Thursday, August 17, 2017

A Day in Amersfoort, NL

Even though we don't do it as frequently as when I first arrived here almost 8 years ago (!), Astrid and I still love to make a day's visit to a new place here in the Netherlands.  Amersfoort is a city 60 km. north of where we live in Gorinchem.  It was NOT new for Astrid because it's only 27 km. from where she grew up in Hilversum.

Anyway.  Here's snapshot kind of day with impressions of a delightful city here in the Netherlands.

A fun Google map with my added red dots shows what the highlights were for us:
The Koppelpoort, Muurhuizen, Sint Joriskerk, Our Lady Tower, and Mondriaan's birthplace.

Because Our Lady Tower is the first landmark of the city we saw as we drove in,
and is also seen from almost everywhere we went, let's start there.
At 98 meters high, it's the third tallest Medieval tower in the Netherlands.
It's nickname is Lange Jan = Long John.

It also happens to house inside the exact mid-point spot of the Netherlands.
How fun is that!

Where we first started the day, however, was at the Koppelpoort, a Medieval gate from 1425.
I think this was what Astrid most wanted me to see that day.
The view from inside the city was mostly in the sun when we saw it...

...leaving the outside of the gate in the shadows.

Just a wee walk away, back inside the gate, we stopped in this neighborhood...

to visit the Flehite Museum, using our museum card.

We don't usually stop at the museums, as you know by now,
but we were so glad to see this one...because of the lone WWII bike up in the rafters.
Talk about a photo op!

This is what I wrote on Facebook: 
On 6 October 1944, during WWII, Hitler gave the order to his troops in the Netherlands, 
Denmark, and Italy to take as many bikes as possible from the locals to move around faster.  
He is thereby known as the biggest bike thief in history, explaining why this bike is in the rafters,
so it can't be stolen. 

From the museum we walked along the  street of Muurhuizen = Wall Houses.
These are the houses built from the bricks of the city wall that was demolished in the 15th century.
The houses have become the new "city wall."

Apart from the landmarks, there's so much to see.

As I always say, impressions, impressions, impressions.

Surely every little thing has its own story.
Don't you wish you knew?

You know how some things become "many faces of a thing" for me.
I can't help it.

Astrid gives scale to some of those things, of course.
Did you know that ice-age boulders are found all over the Netherlands (bottom-right)?
Amersfoort's nickname is Keistad = Boulder City.

One last stop of the day was a visit to Mondriaan's birthplace.
You see his colors all throughout the city.  
He's a famous Dutch painter who lived from 1872-1944,
living in Paris from 1919-1938, in London from 1938-1940, and in NYC from 1940-44.

By now it was time to eat our main meal of the day, near St. Joriskerk in city center.
Sadly, even though it was Sunday, the church was closed.

But it didn't matter because we were ready to eat!
And guess what Astrid got as an early birthday (24 August) present!
I'm not a fan of mussels but I sure have fun watching her eat them!

 And there you have it:  Amersfoort in a snapshot kind of day!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

VERONA 2017: The Three Basilicas

By now you know how much Astrid and I LOVE LOVE LOVE the interiors of European churches.  Verona was an absolute gold mine, perhaps more than any other city thus far, and today's post is a feel for it's three basilicas.

You may recall earlier that I've made a distinction between churches, cathedrals and basilicas, which you can freshen up on here.  The main thing about basilicas is that the Pope is the one who designates them as such.

Then you have the difference between major and minor basilicas.  There are only four major basilicas in the world, all of which are in Rome.  So the three basilicas here in this post are, naturally, all minor.

The order in which we visited the three are the same order of the red dots, left to right.

1.  The San Zeno Maggiore Basilica

This was the basilica we visited our first afternoon in Verona, after passing the Castelvecchio.
It was built between 1120 and 1138 as Northern Italy's most ornate Romanesque church.
The striped brickwork is typical of Romanesque buildings in Verona.

The nave is...heavenly!

Frescoes are everywhere.

You climb a few steps up to enter the altar area.

You climb a few steps down to the crypt below the main floor.

The inside bronze door panels at the front of the church are alone worth the visit,
depicting Biblical stories and scenes from the life of San Zeno, Verona's patron saint, 
who died in 380.

2.  The San Lorenzo Basilica

The next day, on the way to the Castelvecchio museum and bridge, 
we walked past this church and decided to see if it was open, not knowing it was a basilica.
Present since the 4th century, it was rebuilt after an earthquake in the 12th century.

It was the smallest church of all the ones we visited in Verona.
Small and cozy.

Not knowing how important it was, we only popped in and out.

While it was on the city map we used throughout our trip,
it had no number referenced as a major landmark to see.
Imagine my surprise to find out the Pope had designated it a basilica.

3.  The Sant'Anastasia Basilica

Later that afternoon, we visited the Sant'Anastasia basilica, begun in 1290.
By now we knew the outside look could be deceiving, which it definitely was.

OMG.  And so totally different from San Zeno.

Worshiping there would be a constant invitation to Look Up.

Alcoves surrounded the nave.

Pews/benches invited you to sit and just be.

The sacristy at the side of the altar was like a chapel.

So many things to see.  We were short of eyes.

But what thrilled me most were the hunchback beggars holding up the holy water stoups.

One was carved in 1495 (this one, I think?) and the other a century later.

You've heard me say this before:  these European churches are our museums,
the ones we choose to visit when we travel.
You can see why!