Friday, December 28, 2012

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Simple honest praise

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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Rotterdam - Places of pilgrimage - 3

Preliminary results
With 66 data points more patterns start to emerge. Most are very obvious:

  • Cartography and topography is hard work. Even with the modern tools.
  • The highest concentration is around the city center and the museums. That's because I come here most often. It's the area I know best.
  • The area is bounded by bicycle travel time. It's unusual to drive longer than 45 minutes to visit a place of pilgrimage.
  • Most places are in older areas of the city.
  • The southern part of Rotterdam is under represented. Most places are near to river crossings (bridges and tunnels).
  • I have exhausted the ready supply of places in memory. I will have to browse my picture archives for more. And I will have to redo some bicycle expeditions to remember forgotten places.
  • I will have to use the underground to explore more distant places.
  • It might be possible in future to make a map of boring and non-boring areas of Rotterdam.
  • I don't know if photographs of places would be better than the current text descriptions.

Third list and map
  1. View of the Erasmus bridge by night, Prins Hendrikkade, Noordereiland - A beautifully dystopian view of mechanical modern architecture, combined with 1950´s architecture behind your back.
  2. The Wilhelmina fountain, Burgemeester Hoffmanplein, Noordereiland - A beautiful old-style fountain from an undemocratic age when you still could build pompous monuments for queens. It should be done again.
  3. Half-life atmosphere at night, Burgemeester Hoffmanlaan, Noordereiland - At night the stairs at the back of this building have a surreal, half-life like atmosphere. Pleasantly dystopian.
  4. Unexpected long back alley, Sleephellingstraat, Noordereiland - A long back-alley running along city-gardens and backs of storage spaces. Look through one windows and you see blank monitors showing white noise.
  5. Semi-forgotten playground, Marinestraat, De Ruyterstraat, Noordereiland - A scruffy playground surrounded by strangely clipped poplars. Last time I was there it was full of sparrows. You don't see these often in Rotterdam. According to some maps this should be the exact location of Rotterdam at N 51.55 - E 4.30.
  6. Green man, Nieuwe Binnenweg - A Green Man sculpture has been rescued from a demolished building and has been attached to the facade of the modern apartment building. Such is the power of these mythological images.
  7. Green man, Gouvernestraat, Nieuwe Binnenweg - One of the few remaining green man sculptures in Rotterdam. You find these on late 1800 - early 1900 neo-renaissance buildings.
  8. Green man, Westersingel - Most beautiful green man sculptures in Rotterdam. Four classic green man faces. You find these on late 1800 - early 1900 neo-renaissance buildings.
  9. The Caland monument at the Veerkade - A spectacularly different place. It feels tropical, like Curacao or Suriname. A southern atmosphere with the ethnographic museum and the monument to the engineer who designed Rotterdam's harbor connection with the sea.
  10. Van 't Hoff monument, 's-Gravendijkwal. - Jacobus Henricus van 't Hoff was a Dutch chemistry researcher and the first winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. The monument is one of the few "industrial age" statues in Rotterdam. It's an interestingly strange location between 19th century luxury houses (housing several Scandinavian churches) and a busy, dirty car tunnel.
  11. The LaPlace restaurant, Oude Binnenweg, Karel Doormanstraat - I was surprised to find several commercial establishments on my list. But this one has passable coffee, great cakes and sandwiches and - most important - a great view of Rotterdam. It's always inspiring to sit there and look out over the rooftops. A great starting place for walks.
