Monday, October 13, 2014

de Haar Castle

Lori's sister, Carol, visited us last month for a weekend.  So we did what many people do when they have visitors...go someplace we'd probably never go to unless we had visitors, then enjoy it so much that we wondered why we hadn't gone there before.  In our case it was de Haar Castle, near Utrecht.

The castle dates back to the 14th and 15th century when it was probably built and rebuilt several times.  By the 18th and 19th centuries it had fallen into ruin.  At that time the owner had a vision of rebuilding the castle.  But like many visionaries, he lacked funds.  Soon after he married a Rothschild woman from France and as the introductory movie stated "his financial issues were solved".

Small chapel on the grounds

The couple hired Pierre Cuypers to design and decorate the castle.  Cuypers was already world-famous for designing the Rijksmuseum and Centraal Station in Amsterdam.  He installed several very modern features....a lift, steam heat, electricity.  He also decorated the castle in a very ornate...and non-Dutch style.  

The ornate entry hall. 

The tapestries on the left have "sisters" in the Louvre in Paris.  

From the chapel roof

The castle is partially moated.  No alligators though.  

A happy guy.

Only in Holland

Last week I looked out my window at work and saw the sight shown in the pictures.  It's essentially a "loader tractor boat".   First, the operator goes through the canal using the apparatus on the side as an underwater grass cutter.  It works like a hedge trimmer on the tall grass in the canal.

Then after he's mowed the grass, he uses the hydraulically operated rake on the front to scoop up the floating grass and deposit in along the bank.  I guess they don't want the canals to get clogged.  Only in Holland!

By the way, the pile of grass remains on the bank today.  I guess getting rid of the grass takes more time.   

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Delta Works

On January 31, 1953 a combination of wind, storm and tides created a devastating flood in the southern Netherlands.  The water rose to 4.5 m above sea level, dikes were breached and almost 2000 people lost their lives.  Knowing something about controlling water, the Dutch said "never again" and set out to do something about it.  

And so they did.  Over the next 30 years they built a series of dikes and water control structures to tame the impact of the North Sea.  The original plan was to use dams, but that would have ruined the fishing within Holland's waters.  So the Delta Works was born.  It's a series of gates that are normally open to allow water to flow freely.  However, if severe storms are predicted the gates can be closed to shut out the North Sea.  It sounds simple, but the challenge is to construct something stronger than the sea.  So far it has worked quite well. 

You can see three of the series of gates of the Delta Works.  The island in the center is man made.  

Here is one series of gates.  The rods on top are the pistons used to lower and raise the gates.  There is a road on top so you can drive across.  

Looking out to the North Sea from underneath the roadway. 

A closer look at the pistons and gate.  

The top red line marks the water level in the 1953 flood.  

The gates are in the raised position

After completing construction, one of the islands that was created for construction was converted to a visitor center & amusement park.  This guy was one of the attractions.  

On the way home from the Delta Works I stopped at Veere.  In the 1400's Scotland acquired special rights to trade here when the Lorde of Veere married Mary, the daughter of James I of Scotland.  The Scots set up warehouses and eventually all of their trade to Europe went through Veere.

Veere Town Hall
Another view of the town hall

The town no longer has access to the sea, so these boats are all for inland use.  

The Grote Kerk was built in the 1300's.  Napoleon used it as a hospital in 1811.  

As I walked through town, I discovered this cherry tree filled with fruit.  

This architecture looks more Scottish than Dutch. 

My final stop of the day was at Yerseke, the mussel and oyster capital of Holland.  The area is known for the flat Zeeland oyster and the Zeeland Creuse oyster.  The Creuse is a cross between a Portuguese and Japanese oyster that was brought here in the 60's when the local varieties were getting hit by disease.  Supposedly these oysters are in high demand in Belgium and Frnance.

Yersekee Harbor

Oyster pools

The bin was full of oyster shells.  I guess someone was inside shucking away.  

Another view of the oyster pools 

My appetizer -- three wild oysters on the left and three flat oysters on the right.  I preferred the flat ones.  

My main course -- a huge bucket of steamed mussels.  They were great.  

The town was heavily bombed in WWII so there was nothing special about the architecture, but their light poles were well decorated.