Wednesday 21 October 2020

A voyage through nature

Yesterday I showed you the village of Giethoorn. Which was formed by removing the turf and so forming canals. They did this not only in what is now the village, but also the surrounding area. The bits left between the canals however, weren't always that wide and definitely not that sturdy, so on occasion a bit would fall in the canal.

Until there were some big storms and whole areas of turfy dikes were washed away and several lakes were formed. Not deep: about 1 to 1.20 m (3-4 feet) deep at its maximum. They made it a bit harder for the farmers of the village to get their cattle from one field to the next, but punting their way across the lake was still done, even with a cow or two in it!

Smaller lakes within the ditched area

One other thing happening in the area is the harvesting of reed. At first it was only done by the farmers for the farmers. To cover their homes as it was the poor man's roof covering. Over the years it changed and there are now several local companies who own most of it and harvest from November to April. And apparently it's some of the best reed in the world, beating the Chinese, Japanese and Russian reed.

The reeds aren't ready yet: still a bit green
However, not all of the small dikes were demolished in the storms and there is still a whole area that is turfy land with plenty of ditches. About 125 in total, making it a haven for fish, birds, mammals and unfortunately poachers. 

Yes, that white blob is a white egret

We didn't see any fish, as the water is quite murky (turf will do that), but we saw plenty of geese, a swan or two, some herons and some white egret. Ducks were there as well, but one bird has completely disappeared over the last few years: the Eurasian coot. Nobody is sure why, but the geese have made the area into a permanent home and perhaps they have ruined it for the coots?

The sharpest of the lot

The area houses a few mammals, most notable hares, otters and deer. One lady and I spotted the ears of a hare (we think), but were not able to see him properly. Otters were notoriously absent, as they hunt mostly at night. But we did see deer. First two and then further along another three. I have a great camera, but I didn't manage to really get them properly, which says everything of my photographic abilities.

Some cattle (young bulls) grazing in the area

The whole area is part of a nature reserve as well, and the main mode of transport is electric boats, no filthy emissions and hardly any sound.

Tuesday 20 October 2020


One of my aims after the beach walk with my friends was to go out more and such. And last Friday was the perfect day for it. Well, it was supposed to, but it started of dreary and drab and I had my worries. However, once I approached the Venice of the North, the clouds parted, the sun came out and the day became glorious.

The old way of getting around: by punter.
Yes, the same as in Cambridge!

Of course I didn't go to Venice itself, I went to a small village not too far from here that is called Giethoorn. Last year's work was mainly bringing countless Chinese, Japanese, Taiwanese, Korean and other nationalities to that village so they could gaze at the lovely houses, rent a boat, put their rubbish in people's mailboxes and return an hour or so later.

I had been there myself once as well, but that was so long ago, I didn't remember much of it. So, another visit was in order and due this Corona stuff happening right now, there were barely any tourists about, which was nice. You weren't jostled on the narrow paths, you were able to take nice photos and what with the weather being fantastic...

I only wanted to do a tour on foot. Taking photos, exploring the village, but I got roped in to go on a boat trip as well. Not just of the village, but of the surrounding nature area as well. And it was well worth it. Tomorrow I will show you some photos of that nature, but today it's all about the village.

The village is named after the goats' horns that were found there a long time ago and over time that became Giethoorn (pronounce the t and the h separately). A small village which in its old center has 185 buildings. No more, no less. Once a building collapses or burns down or something, the owners are allowed to build a replica of it on the same spot. Nothing new fangled here you know!

The village is built in turf country. In the olden days so much turf was harvested, that canals were formed. Then people built their houses on small islands along those canals and in time they were joined by bridges. Every household in the village will own a car and a boat. Because most of the houses cannot be reached by car and any heavy lifting will be done by boat (or cart, or bike).

Until 1935 farmers still lived in the village, barely scraping a living together. But six cows don't make a good living and they finally gave up. Now the village lives of tourism and 1,4 million of them in one year is not to be sniffed at. Although not everybody is always that happy: it is a normal living village, yet some of the tourists think it's a museum. 

Monday 19 October 2020


Training for the annual rowing race

Several weeks ago my great aunt died. I had never met her, but she was the last living sibling of my grandfather (who has long since passed away). It was sad, but she was in her nineties and at that age you can expect it somehow.

After the annual rowing race

Then only last week, an uncle passed away. He was in his eighties and suffering from Alzheimers. Again sad, but expected. 

