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Hamburg

Long slog from Rotterdam to Hamburg. Three legs — one hour, two hours, and two and a half-hours. First connection allowed only five minutes to change trains. Fortunately, the second train was on the other side of the platform from which we arrived. Made it with plenty of time to spare.

We were delayed on the second trip for almost thirty minutes due to equipment failures. At one point about forty or fifty people passed through our car on the way forward. When our tickets were checked, we were told that a car had to be closed because of air conditioner failure — just glad it wasn’t us.

At the next change we toted our bags for about five minutes only to learn that our train was also delayed for about thirty minutes. But almost immediately a train arrived and the signs said ”Hamburg”. So we got on and went looking for our first class seats. We had seats 112 and 113 (or something) in car 11. The seats in car 11 only went up to the eighties. Asked the conductor(?) and were told that we were on the wrong train. We lucked out and had gotten on an earlier train and did not have to wait for our scheduled train to arrive. We did have to sit in second class seats for two hours — life is hard when you don’t speak the language very well.

Speaking of language problems, we spent too much time trying to figure our the bus/metro line and prices before Bob decided that we should splurge and just take a cab. The price of the cab was almost exactly what we think a one-day metro pass would cost.

Our Airbnb is on the 18th floor of what seems to be one of the tallest buildings in Hamburg.

Three to the West.
And three to the East.

On the advice of our host, we ate lunch at Rive — a fairly fancy place on the River Elbe — near one of the cruse ship docks (middle picture to the West above). Very nice lunch and a view of industrial Hamburg across the river.

Our place.
Again a mixture of old and new.
Just a house in our neighborhood.
Glassed in lounge(?) at the bow reminded us of Jennifer’s stint on the Royal Viking Sun.

On the way back from lunch, we climbed a million steps, went to a local grocery store for diet coke, fruit, and, of course, ice cream. All in all, a pretty good day.

Madurodam

On the advice of our son-in-law, Roy, we decided to take a day trip to The Hague to see the famous minitures depicting famous and/or historical buildings/events in the Netherlands. Roy had visited at about age ten and was very impressed. So were we! Many of the trains, cars, boats, and people actually moved from place to place. For more detail see here.

We remembered the story with a more positive ending.
One time Post Office in Amsterdam. Now a huge shopping mall, of course.
Trains and trams everywhere.
Also canals.
Wouldn’t be Holland without windmills…
And flood control…
And tulips…
And cheese.

The strangest thing about Madurodam is that there must be twenty buildings with clock towers and not a single one had the correct time!

Amsterdam

The train to Amsterdam takes about 45 minutes and gives one a nice view of the countryside. We had decided to take a canal cruise and that seems the best way to ”see” Amsterdam and it was great.

There are many houseboats along the canals and, apparently, there are no more moorings to be had.

Some of them even have a yard.
This one is for sale and we were told the asking price is 600,000 euros and a nearby house recently sold for 2.3 mil euros.

The houses along the canals are called ”dancing houses” because the area was so swampy the houses were built on stilts.

These houses are ionic for Amsterdam. Note the rooftop shapes – more about that later.
A little hard to tell but this house is actually leaning.

One of the attractions we decided to forego was this:

To see a better picture of what they are doing, click here.
Somehow it didn’t look like fun to Bob.
Apparently, residents of Amsterdam move house on an average of every eight years.
The most efficient way to move many household items is through the upper windows.
Thus, you will find a hoist high on many buildings. Must be a sight to see a washer, sofa, or piano above your head!

We were told or read that there are more bicycles than people in Amsterdam. We believe it. The canal boat driver said the canals are 3 metres deep – 1 meter water, 1 meter something and 1 meter bicycles.

Only a few at the station! How do they ever find their own???
Apparently, some crazy American artist fixes these and places them around town.

Rotterdam

We decided to stay in Rotterdam (rather than Amsterdam) because we wanted to be more central to visit Delft and the Hague as well as Amsterdam. So, today we embarked by train on a local from Bruges to Brussels and then a high-speed train from Brussels to Rotterdam. The high-speed trains usually require seat reservations which Marilyn could not determine how to get using the mobile Eurail pass. So, at the station, we got tickets for 20 euros each to reserve our seats and then took the local to Brussels. In Brussels we changed to the high-speed train and were soon in Rotterdam. We did not realize until later how close our Airbnb is to the train station so we took a cab. Later, we went out to eat at a place that was about a third of a mile away and, lo and behold, it was across from the train station. Oh, well, live and learn.

