Monthly Archive for September, 2009

A friend and I went to Belgium and the Netherlands to tour and see the tulips.  We spent four days in Bruges, Belgium, and were inundated with chocolates and lace.  We had a demonstration of bobbin lace which is an art form that is dying.  Most lace today is machine made in China.  We had a lovely boat ride in the canals and visited the VermeerMuseum which has a copy of each of his paintings in the same size as the originals.  It provided a wonderful learning experience about Vermeer’s technique.  We were able to see some of his originals in the MauritshuisMuseum in The Hague and in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

We went to Flanders fields where major World War I battles were fought and an incredible number of soldiers were killed, both Allied and German.  There are 155 cemeteries in Flanders: 137 British, 13 Belgian, 1 French, and 4 German.  We visited the cemetery where John McCrae, a Canadian military surgeon, wrote the World War I poem, “In Flanders Fields,” (“In Flanders fields, the poppies blow, between the crosses row on row…”) after his friend was killed.  Dr. McCrae was asked to conduct the burial service because the chaplain had been called away.  We toured a wonderful World War I Flanders Fields Museum and that evening went to the Last Post (similar to taps) at the Menin Gate on the edge of Ypres.  The ceremony has been carried every night since July 2, 1928, to honor the British and Commonwealth soldiers who died in fighting around Ypres.

We boarded our ship in Antwerp and sailed the next nine days with stops each day for tours at various towns and villages.  As we drove through the countryside, we saw fields of red and yellow tulips.  But for the real flower show, we went to KeukenhofGardens in Lisse which is near Amsterdam.  It is the world’s largest flower garden; every year approximately 7,000,000 flower bulbs are planted.  The flowers were just spectacular.  In addition to tulips of all colors and varieties, there were narcissus, jonquils, azaleas, and hyacinth and probably others that I didn’t recognize.  There were ponds scattered throughout the park with swans swimming leisurely around.  We were able to buy new bulbs that will be ready in October and have them shipped home (mine will be shipped to Colorado where my daughter lives).  They are to be planted at that time.  That afternoon we sailed through what used to be the Zuider Zee and is now an artificial lake.  Later we went to the Aalsmeer flower auction which is the largest flower auction in the world.  The flowers are brought in one evening, auctioned off the next day, and shipped out that evening.  The warehouse was full of dollies with flats of cut flowers.  People were moving the flowers around to be bid on and then taken to trucks.  It was an amazing sight.

To see windmills up close, we sailed to Kinderdjik (children’s dyke).  There are 19 mills still at this site.  At one time there were 10,000 mills in the country; now there are 1000.  They were built in the 1730s and are now UNESCO sites.  Mills in the Netherlands pump water only.  They are built in a variety of styles.  Hitler bombed many of the mills because they were used for communication.  The position of the blades had various meanings.  We saw an Archimedes screw which is used now; it moves 400,000 gallons/minute.  The miller and his family live free in the mill but they must keep it up.  We were able to tour one of the mills to see how people lived in the mill and how the mill worked.  There are quite a few turbine mills in the Netherlands used to generate electricity.  It was interesting to see the contrast between the old and the new.

All in all, a wonderful experience.