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 Paris the sun seems to shine a bit longer. The French air seems to blow a somewhat softer. The hours are slowed and days seem to pass seamlessly without any interruption between night and day.
Relax your gait upon your walk about Paris. A leisurely pace is best as it will allow the city to come to you.
The metro in Paris is the underbelly of the city that connects you from one area to the other. Because of this complex yet efficient transportation system you should never become stagnant in only one area for each quarter offers its own unique personality.
Paris is big. And its wide boulevards provide you with space in abundance. Space to exercise your privilege of exploration in a city overflowing with a potpourri of diverse people, the arts and world renown for its culinary expertise.
Through the years Paris has grown. But its essence remains unchanged. Or as the French would say, inchange’. Its style and spirit is much as it was in the time of Napoleon, de Gaulle, and Joan of Arc. The same as it was when captured in the thrashing brush strokes of Vincent Van Gogh. It is the same now as it was then. Just as it was when seen through his eyes, painted by his soul and lived in his heart.
The Sacre Couer Basilica is a stunning vision to behold irregardless of how many times you have seen it in the past. Among the most beautiful basilica’s in all of Europe. Built in the Romano Byzantine style, its pointed domes glistening radiant sunlight in the open air playing on the calcite stone. The front of the basilica facing Paris is nobly adorned with ornate statues of Joan of Arc and King Saint Louis. Standing vigilant in their task of safeguarding the sprawling city below.
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.
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