The train stations are interesting here. You cannot enter through the turnstiles unless you have a ticket. They will actually not open. It seems a little silly from a security standpoint because all you have to do is buy a cheap ticket and get in.

We spent today relaxing, sat outside to eat. The weather is warm and breezy, just perfect! The young clerk at the Airbnb said they have to enjoy the summer because it is only this long (finger and thumb almost touching) and then it is cold again. So, everyone is in shorts, cropped tops, and most have some ink somewhere! The temperature for the next couple of days is expected to be in the 80’s.

Bruges – more churches

After an exhausting trip to the market, Marilyn decided to rest but Bob wanted to visit the Jeruzelum Kerk — another site used in the movie In Bruges. Actually, only the interior was used because they were not allowed to film inside the Basilica of the Holy Blood. The church is actually a family chapel from the 15th century. It was inspired by the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jeruselum.

Note different symbols.
Chapel within the chapel?

From the courtyard, Bob noticed a strange domed building in the distance. So, of course, he had to investigate. Still don’t know what it was, but it was interesting.

Continuing his exploration of the neighborhood, Bob found a windmill; several more Madonna and Child sculptures; hollyhocks; and, believe it or not, another church.

Bruges – Markt and more

On our last full day in Bruges, we decided to visit the ”world famous” market. Stopped for a short break so Bob could get some pictures of the Basilica of Saint Basile – actually, Basilica of the Holy Blood — one of the important events in the movie In Bruges. Unfortunately for us, we could not remember what or why at that point but remembered the small, corner church. More information about places in the movie can be found here.

This is the entrance to the Basilica of the Holy Blood. Inside is a stairway to the upper area of the larger church. Read more here.
Also, apparently the bear is an important symbol of the city.

The market has existed since 958 and weekly since 985. Fortunately, for us it was Wednesday, which is the only day the market is open. We had breakfast on the square and wondered around looking at all the weird things people sell and buy in Europe. More cheeses and strange meats than one could eat in a lifetime.

The square also houses the municipal building and the cloth hall. More information here.

This market is different from the fish market (Vismarkt) held in yet another square Wednesdays through Saturdays.
The horses and carriages are actually on the square with the Basilica of the Holy Blood (which is quieter) and not the square with the market.
This statue of Jan Van Eyck is actually in another nearby square.

One of the things that stands out about Bruges is the number and variety of flowers. There are planters and window boxes everywhere. And we were here at just the right time to enjoy them.

Bruges by Canal

On our second day in the city, we decided to take a canal boat tour. Glad we did, because we got to see parts of the city we would have missed otherwise. It is really amazing to see buildings older than anything European in the United States (gotta give the Native Americans credit, though).

Back side of a church. This is a very Catholic city.
One of thirty-one bridges.
One of seventy-one swans.
Windows look purple from outside, but clear from within.
What a gorgeous city of water. Venice is interesting but this is breathtaking!
Boarded up windows following a “window tax” in a building 400 years old. Nobody likes taxes.
City Hall. BTW, beginning in the UK and everywhere since, we have seen clocks on churches, municipal buildings, etc. (probably 20 or more) and every clock we have seen has had the correct time except one! That seems incredible. In the US, we probably have rarely seen one with the correct time!

One of three hundred and some statues of Madonna and Child.

Bruges

One of the places that we really wanted to visit was Bruges. Before we retired, Bob had this strange idea to start a movie club. Like a book club, but with movies instead. With three other highly compatible couples from our neighborhood, we took turns choosing a movie and met once a month for snacks/dinner to discuss. A lot of fun.

One of the couples (thanks, Sara and Gerry) always came up with movies that were just a little bit different. Always interesting, but almost always something the rest of us would never have watched on our own. One was about pharmaceutical testing in Africa (forget the name), one was Lives of Others (about East Germany before the fall), and one was In Bruges.

