Summer sojourn in Europe (1)

This is a long overdue post – am not quite sure why! I am usually enthusiastic about travel and have also been fairly regular about recording the experience through these blogs. But, following the fortnight I spent in Europe in late May/early June, I seem to have just overlooked recording the visit. In fact, I have uploaded very few posts since, for reasons I seem not to find! So, as I was hunting for some pictures, I saw the ones from the trip and decided to write about it, albeit with some loss of details.

My primary destination was Netherlands, where I have family. So there were get-togethers, meals, family visits etc. But apart from these, we also had some fun  outings – enough things to see and do, in spite of my many previous visits.

We had a day trip to Enkhuizen, a harbor town in the north of Holland. This was an outing of a group of 8 women in their late 60s and early 70s, who had started their working life together as nursing professionals, almost 50 years ago. They meet up once a year, in the summer to spend the day together, catching up on news and much else. This I found really interesting – being a small country, with limited emigration, people stay in touch for decades. Although of the same age group, I am in  touch with only  one of my school mates and of the 4-5 of my college mates,  we have lost 2 to cancer. Being from the  middle class background, many of us moved away from Delhi and met sporadically over the years. And in the pre-internet era, the occasional birthday card, letter was our only link. But even more importantly, culturally we tend to get drawn into the circle of husband/children/families and the expectations of society that endorses this – this being truer for the women than men.

Enkhuizen is itself an interesting town and was once one of the leading trading centers of the country and  a busy fishing town. However, the trading activities declined over time and today, the town is a tourist center. It has a large marina, where many boats are berthed. It also has the Zuiderzeemuseum, a cultural-historical open air museum, giving an impression of life around the former Zuiderzee in the late 19th and early 20th century. Central to the museum is a reconstructed fishermen’s village, with both authentic and replicated buildings from various places around the Zuiderzee, and where demonstrations of old crafts are given.

img_5752 You can reach the museum only by boat, and once you get there you are transported back in time. Great efforts have been made to reproduce the total ambience, even the after effects of a flood!

There are a host of people in traditional attire, and ongoing performances of traditional dances, music etc. – unfortunately the various talks and demos are all in Dutch. The  the ambience is well created and reminded me of Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, USA which I had visited many decades ago. Its all in the open and so, you have to be lucky that the weather is dry!

The other day-outing was to the city of Rotterdam. While, many Dutch towns have the ‘preserved in time’ look, with the tall buildings only on the peripheral areas, Rotterdam is distinctly different. It was almost completely bombed out in WWII and has seen a large part of its centrum rebuilt. And as this has been an ongoing effort over many decades, it show cases some marvelous examples of modern architecture spanning these last 4-5 decades.Very little is left of the original Rotterdam, and they stand out in these fairly modern streets.

npls0703The Markthal was the most amazing market I have seen – totally walk through like a street, with wonderful murals on its walls, the outer wall being apartments.

img_6390The very new public library is amazing too, with magnificent interiors, open for all to wander through. And of course, the brand new central station is the pride of the city.

There was also a special installations to mark 75 years since Rotterdam began its post-war recovery – the impressive 29 metres high and 57 metres long scaffolding to  climb up onto the roof of the Groot Handelsgebouw –providing a magnificent  view of the city.

We walked for many hours and many, many kilometers and I am sure we had not  seen it all.  Walking is always the best way to see a city, and its wonderful that you can do it in so many European towns. One of the highlights of the walk was the street art – which just popped up – and there was also Picasso at one  street corner. It was a lovely summer day and so we did not waste any time indoors – no museums etc….. but what a wonderful day it was, ending with wine by the harbor!!


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