Monthly Archives: February 2013

The Peace Palace

If you have read my published book, “Too Close to the Sun” a Dutch boy becomes a man during WWII, then you’ll know the significance of this building.

It is the Peace Palace in Scheveningen.

Peace Palace

The story in the book is thus: at the beginning of WWII, when Germany had invaded Holland, there was a convoy of German soldiers in trucks, singing and drinking beer in front of the Peace Palace.

Wim and his buddy Jilles sneaked up to the trucks and let air out of all the truck tires, while Bertus kept watch.

After the truck was immobilized,  the boys ran like hell, laughing until they fell on the grass. They were spent. It was fun, until…

Each boy walked back to his house, silently, thinking about what could have happened had they been caught.

Imagine being a teenager of 15 and 16, when most boys were out having a good time, they were seriously involved with thwarting Hitler’s progress. The truck tire sabotage  was a dangerous activity, but just the beginning of the boys’ work during the war and the hunger winter.

The Peace Palace – I just love the name of it – was a dream and a generous gift of American industrial magnate Andrew Carnegie. It was created by French architect Louis Cordonnier as a “dream palace for world peace’.

I stood in front of the massive structure that is a symbol of the ideals of peace and justice.

The building that is over one hundred years old, houses the International Court of Justice and the Court of Arbitration.

I remember hearing the story of Wim and his two friends when I lived in Holland in 1999. We road on tram number one past the palace, just as I did today. Except today, I got off the tram and took a photo of the palace.

Tram number one heading to the Peace Palace

On another trip to the Peace Palace Wim and I were allowed to go inside. That has changed now,

Just one of many canals in The Hague

and is allowed only at during special public forums.

After getting off to see the Peace Palace, I got back on number one again and headed to the main train station, where I purchased a ticket to Amsterdam, for tomorrow.

It was a good day.

 

Part Three – of three parts. You can start here or go to part one.

Piet and his good friend Dr. Lenie de Groot, with Lenie first picking me up at my hotel in Scheveningen, and then off the Delft to pick up Piet, we drove up to a town close to the Belgium border to enjoy an evening with Piet’s son and daughter-in-law, Eef and Marianne.

It was a long drive but the trip was a beautiful day.

When we arrived, Eef greeted us and asked me if I was afraid of dogs. I told him no and about that time, Eva looked at me through the window.

Eva and Nora are females and the white dog, nicknamed Jake – with the formal name – Don Diego, are Galgos (a little like Greyhounds) and were adopted from Spain.

According to Eef, and I checked a website, www.forcechange.com, the hunting dogs are hung to death after the hunting season is over. Gruesome – they need to change that immediately.

When I first saw the dogs, I thought they wouldn’t be my pick, however, it didn’t take long to get acquainted. They are loving, sweet natured, clean and a joy to be around. They love people, love to be touched, and love to sit next to you or on your lap.

Eva sat on Piet’s lap for a long time, while Jake sat in a dog bed and Nora in another corner. Once in awhile, they would irresistibly walk to each of us and look with their big eyes, just asking for a pat on the head or a rub on their satiny, smooth backs.

Nora sits on Piets lap while Eva looks around for a spot. Lenie de Groot enjoys the dogs.

The three Galgo’s aren’t the only dog loved by the Stolks, for there is another older, shorter, a long haired dachshund, who also loves to be caressed. His name is George.

They are all gentle creatures and much loved by Eef and Marianne, who help people rescue dogs like Eva, Nora and Jake from Spain.

Jake

Eef and Marianne spoiled us equally well when we were in their home. First off, we were given a rice cake that is unique to the area where they live. It is baked in a light crust, filled with creamy rice.

Later we were served crackers with a topping and crispy chips with wine. Then a bit later, we had dinner.

Nora, Piet, Eva and Lenie

Wow! That was good! It began with an appetizer of small pieces of toast with anchovies and tomatoes and other ingredients, followed by chicken soup.

Then Eef and Marianne served baked chicken, green beans, potatoes baked with rosemary, and a pocket (like a turnover) filled with cooked red cabbage.

