Author Archives: norion5_wp

Heidi’s Magical World

This morning we awoke with our heads in the clouds, our toes, too. As you might expect, it took a bit of work to get up so high in the world.

Two days ago we left before breakfast was served at the Seminary and rushed through the cobbled streets of Salzburg to catch our train to Lucerne, Switzerland. We couldn’t take a nap, because we had to keep looking out the windows. Austria was beautiful, as was the tiny country of Lichtenstein.

We had to make a quick, but very important stop along the way, Heidiland! Johanna Spyri’s story of the little girl Heidi growing up in the Swiss Alps has been translated into over 50 languages and loved by children around the world, including me.

I am sure I wasn’t the only “child” who dreamed of running up the mountains calling, “Grandfather! Grandfather!” I am pretty sure the Japanese woman we passed on the way down the mountain was on the same pilgrimage we were.

 The bus from the train station in Maienfield to Heididorf (Heidi’s house) only runs on Saturday’s and Sunday’s, neither of which would help us.  With heavy packs in tow  we followed the steep, windy roads that wound through the village.

We liked how there were  wells with fresh mountain water. The locals are lucky to have such delicious water.

It was quite a hike up the hill, but when we got close I tossed my bag and ran. Kevin had  fun watching me become a child again. There really isn’t anything super special about Heidi’s house, but it is that transformation of becoming the girl in the story.

 “Oh yes, this is how I thought Grandfather’s house should look  like!”

 ” Is this Peter’s house? ”

 “There are the goats! One is even climbing on the wall to nibble leaves off a tree. How  funny!”

We got some great exercise before we sat down in the train again, but it was difficult to put Heidi away. We talked about the books until we pulled into Lucerne’s main train station.

On our way to our hotel we  came upon an unusual covered wooden bridge with a tall  tower in the center. The Kapellbruke, Chapel Bridge, is a Lucerne landmark. The tower was built in 1330, the bridge in 1365.  it crosses the  Reuss River diagonally. We took our time crossing, admiring the paintings, oohing at the clear water, along the way.

Our hotel faced a  medieval clock tower. We were too tired to wander, so we called it a night.

We hopped out of bed  the next morning before the tourists came out. We loved the painted buildings, and the chocolate we bought from Lindts after we split a quiche.

We wished we had more time to explore, but we had to get our heads in the clouds. Besides being located on the shores of Lake Lucerne, the town lies at the base of a dragon.

Mount Pilatus ‘ summit is 7,000 feet above sea water.  An old legend says the the mountain is cursed with dragons. Near the peak is the hotel Pilatus-Kulm, built in 1890. Every room in the hotel has a magnificent view of the Alps.

Other than hiking there are a couple of routes to the hotel. We chose the Golden Round trip. First, we took a  boat across Lake Lucerne.

Then we took the steepest cogwheel train in the world up the mountain slope. There were a couple of cows with huge bells around their necks watching us. Later in the fog we realized how useful those bells could be for the farmer to find his heard.

It was really, really steep.

This is what we saw when we got to the top.

We hiked quite a bit on the dragon trails. The scenery kept changing as quickly as the weather, shifting every second. 

 The landscape was unworldly.

It was fairly sunny on one side of the mountain and completely shrouded in clouds on the other side.

Watching the sunset I felt like Merlin swirling the clouds with my magic wand. The sun  shone  through in spots. Some of the clouds shone like castles in the sky.

Very few people stayed  overnight on the mountain. It is so quiet here, except for the distant sounds of  cowbells and the chirping of birds. We can hear the snow melting. 

Dressing and out the door by 6am and we were still  too late for the sunrise. The clouds had rolled back. The mountains seemed endless. 

We  got to see some ibex on our early walk,  from a distance. We watched some lucky hikers that had just  completed a  very tough trek get close to the herd. They sat down to eat breakfast and watch the animals. We were a bit jealous, but realized they had earned their spot. 

It was hard packing up and leaving, but we decided to cut out before the crowds showed up. We caught the 9:15am cable car to take us back to town.  The cable car went down, down, down the other side of Mt. Pilatus. We switched cable cars a third of the way down, it stopped to let people on and off at a campsite two thirds of the way, so it took awhile to reach civilization again.

It has been a very magical experience in Switzerland.

 

Austria is Filled With the Sounds of Music

I wanted to name one of my sons Wolfgang Amadeus, and I’ve wanted to twirl in the Alps like Maria from the Sound of Music. So, to say that I am excited to be in Salzburg, Austria is an understatement. Here we are in the birthplace of both Mozart and the Von Trappe family singers. Yipee!

