DAY 3: AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS

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Woke up in Amsterdam this morning. An English speaking guide met us for a bus tour around the city. Just as I pictured – canals, bridges, waterfront buildings. We had an hour to spare before our booking in the Van Gogh museum so the cork lads wanted to do some walking, the Laois couple and Fiona decided on some retail therapy. I stayed on the canal bank soaking up Amsterdam atmosphere and watched the world “sail” by.

c-amsterdam-van-gogh-museum Van Gogh Museum was so informative – another excellent guide– exhibitions of all his work as a timeline … I probably never appreciated his genius – and it was great to have previously known about the Arles (France) connection

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c-amsterdam-poldersFiona and I decided to see some of the countryside and signed up for a trip to Edam and the Zaanse Schans windmills (all operational) and traditional village – who could think of Holland without windmills and cheese????

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Just imagine that most of Holland is below sea level and yet they have designed a system of drainage and land reclamation that allows farming on a grand scale. Will think of these polders when i hear about the annual flooding in Ireland!!!! Many of the farmers have their own windmills to drive the drainage systems!

Amazing that Zaanse, realising that Irish is an official European Language has produced a guide leaflet “as Gaeilge”.

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Onto the village of Edam next, one of the centres for the CHEESE industry- lovely little town – traditional Dutch houses – the rest of the gang walked through …. I slept on bus – it’s a busy day!!!!!

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We visited a dairy farm on way back and Auntie Antje, the farmer’s wife, showed us how cheese is made. Then we got a chance to sample – would have loved to bring some home but case weight is a consideration. So just feasted here!!!
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Barely an hour for dinner, then out again for the Grachtan tour of the canals by night. As the tour was designed for the predominantly German contingent, Marie Claire (designated minder of the Irish) accompanied us to translate – unfortunately she thought most of the information was “irrelevant” and we had to make do with our limited knowledge of German!!!! We have the poor girl totally confused with our humour; she’s trying so hard, BUT!!!!!!

DAY 2: HOORN, THE NETHERLANDS

Woke up this morning to views of the Markermeer, a large lake in the central Netherlands. It used to be part of the Zuiderzee, but is now a freshwater lake. Hoorn, with a beautiful old city area, is one of the richest Dutch ports.

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Everyone walks or cycles or uses a small boat moored outside their door.

We managed to get a taxi to centre and do some shopping, some coffee in a Pancake Café

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the Trophy is for Pancake Champs of the year – NOT Sam!!!)  There was bell ringing practice in the nearby church for the duration of our coffee – not sure if this is an everyday occurrence!

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We then had to make a mad dash to the Westfries Museum right in the town centre to see the current “special” exhibition. It’s an exhib of returned art. In 2005, 24 paintings and 17 pieces of silver were stolen. Five of the paintings were recently discovered in the Ukraine and have been returned to Westfries. All of them have sustained major damage but luckily are in the process of being restored. The Statue is of a guy called Coen, very big in the Dutch West Indies – came from Hoorn.

b-hoorn-sqcoen-statue  bhoorn-waiting-for-a-taxiThe luxury of sitting in a bar and calling a taxi to the door!!!!!

With all that culture under our belts, we hit back to the ship for drinks and dinner.  All free for the cruise duration!!!!! and then onto deck for a last look at the sunset in Hoorn!

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My Rhine Experience The Stories DAY 1: COLOGNE

There are six of us from Ireland on the trip. We were collected at Koln/Bonn Airport by “an old biker” who proceeded to bore us with the ancient history of Cologne – that’s what I think he was on about anyway but with his monotonous voice that could be barely heard above the engine, twas hard to know. He hit rapidly for the hills when we arrived at the Novatel to find there was no booking!!!!!

It all worked out – German competency at its best- lovely room and free mini-bar. Quick freshen up and we made our way to a really typical German Restaurant/Beer house recommended by receptionist; we sat at a long table, sharing with a local family who enjoyed out attempts at understanding the menu (even the English version), however we chose wisely and had an amazing meal – (“Kolsche Pizza” – delicious) and a few beers before home!

Next morning a new guide arrived to take us to tour the Cathedral and Cologne. Antje was super – a Cologner who loved her city, warts and all, and who presented it with such enthusiasm. She congratulated us on our choice of eatery the night before. As we travelled around, she pointed out many of the important sites with historical references and stories of social interest, all presented with the humour of ‘a Cologner’ have appropriately (and wittily) nicknamed some of their city sculptures; , just like us ‘Dubliners’ with our “Hags with the Bags”, “Floozie in the Jacuzzi”, “Tart with the Cart”, etc. One couldn’t be but impressed with the way this city has been restored following its almost total destruction during the war.

