My last post was about the lovely Ahr valley and the surrounding Eifel mountain range. Perhaps you can have a look at the pictures I took there. Then came torrential rains, floods, total destruction. I haven’t been back there but here is a collection of photo’s from the internet that may give you an impression.
Corona wasn’t the only crisis then. Fires, floods, storms, droughts…the climate crisis is pouncing on us!
In the beginning of 2021 vaccines against the coronavirus started appearing and we were hoping to get rid of the little bugger. False. This little bugger lays bare the vulnerability of human society. First there is the need for socializing, which greatly helps the virus to spread. Second there is stupidity, which affects us on all levels. Our government reacted slowly and made many mistakes. The team of specialists suggested that we would soon reach herd immunity, if some 60 to 70% would have passed through corona. Never mind the massive numbers of people that would die in the meantime. This was the Bolsonaro strategy. Currently we know that Portugal has almost reached herd immunity at 98%. How could experts say herd immunity would be reached at 70%? We know from other diseases for which we vaccinate that herd immunity is reached only deep into the 90%.Thirdly there are the confused and paranoid, who don’t want to be vaccinated. They don’t trust it. They don’t trust science. They don’t give a shit about others, let them die of corona. In Holland they are some 15% and they hold society hostage. We can’t be free, we have to conform to corona measures: social distancing, face masks, corona passes. The hospitals are crowded with corona patients who take the place of people with other health problems. All treatments are delayed.
I wonder how come that dutch people have some 15% anti-vaxers while the Portuguese have only 2%. For one thing I think the dutch are generally very spoiled and egocentric. Non-conformism they call it. Second there is no leadership to speak of. Government and affiliated institutions have been (slow) reactive instead of (fast) proactive.
I got vaccinated in May, and most of my relatives and friends were also happy to get the jab. Some hesitated but took the vaccin anyway as responsible citizens. We were looking forward to freedom. We started traveling again. This site bears the title “art and nature travel blog”, but before the vaccine travel was difficult if not impossible, museums were closed and nature was limited to the vicinity of our home. From this is derived the first series of images: winter and spring.
We really had some winter, short, but powerful with great skating. This is relatively rare because the sea tempers. Many of the larger waters were frozen, like the Mooie Nel where I took the skating photo. The Mooie Nel is the mouth of the river Spaarne that runs through Haarlem. Its name means “beautiful Nelly” (Nel, Neel, Neeltje, Nellie), a name which doesn’t have any of the connotations it has in English, but it is a bit old-fashioned. It derives from Cornelia, a name of Roman origin, “belonging to the Cornelius family”. Spring was exuberant, perhaps the most impressive I’ve ever seen. But then, it is really impossible to compare this spring to the multitude of previous springs. Bye bye memory.
I had calculated that we would be fully vaccinated in spring, and Herr Meyer’s apartment in Samedan was reserved for the end of June. So were hotels on the way, stopping in St Vith, Molsheim and Münsterlingen. Vaccination programs had been slow in most of Europe and it wasn’t clear whether our trip go through. But it did, no problems at all, no border control, nothing. We only had to wear face masks everywhere. In the Engadin—Engiadina—spring comes late, in June, because of the altitude. “En” is the original name of the Inn river, Engiadina is the home of the people who live there. It’s as close as you can get to Shangri-La. On the way back we stopped near Feldberg in the Black Forest and in Bourscheid, Luxemburg.
Still, the human being is generally a pest, and this has its impact on the Engadin as well. Noise noise noise: building, mowing, drilling, blowing. Mountain bikes on the footpaths. I will soon stop going there. In Shangri-La people have eternal youth, but once you leave it your real age sets in immediately. People who have lived there for ages without aging turn into skeletons as they cross the pass into the real world. Well, the comparison to Engadin and the rest of world is a bit skewed, but you get the idea. Anyway, it’s not too bad, but deteriorating. In “western” culture the idea of progress plays a big role. Hindu philosophy on the contrary proposes decline as the general direction. As a youngster I was quite optimistic, whereas I have gradually become more and more pessimistic. I suppose the ancient Indian philosophers were generally quite decrepit, while their modern “western” counterparts were naive juveniles. It’s simple: with age the serotonin-endorphin-dopamine reabsorption levels increase.