With a little less oomph than Maria as she sang about courage, Kevin and I arrived at the gates of the Hotel Schloss Leopoldskron. Being a Sunday not all the buses were running, so we had to make our way through the town on feet still sore from our long walk. As soon as we walked into the beautiful Leopoldskron grounds the weight of our backpacks lightened.

Our room on the third floor looked out towards Hohensalzburg Fortress (the city’s landmark castle) and the gardens.

It was here in these gardens and on this lake that the boat scene from The Sound of Music were filmed. Instead of children in playclothes made of curtains, goslings swam. 

The character Max was based on a former owner of the house, Max Reinhardt, co-founder of the Salzburg Festival. The house, really a castle was built in 1736. Count Leopold even built the lake.

The Rococo rooms are gilded and glitzy, full of the wow factor. Max’s library was dreamy.

Although they did not film inside, it’s rooms inspired the Hollywood set. Speigelsaal, a mirrored room, was the inspiration for the ballroom.

We could only afford a one night stay, but we had time to pedal bikes around the lake before saying goodbye.

The next two nights we stayed at a Seminary Guesthouse in the middle of the Old Town and started to decipher the intricate city bus schedule. We also got a visitor’s card that  gave us free entry to most of the tourist attractions.

We took a cruise on the Salzach River on the boat Amadeus. We found out Salzburg  was a prominent historical city because of the nearby salt mines.  The mansions on the river bank give testament to how wealthy the city became from the salt trade. The captain drove to the tune of Mozart at the end of the tour.

We had a lot of fun at Hellbrun Palace. It’s 400 year old trick fountains are still pretty amazing.

To cap off the first full day we rushed to take the last cable car ride up Mt. Untersberg, which is mentioned in The Sound of Music. We could see really far. It was overcast. I wonder if we could’ve seen the curvature of the earth on a clear day.

On the final day we woke to the Seminary bells and set out to take a funicular up to Hohensalzburg Fortress. We got there before the lines and waited in the shade. It’s hot here. I can ‘t tell you how hot because they use Celsius and I haven’t figured out how to translate that into Fahrenheit.

Of course we had to stop at Mozart’s Birthplace. Actually, we’d been  in it’s basement the night before but didn’t realize it! You see, most of the grocery stores had closed early on Sunday, but there was one that was open until 7pm. We were too busy pushing our way through the congested nooks and crannies of the store to look around. When we got outside we noticed people looking up at the building and taking pictures. “What are they doing?” ” Oh…We just bought sodas and sandwiches at Mozart’s house! ”

The finale of our Austrian trip had to be a Sound of Music bus tour through Salzburg and  the countryside. We saw so many places  that the movie seemed to come to life.

Walking Day

My feet hurt. I think I’ll fall asleep as soon as I lay down. That’s the sign for a good day. Kevin and I spent the day walking, and then walking some more until we covered 26.2 miles.  

Our walk took us out into the countryside and away from the more heavily touristed areas.  Although we started at 8am, the streets were fairly quiet. When we returned to Fussen in the evening the streets were so packed that it looked like a different city.

We started by following the trail along the river to Lechefalls. The man-made falls cascade swiftly down through a narrow gorge. We enjoyed standing on the bridge watching the water rush underneath us.

Turning around we headed towards Neuschwanstein. I wanted to run around in the fields of wildflowers.

The birds were up, as well as a few cyclists on their way to the castles. Cows with the softest fuzzy ears watched us uninterestingly. They wore bells about their necks. We liked the sound, but thought we’d be annoyed having to listen to it all day if we were a cow. By the way they were lolling in the sun and lazily chewing their cud, I don’t think they were too bothered by it.

We walked by the castles again, but we found some gravel roads that stretched behind the village and up into the hills. Our goal was a gondola ride that was based in the next town over. We could see paragliders drifting down from the mountain peak at the top of the gondola ride.

After watching a  couple gondolas passing overhead we were eager for  our turn. When we got there they packed us in, so the ride wasn’t as fun as we thought it would be. The views from the top were amazing, worth the trip.

 It was hard walking because we’d take a step, look around, take a step, look around.  Our eyes would open wider as we turned a new corner or reached a rocky out cropping.

If we looked up we saw the beautiful mountains.

If we looked down we saw the prettiest alpine flowers. The type of flowers would change as we went further and further down the mountain.

