Thursday, April 30, 2009

"get thee to a beguinage"

The most peaceful place in Bruges might be the Beguinage of the Vineyard, founded in the first half of the 13th century. These beguines lived in peace and solitude, originally earning their keep by weaving, then making lace. They did not take vows but lived under strict rules. A beguinage was a place for poor, elderly, and otherwise dispossessed women to live safely and productively.

The last beguine at this particular beguinage died several decades ago, and now a community of Benedictine sisters inhabit this commune.

What is a Beguinage?
A Béguinage is a collection of small buildings used by Beguines, which were several lay sisterhoods of the Roman Catholic Church, founded in the 13th century in the Low Countries, of religious women who sought to serve God without retiring from the world.

A "Begijnhof" (as the Dutch name is) or Béguinage comprises a courtyard surrounded by small dwellings. It is often encircled by a wall and secluded from the town proper by one or two gates. Poor and elderly beguines were housed here by benefactors.

Béguinages are to be found in an area roughly corresponding with present-day Northern and North-Eastern France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Western and North-Western Germany.

The beguines were a religious movement of women. Their success, according to the Belgian historian Henri Pirenne, was due to a surplus of women occasioned by violence, war, military and semi-military operations, which took the lives of many men. Great numbers of women had no option but to unite and collectively secure the aid of rich benefactors.

Similarly, nuns' convents in the twelfth century enjoyed substantial initial success. Stricter rules within Cistercian and other abbeys, however, caused many women to seek less strict surroundings. Moreover, these abbeys' initial success necessitated the refusal of a great many applications for admission. As an additional obstacle, in several cases a certain degree of prosperity was required as a condition for admission to a regular nunnery.

(From Wikipedia)

reflections of Bruges

Keep a quiet place in your heart and visit it often.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

men at work

They've been making roads this way in Bruges, and many old cities in Europe, since Roman times and I doubt they're going to change their ways or materials anytime soon. It must be a good business to be in, pretty recession proof.

if you were blind in bruges you'd know this music

hooves on cobblestone
clop clop briskly
clop clop clop
closer now
you hear the ching ching
of harness rings
the rattle of wheel
on cobblestone

...and Brendan Gleeson does a base jump without parachute from the beltower in Bruges...

This movie was great until the end when all the characters seemed to be indistructable. I mean how many people can survive a freefall from three hundred feet,and he was already wounded before he jumped! Maybe that was part of the black humor.

Colin Farrell jumps from this hotel...

In the movie In Bruges Colin Farrell jumps from this hotel and lands in a canal cruise boat.

by canal in the medieval city of Bruges

Sunday, April 26, 2009

More tulips!


Springtime in Holland's Keukenhof Gardens is one of the seven wonders of the world.

Impressions of Holland

the land a green pan
crisscrossed by canals
fringed with slender, delicate trees
hands waving
sky like a sponge mops up
water seeping through the cracks

Take a walk on the wild side...

Twilight in Dordrecht

Bob and I just had the strangest experience, like an episode of the Twilight Zone, like a dark video game.

The ship docked at Dordrecht for the night. Dordrecht is a very old port town, one of Holland’s oldest. Many of it’s street are still made of brick, and like many European towns, it has a gothic church. There is an 18th century (19th?) painting by Turner, of a ship in Dordrecht, which I like very much, and I felt compelled to walk about to get a feel for the place, a better sense of history.

After having dinner aboard ship, Bob and I went for a walk. It was about 9:30 at night, and the last of the late April light had left, leaving the sky a deep purple, then black. High clouds moved in to cover the moon.

We soon noticed we were the only ones in sight. No one else from the ship was walking the streets and more strangely, there didn’t seem to be any townspeople out and about. Nine-thirty on a Sunday night, and the town seemed to be deserted. Well-tended boats were moored in the canals, but nobody on them either.

Like so many towns in Holland, the streets are paved with brick, worn unevenly over the years. We walked toward the old church, the “Grote Kerk”, which dates from the 13th century. The iron gates were open so we walked into the courtyard and tried to go inside the church itself, but the doors were locked, so we went back out to the street.

It was there we saw, across the inky canal, to the next street. Somebody at last, moving. Maybe dancing. Round and round, bathed in light.

Drawn to the light like moths, we went to check it out. We soon discovered we were looking through a vacant room, like a bullet, through two sets of windows, across a deserted street into another window. On a dark, winding street, this window was lit up, as was the room behind it. In the window on a moving pedestal two manikins, lavishly dressed in flowing folds of aubergine material whirled around and around, as if dancing. They had long hair and their bodies were bent and twisted. Behind them in the room many other manikins, and parts of manikins, all with long tresses and singular expressions and odd, fanciful clothes, seemed to watch the dancers. These were not ordinary store manikins. And this was no ordinary street, no ordinary town. It seemed to be deserted. Where were the people?

