Thursday, May 30, 2024

Of flowers, architecture and windmills in Netherlands

Netherlands is truly a country for artists and their art be it horticulture or architecture as evidenced by the Tulip festival in Keukenhof and quirky architecture in Zandaam and the open air museum of the historic windmills in Zaanse Schans.

Our first visit was to Keukenhof to revel in the floral fantasy of not only tulips but so many other flowers like hyacinth, daffodils and amaryllis.

The history of Keukenhof dates back to the 15th century. Countess Jacoba van Beieren [Jacqueline of Bavaria] (1401-1436) used 'Keukenduyn' [kitchen dunes] as hunting ground for the kitchen of Teylingen Castle. Keukenhof Castle was built in 1641 and the estate grew to encompass an area of over 200 hectares.

Landscape architects Jan David Zocher and his son Louis Paul Zocher, who also designed Amsterdam's Vondelpark, redesigned the castle gardens in 1857. That park, in the English landscape style, still constitutes the basis of Keukenhof.

In 1949 a group of 20 leading flower bulb growers and exporters came up with the plan to use the estate to exhibit spring-flowering bulbs, signaling the birth of Keukenhof as a spring park. The park opened its gates to the public in 1950 and was an instant success, with 236,000 visitors in the first year alone. 2024 will be the 75th edition of Keukenhof. During the past 74 years Keukenhof developed into a world-famous attraction.

You can buy bulbs of tulip plants if you wish to and there are eateries where you can relax and re energize.

Check out the slide show of the beauties of Keukenhof.

Zaandam and Zanse Schans are neighbours, both close to Amsterdam. There are more tourists here than locals.

Zandaam is located on the river Zaan, just north of Amsterdam. It was an important shipbuilding centre in the 17th century. It is now famous for its quirky architecture. 

Zaanse Schans in the neighbourhood is an open air museum of Netherlands history of windmills and cheese.

There are beautiful walkways which take you to the different sight seeing spots in town. 

Windmills, houses, clog making workshops and of course cafes to fill your tummies.

No one in Netherlands seems to be in a hurry. Possibly because almost all commute by bicycle or take the public transport. They have made it very difficult to use cars by making parking very expensive and most of the streets are majorly cyclist friendly.

Friday, April 26, 2024


We landed in Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport on a cold, rainy, windy afternoon. 

Not a very welcome sign but we soon realised that the weather in Amsterdam is indeed very fickle. Shine, rain, windy, cold, warm all in a day’s work! Hence, while in Amsterdam, don’t look for the perfect weather to go out. Just pick up your itinerary, raincoat and set out to enjoy your day! So, without any further ado we headed towards Foodhallen, the happening food court in Amsterdam on a Saturday 

evening and wow we were infected by the enthusiasm of the people gathered there for a lovely evening of music, food, companionship and Heineken to wash it all down.

The first thing I noticed was that the parking area for cycles was much larger than that for cars and while there were quite a few spots left for car parking, the cycles were filling up fast and furious!

After hustling for a while, we managed to get a table to sit together and enjoy world cuisine. We started off with the famous Bitterballen, a classic Dutch snack, followed by Thai, Mediterranean snacks.

Next morning we set out for a bicycle tour of Amsterdam. 

This was the prime reason of my visit to Amsterdam, the most cycle friendly city in the world. 

We cycled through some interesting places like the Anne Frank Museum, the Skinny bridge (so called because once upon a time the poorest of the poor lived there), 

the narrowest house, the beautiful Vondel park where we saw an intriguing piece of Picasso’s art.

The tour guide explained the strange narrow fronts of the houses in Amsterdam. The houses were taxed depending on the width of the houses but now of course it isn’t so but these are prohibitively expensive due to its heritage value. You will also find houses tilting to one side as these houses were built on swamp land on wooden pillars which are now slowly sinking.

While in Amsterdam I did not want to miss the unique Street Art Museum – Straat! It was absolutely amazing!

The boat tour of Amsterdam is another way to see all the beauty of Amsterdam, which we did. Our canal boat tour guide mentioned that the canals are nine feet deep of which three feet is mud, three feet are bicycles and three feet is water!

The Grand Centraal station is an amazing, impressive structure. The parking lot for cycles is in the basement and they have an escalator to wheel your cycles up and down!

Then of course we visited Keukenhof, Zaandam and Zaanse Schans which deserve individual posts. Stay tuned!

My only regret is I could not meet up with a blogger friend due to sheer lack of time. He blogs about Amsterdam at sccollections . Spoke to him on the phone and hoped to meet up sometime! Do visit his blog for more local insights.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Road tripping in Germany - 7 Black forest


Our final destination on this road trip before we returned to Berlin was the cherry on the cake, rather the cake itself! Yes, the famous Black Forest. I had always wanted to relish the Black Forest cake in Black 

Forest which I did every day that we were there. So off we headed to Bühlertal. It was at a distance of 

around 400kms from Penzberg and we could cover the distance in just about 4 hours due to the super roads/autobahns.