The fauna was just as interesting as the flora. We didn’t see any big wild animals. We saw lots of  butterflies. Some as tiny as my pinky fingernail. There were a lot of snails leaving sparkly trails. We even saw a snake bathing in the sunshine.

On the way back through  Fussen we swung down a path that led to a dam. The town doesn’t flood as much as it used to, but the dam put rafting out of business on this part of the Leche river. On the way to the dam we stopped to take pictures of a couple of swans.

We sort of shuffled our way through the streets of town. Cobblestones are rough on sore feet. After picking up a couple of Bavarian Snowballs that we spied at a bakery in the morning, we headed to our hotel for a quick dinner and a short rest before heading back out to complete our marathon.

 Luckily we went back for our jackets. It had started to rain. We were reluctant to continue our journey. We would have missed the salamanders and  toads. There were so many we had to watch where we stepped.

We were thinking of turning around to head back to the hotel when we finally saw the Austrian Border. We  had our passports with us, but there wasn’t anyone in the middle of the woods to check them.

We hiked a little more to make it official then set off to find a warm shower and comfy bed. We  are looking forward to sleeping in to tomorrow.

Of Monks and Men

For the past two nights we’ve been stationed in Munich. Known in German as Munchien, it’s name means “where the monks live”. Benedictine monks first settled the area in 1158. Now it has become an international city. We saw quite a few different nationalities, and they weren’t all tourists.

Most people associate Munich with the largest beer party on the planet, Oktoberfest. It wasn’t October and I don’t drink beer, so we skipped the beer halls, but we looked closely at the fancy beersteins. Kevin thought they could hold a lot of soda. 

Our necks got a little sore trying to see all the cool buildings, fountains and statues. We spent a lot of time trying not to bump into other people doing the same thing.

The most amazing building is the Neo-Gothic New Town Hall. We felt like we should be looking out for vampires and demons hiding in it’s shadows. 

Besides being an architectural wonder, it is home to the Rathaus-Glockenspiel. Three times a day 32 life size figures spin around in an alcove high up on the side of one of the towers.  They re-enact two Bavarian stories while 43 bells play one of two songs. At the end a rooster flaps his wings and chirps. 

Kevin and I had to wait before boarding our next train, because we really wanted to watch the glockenspiel. It was worth the wait and the wading through the crowds.

It was afternoon when we arrived here in our next town.  Known for violin and lute making,  Fussen has  a Benedectine Monastery that was established in the 9th century. It’s history goes even further back to when it was a Roman post guarding trade routes through the Alps.

 

Of course it has it’s own castle, the exterior of which is  beautifully painted.

We took a walk through town in the rain. 

A walk through the old cemetery was more interesting than it sounds. We found the grave of the man who painted the frescoes at Neschwanstein Castle, which isn’t far from here. The wooden crosses of the monks looked well kept. The monastery, old city wall, and Alps in the distance made it a very peaceful place.

 Fussen is named for the Lech River gorge. River men, rafters, used to tie up logs, make rafts, load them with goods or people and float to another town. Once there they’d sell the goodg, unload the people, take apart the rafts and sell the wood they used to make the rafts. 

The water of the Lech is an unusual milky white  due to dissolved limestone. It doesn’t turn green, because the cold water doesn’t allow bacteria or plankton to grow in it. It was flowing pretty fast. We wouldn’t want to fall in, if we made it to the river bank the steep walls would have been hard to climb up.

Hopefully the weather will clear and we’ll set out to do some more exploring.

 

The Mad King

Wow, today was so different from yesterday. We took a tour bus out on the autobahn, through the idealic scenery of Germany’s Romantic Road, passed cows in the fields and little Bavarian towns, up into the mountains to two of the most beautiful castles in the world.

King Ludwig II of Bavaria ‘s contempt for war, and his love for science and the arts, led to the construction of his Royal Villa, Linderhof Palace, and a castle so picturesque that Walt Disney used it’s likeness to create Cinderella’s home, Neuschwanstein Castle. Here in the Bavarian woods he isolated himself, built his fantasy homes, and was declared mad for emptying his own coffers instead of leading battle cries.

Strolling amongst the nymphs, elaborate ponds, and well manicured gardens of Linderhof Palace it was apparent as to why Mad King Ludwig would prefer to hide out here instead of in Munich with the bickering members of Parliament. Such a contrast to the barren roll call area occupid by the prisoners at Dachau, which would occur  only half a century after the completion of Linderhof.

