Dutch chocolate Easter eggs, bunnies and eggs

Based  on what we saw in the chocolate shop windows in the towns we visited the Dutch certainly embrace Easter. These pics were taken in different cities. Great to look at and even better to eat.

Click on any photo to see the pics full size.

Bikes in the Netherlands (Holland)

As a visitor I can attest to the fact that there are billions of bikes in Holland. Just how many?

The Dutch love affair with the bicycle is well chronicled – there are 22.5m of them in a country of 17 million people – but has moved up a level, according to a study by the RAI Vereniging, an organisation representing the automotive and cycling sector. More than 1 million bicycles of all types were sold last year (2018) in the Netherlands, up 5.7% on 2017, and at the same time Dutch consumers appear willing to spend big on their bicycles, particularly on e-bikes, statistics show.

E-bikes (bikes that generate electrify that is stored in a battery used to assist the biker when needed) accounted for €823m of €1.2bn in bicycle sales in 2018. It was the first year that overall sales passed €1bn and the first time more e-bikes were sold than standard bicycles (excluding racing and children’s bikes). In terms of units, 409,400 e-bikes were sold, up 40% on 2017. As a result the average price of a bicycle in the Netherlands rose by about €200 to €1,207. In 2011 the average was €734.

Asked whether rising prices would begin to put the Dutch public off the two-wheeled mode of transport, RAI’s Floris Liebrand said: “Not in the Netherlands. It is in our culture, in our bloodWe are bike country No 1 in the world so we are used to investing in innovative bikes so there is difference there compared with other countries, including the UK. For us it quite normal to spend €1,000 on a bike. An average for an e-bike is over €2,000 but that is in our culture. We believe in the quality of our products. There are e-bikes of €700 or €900 but they are from south-east Asia and the quality is lower. But Liebrand said there had been a change in the Dutch mindset as electric bikes have moved on from being seen as the choice of older people. “In the future we will not talk about e-bikes, but just bikes,” he said. “E-bikes will be the new normal, I think, within 10 to 15 years. We think that all bikes will be supported by small electric engines.

In the Netherlands, 60% of those who work live within 15km [9.3 miles] of their work and that is perfect for an e-bike. “There are consequences. We have fewer traffic deaths but an increase in severe injuries because people cycle more and [are also doing so] when they are older. People cycle when they are 80.”

Dutch bikes don’t look like American bikes at all:

A typical Dutch bike

A typical Dutch bike

A Dutch bike, sometimes called a “City bike,” is a multipurpose bicycle designed to ride easily and reliably in a variety of settings and weather conditions. A Dutch bike typically has a solid frame and comes tricked out with a full range of accessories designed to provide riders with a safe and convenient riding experience. A Dutch bike is also ideal for the casual or commuter rider because a Dutch bike owner can ride one of the bikes in almost any type of attire, thanks to its various design features. A Dutch bike is also a resilient bicycle due to its engineering. Riders can rely on the bike for many years.

Certain features are standard on a Dutch bike.

The most characteristic trait of a Dutch bike is its upright seat. Unlike the seat of a sport or racing bike, where the design encourages riders to move up and forward over the handlebars, the Dutch bike seat encourages a straight sitting position. A Dutch bike seat typically has a wide rear for full support of the sit bones and often features padding for a comfortable ride.

Dutch bikes come with a fully enclosed chain case, or drive chain. The typically plastic cases protect the bike’s chain from the dust and water that the bikes can encounter on the road. They also serve to protect a rider’s clothing from becoming stained by the grease on the chain or from being torn from the teeth on the gears. An added benefit is that bike chains tend to last longer with this type of protection.

Unlike a derailleur gear in which the mechanism of the gear is exposed, the gear on a Dutch bike is an internal hub gear in which the gears and components are enclosed inside a shell. That serves to protect the gears and extend the life of this critical bike part. Some bikes use rim brakes, which clamp down on the rim of a wheel to slow the bike down. A Dutch bike uses either a drum brake, a coaster brake, or a Shimano roller brake, enclosed in a case. Those designs are more effective than rim braking and, as with many of the design features in a Dutch bike, designed to protect components from the elements.

Dutch bikes typically feature a full, steel fender on both the front and rear wheels. The fenders are often used in tandem with tail lights, mud flaps, and a bumper on the rear fender. Some Dutch-style bikes may use plastic fenders or aluminum fenders coated in plastic to create a lighter bike. The frame of a Dutch bike is traditionally made from steel and has thick frame tubes. That makes the bike resilient and heavy-duty, but it also makes the bike weigh a good deal. For that reason, some modern manufacturers might use an aluminum frame, which is lighter weight but not as sturdy.

A Dutch bike often has a full lighting system for illuminating nighttime rides and running a signal/warning system. A bottle generator may run the lights on some bikes, but many modern Dutch bikes also use LED lighting systems as an alternative. LED lights are very bright and last much longer than bottle-generator halogens. A Dutch bike always has a built-in wheel lock. Modern versions may feature an opening in the integrated wheel lock that allows the rider to feed a flexible chain lock through the bike. A Dutch bike’s “kickstand” is actually a two-pronged center stand. That provides the most stable base for the heavy steel frame of a Dutch bike. A stubbegrenza, a stand on the front wheel, may also feature on a Dutch bike and stabilizes the wheel during mounts and dismounts.