Marianne in the kitchen

By that time I was ready to quit, but in came the dessert: a cake with a center of chocolate, followed up with coffee and Bailey’s cream in a tiny glass.

Needless to say, the day was wonderful with good people, wonderful dogs and awesome food.

Eef and Piet : Father and Son

Now you know why I was tired when I got into my hotel room. By the way, I really like the idea of living in a hotel. Everyday when I come back to my room, it’s been picked up, vacuumed and the bed is made. I’m getting spoiled everywhere.

 

Before the day began with the journey near the Belgium border, I went to church and met a nice young lady who made certain I got on the correct bus going back to the hotel. She was kind. The minister, Tim Blackmon, I learned is not only a man with a good message, but is a professional piano player. The music is wonderful for the 10 a.m. service, as well as the choir in the later service.

Pastor Blackmon, in his sermon, answered a question I’ve had for my entire life. So, see, it’s never too late to learn.

 

 

 

 

 

Part Two: (going backwards) The potter

On Saturday after spending time at the Eise Eisinga Planetarium, (Part One of the weekend) we went to Drenthe Vledderveen after a Chinese dinner, and had tea with Hans Van Riessen in the home where he and his mother lived for many years. His mother has since died and he lives alone.

Hans is a well known potter, and within his home is a gallery of his work. There are vases of all shapes and sizes and each piece is unique in color and form.

Hans showed us where he works every day on his potters wheel, and where each pot goes through a series of three steps: turning, glazing and firing which gives each object its own character – inspired by Asian pottery process.

Hans van Riessen in his pottery studio in Drenth Vledderveen, Friesland, Netherlands

He is a tall, quiet and friendly man, with an easy smile. It appears he enjoys explaining the process of his work to anyone who stops by.

I found it interesting to see how he works each pot, and see the result. He is an unusual potter, in that most potters these days use commercial glazes. Not Hans; he has his own recipe and therefore can control it better because he knows it well.

After seeing the workspace and the gallery, we sat in his living room on big comfortable chairs and drank tea. The fireplace was crackling and the room was warm and cozy.

What in the U.S., we’d call a coffee table, is taller, and in old Dutch tradition, was covered with a rug. The tea pot wore a tea cozy to keep the tea warm, and we ate cake that Hans made himself. He also bakes his own bread.

Hans van Riessen pours tea in his home/gallery/studio

Hans’ work is collected by people near and far. Piet has several pieces in his collection, in Delft.

Driving up to Friesland was foggy a great deal of the way, especially in the area where there is much water on the ground.

The Dutch have long learned to work with the large bodies of water through a series of dykes that open and close as needed.

We traveled through wide open spaces where there was an absence of houses; just a few farms, green lands and once in awhile a windmill and a canal. We saw sheep, goats and horses.

Then there were quaint villages; each village with its own character as seen in the unique architecture of the houses.

Friesland has its own language, and signage in some of the towns show both the Friesland words and the Dutch words.

 

 

The weekend: Part One

It was a long and interesting day on Saturday. Piet Stolk drove me all the way to Friesland, one of the twelve provinces in the Netherlands and the north part of the country.

We had two destinations, or maybe four if you count looking for the Chinese Restaurant and stopping for coffee at the J’Oude Waegh Restaurant in the quaint town of Hoorn. Hoorn, situated on the large lake, Ijsselmeer, was established in 1357, and still has many of the original buildings, including J’Oude Waegh, which was in it’s heyday a place where cheese was weighed. The weight apparatus’ are still hanging down from the ceiling.

Piet asked the young waitress about some writing on what looked like cupboard doors high above and close to the ceiling. “I don’t know,” she said, and added, “We’re not allowed to touch them.”

I often praise Europeans for how wonderfully well they preserve and protect old buildings.  Hoorn is a great example of building preservation. Many unique and very old buildings have survived through the years. You can walk among them in the old village. Many of the old buildings are inhabited and some used as shops.