What would Ludwig have thought of the meager rations of the inmates compared to the 18 course meal he ate in his private dining room? Or of having  to share his 8ft. square bed with a couple of other men? And, what would they have thought of his lavish gilded rooms? They probably would have loved to listen to music from his  aeolodion, maybe they’d strip a tapestry or two off the wall to use as blankets.

Kevin and I thought Linderhof to be more liveable than  Ludwig’s architectural masterpiece, Neuschwanstein. And unfortunately, just like today ‘s visit, he never got to see it with out scaffolding. He died before  it was finished. 

No princesses ever stood upon it’s balconys.

No knights ever fought dragons perched upon it’s turrets.

King Ludwig II ruled in the late 19th century but he  admired the culture, kingship and tales of Medieval history. He also liked the technological advances of his time period, so the castle had indoor plumbing, heating, and electricity. Neauschwanstein is everyone’s idealized version of what a castle should be, even his.

Set high on a hill with the frosty  Alps as background, a quaint village at it’s base,  green fields and blue lakes off in the distance, the castle has gorgeous views outside every window. No one ever got to call it home, but millions, like us, have gotten to enjoy it. 

Work Sets You Free

I think that you feel beyond the poisonous barbed wire of these barracks,

and I think that you see me with my hairless head and the dark frame

of the black circles around my eyes, bloody and dirty 

and my heart knelling

a death bell.

– Excerpt from My Shadow in Dachau 

by Nevio Vitelli, Dachau prisoner 1945

Nevio Vitelli, an Italian prisoner at the Dachau concentration camp, died only 3 years after being freed by American soldiers at the age of twenty. Teenage feet that should have been trudging to school experienced a more arduous route. Between 1933 and 1945 more than 200,000 people suffered horrendous conditions imprisoned by the Third Reich, more than 41,000 were murdered.

SS soldiers prodded Nevio and the thousands of other political, religious,  homosexual, disabled, racially “inferior”,  and anyone they saw as a threat to their new world order, prisoners from the rail station, through town, and through the gates of Hell, a black rod iron gate inscribed with words: Arbeit Macht Frei – “Work Sets You Free”.

We had the luxury of a free bus ride and an air conditioned visitor’s center to greet us. We walked through the gate without the fear of being stripped of our clothing and dignity. Our heads weren’t going to be shaven and our bodies beaten. We would have a soft hotel room  bed, not a cramped board with someone’s feet as our pillow. We would not starve, not have open festering wounds, no fear of typhoid, no fear of death.

The Dachau Concentration Memorial Site is a reminder of the inhuman treatment one group of people upon another group of people.   Gas chambers, mass graves, torture, hunger are the results of bigotry and the corruption of power.

As we read about Dachau’s dark history we realized the fraility of the freedoms we take for granted. We have no idea the roles our German relatives played in World War II: perpetrators, victims, spectators, or good Samaritans. What role would we have taken on? It is easy to look back in hindsight and say we would have been the good guys, but who knows what influences there would have been on our choices.

 The last presidential election in the U.S. showed us how easily a country can be divided. Kevin and I felt the ominous warnings at Dachau reverberating with  the political upheaval at home.  The diverse views within our own familes, let alone through out the country, had\has the potential to grow into something as destructive as the Holocaust. Hopefully, we have more checks and balances, and more historical knowledge to keep it from seeing fruition.

Fly Eagles Fly!

We were a little cranky today. Little sleep and little food will do that to you. Fireworks, loud drunks, celebrating went on right outside our window. The Eagles won the German Cup! The Frankfurt Eagles soccer team that is. Our hotel was right smack in the center of it all. I guess we made up for not being home when the Philly Eagles won the Super Bowl. 

Lacking A.C., too noisy to open windows, we had a restless night. Yesterday was Sunday and today seems to be a holiday, so most the stores are closed.

The restaurants that are open print their menus in German. We are having a hard time hunting and gathering. I thought I ordered a pastry for breakfast, but I ended up with tea and chocolate milk!

Frankfurt is not putting on it’s best finery for us. Our hotel is in an old neighborhood, but most of the city reminds me of Philadelphia, with city high rises and city streets. We rode a Hop-on Hop-off bus that gave us a quick tour of the landmarks. 

 

We peered at paintings by Rubin and decided he wasn’t out favorite artist. Strolling along the waterfront we saw a very happy dog  chasing birds and rolling in the dirt. There were a lot of families out enjoying the warm day. It was the first time we noticed people wearing shorts in Europe. It is also the warmest day we’ve had.

Hopefully tonight will be quieter. Fly away Eagles, fly away!