Going fishing

This week I got a message from Norway: a colleague and friend had died. WHAT??? He was only in his early fifties. And whereas the passing of great aunt and uncle didn't really make any impact, this passing did. 

During a union meet

Because this was a friend. I had helped him out, he had helped me out (yesterday's photo showed us both doing silly faces when I was packing up to leave Norway).

Being a Viking during the Company Games

He will be missed, even at this distance!


Sunday 18 October 2020

Monday 12 October 2020

Wind in our hair

I didn't go too far, as the mud was squelching around my shoes at an alarming rate
Last week I was invited to visit a friend. It's not always easy to find time as we both have irregular working hours and she has a family as well. But this time we were both off and the plans were there.

I have decided I will NOT try kite surfing: too cold and too wet
Then the plans changed. Instead of staying at hers, why not go for a walk on the beach. Which changed again to not only the two of us, but her husband and children and me. Until in the end it was her husband, her son and a friend and her daughter and her boyfriend and me. I decided to take Toto Karl to the beach and meet them there.

Yeah, there was rain in the air
The weather was not the best. Every time I got the camera out, I could only take a few photos before the drops started falling again and the camera had to be put back. But in between the showers, there were some really nice photos to be took.

One of several tall ships we saw, but the only with its sails up
It was nice to get out there as well. Despite the rain and the wind and the temperatures not being up to summery scratch, it was good to get the wind in our hair and let the day to day troubles float away on the breeze. Definitely something to do again.

Tuesday 6 October 2020

Toto Karl

My very first car ever: a Fiat Panda

Since I had dropped off my old car, I had had other cars to tide me over. The first one was a loan Karl. Grey. Terrible seat. Then I had handed that one back and got another loan Karl. White. Great seat. But last Thursday I handed that one back as well and finally got my own Karl, called Toto Karl from now on. 

Mine is black, and for me quite fancy. Guiding lights when turning, fog lamps (not standard? Honestly?), parking sensors. The most important thing however: a working radio. 

It took a bit of work to get it, as first of all, the person who had sold the car to me was no longer working there. Paperwork had not been forwarded as it should have. That sorted (it concerned the financing), I had a number of papers to sign before I could call the car 'mine'. Well, 1/3 mine, 2/3 finance company. But, for the sake of easiness: mine.

The very last shot of my previous car

The next thing that was discovered was that contrary to their regular routine regarding a newly bought car, it had not had a check-over. We blamed it on the original seller and decided to get it done this week. So, this morning they arrived to pick it up and this afternoon I should have it back again. Ready to take me to work. 

Let's go around the world!

Monday 5 October 2020

Brom goes royal


Our last full day in Germany and Mara decided to take it easy. No point in driving all over the place seeing this and doing that she said. It was after all a holiday! But she did want to do something so she got some ideas from some cards about what there was to do in the neighbourhood. 

She asked me what I wanted to do and my choice was easy: Schloss Bad Arolsen. A castle. I love castles you know. So, we got to the car and Mara drove for a bit and then a bit longer and then she didn't listen to the lady telling her where to go and then we had to do a U-turn and then we finally found a parking place. 

I wonder what was in this chest

We had ended up in a lovely town called Bad Arolsen, with plenty of old buildings and hardly any people. In the courtyard of the castle there were some cars and some people: a wedding party, but they soon disappeared inside. We got our ticket to a guided tour, including the right to take photos inside (Mara had to pay for that). 

First however, there was some time left to go get a tea and some Apfelstrudel. Which was really nice. When Mara wanted to pay, she couldn't even pay contactless! Only from an amount over 15 euros! In this time with Corona and stuff, I felt that was really stupid but fortunately Mara had some money in her purse, so could pay and didn't need to do the dishes. 

The tour finally started and our guide knew a lot. She told us about the family and how they came to be royal. And once they were royal they needed a place to live that fit royalty, so they built this Schloss. We started in the ballroom with beautiful chandeliers (original) and some costumes that were used by the family to make their own entertainment.

She told us all about who painted what painting, gave us more information about the family and then we moved upstairs. Where we had to put on slippers to protect the original wooden floors. They were very slippery, which made me think they might also be used to clean the floors?

One of the many beautifully decorated heating stoves

There was beautiful furniture which Mara loved and then there was a room that was used by a lady called Emma. She was the third of four daughters and after both her elder sisters had turned the old gentleman down, she said yes. He was after all the King of the Netherlands! He was in his sixties, she was 21. 

