Monday 31 May 2021

Brom goes to the sea


On our last full day in the cottage, Mara was very lazy. She was feeling a bit under the weather (her own fault, I had told her to bring the water bottle with her to Rotterdam the night before: she had forgotten it!) and the weather outside didn't help that much either. 

Up and down through brambles and gorse.
But in the early afternoon, I finally convinced her that it might be good to go out for a walk to the beach, which was very close to where we were staying. She tucked me up safely in her walking pack (see the top photo), so I could see everything and off we went. 

When we got to the sea, it was very far away. Her walking app she uses, actually showed us walking in the sea itself, but the tide was going out, so it was the beach! How funny is that. At first she wanted to stay closer to the dunes (by the road), but I wasn't having any of that: we were at the seaside!

So, I told her I wanted to see the sea up close and off we went. And then she stopped. And took a photo. For the whole bit 'in the sea' she stopped and took lots and lots of photographs. Of foot prints and jelly fish, birds, the sea, the sand, me, her, me and her together. 

We saw some dogs and Mara said they were real German sea dogs. Hm, I think she was being silly again. But she said no, she had heard them talk German! 

A jellyfish. Yikes!
By the end of the walk, she felt a lot better, the sea air had done her a lot of good. We walked back through the sand and the dunes. Once back at the cottage park, we first had to do some shopping (pizza, yum!) and then we headed home again. Ready for another night of Eurovision.

A Moon Jellyfish

Saturday 29 May 2021

Brom goes to town


This is the third and last bit of our walk on day three. We first saw a lot of water. Then we saw land as in a nature reserve and the third bit we got to see was the town of Zierikzee. And a lovely little town it was as well.

One thing I had spotted from a long way away was a tower. Mara doesn't think those are proper church towers for some reason, but I quite liked it. It was quite funny though, as it wasn't connected to the church at all. Mara checked and it never was, although it was built right next to one. But the name of the tower we both liked very much: it is called the Fat Tower! Although the official name is St Lievensmonster Tower. It is big now, but it was supposed to be even bigger (about twice as high), but the money ran out.

The front of the New Church
The church that is now adjacent to the Fat Tower is called the New Church and replaced the burnt down St Lievensmonster Church. It was big. If I had only seen those two parts of Zierikzee, I would have thought they don't like small buildings there!

In the garden near the church and the tower there was a large piece of art which I really liked. I think it looked like Grover's hands, but Mara said Grover only had two hands, not three. Of course I know that, I am a bear after all.

On we walked and the centre was lovely. A lot of smaller houses in which people still live. The streets were quite quiet, because there weren't that many tourists. In summer there would usually be a lot of German and Belgian tourists. Now there were mostly Dutch and not that many.

A seaweed burger with vegetable crisps on the side.
Quite good actually.
When we got to the shops, Mara decided she wanted a small souvenir. She bought a lovely oyster shell that was painted on the inside. We could have picked up some of the oyster shells we had seen and given it a go ourselves! But there was no time to go back as lunch was on the menu first and then we would have to return home.

On our return to the car we saw a large mill. It was a corn mill and had been there since 1727! That was a bit older than me and Mara said it was older than her as well. It was called the Hare, but we didn't see any hares near it. 

The mill was also next to the old harbour which meant there were a fair few old fishing cottages. Mara said those houses were where the poor fishermen lived once upon a time and the rich people would build nice large houses away from the dirty harbour.

That little cottage with the shutters would have housed a family.
It's not even big enough for me and I am a small bear!!
I would have loved to see a bit more of Zierikzee, but we had to go back home to our cottage, because Mara needed to get cleaned up for our second visit to Eurovision. Which was a good idea, because she did smell a bit. 

PS: I think Mara changed a setting on her camera, because all the photos look a bit blue. I really have to check everything don't I?

Friday 28 May 2021

Brom and the birds


Yesterday I showed you what we saw on the first half of our walk. Now I am going to show you what we saw on the second half. 

When we finally got on top of the dyke (we had been walking on the lower part on the water side), it was really clear how much the dyke is important. The water level was higher than the land! The house you can see on the right in the photo would be below water if that dyke had not been there.

We followed the path down and arrived in a nature reserve where there were lots of different animals. Well, birds really. Although there were also a lot of hares. Which meant we had to stop again so Mara could change the lens on her camera. Again!

Of course, once she had changed the lens, the hares had moved away a bit. But, with the big lens, she was able to catch a couple anyway. And they were really big. I saw one hopping as well, and it was quite funny to see as his front legs are a bit shorter than his back legs.

But the best photos were yet to come: birds. I had never seen any of them before and Mara got very excited as well. The first one we saw was completely unknown to us, but we didn't think it was a sparrow, so Mara took several photos of it. When we got home, we checked it out and we found out it was a Meadow Pipit (graspieper). 