I was fascinated by the twirling figures, the supporting cast of manikins watching them from the depths of the room. But they gave me the creeps. Was this a store? An artists workshop? A vampire’s ball? These manikins weren’t like store manikins. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. These manikins had personalities, they had intentions. They had past lives.

Further along, a few blocks down, I looked up and saw a manikin in a second story window, looking down on the street. By now we wanted to go back to the ship, as it was getting ready to leave. But we had lost our way. Where was the church steeple? We took an alley and saw a person, a man walking two black dogs. We came out on another street and found the canal, followed it to the church. The whole time I felt like we were being followed, I kept looking over my shoulder. Such a dark town, and where were the people?

The image of those manikins haunted me all night. The next day in Middleburg, some distance away, I saw another, in a second story window, looking out over the canal, the bustling street, this one filled with people. It was broad daylight and I snapped a photo. And now that I am aware of them, I will be on the look-out for more. And watching my back.

Masterpieces of Antwerp

Peter Paul Reubens masterpieces (including The Descent from the Cross -- 1612) inside the Cathedral of Our Lady, Antwerp's oldest church and the largest gothic church in the Low Countries. I love walking into these old cathedrals, you can smell the stone and you can feel the weight of the ages on your shoulders and if you listen closely you can hear the echo of voices long dead.
I loved Reubens' house and garden, second photo from top. Reubens was one of the few artists who enjoyed financial success in his lifetime.
Some other things I enjoyed in Antwerp were Belgium waffles, Belgium chocolate, Belgium beer, French wine, and my husband's company. He's the perfect travel companion.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

giants in antwerp

The hand is the symbol of Antwerp. There's a legend about a giant Antigoon, who ruled the river Schelde and cut off the hands of sailors who were reluctant to pay his exhorbitant tolls. But paybacks are hell and he eventually got what was coming to him!

Diamonds in Antwerp

These mussels are gems from the nearby North Sea, enjoyed with Belgian beer. Lots to see and do here in Antwerp, the diamond capital of Europe. (Actually, I prefer pearls, which come from the sea...)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

I'd like to be resting my dogs right now like this person is doing (photo taken in The Hague, the Dutch seat of government and home of the International Court of Justice, or Peace Palace.)

At the moment we're sitting in one of the only wi-fi cafes in the entire country. We're in Maastricht, a university town in the south of Holland, and my favorite town. The connection is slow and I'm trying to catch up on my blog before the boat leaves. That's the problem of being on a tour or cruise, your time is not your own.

Several groups of students are doing homework around me. One young man is falling asleep over his coffee. Playing is "My Girl." Outside are head shops and the whiff of burning weed drifting down the street. Maastricht is very different in character from Amsterdam, Delft, and the other towns in the North. Many boutiques and stores here, and cafes amidst the Roman bridges and ramparts.

Bob and I plan to return here on our Burgundian tour...

windmills, wooden shoes and Delft toilet bowls...

Scenes from small towns in north Holland: Enkhuizen, Hoorn, Delft and Kinderdyke.
40 percent of the country is below sea-level!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Inspired by the Masters...

In Amsterdam we were in good company with Rembrandt, Vermeer, Van Gogh, and others. I was inspired to do a little still life with camera.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Friday, April 17, 2009

Bob and I don't have our bags yet -- but we're having a Heineken in Amsterdam, what more do we need?

First impressions




Streaming along with the traffic

The smart cars, the little euro machines

Basic bikes, clunkers, nothing fancy

No gears, but no need,

Not a hill in Holland

Some with push carts on the front

Filled with kids, dogs, groceries

little minivans

a young woman pedals hard, three kids aboard

a businessman in a suit flies by, he’s texting with one hand

a guy carries his date on the back, she rides sidesaddle

dreaming of the night ahead

Bob and I, travel weary, but with a second wind

Are in a brasserie drinking Heinekens

Listening to a motley mix

From Van Morrison’s Brown-Eyed Girl to

Bollywood dance music

To a Dutch rendition of Girl from Ipanema

In front of us a young couple smartly dressed

Smoke and laugh, the air sparkles with their joy

Their excitement for one another

The waiters are Hollywood gorgeous

They flirt with the girl

While steps away in the street

Bikes whisk by

Look, there goes a woman in a party dress balancing a bouquet of fresh flowers

On the handlebars

We’re not in Rapid City anymore.

I love this city -- and we're not even out of the airport!