CYCLING THE GREEN HEART – Holland’s most beautiful

The oldest town in the Netherlands. Not so many people know about it.

The oldest town in the Netherlands. Not so many people know about it.

‘This landscape always reminds me of Holland,’ said my mother, years ago, somewhere outside Melbourne, on a road between Springvale and Frankston.

She’d never seen Holland and neither had I, but we both knew what she meant. What I only discovered recently was that the image we had of classic Dutch landscape came from 19th century paintings. Even the word ‘landscape’ comes from the Dutch ‘landschap’. Continue reading

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COMPUTER PROBLEMS? – dial a Dutch genius

We often feel much like the monk in the above, rightly-famous Norwegian comedy sketch, summoning the mediaeval help desk. (If you haven’t watched it before, do so now.)

The source of all IT wisdom in the family is our son, but he’s inconveniently living in LA at the moment.

So it’s wonderful that, having not long ago acquired a Smart TV that’s far smarter than we are, we’ve discovered Student Aan Huis (‘Student at Home’) Continue reading

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TRAVELLER ZOO – Hostus airbnbus

Hostus
Hosts are always upbeat about their outer suburban ghettos, enthusiastically referring their guests to fascinating 40-minute strolling routes to the nearest public transport and hip little joints serving the best Chinese takeaway in Kazakhstan.

Identifying call: ‘You’ll love it here, guys; this is a cool neighbourhood the tourists don’t know about.’

Illustration from the outer reaches of the far-flung Simon Letch. First published, Melbourne Age and Sydney Morning Herald, 2015.

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EISE EISINGA’S INVENTION – a Friesian marvel

You may think this is just another old living room with a bed in a cupboard. You'd be wrong.

You may think this is just another 18th century room with a bed in a cupboard. You’d be wrong.

‘I know we’re a bit cramped for space, darling, what with the kids sleeping in a drawer under our bed, but I have a new hobby. I want to build a planetarium in our living room ceiling.’

Without the aid of a computer, electricity or an education past primary school level, Eise Eisinga did just that. It took him from 1774 till 1781 to build a wooden, clockwork-powered working model of the Solar System. It’s now World Heritage listed, and it’s easily the most extraordinary thing we’ve seen in Friesland, in the northern Netherlands. Continue reading

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TRAVELLER ZOO – Sculpturus imitatus

SculpturusAny public sculpture in vaguely human form, preferably naked, attracts pairs of these playful, imaginative creatures. One imitatus cleverly mimics the artwork’s pose, while his or her mate points the camera.

Identifying call: ‘Ha, ha, ha – that’s perfect – ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!’

Illustration by the playful, imaginative Simon Letch, first publication by the deadly serious Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne Age, 2015.

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ABOUT THESE UGLY, NOISY WINDMILLS…

A Dutch wind farm. 'Too noisy,' says Mr Abbott. He must have extremely acute hearing.

A Dutch wind farm. ‘Too noisy,’ says Mr Abbott, who must have extremely sensitive hearing.

Dear Mr Abbott (Prime Minister of Australia) and Mr Hockey (Australian Treasurer),

I’m following your pronouncements online while spending some time in Holland, and I understand that neither of you like windmills. They’re ‘visually appalling’ according to you, Mr Abbott, and ‘utterly offensive’ in your opinion, Mr Hockey.

I read that your government has gone so far as to order the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to cease funding new wind farms.

You may be surprised to hear that many people over this side of the world seem to enjoy them. Continue reading

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THE BIESBOSCH, HOLLAND – does this tale ring alarm bells?

Once upon a time, there was a place of fertile fields...

Once upon a time, there was a place of fertile fields…

Everybody knew the dykes were in poor repair. Extra taxes were raised to pay for urgent maintenance work.

But the dukes of Holland, the Hoeks and the Kabaljauws, were squabbling among themselves. They spent the tax money on weapons and armies and no doubt told their subjects it was essential for ‘security’. Fixing the dykes was important, just unaffordable right now. It could wait till the threat from the enemy subsided and the economy improved.

Then came St Elizabeth’s Night, November 19th, 1421. Continue reading

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