In Bruges is a dark suspense/comedy(?) about two hit men trying to escape from a job that they bungled badly. It is violent and dark. But the location shots of the city were beautiful and prompted us to include it prominently on our list of places to visit.

So, instead of a day trip from Brussels, Bob suggested that we spend three nights and two full days in the city. We decided to walk from the train station to our Airbnb (approximately thirty minutes, we thought), but that turned our to be a little much in our weakened condition. So we stopped for a shandy (beer with lemon/lime). While Marilyn enjoyed her drink and some marzipan, Bob wandered around one of the many churches and the first of many canals.

When we recovered from the first part of our slog and continued our journey to our Airbnb, we discovered a nice little tourist area with a restaurant called Casa Patata. Of course, we had to stop and have dinner. The Belgiums do really funny things with ”french fries”. And next door was a waffle shop which had about a million ways to serve waffles. We only had one each.

Cozy little candy shop/bar. Marilyn is sooooo happy to have stopped and taken off the backpacks!
Flowers behind the church. The hydrangeas are currently in full bloom in many shades of pinks and blues.
Church of Our Lady Bruges. This is the most important
church in Bruges.
This is an amazing medieval city.

What happened?

If you are one of the dedicated few who actually follow our adventures — especially our current European adventure — you may have wondered what has happened to us over the last few weeks.

Well…

We left Paris for Brussels and had a fairly uneventful train trip. Couldn’t make reservations for the high speed train, so we took a slower local. On the plus side, it did make it easier to view the countryside. Only took a little bit longer so no big loss there.

However, when we got to Brussels we both got sick with a flu-like something-or-other. We both took home Covid tests just in case, but of the four we took three were inconclusive and one of Bob’s was negative.

We didn’t really feel like doing much, so we hibernated in our room (really nice by the way) and recovered. We have both been having pretty bad allergies (what is it about Europe?) and are not sure whether it was Covid or just a flu-like bug going around.

We are both doing well if a little weakened by lack of activity. And we are still glad we are here.

Paris Sights

The Arc de Triomphe sits in the middle of the busiest roundabout in Paris — 12 streets/ avenues enter here in unmarked lanes of apparent utter chaos. The urban myth says that if one has a traffic accident in this roundabout, your insurance will not cover your loss. Our guide suggested that a more likely scenario is that all of the insurance companies have agreed that all accidents in the roundabout will be considered ”no fault” (i.e., pay for your own damages). The traffic here is more congested than anywhere we can remember. The pictures do not capture it.

So many sights. Too many to keep straight. Lots and lots of statuary on buildings, in parks, and on bridges. Gilded statues and domes everywhere one looks. And trees everywhere. We didn’t expect for every boulevard and avenue to be lined with trees on both sides and sometimes in the middle, too. Interestingly, there are no trees along the Avenue de l’Opera because Charles Garnier said there shouldn’t (wouldn’t) be so as not to distract (detract???) from his opera house. You should click here just to see some of the pictures of this opulent building. Apparently, Garnier was quite the arrogant so-and-so. Hope you recognize some of the places in these pictures.

We see these guys everywhere. They don’t seem to have caffeine free diet coke in their machines here.
Think this is Palais Garnier. When the Empress Eugenie said it wasn’t in the style of Louis IV, V or VI, Garnier told her it was Napoleon III. Bet that shut her up.
Not sure if we are looking at the right (conservative) bank or left (liberal) bank of the Seine here.
Marilyn thinks the Eiffel Tower is ugly. Yes, blasphemy!
On bridge leading to Grand Palais. On one side they apparently represent war and on the other, peace.
Hotel des Invalides where Napoleon is entombed. Interesting divide in France about Napoleon. Viewed more favorably before Hitler. Still viewed as extraordinary.
The Louvre was larger than Marilyn realized. Glad we decided not to visit this time. It would take weeks to do it justice.
Flame is supposed to echo that on the Statue of liberty. However, Princess Diana died in the area under this street so flowers people place around it are a tribute to her.
Marilyn was not sure the bus would fit through this entrance to the large area in the center of the Louvre.
Maine-Montparnasse Tower is second only to the Eiffel Tower in height in Paris. It apparently has a restaurant on top with amazing 360 degree views.