You could not but be impressed with the restoration of buildings that has occurred since the war – all back to original glory. In the second World War, Cologne was devastated by air bombings. Famously, Cologne’s legendary cathedral was spared by the Allies, partly due to its cultural significance, but also because it helped direct air pilots toward Cologne (it being one of the world’s tallest buildings at the time, indeed the world’s largest Gothic church in northern Europe).
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St. Alban’s stands in stark contrast, blown out and restored only at its facade. It was left in such shape as a reminder of the pains of war and the loss of human life sustained by war. This ruined church evidently had a long history before its destruction during World War II. As in many cities, Cologne decided to leave a prominent church in a ruined status as a memorial to the sadness caused by war. There is a moving Kathe Kollwitz statue representing the grief of parents who have lost children in war and there is also a memorial to prisoners of war who had not yet returned (German prisoners of war generally took 3 years after war’s end to begin coming back and some were held for longer). A marker at the site reads: “Still the prisoners of war await their return home,” a stunning metaphor for all victims of war.

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And the Kolner Dom – the Cathedral of Cologne! WOW!

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The Stained glass windows

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The most recent of the windows using all the hues of glass from the old windows to replace that destroyed in Cologne bombings.

Antje was brilliant – wonderful stories about the Cathedral but never imposed on our own freedom of “just enjoying the place”.

Image result for shrine of the magi cologneThe Shrine of the Magi. Cologne was stop of point for pilgrims to Jerusalem – so its likely that relics would have found there way here.

The Crucifix of Gero (VERY different from usual portrayal as its focus was not on suffering but on resurrection)

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The mosaic floors made by who other than Villeroy and Boch (still going strong Kildare outlet!)

St Christopher – always invoked for the traveller by Mam – even when he lost his job!

coogne-cathedral-adoration-of-the-magi Picture of the Magi visiting the stable, with side panels implying the Cologne gentry were also there.

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the two organs the old and the new linked so that both can be played at same time, ………VERY IMPRESSIVE!

Antje offered a trip around the old town, but I took myself off to Café Reichard to “hold tables” for the walkers! What a wise choice – very friendly waitresses, great cakes and pastries, ice cream, chocolates; I chilled out on the terrace with a coffee until the wanderers arrived back and then went inside to a reserved table to FEAST on cake. Sinful!!!!
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Back to the bus for short hop to the port to board the MS A-ROSA SILVA and the start of the cruise northwards to the Low Countries.

My Rhine Experience – Facts and Figures first!

A-ROSA SILVA sails the magnificent Danube River. Photo courtesy of A-ROSA.

 

The Ship

 

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The lounge

Käsebuffet

The Kassebuffet,

(If I don’t write down the names and places we see it’ll fade; the stories follow)

Thursday             October 6th         Arrival in Koln

Friday                    October 7th         Boarded the MS A-Rosa Silva to journey                                                           the Rhein Delta, the Maas and the                                                                     Schelde

Koln-Hoorn: 340 km, 3 locks via Rhein,                                                           Waal, Amsterdam-Rheinkanal,                                                                         Markermeer passing Dusseldorf

Saturday              October 8th         Hoorn – Amsterdam: 40 km, 1 lock via                                                             Markemeer, Ijsselmeers, Binnen IJ

Sunday                 October 9th         Amsterdam – Rotterdam: 100 km, 1                                                                  lock, via Binnen IJ, Amsterdam-                                                                     Suid Rheinkanal, Nieuwe Maas

Monday               October 10th       Rotterdam – Gent: 225 km, 4 locks via                                                             Nieuwe Maas, Lek, Dordtse  Diep,                                                                     Volkerak, Zijpe, Krammer,                                                                                 Dosterschelde, Kanal through  Zui                                                                   Beveland, Westerschelde, Kanal Gent-                                                             Terneuzen

Tuesday               October 11th       Gent – Terneuzen: 40 km via Kanal                                                                   Terneuzen

Wednesday        October 12th       Terneuzen – Antwerpen: 75 km Kanal                                                            Gent-Terneuzen, Westerschelde, Hafen                                                          Antwerpen

Thursday             October 13th       Antwerpen – Nijmegen: 164 km, 2 locks                                                          via Schelde, Hollands  Diep,                                                                                Lek/Niederrhein passing Dordrecht

Friday                    October 14th       Nijmegen – Koln: 195 km via Lek, Waal,                                                           Xanten passing Duisburg, Dusseldorf,                                                             Leverkusen

After another (short) visit to Koln before Return flight to Dublin

3RD SEPTEMBER Cruising and driving the Inishowen Peninsula

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RATHMULLAN TO BUNCRANA FERRY – just happened to arrive at the same time as the ferry so did a change of plan and hit for the Inishowen Peninsula.

