I was shooting night photography on Osterlanggatan, in Gamla Stan. One of my favorite streets in the world.
Just beyond the outer rim of the North Sea dunes, slightly west of Amsterdam, the bountiful pastel fields spread as far as the eye can see. Strewn aghast, sprawled, multicolored layers of pigment spilling across the lowlands, creating a picturesque kaleidoscope of hues reminiscent of Van Gogh’s master work, Tulip Fields.
The fields, aflush with tulips of of every variety. It is as if the colors of the rainbow exploded and fell onto the open lands of Holland. And it is here they lay, flaunting themselves in the brightly colored beds, like pigmented stars soaking in the sun.
One of the things I like most about Europe is the tradition of preserving its artifacts and old structures for all to see and feel, giving you a hands on connection to history. Castle Muiderslot is just the ticket for a pleasing day trip by car, cycling or public transport. Especially if you have a thing for castles. Like I do.
Located mid way between Amsterdam and Hilversum, 17 kilometers from the city center, it should take you little more than an hour by bike.
The medieval castle, a UNESCO World Heritage site, has a mysterious history as colorful as any attraction in the Netherlands. Its first resident was Count Floris V who built the castle in 1285. Floris V was a staunch supporter of the French who later decided to invade the Netherlands. But the reign of Floris V was short lived when he was overthrown and imprisoned in his very own dungeon. Subsequently he was killed in a bloody coup in 1296. His image still adorns the walls in various paintings placed throughout the castle.
The winding steps of the south tower spiral upward to the sentry walk where the castle guards kept a watchful eye for enemies. Here you have an amazing view of the courtyard, surrounding meadow and the river Vecht.
In the Armory room you will find a healthy assortment of swords, armor and various weapons used by the gallant knights from the period. Descending the stairs below leads you to the grisly dungeon quarters, eerily equipped with chains, metal handcuffs and other instruments of torture. You can almost feel the pain and suffering of the guests who were imprisoned and tormented there.This fate was bestowed upon Count Floris V himself, later a prisoner in this grim corner of the castle.
Muiderslot Castle has since changed owners many times over the last 750 years. Thousands of souls have traversed its drawbridge into the castle keep. Your imagination runs wild with salacious tales of backroom skullduggery. Stories of the tortured and screams of the damned imprisoned below. The hairs on the back of your neck stiffen. There is a sudden chill in the air as your body succumbs to gooseflesh. Standing alone in the Herald room next to Floris V’s coat of arms you get the feeling that you are not alone. Hmmmm, perhaps you are not.;)-ZT
Twenty five years ago the Berlin wall came down. Although the unrest in Eastern Germany began in 1989 the actual demolition of the wall followed by the official reunification declaration was signed in October 1990.
Rebuilding Dusseldorf has been a monumental, albeit arduous task to say the least. Previously heralded as one of Germany’s chief industrial cities, it has since migrated into a modern municipality of technology and business. As a result, through the painstaking efforts of the city planners, the architecture is sleek and sophisticated mixed with a blend of neomodern . While traversing the city you feel as though you are in a futuristic, or even, dare i say it, “space age” megalopolis.
bratwurst or weinersnitzel? Now I knew this was probably not the healthiest thing to eat. Considering it would probably give me brain cancer, stomach lesions, wreck havoc to my colon and a host of other ailments yet undiscovered by man. But heck, there are worst thing to eat right? Well, maybe not, but I was in Germany,
and local custom dictates that every wide eyed traveler has to gorge themselves on bratwurst and beer upon entering the country.
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 don’t take my word for it. Check out the photos I have submitted for your appreciation.
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.