Back in the Netherlands summer was enjoyable. Not too hot, unlike 2020, which was unbearable. Some people complained it was a bad summer. Not only that is statistically untrue, but also senseless whining which a sweater will dismantle. Perhaps they had in mind to lie on the beach and get a tan. I suppose this is suitable for the brainless and those who have turned their brains off or never switched it on in the first place.
September is an excellent month for travel, especially to France and Italy. In France I particularly like Alsace, which combines the best of France and Germany. It even reminds of Switzerland at times. People don’t think much of Switzerland, but it combined Germany, France and Italy, not to forget Grishun, les Grisons or Graubünden. Einstein, Jung, Giacometti, Rousseau, le Corbusier. But the food is terrible I hear you say. Well, the most famous cooks in the world are Benoît Violier and Daniel Humm. The French like the typical Swiss concept of “ville fleurie” which takes on its ultimate stage in Alsace. Colmar is possibly the best base. The town is charming and the Unterlinden museum superb. It can be very hot there, once there was a canicule of over 40°C mid september. Not this time, weather was wonderful. In Italy my favorite spot is Orta San Giulio. The Orta lake, the town, the island, it’s all wonderful. And there is so much to see in the vicinity. Spectacular are the Sacri Monti especially the one of Varallo. It is a very interesting and unusual art form. First you pick a mountain top that is suitable for building a series of small chapels and preferably a big church as wel. In the chapels you place sculpture representing stages in the life of Jesus, possibly with a painted decor. The one in Varallo was entirely done by Gaudenzio Ferrari (1475-1546). I’m not familiar with this phenomenon apart from the one in Congonhas (Minas Gerais, Brazil) created by Aleijadinho in the late eighteenth century.
The wines of both Alsace and Novara are fabulous. I particularly recommend the Riesling from the Rangen of Thann and the Ruchè wines from Castagnole Monferrato. Of course Ghemme and Gattinara are also delicious but the complexity of the rare Ruchè grape is matchless.
Between these trips I also managed to take a few nice picture nearer to home. We have two major rivers flowing through the country, the Rhine and the Meuse. Rivers are delightful and some of them offer opportunities of driving or walking along. In the Netherlands there are many more rivers than the ones mentioned above. First there is the Schelde in the south, not so big but historically very important. Then there are the IJssel, the Amstel and other branches of the big ones. And then there are countless small rivers, certainly more than a hundred! Although some of them should be considered rivulets others are quite impressive. I mentioned the Spaarne above and in the gallery linked below are some images of a lovely boat trip on the Zaan.
Museums had been closed for a long time but they reopened with splendor. I’m including a few pictures too. There were two expositions about Frida Kahlo (1907-1954), and one about Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1653). Frida is probably the most famous woman painter ever, and her turbulent life may have played a role in the attention she received. Her work is absolutely spine chilling and amazingly unique. The exposition in Cobra (Amstelveen) was about her and Diego Rivera, the one in Assen about her alone and very impressive. You can still see it. I was slightly reticent to go there—it’s not next door and there was much ado about her personal assets—but it was very much worth while. I realized that the exhibition of her clothing is integral to her work as an artist, she must have been a walking painting (when she could walk…). Artemisia drew my attention long ago and when I heard there was going to be an exposition I leapt at it. She was born some twenty years after Caravaggio and both she and her father (from whom she learnt painting) were deeply influenced by him. Some people don’t know it, but Caravaggio is considered the beginning of modern painting. Rembrandt, who lives a few generations later, was a Caravaggisto. Artemisia also lived a life with great ups and downs, raped in her teens and subject of both machist and feminist interpretations. She certainly stood her grounds, as a painter and as a person.
At the moment we are surrounded by autumn.