My axis tilted
by a trip. Nineteen days
or did I pick at them? Bits
In any case,
I looked up.
And through, yes, I looked through a lot: through trees, screens, fences, windows, doors, glass cases, and
my camera. That one. A lot.
There were willow trees, and poems.
There were many coins,
there was not enough water.
Plenty of good espresso though…
trams, buses, cars,
boats and feet –
I used them all,
inscribing a ragged northern European circle:
Cologne, Frankfurt, Klein Reken, Hannover, Rahden, Lavelsloh,
Badhoevdorp, and Amsterdam again.
was chaos: too little
sleep, too many
sights, sounds, smells,
and feelings swirling around in
a joyful stew.
How did I manage?
relatives, and above all,
that one guy in
the center of it all, kept me
from blowing away.
My axis tilted to the Old World,
nine hours ahead. A different time
layered with history,
awash in art, architecture,
fresh food, abundant conversation,
and in the lovely month of April,
flowers, buds, and birds.
(More of those later)
Then it was time to return to the New World.
So here I am, slowly digesting
three weeks of impressions. More photos
will follow. Thank you
for being here.
A few notes on the photos:
- A White stork flies near its nest, in the German countryside. These huge, mythic creatures migrate between Africa and Europe, and forage in fields for all manner of meat: insects, mice, lizards, worms – whatever! They’re making a comeback now, after declining over the past several hundred years.
- Roof tiles on the street; old town, Leiden, Netherlands.
- Cologne (Koln), Germany. Pollarded trees are much more common in Europe than in the US. Wikipedia says that pollarding, a method of pruning to keep trees to a manageable size and promote dense, leafy growth, is mentioned in an ancient Roman text.
- A floor mosaic at the MSK Museum (Museum Voor Schone Kunsten) in Ghent, Belgium.
- Somewhere over Greenland, strange land forms rose from the clouds.
- A neat row of trees in the German countryside. Long or short, rows of trees appear again and again in the countryside of the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.
- A textured glass door in a private home in Germany yields amorphous blobs of pure color.
- An old church in Hannover, Germany, viewed through a fine fuzz of new leaves.
- At the Wallraf-Richartz/Ludwig Museum in Cologne, excavation work being done next door is seen through a black, textured screen. A museum complex that will have a collection spanning two millennia and ruins of the Roman governor’s palace and a Jewish ritual bath, is underway.
- In Lille, France, an old brick building retains only its’ face; mute, empty windows frame the inner walls and the buildings beyond.
- Handsome doors in a century-old home in Leiden lead to a balcony overlooking over a canal.
- Also in Leiden, a willow tree hangs gracefully over one of many canals that meander through the city.
- The Wall Poems of Leiden project began in 1992. Written in a variety of languages, the poems number more than a hundred. It’s quite wonderful to come upon one unexpectedly…maybe this one especially. The photo shows a fragment of “The Hours Rise Up Putting Off Stars and It Is” by e.e.cummings.
- Another willow tree on a canal in Leiden.
- Strange story – this carved stone in Antwerp records a line from the old song, “There is a Tavern in the Town.” Why? Author Willem Elsschot (a pseudonym for Alphonsus Josephus de Ridder; 1882-1960) was a respected Belgian author whose last work incorporates the lyrics of the song. You can follow the story via quotes that are placed in various locations around the city. Called Het Dwaallicht, or Will-o’-the-wisp, the novella has been called, “A jewel in the treasure chest of Dutch language” (Kader Abdolah).
- A teacup and the previous day’s collection of Euro coins. That was early; by the end of the trip, they were weighing down our pockets.
- Detail from a still life at the Wallraf-Richartz/Ludwig Museum in Cologne. I like to have a bottle of water handy, and when it runs out, where do I fill it? Water fountains are rare. No one wants to give away water. If I want a glass of water in a restaurant, chances are I’ll pay for it, even if it comes from the tap. We became adept at filling our water bottles in restaurant the bathrooms (not so much the bathrooms of train stations, which cost a Euro to enter). It was disappointing when the sink was so tiny, the bottle couldn’t wedge under the faucet. Water may have been hard to come by, but great food was plentiful, even in the train stations.
- Espresso Perfetto in Cologne is a lively, popular cafe in the Italian tradition: your espresso is pulled, poured and served with great care; the little glass of sparkling water is there, the little chocolate too, and the people watching is very, very good. We observed one happy, rotund man come to the counter for tray after tray of delicious pastries to bring to his friends. There is a shiny array of high end espresso machines to peruse, and there are blankets for the outdoor seats, because Europeans aren’t going to let cold weather stop them from enjoying the freedom of a smoke. Or is it life parading by that’s the real draw?
- A collage of photos of transport arrangements, from feet to airplanes. In the Netherlands, our OV cards got us on trains, trams and buses, but they weren’t good in Belgium or Germany. No worry – navigating the systems wasn’t too difficult, especially with the help of English-speaking natives. In one train station, where student volunteers kept the line moving for the ticket and information desks, our volunteer was a Syrian native who spoke Arabic, Dutch, English, a bit of French and German. Put us to shame!
- A tangle of foliage at Hortus Botanicus, a botanical garden in Leiden. The oldest section dates back to 1590. The great Linnaeus spent time here!
- That special guy, flanked by dear friends in Germany. Click on Ule’s name to visit her website.
- Third cousins once removed? I’m not exactly sure, but Elke and Anette were great companions on a long afternoon spent delving into family history, by way of the beautifully kept old farmhouse and barn where my paternal grandmother grew up, a pretty village church that dates back to the 1600’s, family photos, stories, and – yum! – homemade plum kuchen and coffee.
- a. b. & c. Three remarkable people. 23a is a blogging friend Almuth, who took us under her wing for a fabulous day in Hannover. Click on her name to visit her site. Jeanine hosted us in Leiden, with brilliant style. Click on Harrie’s name (23c) to visit his website – we enjoyed a great afternoon talking and walking with him. I also met Karl Ursus, and though the photo turned out very blurry, the conversation was clear as could be.
- A drawing by Walter Dahn at the Kestnergesellschaft, an art gallery in Hannover.