Something Old/Something New

We slept in Mainz last night. Mainz is an ancient city originally built as a Roman fort. The Gutenberg Press was invented here in the 1450’s. Most of the buildings were destroyed during WWII, but a few medieval half-timbered houses remain.

About half an hour by train south of Mainz is where my ancestor Everhart Hafer was born in 1792, Darmstadt. Darmstadt suffered severe damage during the war as well.

Founded in 1330 by The Holy Roman Emperor Ludwig the Bavarian it used to be the capital of the country the Grand Duchy of Hesse until 1871.

Supposedly one of the richest cities in Europe, but when we got out of the train station we noticed quite a bit of grafitti, gypsies camping out in a local park, it looked worn out.

As we explored more the scenery changed. We spied some vegan and vegetarian stores, maybe I have something in common with my forefathers. Ancient ruins that fascinated us were only part of life here in Darmstadt. We were captivated by the grafittied skate park sharing space with an old castle wall, they’d sprayed it with grafitti, too.

We saw some pretty elaborate statues and structures, including Darmstadt Castle.

Walking through the Herngarten towards Prinz-George-Garten a wedding party hurried past us. Gruff looking men drinking beer were playing crouquet. It started to drizzle while we explored the formal gardens, or I think we might have found a bench and rested awhile, our feet were sore.

Frankenstein Castle, probably Mary Shelly’s muse was only a tram car ride away, but our hotel was in the opposite direction. Being Sunday we weren’t sure how often the trains ran and the weather was iffy, so we decided on Frankfurt. Our hotel is on Frankensteiner Street, though.

 

Diary of a Time Traveler

We stumble out of bed, rubbing our eyes, and search for the alarm’s off button at 5:30 in the morning. Feels like we just went to sleep. Packing our bags we take one last look around the room to see if we left anything behind, probably, but we don’t know what. We open the door and start our walk to the train station.

We’ve poured over train schedules time and time again. We’ll still end up frustrating train employees as we bombard them with questions. We’re on a journey off the typical tourist map, probably why few people we meet along the way speak English. We want to find a small border town, Waldniel, where Kevin’s grandfather was born in 1904. We have to switch trains a few times, take a bus, and hike a bit to get there. 

When Kevin’s grandpa was young he used to smuggle eggs and tobacco across the Belgium border by bicycle. Between the two World Wars he came through the port at Ellis Island. Today we walked through the streets of Waldniel thinking about how he had come from here all the way to the United States when he  was a brave 23 years old. He probably had a tough time communicating with people in his new home.

We stopped to take photos of a pretty church. A man talked to us at length in German until he realized we didn’t understand a word he said. He pointed to the door and told us we could go inside to look around. It was a stunning Catholic church with high stained glass windows.

 Looking for a bathroom, we went to the library next. After finding out  Kevin’s “opa” was from this town, the librarian called and walked us down the street and around the corner to speak to the local historian. He opened up his museum  and took us on a guided tour of a typical Waldniel home from when Grandpa was little.  He spoke very little English and we spoke even less German, but through gestures and pigeon speak we got along fine.

Most people in the town used to have a room in their house for a large loom. When they finished weaving they would wash and lay the linens in the fields to bleach in the sun. He showed us  how a kitchen used to look like, the many steps to washing clothes, and a small bed that  two people would’ve shared.

We had fun  imagining Grandpa in a home like this. At the end of the tour he gave us some glasses from a brewry that  was no longer  in operation. Saying our goodbyes we went to find lunch. We bought some delicious local cheese and bread, found a bench in the shade, and watched the townspeople. Afterwards we wandered a cemetery trying to find a familiar  name, no such luck. 

We wound our way back to the train station,  foregoing a visit to Waldniel’s infamous asylum,  supposedly one of the most haunted places in Europe.  A castle was waiting for us.

The Rhineland of Germany is known for it’s beautiful castles, so of course we had to spend the night in one, Schonburg Castle in Oberwesel.  Sitting high on a hill, that we had to trudge up with our backpacks, overlooking the Rhine, Schonburg Castle has been watching history pass by since at least the tenth century. 250 people, 24 families used to live herein the 14th century. French soldiers left it in ruins in 1689, but it was rebuilt. Luckily for us, today it is a hotel and restaurant. 

Our room  in one of the towers was amazing. We felt special. We  would stand on the balcony surveying our land thinking we were the king and queen. 

We even had a hidden room behind the bookcase, the bathroom. Awesome!

We were  told that they had a table waiting for us when we arrived, so we hurried to wash up and meandered to the dining room. It was a very fancy dinner.  Mom would be proud that we remembered to eat with the outer silverware first and put our napkins on our laps.