The wheels on a Dutch bike have stainless steel spokes and either stainless steel or aluminum rims. Some modern Dutch bikes may feature a wide aluminum rim painted to match the bike, but those options are not always as resilient as the traditional Dutch rim design. Traditionally, Dutch bikes used 28-inch wheels. Today, however, consumers have a wider range of options.

A bike with all mod cons

A bike with all mod cons

Unlike cars bikes don’t make much noise at all so you REALLY need to keep your wits about you when you are out walking. On roads where adjacent bike paths or cycle tracks exist, the use of these facilities is compulsory, and cycling on the main carriageway is not permitted. Some 35,000 km of cycle-track has been physically segregated from motor traffic, equal to a quarter of the country’s entire 140,000 km road network.

Bikes wizz along. Hand signals don’t seem to exist.You can ride on either side of the street or if you so desire down the middle to dodge pedestrians. “Mum” bikes with a front carrier for kids or goods are just as fast as the rest. It is not unusual to see a mother with two little people in the front and one on a seat in her rear. The little people seem very happy and chatter away.

 A mum bike with a covered "box" to carry one or two little people

A mum bike with a covered “box” to carry one or two little people in front and one on the back

At the train stations there are racks and racks for bikes:

Bikes parked at a small train station

Bikes parked at a small train station

I haven’t taken too many photos of bikes – I could have taken a million. Here are two I like:

A simple Dutch Bike

A simple Dutch Bike

A nice blue one

A nice blue one

There are very few tandems but I thought ………

 

 

 

A visit to the Stoomtram (Steam Train) at Hoorn in Holland

This is a story of serendipity. I was trolling through Haarlem when I came upon this print in a printer’s shop window.

Print found in Haarlem shop window

Print found in Haarlem shop window

I had reconciled myself to a holiday without a visit to a model railroad or a historic steam train so I was chuffed when I gazed upon this large beautifully executed drawing of a steam engine. A couple of days later the Tulip Parade – floats covered in spring flowers which starts in Keukenhof came into Haarlem. Because it was so cold we did not go and see it come into town late in the evening. The floats stay in Haarlem overnight and the whole world comes to see them the next day.

When we went to see the floats it was cold and clear. As I roamed through the crowd admiring the floats I couldn’t believe my eyes – a Gauge 1 (G Scale) loco and a couple of coaches were running to and fro in a stall. It also had a fab model of a steam loco made out of wood:

Stall at the Haarlem Flower Parade advertising the Stoomtam at Hoorn

Stall at the Haarlem Flower Parade advertising the Stoomtam at Hoorn

One of the guys manning the stall spoke english and he and I had a jolly old chinwag. He told me he was one of 330 volunteers who worked on the historic train at Hoorn. He gave me a couple of pamphlets and wife Sarah and I went back to our wee house to see whether it was “doable.”

We are staying in Haarlem and we determined that Hoorn was about an hour away from Harlem on an inter-city train. A visit was “doable.” When we arrived at Hoorn we looked at the poster below and decided to “do” the train and take the boat trip.

Poster showing the steam train and and museum ship

Poster showing the steam train and and museum ship

We weren’t the only ones taking the trip. The train was packed. The wooden seats shone with many coats of lacquer. We were on the late side and didn’t have time to inspect our loco. When we got to the end of the line I did manage to pop off a few shots:

The museum ship we we were due to ride didn’t leave for  an hour so we  traipsed into town to get a bite. Over lunch I had a bolt of lightening strike me – the loco that had pulled us was the one I had seen the print of in the shop window in Haarlem. Serendipity.

The museum ship like the train had been lovingly restored, The trip along the coast was smooth and enjoyable.

Our steamer - the Friesland - built in 1955 - she was originally a ferry

Our steamer – the Friesland – built in 1955 – she was originally a ferry

The town we landed at was called Enkhuizen, In the port was this beautiful old sailing barge.

 An old fashioned Dutch sailing vessel

An old fashioned Dutch sailing vessel

The town also had some interesting architecture and some feathered fowl:

This last photo you have to look at carefully. When an inter-city train stopped on the line opposite track two birds promptly jumped on the coupler and started pecking away. It was the first time I had ever seen such a thing. As usual lightening struck my feeble brain in  the  middle of the night whilst visiting – the birds were searching for insects killed by the train !!!!!!

An inter-city train comes into the station and look who hops on - never seen the likes of that before

An inter-city train comes into the station and look who hops on – never seen the likes of that before

A great day out!

Here are links to two vids of the Stoomtram. The first shows you the tulip fields that the train passes through. The second shows different locos that have been restored.

Say Cheese, say Holland

The Dutch love cheese. From the train you can see massive fields with lush green grass. They have lots of cows. The result is cheese – buckets of cheese of every type and flavour. Every town we have been to has cheese shops – note the plural. These first photos were taken on a freezing cold day in Amsterdam. [Click on any pic to see full size.]

