Monday, December 27, 2010

The Europe Adventure for Jan & Me - Family Connections in Holland

One of the enjoyment of visiting Holland was to connect with my past and with family. I have already mentioned in an earlier blog that we met up with Pieter & Corrie. They joined us for the special occasion of celebrating Jan's birthday on 22 September. Not only did we celebrate this special day together, but we did so in my birth town of Haren.

It was great to introduce Jan to Haren. After parking the car we immediately set out for Kerkstraat, the street where the family home was and where I was born. I still can't get over how everything is so close together and Jan was quite taken by the fact that the opposite corner from the family home was the church where I was baptised; across the road was the cemetery where my paternal grand-parents are buried; a few doors down the street is the school - which is no longer a school, that I attended for almost all my primary education. Further down the road - a hundred meters or so, is the birth home of my own father. As I said, it was all so close together and we enjoyed the journey of rediscovering those long ago days:

The family home, especially built for my parents. Their share of the three-storey property extends from the fifth window from the left on the top storey to as far as the end of the 3-storey building on the right.
Below; as it was in 1931, almost complete with my parents in front:
The view across the road where the family went to church every Sunday.
It is stretching it a bit to think that my grandparents were across the road 'keeping an eye' on things. During his lifetime, my grandfather regularly visited my parents and checked on how the business was going.
And just down the road - some fifty meters or so, was my school. I am standing in front of what was Grade 1 in 1945 when I began school.

And below, in front of the same classroom with my teacher, Mrs Romein at the top left. My sister Wilhelmina & I are sitting bottom right with Pieter & Errit immediately behind us. How we have changed!!!
Another view from the main street end showing how close everything was with the family home on the left, the church in the background and on the right the street access to the cemetery.

Kerkstraat isn't a long street. One can see the full length from one end to the other. My paternal grandparent's home is still looking great, though having a changed roof and a different upstairs facade. It is still very recognizable:

And below in about 1925 with my father posing in front:While doing the 'before and now', have a look at the following comparison:The door on the left above was a window in the next photo. The window of the house next door looks exactly the same. The photo below, with my father, can be easily compared with the photo taken in 2010.
It was fun showing Jan my village. It is a delightful place of which I am very proud. The walking tour finished at an old favourite spot - Boerema Park, which we visited often and where I remember skating in the winter:
In the end, it was Jan's special day and we celebrated with a delightful lunch in the town:Life is about relationships, and celebrating Jan's birthday along with Pieter and Corrie is part of that!

Just before leaving for our European adventure, I received an unexpected email from a cousin of mine whom I had not seen for some sixty years and who, not surprisingly, did not remember me. Irma inquired about my knowledge of the family tree. Having done a lot of work on that over recent years, I was able to respond providing her with information that we had gathered. With our visit to Holland, it seemed natural to arrange to meet her.

We spent a most delightful day with Irma and her husband Adri (who was just three weeks younger than me). There was immediate rapport between us and our whole visit was a happy experience. I think that our respective spouses smiled at, what they observed as, similar family traits. Hmmmm! I have been told that I look like my grandfather Bouman, but perhaps Adri saw other similarities as well! Whatever, we just got on like a house on fire and it was a real treat to connect after so many years. Many of the photos that follow were taken by Irma, who is quite expert in photography, and I thank her for permitting me to use these on this blog.
After a delicious lunch Adri & Irma invited us to stretch our legs and see a little of their surroundings. We were ready for a good walk and gladly agreed. They took us to a property now used as accommodation for widows of ex servicemen. It is set in lovely bushlands and is very peaceful.
In showing you the next lot of photos, let me do so as a special tribute to Adri Buenk who passed away just a couple of weeks ago. On our return to Hobart, we received news that Adri was diagnosed with cancer and in the space of a couple of months was 'called home' by our Heavenly Father. It was a huge shock that I found personally very hard to cope with. Jan & I remember him with much enjoyment and the following photos reflect this. It was a happy walk, full of colour and diversity as I am sure was his life.

Our cameras were non-stop. So much to enjoy!
As we began our walk, we came across these wonderful toadstools. I have never seen so many different types in one spot nor the variety of colour that we feasted our eyes on. It reminded me of fairy tale stories that one reads during childhood. What was missing were the elves and fairies!!!