The next bird we saw we knew to be a duck, but we had never seen it before in our lives. But according to the 'Vogelbescherming' (Society for the Protection of Birds) it was a Common Shelduck (bergeend) and quite common. I loved the band on its chest, which really stood out. 

On we walked and then we got to see a Pied Avocet (kluut). Something we had heard of, but never seen. It's not that easy to see in the photo, but its bill is turned up at the end and it is a wader. It is white with lovely black stripes along its body. 

We were both enjoying this bit of the walk every bit as the first bit and somebody else was excited as well as it sang and sang and sang. Not sure what it was though. I asked, but it just sang.

But the last bird we saw had Mara nearly jumping up and down for joy. She recognised it immediately and took quite a few photos of it. I give you: the Eurasian Spoonbill (lepelaar, natuurlijk). Our favourite. 

This was really the last bird: the Common Whitethroat (grasmus)
After that, the nature reserve came to an end for us and we were headed into the town of Zierikzee. Which I will tell you about tomorrow!

Thursday 27 May 2021

Brom goes back to nature


After a long Tuesday in Rotterdam, we didn't want to go there again. Too many people and too much concrete and glass. And as Mara first had to get tested, so she could attend Wednesday's show, she had found a walk not too far from where she got tested.

We saw a lot of small empty crabs on the path.
Unfortunately the weather was really foul. A lot of rain came down as we drove to our starting point and Mara was debating returning home or just putting on her wet weather gear and walking anyway. I convinced her to the second. It was a bit different this time: no paper route, and no signs to follow, but an app showing you where you were on the route. It worked quite well and would give some more information along the way.

The bridge crosses the Oosterschelde.
We started in the small town of Zierikzee and from there made our way along the dyke. And after only a short distance, Mara took off her wet weather gear as the rain stopped. The further we walked, the more the clouds disappeared. We got a lovely view over the Zeeland bridge (5 km), which we had driven over earlier that day to get to the testing. 

One of the few boats we saw.
We got to a corner in the dyke and we turned off so we could see what it all said. There was a porpoise button we pushed, so we could check whether there were any porpoises nearby. But we only got white noise, so they were nowhere close. On we walked. The sun came out more and more. During our break Mara took the photo at the top. I was a bit scared, as I was on the diagonal bit of the dyke and if I would have fallen, I would have ended up very very very wet! 

Apart from wet, the water was probably quite cold as well, as the weather has not been that good lately and the Oosterschelde has an open link to the North Sea. It was very clear though, at least where we were.

One of the funnest things we saw were the geese. They were on the other side of the dyke where there was a nature reserve, but they were quite high up and you would see only their heads. But when Mara tried to take a better photo by walking a bit further, they would all disappear again. They were very camera shy!

The last thing I am showing you today (we were only halfway then) is not fun at all. Zeeland (the province) is used to water being all around. They have had to deal with floods during their whole existence. On the map today you can see names like 'the Drowned Land of Saeftinge' denoting where there would have been land once upon a time. The most recent flood happened in 1953 and covered most of Zeeland, parts of Zuid-Holland and Noord-Brabant, but also the Belgian region of Flanders and even the English east coast were hit severely. The photo is a small see-through plaque that shows what would have been in what is now the Oosterschelde. Once upon a time.

Tomorrow I will tell you what else we saw...

Wednesday 26 May 2021

Brom sees Rotterdam


On our second day Mara was a bit slow to get going, but in the end we got in the car and drove to Rotterdam. There we took a metro into town, because we wanted to do a walk Mara had found. First of course we had to find the beginning and as we had gotten off the metro early... After a bit of searching, we found an information office who were very kind and printed out a small map so we could follow a route (for some reason it didn't work on Mara's phone).

These types of bikes are quite a regular sight in the Netherlands.
The decoration was because of Eurovision.
It was hard to do at times, as it was only a small bit of paper and not all the street names were clear, but I think Mara did a great job finding the route. We didn't do the whole thing though, even though it was only 9,5 km long. By the time we stopped, we had already done over 10 km and Mara was getting tired. But we did get to see some of the more famous sights of Rotterdam.

Note the flag/decoration, that was all through the city.
One of the first we saw were the Cube houses near Blaak station. Yes, they are real houses and real people live in them! I wonder how they sleep, as it all seemed very topsy-turvy, higgledy-piggledy to me. 

The bridge was also decorated with song texts from Eurovision
We continued on our walk. We saw an old harbour and new high rise buildings and then we came to the most famous bridge of Rotterdam: the Erasmus bridge, named after the famous Erasmus who was born in Rotterdam.