Later we were in the town of Franeker to see one of the main destinations, and I found it an amazing product out of a gifted mind.

The old house (on the right) of Eise Eisinga where the Planetarium Museum is opened to the public

Eise Elinga, was educated only through a few years of schooling, worked as a wool comber, but had an eye for the planets.

He took his scientifically and mathematically mind in his spare time and built a complex mechanism. The amazing mechanism, that was built in the years 1774-1781 – and is the oldest working planetarium in the world –  is situated on the living room ceiling of his family  home, which is now a museum and opened to the public. The mechanism shows the current position of planets and the moon, and still works with perfect precision as it has throughout the centuries.

Eise Eisinga's model of the solar system as seen on the ceiling of his home that is now a museum

Imagine being his wife with weights, swinging pendulum’s in front of your face where you sleep, and where you try to keep a house running. Not much is written about Eise’s wife, but she must have had an understanding heart. I learned that she did once protest the swinging pendulum near the bed where they slept, and Eise made adjustments to that.

A partial view of the mechanism at work

Why was this man so motivated to complete such a phenomenon? The story goes thus: People were spreading false stories that he thought were just plain ignorant, such as what was to happen on May 8, 1774. On that day planets of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Moon would be found in Aries. People were scared that they would collide and that would be the end of the world.

You cannot fool a brilliant mind. Eise thought it was time to teach ignorant people about orbits and distances in space. He left all of his drawings and his instructions so what he taught would not be forgotten.

Some of the instructions that are followed today, are to set the date ring correctly on the leap day, check the speed of the clock during sudden temperature changes, adjust the orbit of Saturn every year because of a small miscalculation, and paint new year numbers every twenty-two years in a particular space reserved for that.

The planets orbit the sun at the same speed as the real planets, with energy provided by a gear mechanism that uses 10,000 hand forged nails as teeth. Pendulum clock and nine weights control the mechanism. As you tour the house, the mechanism can be seen doing the heavy work.

I’m not a student of the planets, and probably considered ignorant if Eise were alive, but I found the museum fascinating, and delighted that he was such a forward thinking person to keep notes for the future. Just like time and space, the  model of the solar system he built has never failed.

 

 

Lake Ijsselmeer near the City of Hoorn

 

The City of Hoorn, in Friesland

Promise more tomorrow: honest

Just got back too late last night and tonight to write anything, so I have all kinds of time tomorrow and will catch up. Lots to tell you!

From one end of the country to the other

I went all the way up to Friesland today, and had a lot of fun, but now I’m really tired and will write about it tomorrow. Till then, here’s a couple of photos.

A scene taken in Friesland

More about this fascinating object tomorrow. It is an awesome story.

I am not alone

I wasn’t alone, for I had a room full of teddy bears to keep me company. That was inside a restaurant on the Scheveningen strand, after I had walked nearly as long as yesterday.

A restaurant full of stuffed bears

Today was a tiny bit warmer; at least it didn’t snow and the ice had melted so I wasn’t afraid to walk anywhere.

My destination was the Museum ship Mercuur on the Scheveningen harbor and I had the usual challenge in getting there. First off, I was given the wrong bus to take to the harbor, and made a change at the dead end when the bus driver told me where to catch  tram number one.

Turns out that  tram number one operator agreed that his tram was the correct one for the harbor, but neglected to tell me I needed to transfer to the number eleven.

After making adjustments, and getting on and then off the correct tram, a gentleman told me he would be going that way and I could walk with him.

After he left, I ended up walking around some construction near the harbor, but I finally found the ship, and guess what? It was closed.

The reason for wanting to see that ship museum, was for the reason that I had donated all of the navy papers I had from Will’s father, which included his first book pay book. He was fourteen years old and received ten cents a week. There were many other papers and photos.

I had promised Will that I would donate the items to this museum.

So guess I’ll try to find out when it’s opened and make another trip. At least now I know the correct tram, and by the way, I walked nearly all the way back to the hotel where I began the venture.

I saw the opposite of the Kurhaus where the beach sand was being prepared for the temporary restaurants that would soon be raised for the spring and summer beach goers.