And finally, the above wonderful photo showing the fine and regular detail of God's amazing ingenuity in creation. Perfectly made. In the same way he made each of us - special in every detail.
Thanks again Irma!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas at Tranmere

Jan has been busy setting up our Christmas lights - with a little help from me.

Without realising it, our theme for this Christmas is centered on light. How appropriate as we celebrate the birth of the one who is the Light of the World!

As we send Christmas greetings to all who read this blog, so we pray that you will enjoy the happiness that the Light of the World gives! Here are just a few shots of the lights that illuminate our place:

It was a windy evening and the lights tossed to and fro
Above: Hobart in the background added to our lights, and below, our golden tree with the Derwent River and Hobart's Western Shore on the background.
Above & below: Once again, the winds that night created their own special affect in these photos taken from the foreshore.
Above: looking from the outside in. All very peaceful!
and Below:
Jan's creative decoration of the tree.

Have a wonderful and peaceful Christmas!

Monday, December 06, 2010

The Europe Adventure for Jan & Me - Holland 1

After a fantastic 10 days near the Bodensee with Sylvia & Jochen, I looked forward to sharing my 'motherland' - or is it 'fatherland'? - with Jan. While Holland may only be about half the size of Tasmania, there is a lot to see and do and we knew that, like Germany, there would not be enough time to do it all. So, we needed to be a bit choosy. Jan relied on me to pick those places that would add a lot to the pleasure of our trip.

After arriving in Arnhem by the ICE train from Stuttgard, we drove to the little town of Nunspeet in the Veluwe area. This is an area best known as a holiday destination for the Dutch who make great use of the bush, walking & cycling tracks and other outdoor delights. Speaking about cycling, I am tempted to sub title this blog chapter as 'All those push bikes!' I knew that the Dutch are great bicycle riders, but was still overwhelmed by the number of bikes on the roads everywhere. They have absolute right of way and expect it. When driving - and when walking - one has to have eyes everywhere as the riders appear silently, without notice. Quite frightening!! On our journey from Arnhem to Nunspeet we both were stressed to the point of total exhaustion. But we made it safely to our accommodation at the Stolpenheim Bungalowpark where brother Pieter and his wife Corrie greeted us with a bottle of wine and food. A good brother and sister indeed!!

It was nice to relax on our first day in Nunspeet, and the next day - Sunday, we took delight in checking out the local delicacy of Pannenkoeken - All those pannekoeken! To counter that indulgence, we enjoyed walking around the township where the first signs of autumn were clearly evident:

The above photo is in contrast to the day before, when we went shopping in the town. Everything is shut on Sundays, except for some restaurants.Above: Saturday morning. You can see Jan and Corrie (with the long cane) making their way leisurely towards us.

There is no question that Nunspeet is a lovely town with beautiful houses, like below:
Together with Pieter & Corrie, we also wandered around the lakeside town of Hardewijk and enjoyed typical Dutch atmosphere:
In years gone by, Harderwijk was a fishing port on the Zuiderzee and while there is still a lot of boating activity to the port, Hardewijk is now largely blocked by the South-east Polder (reclaimed land). Parts of the old city wall and gates are still there as per below:

And what is a dutch waterside town without 'klompen'. Interesting to see that instead of leaving the clogs outside the door, these were neatly in their own rack.

On our first big day by ourselves we chose to visit Giethoorn, about 1.5 hours drive from Nunspeet. A comfortable ride in our hired Renault over busy motorways, saw us in this very special town. I visited Giethoorn first as a boy of 10 years or so and I always remembered that occasion. I really wanted to take Jan there and show her All that water!

The best I can do is to quote a brief resume of Giethoorn from Wikpedia:

Giethoorn was founded by a group of fugitives. They came about the year 1230 from regions bordering the Mediteranean. These first inhabitants found masses of horns of wild goats, which had probably died in 1170 during the St. Elizabeth's flood. They called their settlement Geytenhorn (geit = goat), now known by its present name of Giethoorn.

The village owes it characteristic appearance to harvesting peat. The peat diggers dug up the peat-soil at places that most suited them, mixed it in a trough and spread it out on the land to dry. Once dried, it would be cut as peat. This peat harvesting led to the formation of large and small lakes. To transport the peat, ditches and canals were excavated. There were no roads; all transport was by the canals on barges and boats.