  12. The Bijenkorf cafetaria, Coolsingel, Van Oldenbarneveltplaats - Another commercial establishment on my list. But this one has good coffee, passable cakes and good sandwiches and - most important - a great view of Rotterdam through its high and broad windows. It's always inspiring to sit there and look out over the busy streets.
  13. The invisible city park, Karel Doormanhof - An unexpected oasis of silence inside the busy city center. A bit unkempt with old trees, neglected backsides of building, a playground and a parking lot. It's relaxing to be inside this unexciting space.
  14. The statue of Christ, Wijkpark Oude westen, West Kruiskade - An unexpectedly Catholic statue of the Sacred Heart of Christ. Impressive and moving even though it's very traditional. One would not expect such a statue in the mixed Chinese / Muslim / old (protestant) area of Rotterdam.
  15. Old wall, Wijkpark Oude Westen, West Kruiskade - On very urban looking old wall. A bit run-down, eroded and dirty. It's a pleasure to look at. Feels more like France than Holland.
  16. Old windmill, Noordschans, Mathenesserdijk, Delfshaven - The rump of an old windmill. It's an anomalous object between the modern buildings. But there are more old remains in this area, probably one of the most authentic old parts of Rotterdam.
  17. Poplar alley, Waalhaven Oostzijde - Especially impressive on a calm Sunday afternoon in autumn. The sound of the rustling leaves along the silent railroad tracks is very romantic.
  18. The monolith, Frederikstraat, 1e Crooswijksedwarsstraat - Clive Barker, Imajica: But its truest name was also perhaps its plainest: the Pivot. Controversy had raged for centuries about whether the Unbeheld had set it down in the smoky wastes of the Kwem to mark the midpoint between the perimeters of the Imajica, or whether a forest of such columns had once stood in the area, and some later hand (moved, perhaps, by Hapexamendios' wisdom) had leveled all but this one. Whatever the arguments about its origins, however, nobody had ever contested the power that it had accrued standing at the center of the Dominions. Lines of thought had passed across the Kwem for centuries, carrying a freight of force which the Pivot had drawn to itself with a magnetism that was virtually irresistible.
  19. Santos warehouse, Brede Hilledijk - Beautiful relic from the "real" harbour times. Massive stone and brick, very closed facade. Santos was a source of coffee in colonial times.
  20. Jewish cemetery, Toepad - Beautiful old trees near the entrance. Biblical inscriptions. Sad gravestones. Atmospheric buildings. You can go inside if you cover your head. I prefer to look through the gate, I don´t want to disturb this place, I´m just a random outsider.
  21. Jewish cemetery, Oostzeedijk - You can see the gravestones if you look over the wall. You cannot go inside. A wonderful and mysterious enclosed island, that has somehow survived history.
  22. Jewish cemetery, Vondelweg - A few gravestones are left in the lawn. Two angels have been placed on the roof of the appartment building.
  23. Paradise church, Nieuwe Binnenweg - A neo-baroque church of the Old-Catholic parish (a more sympathetic version of the Catholic faith). Beautiful on the inside and a surprising island of old-school religion in this shopping area.
  24. Eendrachtskerk, Eendrachtsstraat - A beautiful but somewhat austere church. I witnessed a very impressive Good Friday service here.
  25. Straight line view, Schiedamseweg - One of the longest straight streets in Rotterdam. You can look a long way towards Schiedam without any obstacles.
  26. Long view, Laan op Zuid - Another long and straight street. You can look a long way towards the South from here.
  27. "Punched card monument", Plein Loods 24 - A wall with a strange texture reminiscent of punched cards or punched tape. It is part of a WW-II monument commemorating the Jews who were deported from here.
Google map