Bühlertal is a village in the Black Forest region of Germany. Specifically, it is located in the state of Baden-Württemberg. A very pretty village with a few stud farms and the AirBnb we stayed in was right opposite one so we could admire the wonderful horses up close.

The Black Forest (Schwarzwald in German) is a mountainous region known for its dense forests, charming villages, and scenic landscapes. It is one of Germany's most well-known and iconic regions, attracting tourists with its picturesque landscapes, charming villages, and cultural attractions. So, the first place we headed to was to Sommerberg where they have a tree top walk leading to a spiral viewing gallery. 

The tree top walk is very educative. There are information boards all along of the flora and fauna present there. The Treetop Walk at the Sommerberg in Bad Wildbad is easily accessible in the Northern Black Forest.

The spiral viewing gallery is amazing, you can see the black forest from various levels as you go right to the top from where you get a bird’s eye view of the black forest.

Next day we visited Triberg. Triberg is a town located in the Black Forest region of Baden-Württemberg, Germany. It is known for several attractions that make it a popular destination for tourists:

Triberg Waterfalls: These waterfalls are one of the main attractions in the area. The Gutach River

cascades over seven waterfalls within a short distance, making it one of the highest waterfalls in Germany.

Triberg Clock Museum (Uhrenmuseum): The town is also famous for its cuckoo clocks, and the clock museum showcases a collection of historical and contemporary timepieces.

Spent a beautiful day in Triberg.

Next on our list was the "Wildgehege" trail in Baden Baden that leads around a wildlife enclosure 

where you will encounter all sorts of wild and wonderful creatures.

They have marked trails that you follow. We saw antlered red deer, a mountain goat and the trail overall was wonderful.

Now it was time to head back to Berlin after a memorable road trip of South Germany. The trip back was uneventful and full of discussions on the wonderful experiences of the past few weeks. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Road tripping in Germany - 6 - Augsburg

 At a distance of around 120 kms from Penzberg is the beautiful city of Augsburg so that was our next destination which took us about an hour and a half on the wonderful German roads with its disciplined driving.

Augsburg is a historic city located in the Bavaria region of southern Germany. It is the capital and largest city of the Augsburg district and is known for its rich history, culture, and economic significance. It is one of Germany's oldest cities, with a history dating back over 2,000 years. It was founded by the Romans in 15 BC and was originally known as Augusta Vindelicorum. The city played a significant role during the Roman Empire and the Middle Ages.

Augsburg is renowned for its role in the Renaissance period, as it was the home of the influential Fugger family, who were successful merchants and bankers. The Fugger family's wealth and influence left a lasting impact on the city, as seen in structures like the Fuggerei, a historic social housing complex.

The Augsburg Town Hall is a prime example of Renaissance architecture and is celebrated for its intricate and beautifully designed façade. It was constructed in the late 16th century, with the main architectural style being High Renaissance. The façade features ornate stucco decorations, statues, and detailed reliefs. 

Stadtmetzg - The trade guild house of the Butchers' Guild was constructed in 1609 in Rennaissance style. It featured an innovative system for keeping the meat cool and to dispose waste by guiding the ‘Vorderer Lech’ canal through the basement of the building. 

The Augustus fountain is a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture and sculpture. It was constructed in the early 17th century and designed in the style of the German Renaissance.  The fountain's central figure is a statue of Emperor Augustus (also known as Augustus Caesar), the first Roman Emperor. Augustus is depicted in imperial robes, holding a sceptre and orb, symbolizing his imperial power and authority. 

Rathausplatz is located in the heart of Augsburg's Old Town, making it easily accessible and a central point for exploring the city. 

St. Peter am Perlach, also known simply as St. Peter's Church (St. Peterkirche), is a historic church and has a long history, with the original church dating back to the 10th century. The current Baroque building was constructed in the 18th century. 

The Fuggerei is a historic social housing complex located in the city of Augsburg, Bavaria, Germany. It was founded in 1516 by Jacob Fugger the Younger, a member of the Fugger family, who were successful German merchants and bankers during the Renaissance period. 

Statue of Jakob Fuggerei

The Fuggerei is notable for being one of the world's oldest social housing estates that is still in existence. It was established with the intention of providing affordable housing to those in need. The Fugger family's endowment specified that the rent for the residents should be one Rheinischer Gulden per year, as well as the requirement to recite three prayers daily for the Fugger family's well-being. 

Today, the Fuggerei continues to operate as a charitable housing complex. The annual rent is still only a symbolic amount, equivalent to the original one Rheinischer Gulden, which is about 0.88 euros. Residents of the Fuggerei are usually required to be of the Catholic faith and to meet certain eligibility criteria. The complex consists of 67 houses with 142 apartments, and it remains an important historical and cultural site in Augsburg.

That was the end of our wonderful visit to Augsburg and we headed back to Penzberg to drive onwards next day to Bühlertal.

Linking with Mosaic Monday

Of flowers, architecture and windmills in Netherlands

Netherlands is truly a country for artists and their art be it horticulture or architecture as evidenced by the Tulip festival in Keukenhof ...