The River Maas in front.
The low building on the far right used to be the Holland America Line terminal,
it is now a hotel.
Rotterdam is the only city in the Netherlands which actually has a sky line. Because it was bombed during the early stages of World War II (with the threat of the bombing of other cities, the Netherlands surrendered to Germany), the rubble was mainly taken away and used elsewhere. After the war, the city was rebuilt and now looks very modern.

One family/couple/person in one circle. 
From the modern glass and concrete we went to trees and grass. We saw a lady painting, dogs, social distancing circles painted in the grass and in the top photo you can see me in front of the Norwegian church. It used to stand closer to the old harbour, but they relocated it to this spot. And then close by we had our lunch.

The Euromast at 185 meters high.
Not decorated, which was a shame.
After lunch we continued and saw this massive huge tower. Mara said she wouldn't mind abseiling from it sometime, but I think she was joking. I hope she was anyway, as there is no chance I will accompany her. Unless there is some really good cake waiting for me on the ground. Then I might be persuaded.

On we went and we got to a small area of the city which had escaped WWII relatively unscathed. An old waterway with older houses/shops on both sides. Plus some really nice artwork as well. But my favourite were the mama coot and cootie that used a shopping bag as their own artificial island. It's not only the people of Rotterdam/the Netherlands who use what they can...

All the benches along this part of the route were decorated. 
After that we were close to the main train station and Mara had had enough. There were still a couple of km to do, but we decided to head back to our home for the week. After all, we had to get back in time for the first televised semi-final!

Tuesday 25 May 2021

Tuesday's Travels 6

Well, did you know last week's challenge? It was of course a bus in Valetta, Malta. Fun60 got it completely right and gets 1 point. Yamini did have a good guess and gets half a point. (Before you ask: I am keeping score!)
My own story? Well, in 1999 I went there with three other girls and we spent the week lying beside the pool, doing barely a thing. Apart from one day where we went into the capital of Valetta to visit a small boat and this photo was taken of me. We did actually ride on those buses as well. Can't remember whether they were comfy or not, I just remember they looked good as the drivers were very very house proud and were forever cleaning them both inside and out.

On to this week's challenge. Where is this? Have you been? What is your story? Answer next week.

Monday 24 May 2021

Brom goes to Eurovision


It was that time of year again when Eurovision comes into our lives. And you may know that Mara loves it. And when Duncan Laurence won for the Netherlands in 2019, she was screaming and hollering, waking the neighbours two blocks away and being very very happy. 

Ticket for Monday's Jury show, this year
Then the tickets for the 2020 edition finally went on sale and both she and Gera managed to get tickets. Real tickets to see the real Eurovision! They had chosen the jury shows, so they would get the whole proper show, but would be able to see it afterwards on television as well. Money was involved as well.

And then the unthinkable happened: a little round virus was doing the rounds. More and more and more and in the end, the contest was cancelled. The ticket prices were returned and apart from a cd with music: nothing!

However the show must go on eventually and this year it did. With restrictions (only 3,500 spectators per show instead of 16,500), face masks, testing, exclusion of 'at risk' people. The tickets would go on sale first of all for those who had had tickets to the original show. And Mara managed to get one. So did Gera, which she then handed over to Mara as she is still unable to travel to the Netherlands. 

The first thing to do on Monday and Wednesday was get tested. Because only a negative test result would allow you in. This was checked against your ID, so faking it was already quite hard. Then everything was scanned (they scanned me specially, I was ok) and we were in! We got bracelets that lit up during the show, but it fit better around my neck.

Tix, the Norwegian entry.
We took our seat and there were people sitting right next to us. Like touching! It was quite strange, but also quite nice to feel 'normal' again, even for a night. And then the show started. The four hosts came on, they introduced the show and then the first act came on. Lithuania! We did wave our little Lithuanian flag for them. 

Ticket for Wednesday's Jury show, this year
The songs were great (apart from Romania who couldn't keep her notes right) and we sang along, waved our flags, shouted, clapped and really enjoyed the shows. But we also admired the backstage crew. There was only like two minutes between acts and in that time they would sweep, mop and hoover; take out the old and put in the new sets and then run off again. 

The Icelandic delegation had a confirmed Corona case and used this rehearsal video.
On Tuesday and Thursday it was the televised show and it was really good to see the acts again, this time the way they should look and sound: slick and polished and good. Apart from Romania who was still rubbish. Our favourites were Lithuania from show one and Portugal from show two. 

On Saturday we watched the final at home with Oma and Opa. We all had different opinions on who was the best, but in the end we were all wrong. We all thought the Ukraine (5th), France (2nd), Switzerland (3rd), Iceland (4th) or Portugal (12th) would score highly. But in the end, it was Italy who took home the win! Limp Bizkit style apparently. Next year: Rome (or Hadrian's Wall, which was built by a Roman).