Netherlands Re-Visited (Page 4)

Odd-Man-Out Pictures

Then I ended up with some pictures which don't fall neatly into any of the categories I have on the other pages, so I put those all here.

This is a picture of "The Big Church" in the center of the red light district of Amsterdam. Next to it is a zoomed in detail of part of the image. The carefull observer will note some weirdnesses.

Most obviously, there is a bicycle dangling precariously over the canal. I'm guessing that the owner locked it to the railing and a subsequent passer-by wanted to chuck it into the water. But there is also a curious iron structure just to the left of the bicycle and under the banners, an iconic structure which defines Amsterdam in the minds of some visitors.

Looked at more closely and from the other side, we see that it is an historic example of a cast-iron pissoir from the industrial revolution school of architecture.

A sturdy iron structure with cleverly positioned peep-holes so that the occupant can watch the passers-by without himself being observed - comforting if you are claustrophobic.

The plumbing system itself is the epitome of simplicity - it leads directly into the canal. Bear in mind that this facility is within the shadow of one of the major churches of the city, it bespeaks the eminently practical nature of the burghers of Amsterdam.

We can also confirm that the red bicycle is hanging from the railing by its lock (left side of picture)

In The Hague (which is a very decorous city, as opposed to the party atmosphere of Amsterdam) they are more modern and efficient about these matters. Here we have a pissoir that can handle 4 clients in parallel (one facing each point of the compass, but with less privacy that the Amsterdam model) and it is transportable by means of a truck with a crane which can pick it up (together with the contents of its holding tank) and drop a new fresh one in its place. (The "hook" on the crane engages with the "eye" on the top of the structucture to pick it up and load it into the truck. Elegantly designed)

This one is parked unceremoniously outside the front door of the Ministry of Justice.

Sometimes the Dutch will take a perfectly decent English word and adapt it into their own language with a different meaning.

Here we are in the section of a store that deals with "English Pockets". Actualy it is one of my favorite bookstores that has been at its current address for decades - and this is the department that stocks English paperbacks. For some reason, paperbacks became known in Dutch as "pockets" (short for "pocket book" - which in America at least means a ladies purse).

Just two or three yards from the front door to my old office in The Hague, I found this charming statue which wasn't there before.

It doesn't look like a statue of Louis Couperus, and I certainly don't see any family resemblance with myself, despite his last name. From what I can tell of his pictures, he didn't look anything like this, although he was well known to be a fop and a dandy. (Is that redundant? Can you be one without the other?)

I think instead that this statue may depict a character from one of his novels. The quotation underneath is the title of one of his books.

Roughly translated, the title reads "If I am anything, I am a man of The Hague"

Here is a bridge over a canal in the province of Friesland - and its sides have been decorated with tiles. At the macro level, we can see the design depicts some speed skaters.

This bridge is over the route taken by the famous "elf steden tocht" - a long-distance speed skating contest that takes place annually, weather permitting (the canals are all frozen over) and passes through 11 major towns in Friesland - an event that is becoming all too rare now with warmer winters.

On closer examination of the individual tiles, it turns out that each one is a portrait of one of the competitors in years gone by - going all the way back to the 1940's in some instances.

There is software to create these kinds of large pictures using a collection of smaller pictures as input, the relative color value(s) in each smaller picture making up one pixel in the larger picture. It's one thing to do it on a computer screen - it's another matter entirely to do it with tiles rendered in blue with portraits of contenders of years gone by.

Driving through Friesland, one of the joys is encountering some Frisian Horses. These are a pedigreed breed which has become much better known over the last few decades. They are now expensive playthings for rich owners all over the world, but their origins are as a heavy work horse. Not as heavy as a Clydesdale or even a Belgian maybe, but muscular enough to pull a plow through the peat bogs of Friesland.

They are shiny black and are frequently used as ceremonial horses or trained to draw different kinds of carriage such as a Post Chaise.

Parking can be a problem in any big city, and I had heard that one of the advantages of the "Smart Car" was its ability to be parked sideways when space is tight. This was the first time I had ever seen this done in practice - and it didn't even seem necessary given the circumstances.

But I guess if you can do it - flaunt it.

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