In the morning we wandered around a fantastic garden and wished that we could stay longer.

Hiking back down to Oberwesel we bought tickets for a ferry on the Rhine. We watched jousters practicing for a medieval festival, fed some geese, eyed boats plying the water as we waited to board.

Then we spent two hours “oohing” and “ahhing” at the quaint towns and magnificent castles we passed along the way to Rudesheim.

 

 

Rudesheim  was like a Walt Disneyish kitschy version of a German village.

 Our traveling shoes seemed to have pulled us back in time here in Germany. 

 

Amster dam dam dam

 

They should have gone to Amsterdam.

They should have gone to Amsterdam.

Amster, amster, dam, dam, dam.

Amster, amster, dam, dam, dam.

They should have gone to Amsterdam.

There is still a kid inside of me that feels a little naughty when I sing this song. Maybe coming to Amsterdam was influenced a bit by this feeling of being a kid again. Not only is there a silly song about this city, but everyone rides around on bicycles. They say there are three bikes per person in Amsterdam: one to get stolen, one in the canal, and one to ride to work on. The one that you got stolen can be bought back the next day at the flea market for 20 euros. 

The minute we step out of Amsterdam’s ornate Centraal Station we  feel like we have traveled into a storybook. Every building looks like a fancy doll house.

Cobblestone streets lead across literally thousands of bridges criss crossing miles of canals. 

The first thing we have to do of course is hitch a ride on a canal boat. We get one that we can hop on and off of through out the day, but we find it so relaxing. We sit back, enjoy  the views, learn some history, soaking up the ambiance.

 Most of the canal houses tend to be narrow and deep, unless the owner had been extremely wealthy. The narrowest one we saw was only  about six feet wide. The canal boat captain said he saw it for sale a few years back for 900,000 euros.  To make up for size the houses are gorgeously trimmed out as though in their Sunday best. Each wearing a gable crown on it’s roof. Interestingly they are built to lean forward to fool the viewer into thinking they are even taller than they are.

On a more somber note our boat docked in front of the house that Anne Frank  hid in writing her diary  until she became a victim to the Holocaust. You have to buy tickets to the museum online ahead of time, so like tourists we snapped selfies and then walked on. What that says about us as people and the fate of the world I don’t know.

I think our cute little bridge house along a canal was the most special part of our stay. We could have chosen a flower be-decked canal house or maybe even a windmill, but we went with something more unusual. Built in the 1930’s for the bridgemen to raise and lower the bridge for passing boats our 2 night home had been converted to an adorable tiny abode. It seemed like our own house because we never saw the owners. We let ourselves in using a phone app. Oh, this modern world!

We had a great time on our second day. In the morning we toured the recreated 18th/19th century village of Zaanse Schans located on the picturesque river Zaan.

Now only a few windmills stand where there used to be hundreds thanks to the Industrial Revolution. We  watched the mills grinding, cog churning, and the long blades somersaulting in the wind. I would’ve liked to have taken some of the paint pigment home being ground at one mill. The Dutch became  great ship builders because of mills like these making the planks for the boats.

There was a lot going on in Zaanse Schans. We learned how Gouda cheese is made, and did some taste testing. A shoemaker demonstrated how wooden clogs are made, and that there are several types for different purposes. There was a pewter smith, chocolate maker, an early grocery store, etc.. We even saw where the paper for the Declaration of Independence was made.  I wished we had more time to explore, and bigger suitcases.

The afternoon took us out of town again, but this time by bicycle. It was easier attempting to navigate countryside bike paths, than the wild streets of Amsterdam. It was nice to have a guide to point out the do’s and don’t’s of cycling here without being yelled at by the locals for being a green horn. 

We actually started in Amsterdam, but took a ferry, for bicyclists, to a path that led out of town. It is so flat here. No wonder everyone bikes. We saw  two bikes with large yellow buckets in front holding about ten preschoolers each. I wish we’d gotten a picture, but by the time we were done being amazed they had already flown by.

It didn’t take long before we were surrounded by fields. The land was open with very few fences. Even out in the countryside  canals weave around the land.

The water must be deep enough to keep the cows, sheep, and goats from crossing. A couple of swans and ducks clapped their wings as we passed. Sadly we left that idealized world behind and   re-entered the madhouse of Netherland’s capital at rush hour.

We were so happy to be greeted by our snug little bridge house at the end of the day where we could shut the door and watch the world pass by.