The ivy has gradually changed its appearance over the past weeks. Walls are no longer covered by a dark green curtain. Some have turned red all over. Others show an abundant mix of reds and greens. Yet all these walls proclaim: autumn has come.
How rare a sight this is: A big, bold industrial building surrounded by nature. And these two not clashing, but creating something truly remarkable.Radio Kootwijk is such a site I think. The radio station in art deco style -nicknamed The Cathedral- was built in the early 1920s and rises like a monolith from the open field. The grey concrete and purple heather shrubs create a strong contrast, especially by the end of August when the heather is in bloom.
I took these pictures on a warm summer evening. The rays of sunlight were filtered by thin clouds. You could look right through the building. In the glass pane behind the wrought iron door, you can see the reflection of the nearby water tower.
On Open Monumentendag, the Dutch equivalent of England’s Heritage Open Days, the radio station is open to the public (free entrance). I find the inside of this building designed by architect Julius Luthmann (1890-1973) just as striking as the outside, especially the tiled floor in the main hall.
From the tower, you have a wonderful view of the surrounding heath and woods.
The architect had a sphynx in mind when he designed the radio station. Especially from the back, the building gives the impression of a resting animal.
Last week, I posted a series of photo’s from Dordrecht’s historic harbours. Here some pictures of a lovely shop front I came across on my way from the water ferry to the harbours. The sign ‘Vleeschhouwerij’ indicates that this antique shop used to be a butcher shop. The current owner kept the little sign by the entrance stating that dogs are not welcome. The law does not allow for them to enter a butcher shop.
With all their travelling abroad, the Dutch sometimes forget how much their own country has to offer. The historic harbours of Dordrecht are definitely among those gems.
The combination of waterways and old buildings is captivating, I think. It is probably what draws so many people to the Dutch cities of Amsterdam, Leiden, Utrecht, Delft and Dordrecht.
Be sure to look up every now and then: the facade of the old buildings often has beautiful decorations.
This warehouse on the Kuipershaven (Cooper’s Harbour), dating from 1658, is (still) looking magnificent.
Kuipershaven (Cooper’s Harbour).
Wijnhaven (Wine Harbour).
Some nautical details.
It is well known that the Dutch have been trying to keep water out of their low-lying polders for centuries. At times though, they used water as a weapon against enemies.
The Dutch intentionally flooded polder sections via an intricate system of sluices, dykes and canals. The water level was carefully maintained at 40 centimeters: deep enough to hamper advance on foot and make sure canons get stuck in the mud, but shallow enough to prevent the use of boats (other than the flat bottomed gun barges the Dutch used in defence).
The first ‘Hollandic Water Line‘, a continuous area of land that could be flooded lined by fortresses, was build in the first half of the 17th century. It provided an important line of defence against the French and protected the wealthy cities in the province of Holland, such as Amsterdam, Leiden and Delft.
The ‘New Hollandic Water Line’ included Utrecht and Gorinchem, amongst others, in the area protected by water. Fort bij Vechten, south-east of Utrecht, is the second largest fortification in this extended line of defence. In 2018, the Dutch Government will put forward The New Hollandic Water Line for Unesco World Heritage status.
Since 2015, the barracks house the Waterliniemuseum.
Fort bij Vechten is a wonderful area to roam around for an afternoon. You stumble on a number of hidden buildings that have been used primarily for storage.
Part of the central fort has been restored, part was left dilapidated. You can see this divide over the main entrance.
The main corridor of the fort.
Two models of Fort bij Vechten – one lost its central stronghold…
At the advent of World War II, a large number of pillboxes were added to the earth and brick fortifications of the Water Line. But this line of defence proved outdated: German planes just flew over the fortresses and bombed the city of Rotterdam.
As with the Natural History Museum in London, I like the building of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History just as much as the collections it contains. There is so much to be seen on the stonework: squirrels eating acorns, carved tulips, pineapples, irises, orchids, meat-eating plants, ferns unfurling, birds and a frog hiding between leaves, and a fair number of plants and animals I don’t recognise.
Not only are the stone pillars adorned with carvings of animals and plants, the iron pillars are beautifully decorated with leaves and branches as well. Whale skeletons seem to swim in this sea of pillars.
Statues of eminent men of science stand guard in the court on the ground floor.
Some like to have a picknick on the lawn in front of the museum.
Venice is said to be an enchanting town. And I think it is, if you know where to look.
In my opinion, one should avoid the overcrowded Piazza San Marco, where hoards of tourists queue to get into the Basilica di San Marco or the Palazzo Ducale. I’d say the same for Ponte di Rialto, though the bridge itself it is a pretty sight.
What I love about Venice are the quiet waterways, the narrow back alleys, the deserted piazzas.
In Britain the naming of inns and pubs became common by the 12th century, according to Historic UK. With the names came the famous pub signs. A few examples from Oxford.
The Eagle and Child in St Giles is the pub where the literary discussion group the Inklings used to meet. Among its members were the famous authors C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. They nicknamed the pub ‘The Bird and Baby’.
The Lamb & Flag, opposite The Eagle and Child, is owned by St John’s college. The name of the pub refers to the symbol of Christ as the victorious Lamb of God (Agnus Dei), carrying a banner with a cross. The Lamb of God is also a symbol of St John the Baptist, and so emblematic of the college’s ownership.
The Turf Tavern is one of the most popular pubs in Oxford, and yet one of the most difficult to find – stand under the Bridge of Sighs and you’ll see the sign! Public figures such as Tony Blair, C.S. Lewis, Stephen Hawking, Margaret Thatcher dined or drank at the tavern, as well as the cast and crew of the Harry Potter movies. The Turf is old: its foundations and use as a malt house and drinking tavern date back to 1381.
The Rusty Bicycle is an old pub with a fairly new name. It’s a popular place to meet outside the city center, on the corner of Magdalen Road and Hurst Street. The bike on the wall needs more time to weather and become truly rusty.
The Mad Hatter, on the corner of Iffley Road and Circus Street, is a place of English eccentricity – according to it’s webpage. Google maps identifies it as a quirky cocktail bar with speakeasy vibe. It’s very clear though that in a previous life, the pub used to go by the name of The Cricketer’s Arms.
This morning I wanted to open the curtains to a snowy white world. My sister did, in the Netherlands. But no luck here in Oxford.
So, I went back to a day in February 10 years ago when I had a wonderful walk from my house to Paleis het Loo. While it was snowing.