It is a gorgeous village, affectionately referred to by the dutch as 'The Venice of Holland'. Even though it was drizzling rain for much of the time we were there, we found the atmosphere very special and very relaxing. Yes, it is touristy, but also very genuine. We enjoyed talking to folk, taking oodles of photos that all came out wonderfully well, watched school children 'having a ball' paddling their little boats - All those boats! One must most certainly take a canal ride. Ours lasted much longer than normal, because we talked endlessly to our guide who was most informative and forgot the time (there was us plus one other Dutch couple). We seem to do that to boat operators!

Taking over the helm!

We walked & walked - All that walking! And found the most exhilarating scenes. Just gorgeous. Just have a look at the following and imagine the atmosphere: We loved the visit to Giethoorn and strongly recommend it to anyone visiting the Netherlands. Just hope that I won't bore you with another lot of great scenes. Here we go:
Smiles all around, and 'All those Bridges!'

And 'All those thatch Cottages!'

From the above, you will no doubt get the correct impression that we were blown away by this lovely village. A big contrast was when we railed to Amsterdam for a day in that amazing city. Sadly, it was another wet day, but that did not dampen our spirits as we ventured into the Amsterdam fray - bulk people. (Jan loved it!) So many tourists! Our first stop was the Rijksmuseum to view the wonderful paintings on display there, including Rembrandt, Vermeer, Van Steen etc . So many and so breathtaking! It took time, yet there wasn't enough time. To be face to face with THE masterpieces is pretty special that we both enjoyed. I certainly saw Vermeer in a new light, including this lovely 'Kitchen Maid':
Now, of course I can plaster this chapter with images of other amazing paintings, but merely suggest for you to go and have a look yourself. I am sure that, like us, you wont be disappointed!

I think we must have been a little crazy to walk from the Rijksmuseum back to the station. We were already tired, but even so, did enjoy mixing with the many others. When we saw a canal boat jetty, we could not resist the opportunity to rest our weary legs and let the boat and its driver do the hard work for us, leaving us to take in the sights of Amsterdam and take pictures, like the following (just a few):

Autumn colours were brilliant during the occasional sunny periods.
Taking photos through the glass roof was different!
Above & below: House boats were a-plenty. It surely is an alternative lifestyle!
Below: With all that Water, the Dutch knew how to make ships.

While not exactly as big a contrast as Giethoorn to Amsterdam, there was something delightfully different about the medieval city of Delft. Delft is perhaps best known internationally because of its Delft Blue Pottery. Well, at least as far as tourists are concerned.

Amazing how one can market the Delft brand. Lamp post - Totem pole!

Historically, it has a special place in the hearts of the people of the Netherlands, especially the association with the Royal House of Orange-Nassau which began in the second half of the 16th century, when Willem of Orange led the struggle against the Spanish for independence in the Netherlands. Willem made Delft his place of residence in 1572 and was assassinated there in 1584. He was buried in the 'New Church', which since then is the traditional place of burial for the Dutch royal family.

I was not aware that Delft was also the birth place of the painter Vermeer, referred to earlier. We enjoyed visiting the Vermeer gallery. It is funny how early education details re surface as I read the account of the Delft Explosion in 1654 when a gunpowder store exploded, killing over 100 hundred people and destroyed much of the city as recorded by the painter Egbert van de Poel in the following painting:We very much enjoyed Delft. It was a quiet Sunday in contrast to Amsterdam! We enjoyed the walks along the canals (grachten); joined the locals at a pub that dished up a most acceptable meal and generally had a good time.

Once again the autumn colours added to the Delft atmosphere!
Above and below: The city square featuring churches and,
souvenier shops!!

Delft as a city, dates back to the 13th century and received its charter in 1246. It was surrounded by a city wall with city gates and water gates. A very well preserved water gate caught our attention as we wandered down the canal in the following photograph:

I like the above photo. The towers in the background belong to the Oostpoort (Eastern water gate) that dates back to circa 1400. Buildings were certainly meant to last in those days!

To finish telling about the Delft visit, let me conclude with a painting of how Vermeer saw his city in about 1660:
I like his work!!!

Well, enough for this chapter. More to come!
In the meantime, enjoy the visit to Holland with us.