They married at the castle and then she moved with her new husband. They had one daughter: Wilhelmina who in turn had one daughter: Juliana who had four daughters including Beatrix who had three sons including our current King Willem Alexander who has three daughters including Crown Princess Amalia. 

The best room in the house though was the room next to Emma's room. It was a child's play room and there were toys everywhere. Dolls and trains and all sorts. I wouldn't have minded staying there a bit, but we had to move on as the guided tour was nearly over. 

The family still live in the house although they don't own it anymore (the state or province or some such do), but they get the right to use. And one of the things they still use is the cradle that was in the nursery or child's play room. 

After the tour had ended we made our way outside to take a walk through the little town and perhaps a bit to eat. But it being Saturday most was already closed and some had never opened at all. So, instead we went back to the car and got our dinner somewhere else before heading back to the hotel. It was a lovely visit.

Saturday 3 October 2020

Brom goes low


After our adventure in the morning, we made our way to Ramsbeck. In Ramsbeck there was a former lead and zinc mine that we were about to visit. But first we had lunch (or a very early dinner).

Getting paid
Then we had a little looksie in the museum itself, which was housed in the original mine buildings. The office from where they paid all the workers and the changing rooms. 

Perhaps you have seen those British films or documentaries where everybody has their own locker. Here they all had their own tube and rope. First you had to let the hooks down. Then you hung your clothes, boots, hat and other assorted on the hooks. 

And lastly you used the rope to pull the lot up into your tube. As it was heated, your stuff would be nice and dry for your next shift.

Once we had seen all that, we were given a hat (I didn't get one, my head was too small) and we were going on a train. Well, the hats might have been big, the train definitely wasn't. Mara nearly had to crouch to get in! 

1,5 tonnes of ore/rock
They locked us all in, started up the train and off we went: 1,5 km into the mountain! And when we had arrived, we were right smack bang beneath an amusement park. We would only have to dig through rocks for about 350 meters!

Saint Barbara, the patron saint of miners
We were given a tour of the mine itself. We saw huge machines that made the place run. We were told how long it would take one person to mine 7 meters (1 year) and we saw (and heard) a machine that could do that in two days. 

We also saw the bucket, which had to be emptied and cleaned by the poor man who had been late too often. I bet that taught him to be on time, as he had to do that to every single one on the floor. And after all that, we took the train back to the mining building to see daylight again. 

The bucket
Oh, and we learned two things that day: Mountain Work (Bergwerk) is what they call mines mostly, as most of the mines started off outside and gradually moved inside the mountains. And secondly Under Day (Untertag). Which is underground to you and me. You couldn't see daylight when underground so that's why they called it Under Day. 

The red is from the iron pipes the water dripped from,
 the white is calcium
and the green is from small amounts of copper in the rock.

Friday 2 October 2020

Brom goes high


Another day, another adventure! Even though Mara didn't feel too good as her leg muscles were just murdering her (her words, I thought it was just a bit exaggerated), we were still going places. Willingen in the morning. 

In Germany you have to wear a mask in a public indoor place. 

If you like your wintersports, you might have heard of it, as it is the place where ski-jump competitions take place. The ones where people launch themselves from a 90 meter high slope. We were NOT going there.

Waste not want not

Instead we were going to take a cable car up a mountain to have a nice look around and perhaps even a wander around. In the winter it is a ski lift, but as it was not winter yet (cold though, I was glad for my sweater and scarf), there were no skis in sight. 

There were however plenty of snow canons in place already and they were even working (as in turning, not throwing out snow). But the cows in the field would probably be okay for a few more weeks. (see top photo for the cows and the snow canon)

Once up the mountain, we climbed a tower by using the lift. Mara's excuse was that she could barely take two steps up, let alone a gazillion (again with the exaggeration). From the top we had a great view, and Mara took plenty of photos through the glass. 

When we got down again, we walked around a pond, which was to be used by the snow canons to provide them with water to turn to snow. We weren't allowed to swim in it, which I wasn't planning on anyway, way too cold even for bears. 

After a short walk, we made our way back to the cable car to go back down the hill. There was also an option of walking down, but Mara wore her regular shoes, did not have her poles with her, no provisions apart from water and an apple and her legs were screaming (exaggerating a bit here as well). Oh, and the mountain was very steep as well.