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The apparition of the Iron Duke

A few months ago I was sampling a thick volume of poems by Hans Faverey (1933-1990), a modern Dutch metaphysical poet that I like very much. Here I found one of his earlier poems, that I had never seen before:
Met lieslaarzen aan?

Met lieslaarzen aan.
De ijzeren hertog?

De ijzeren hertog.

Heeft hij de wind
in de rug? En roept
hij iets, hard?

Ja. De ijzeren hertog,
met de wind in de rug,
en met lieslaarzen aan,

riep iets heel hard.
Wearing waders?

Wearing waders.
The Iron Duke?

The Iron Duke.

Does he have the wind
at his back? And does he
shout something, very loudly?

Yes. The Iron Duke,
with the wind at his back,
and with waders on,

shouted something very loudly.
The moment I read this poem I had a vision of the "statue of the Iron Count". Really.
I saw the statue clearly. It was situated in Rotterdam. It was huge. It was invisible.
And it captured the essence of the city. It was a city god. An angel.

Since then I've been thinking about the Iron Count. Where is he exactly? I have found fragments of his enormous bulk and frame:
  • The cast-iron men of Antony Gormley had the correct material, weight and hardness. And they had the required feeling of mystery and slight menace. They were a good start. But they were too small.
  • The statue of the nationalist poet Hendrik Tollens has the right size if we include the pedestal. And the right proud and defiant posture. But the whiteness is all wrong. We need darkness for the Iron Count.
  • We even have a statue of a real count: William IV of Holland. And it is made of dark metal. And it has a menacing appearance because of the heavy helmet. But it is much too small. And the horse does not fit into the picture.
  • And then I saw the latest project of one of my favorite artists: Harmen de Hoop. This has the exact size, material, "look and feel" and placement. Wonderful. But it is not in the right place. In Rotterdam there are only two places suitable for the Iron Count: in the middle of the Kralingse Plas (our biggest artificial lake) or in the Nieuwe Waterweg (the harbour river).

Now I know where he is, I will greet him when I go by.

There are two Iron Dukes and both fit the context of the poem:
  • Fernando Álvarez de Toledo (1508-1583), duke of van Alva. Nicknamed "the Iron Duke" in the Low Countries because of his harsh and cruel rule there and his role in the execution of his political opponents and the massacre of several cities.
  • Arthur Wellesley (1769-1852), duke of Wellington.  His name was given to Wellington boots, after the custom-made boots he wore instead of traditional Hessian boots.
And the boots also fit the context of the poem:
  • In his biography, it is reported that Wellington noted that many cavalry soldiers sustained crippling wounds by having been shot in the knee — a very vulnerable and exposed part of the body when one is mounted on a horse. He proposed a change in the design of the typical boot by having it cut so as to extend the front upward to cover the knee. This modification afforded some measure of protection in battle.
  • In World War II, Hunter Boot was requested to supply vast quantities of Wellington and thigh boots. In the Netherlands, the British forces were working in flooded conditions which demanded Wellingtons and thigh boots in vast supplies.
Hans Faverey was first pointed out to me by the Rotterdam artist Henri van Zanten. He has also shown met the beautiful rural poetry of Habakuk II de Balker.

Harmen de Hoop: -
Information on the The Iron Duke - Wikipedia

Friday, December 7, 2012

Churches on the horizon

Elements of the Dutch landscape - 8
After 1496 Erasmus visited Holland only on hasty journeys. There is no evidence that after 1501 he ever set foot on Dutch soil. He dissuaded his own compatriots abroad from returning to Holland. He spoke as a rule about Holland with a sort of apologetic contempt. 'I see that you are content with Dutch fame,' he writes to his old friend William Hermans, who like Cornelius Aurelius had begun to devote his best forces to the history of his native country.

"If they are somewhat sensual and excessive at meals, it results partly from their plentiful supply: nowhere is import so easy and fertility so great. What an extent of lush meadows, how many navigable rivers! Nowhere are so many towns crowded together within so small an area; not large towns, indeed, but excellently governed."
 "If a 'Batavian ear' means a horror of Martial's obscene jokes, I could wish that all Christians might have Dutch ears. When we consider their morals, no nation is more inclined to humanity and benevolence, less savage or cruel. Their mind is upright and void of cunning and all humbug."
 "Their cleanliness is praised by everybody. Nowhere are such large numbers of moderately learned persons found, though extraordinary and exquisite erudition is rather rare."
 "At that time I wrote not for Italians, but for Hollanders, that is to say, for the dullest ears. If the story is not very witty, remember it is a Dutch story."
"In Holland the air is good for me, but the extravagant carousals annoy me; add to this the vulgar uncultured character of the people, the violent contempt of study, no fruit of learning, the most egregious envy."
Dutch proverb:
Al ziet men kerk en toren staan, dan is de reis nog niet gedaan.
When you see the church and it's tower the trip is still not finished.
Huizinga's text was translated from the Dutch by F. Hopman and first published by Charles Scribner's Sons in 1924. The section from the Letters of Erasmus was translated by Barbara Flower.
I found this informative and extremely readable book at the Rotterdam second-hand book market. It cost me only 1 euro!