit of Copenhagen.
The Nyhavn area, packed with waterfront cafes is the perfect place for the discriminating sport of people watching. And the Danes do put on quite a show.
Neatly situated between two seas, the North and the Baltic , Copenhagen shares much of its communal activities with its sister city, Malmo in Sweden. It is one of the greenest cities in the world brimming with culture, fine universities, parks, architecture and excellent museums. There is also a respectable presence of nightlife, cafes and restaurants that goes beyond the cliche’ but it is not over done. Once you are here you will understand why Copenhagen is consistantly voted the happiest city in the world.
The Danes by nature are not garish or effusive, nor mischievous or circumspect. Alternatively, there is a homogeneous acquiescence of civic conformity. Here, there is a more subtle and refined approach to leisure. It is a welcoming city and accommodating to all. Weather you are a local, a foreigner or just visiting to see a fin tailed friend.~ZT