The ocean side of the Kurhaus

The famous pier is closed, due to the bankruptcy of the company who owned it. It is now for sale, however, I learned it needs a lot of work as it’s a very old structure.

Also along the strand and the harbor, the Scheveningen woman stands in a statue looking out to sea waiting for her husband who didn’t come back. She is dressed in the clothing typical of the women in the area. When I lived here fourteen years ago, many elderly women still dressed in the Scheveningen costume. I assume when it warms up, those elderly ladies will be seen again.

A Scheveningen woman waits for her husband, but he never returns from the sea

 

 

Anyone want to buy a pier?

 

 

The little pancake house

Valentine’s Day and memories

Giant red hearts were flying above the Keizerstraat (Emperor Street) in Scheveningen for Valentine’s day. This Valentine’s Day it was cold and the snow, sleet, ice and wind made it difficult for me to recollect my memories where we lived for one year. However, I didn’t  give up.

The very old shopping street called Keizerstraat near where I lived in Scheveningen

First off, I cannot keep mentioning the name Scheveningen without telling how the word was used during WWII. When a Dutchman would ask someone to say the word, if he couldn’t do it, then it was known he was not from Holland and more than likely a German spy. The “Sch” part is tricky and comes out from down in the throat.

So Will and I decided we would go back to his hometown of The Hague for a year and live close to the North Sea beach and the well known Kurhaus hotel and resort.

 

The Kurhaus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our apartment on the third floor: Badhauskade

We lived on the third floor of an apartment house on Badhauskade – which translated, means bath house on the path next to a canal. We lived across from a park and a children’s farm. I cannot remember the Dutch word for the farm, but there are several  throughout the city where animals are raised and where children can watch them grow, pet and feed them. Maybe someone will know the name. Some sheep greeted me today.

Children's farm: the sheep greeted me

I learned what bus to catch to begin my memory walk at the Kurhaus Hotel.

One memory was the radio jazz show in the basement of the hotel, way back then, where we heard famous jazz piano player, Pia Beck stomp out a boogie woogie medley that included a impromptu riotous beat honoring the Dutch soccer team.

But this building had memories for Will as well. After he stopped piloting for the Royal Dutch Airforce, he was positioned in an office in the Kurhaus, as it had been temporarily taken over by the Dutch government after the war. He had pointed out the steps to his office when I saw the inside for the first time.

Inside the main room in the Kurhaus

The Kurhaus goes back in history nearly 200 years, when it was opened as a bathing establishment where visitors could take a bath in a tub of therapeutic seawater. It is now an opulent hotel, with a grand stairway to the restaurant, with painted ceilings and crystal chandeliers.

I had a cup of cappuccino and watched the snow fall on the North Sea beach and sand.

After I left there, and did some walking on icy stone sidewalks around the old neighborhood, where I saw the same green grocer, the florist and other shops, along with new ones, and some other changes, I was freezing and needed to get inside.

I found a little restaurant nearby the Oude Kerk (Old Church). This church was built in the 14th century.

Will and I with my son, Ronnie, who visited us during the Christmas season attended Christmas eve service in the church. It has long been a beautiful memory.

I watched the unveiling of this mural 14 years ago when we lived nearby.

After seeing the old fishing village of Scheveningen, and finding the three fish that symbolizes the town, I began to walk back again toward the Kurhaus to catch the bus.

Three fish is the 'logo' for Scheveningen - an old fishing village.

Everywhere I went people were reinforcing that it was indeed slippery. The brick streets and stone sidewalks were so difficult to walk on that I took each step as a one year old learning to walk for the first time. The railings that I depend on, were slippery as well.

Then I decided to head to the restaurants on the boardwalk (It’s not like an American boardwalk because it’s more on stone and concrete) and on my way up an incline, the wind whipped suddenly pushed me along fast, I reached out for the railing and my hand slipped off of it. I almost fell but didn’t. I stopped to figure out what to do. I couldn’t go back down the incline, but going forward was dangerous. But I did continue up the grade inch by inch until I was at the top overlooking the ocean.