Alkmaar is about 40 minutes by train from Haarlem where we are staying. The train was a Sprinter which means it stops at pretty much every place along the way. Alkmaar is full of courtyards, canals, dozens of terraces and, of course, the world famous cheese market. Visiting a cheese market was second on our bucket list of things to  do on our trip.

Dispatch from Maastricht, Holland

Maastricht is about far south as you can get in Holland. Maastricht is a university city on the southern tip of the Netherlands. It is known for its medieval-era architecture and vibrant cultural scene. In its cobbled old town, is the Gothic-style church Sint Janskerk, and the Romanesque Basilica of St. Servatius houses a significant collection of religious art. On the banks of the Maas River, bisecting the city, lies futuristic-looking Bonnefanten art museum.

It’s three hours each way on the train from Haarlem where we are staying. We went on the top level of our speedy inter-city train and got a great view of the Dutch countryside. We went on a Friday because the main square boasts a very large market then.

There were a lot of flower stalls at the market in Maastricht

There were a lot of flower stalls at the market in Maastricht

Flowers in pots for garden - great value too

Flowers in pots for garden – great value too

You name it and the market seemed to have it

You name it and the market seemed to have it

This was on a stall - she who must be obeyed said it would not fit in my suitcase

This was on a stall – she who must be obeyed said it would not fit in my suitcase

One of the three churches that border the main square

One of the three churches that border the main square

Some weird flower covered figures in a corner of the main square

Some weird flower covered figures in a corner of the main square

AND, Maastricht is the home of Andre Rieu. Limburg, the “county” wherein Maastricht lies has its own anthem. I do NOT recommend Limburg cheese – it STINKS.

We didn’t see Andre but did have a great, if very cold, day.

Epistle from Keukenhof in Holland

When we were in Holland some five years ago we went to Keukenhof on a quickie bus tour. We were flabbergasted and vowed to return. Well here we are in Holland celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary AND we are going to Keukenhof. What is Keukenhof?

“History of Keukenhof

The history of Keukenhof dates back to the 15th century. Countess Jacoba van Beieren [Jacqueline of Bavaria] (1401-1436) gathered fruit and vegetables from the Keukenduin [kitchen dunes] for the kitchen of Teylingen Castle. Keukenhof Castle was built in 1641 and the estate grew to encompass an area of over 200 hectares.

Landscape architects Jan David Zocher and his son Louis Paul Zocher, who also designed Amsterdam’s Vondelpark, redesigned the castle gardens in 1857. That park, in the English landscape style, still constitutes the basis of Keukenhof.

In 1949 a group of 20 leading flower bulb growers and exporters came up with the plan to use the estate to exhibit spring-flowering bulbs, signalling the birth of Keukenhof as a spring park. The park opened its gates to the public in 1950 and was an instant success, with 236,000 visitors in the first year alone. 2019 will be the 70th edition of Keukenhof, with Flower Power as its theme. During the past 69 years Keukenhof has developed into a world-famous attraction.”

I have no idea how many pics we took on the freezing day (sharp north wind and temp of 40 degrees) when we went. We are staying in Haarlem and it is a mere 40 minute bus ride on Holland’s superb public transport system. This is what hits you in the eye when you walk to the pavilions – giant glass houses:

[Click on any photo to bring up gallery and see the colours of the flowers]

There are several very large pavilions, This one was virtually all orchids:

99% of the plants in this pavilion are orchids

99% of the plants in this pavilion are orchids

The density of the colour of the orchid got me

The density of the colour of the orchid got me

Another stunning orchid

Another stunning orchid

The next pavilion we went in had the theme of “Flower Power”:

We didn’t get to see the flower arrangement pavilion nor did Sarah order any bulbs. The weather IS getting warmer so we hope that when we go back just before we come home many more of the beds will be in full bloom.

 

 

 

Reporting from Haarlem in the Netherlands

We got here last Monday. We’ve been strutting our stuff ever since.

The weather hasn’t been what I expected – VERY cold wind from the north, temp in the 40’s, two showers of which one had hail or snow. The weather hasn’t stopped us. All my walking in water has paid off – I walked 14,500 miles one day.

Food? It’s been great. The coffee is superb wherever you get it.

Photos? Between us we have taken over a million!!!!!!!

Haarlem – which is where we are staying – is a hop step and a jump from Amsterdam. The city dates back to the 1600s. One building on our street – which is split by a canal – is dated 1696. There’s interesting stuff everywhere. This mini selection might give yo a sense of what one sees on a simple walk in any direction.

What I am going to look like after my visit to the tonsorial artiste

What I am going to look like after my visit to the tonsorial artiste

Typical old fascia -this one dates back to the 1700s - note the oxen pulling the cart

Typical old fascia -this one dates back to the 1700s – note the oxen pulling the cart

Espalier tree - one of manyEspalier tree - one of many

Espalier tree – one of many

Detail on door

Detail on door

Amazing door adornment

Amazing door adornment