The pier we landed at in Buncrana was the scene of tragedy last year when a car slipped into the sea and five from the same family were drowned. Today families are playing and fishing there!

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DUNREE (taken from info at entrance to museum)

Lough Swilly has long been of immense historical significance. The Norsemen and later the Anglo-Normans and the mercenary soldiers, the Gallowglasses used the Swilly when coming to Ireland

The Flight of the Earls, O’Neill and O’Donnell into exile took place from Rathmullan in September 1607. Wolfe Tone was taken under naval arrest into Buncrana in 1798 and In more recent times during World War I, the Grand Fleet sheltered in the Lough.

Near to the spot where Wolfe Tone was brought ashore in 1798 a small fort was erected to guard against the possible return of a French invasion fleet.
In the late 19th Century the fort was modernised and enlarged with the building of the, ‘Top Fort’ on Dunree Hill. During World War I it stood guard whilst Admiral Lord Jellicoe’s fleet anchored in Lough Swilly prior to engaging the German Navy at the Battle of Jutland.

During World War II Irish forces were stationed at Fort Dunree to prevent the warring nations violating the country’s neutrality.

Today Fort Dunree houses a fascinating display of military memorabilia and artefacts as well as an array of large guns from the 20th Century.

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MAMORE GAP

An exciting journey through the bleakest of terrains. Other than a sign indicating THE WILD ATLANTIC WAY (N) this road was unsignposted. The car pictured in front had stopped ME to ask direction!!!! and we planned to travel in convoy until we met someone. This guy was driving home the cattle and had no idea why we were travelling this route – “There’s nothing to be seen up here”. Anyway we made it back to civilization.

DOAGH FAMINE VILLAGE
what a treat – came upon this attraction quite by chance – a random pamphlet on the hotel reception display. BUT WHAT AN ATTRACTION!!!

The whole attraction is built around and includes original thatched dwellings which were still inhabited up until 1983 by the owners family and the tour guide, Pat Doherty. Its a selection of life size displays portraying life in Ireland from the 1840s until the present day.

Original Thatched Dwellings

One of my favourite exhibitions was “The Irish Wake”. Pat’s stories about the traditions that are associated with the wake and how similar they are to customs in other countries were amazing

Irish Wake

Orange Hall

Religion has played a major part in Irish history. In the late eighteenth century many people from the Established Church felt under threat from Irish rebels and so they set up an organisation to help protect themselves.

The Catholic Church was not the only persecuted group – the Presbyterian Church suffered and had to met in secret in such places as barns and forges. They called their informal places of worship ‘Meeting Houses’.

Catholics met at Mass Rocks which are still to be found scattered throughout the country. mass was celebrated in secret. The stories of hedge schools was also part of this exhibition.

Mass Rock

One of the latest additions to the Famine Village and the idea for it came from long term republican prisoner Eddie Gallagher. A safe house was a place of refuge by those running from the authorities.

Republican Safe House

It was a place with secret passage ways where the escapee could hide. Each room in the safe house tells part of the story of the road to peace in Northern Ireland. During this journey you will meet Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams sitting side by side. And, not only that, the story also covers more recent historical events including Martin McGuiness and the Queen.

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I’ve always loved history … but there were facts and stories here that I’d never heard before.

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Just over a year ago, I went to Mizen Head … now on Malin – amazing!

I’ll visit again to see the Northern Lights. It was too overcast tonight.

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You couldn’t visit a peninsula and not think of seafood! Had the most wonderful seafood dinner here – crab mornay to die for!!!!

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Esky Bay & The Curiosity Shop Malin Head is located between Malin Town and Malin Head Banbas Crown on the coast road. The Curiosity Shop in Malin Head is the country’s most northerly shop. Owner Peter McAvenue also acts as a tour guide for ‘Inishowen Tourism’ and stocks all sorts of brochures for things to see and do across the Inishowen Peninsula. I could have spent hours chatting with Peter and looking through the many curios on display. Instead spent my money and bought a “whimsy” that resembled one Mam had in 32, a really nice Guinness glass, a tea pot and a quaint seagull fishing ashtray!

Didn’t buy the 2 gorgeous cast iron Herons – they would have looked super in the garden …. maybe next time!!!