I worked my way down again to a restaurant on the boardwalk and took my frozen face inside to rest. There were cozy little fire stations in the place and it turned out I was the only person inside, except the nice young man who waited on me, and then stood and talked with  me until I warmed up.

Then I got outside ready to catch the bus, and while I was walking toward it, slowly to keep from slipping – a young woman did fall about then – the bus left before I could get there. I was inches away, so I had to wait for another bus.

Well, who could get upset at a bus driver, when today is Valentine’s Day?

Visit with an important friend

Everyone should have a friend like Dr. Piet Stolk. He invited me to spend the day, beginning at his home in Delft, Holland. You probably have heard of Delft Blue pottery, that is produced in  Delft.

We had a cup of coffee, and then lunch, after which we went on to the city of Rotterdam, and then dinner at his home again.

I met Dr. Stolk nearly 25 years ago when I was in Den Haag for business. He was across the street seeing patients at the hospital. I went to the hospital to ask some questions that had been on my mind concerning  mental illness. He was the person I was directed to see, and he was gracious, answered my questions and then invited me to his home.

Dr. Piet Stolk at his home in Delft, Holland

That is when I met his lovely wife, Titia, who passed away one and one half years ago.

Together, Piet and Titia have acquired an impressive collection of ancient and new pottery and paintings by their favorite and important artists.

We have continued a friendship all of these years; he is an important friend in my life; someone I must see whenever I’m in Holland. He also helped me out with some factual information about WWII for my book, “Too Close to the Sun” a Dutch boy becomes a man during WWII.

Today in Rotterdam, after not seeing it for twenty five years, I was surprised at the growth – sky scrappers that give architectural art in the sky and big shopping centers, We walked around a bit in the city and then found a nine floor bookstore that had an awesome restaurant.

He drove me around the city to see the harbor, the brand new bridge and more unusual new buildings.

One sky scraper in Rotterdam

Back at his home, he cooked a salmon dinner that was delicious, and then drove me back to my hotel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tim

Piet has two fat cats – Tom, a black and white cat – and Tim, an orange cat. Tim seemed to tolerate me, but Tom didn’t quite trust this home invader.

It was good to see my friend, and to see how much of Rotterdam has changed through the years.

Rotterdam port is the largest port in Europe and one of the busiest in the world. It is amazing to see the  city that rose from the ashes of the devastation to the city, caused by bombing during WWII.

Taking it easy today

Taking it easy today with no shame. I’m telling myself I deserve it.

Well, that’s probably stretching it a bit for someone who has traveled for ten months and has had an incredible time.  But I did feel a need to stay in one place for awhile, just to get my bearings before heading off to the last month of my year long journey.

So, here I am in the Hotel Bor in Scheveningen, watching American TV shows for the first time in many months.

Right when I first got here to this hotel, I left and went to the flower market and purchased some tulips for my room, and they are looking pretty in front of the mirror.

I received a call from my long time friend, Dr. Piet Stolk. He will pick me up in front of the hotel tomorrow and we’ll go to his place in Delft. Delft is a beautiful town surrounded by charming canals, bridges and very old and picturesque shops of all kinds.

I’m looking forward to seeing him again after eight years.

He was instrumental in helping me pull the research together for the book I published, “Too Close to the Sun” a Dutch boy becomes a man during WWII.

So rest along with me, today, for tomorrow, I’ll be seeing the sights, taking photos and will have many more stories about my stay here in Scheveningen.

Meanwhile, I’ll wait for Mike to deliver my two suitcases that I left in his and Yaya’s home. I had to take a bus to the hotel, as we all agreed it would be easier for me to find my way without dragging suitcases on and off buses.

On the way here asking questions about the route to the hotel, I met Monique, who lives close by the hotel, and we will get together for lunch sometime during my stay here.

Soon, you’ll see a photo about where I lived in Scheveningen all those years ago and some of the places I remember in the neighborhood.