I could smell spring in the air. It’s 10 degrees, sunny, blue skies and feels like 10-degrees. (In the Netherlands we have this gevoelstemperatuur, which literally translates to “feel temperature”. Depending on the wind, gevoelstemperatuur can be twice of thrice as cold as real temperature). Last week when the ‘beast from the east” passed by, it suddenly felt like -20 degrees in many parts of the country, particularly in Rotterdam where the hard, icy North Sea winds blows like a hurricane on stormy days.
But I am not complaining. Not really, because there was a lot of snow this year. You see, in this part of Europe, winter usually means rain and heavy storms, so when Netherlands become Narnia-land, we frolic in the snow like people from the tropics.
Every year the Dutch from the North of the country, in Friesland particularly, are wishing for a real winter so that they can hold their ice skating competition (Elfstedentocht). And every year, their hearts get broken because it hardly gets freezing cold here.
But this year was an exception. In early December the first snow storm came and blanketed the whole country in immaculate white powder. It lasted for only two days but nobody minded. There still wasn’t any Elfstedentoch but many canals froze, and people went crazy skating on natural ice especially in Amsterdam.
Among the things I am grateful about living in the Netherlands is my proximity to the presence of art greatness. The most beautiful works of masters like Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Picasso, Breugel, among others, are just one bus or train away.
I’ve gone back to Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo. But this time especially for Vincent Van Gogh. Beside the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, Kröller-Müller has the second largest collection of Van Gogh art in the world (90 paintings and over 180 drawings). This museum is located in the heart of the Dutch national park De Hoge Veluwe so you can combine a trip nature and art visit in one day or one weekend. I would not suggest to do both both in a day.
The couple Anton and Helene Kröller-Mülle were one of Van Gogh’s first patrons, through his art teacher H.P. Bremmer who convinced them to buy his art. The personal connection gave them access to some of his most sentimental pieces. With these collections you can follow the development of Van Gogh’s style and state of mind, from his early years as a painter until his golden and perhaps most turbulent days in Arles France.
I can stand in front of a painting for many hours examining the details, the stroke, the colours. In this series of (very close up) photos, I’d like to show why I admire this Dutch master. You could feel his emotion in every stroke, in every line of his painting. Take for example this portrait of a woman:
“I’m so hungry. Let’s just eat in the first restaurant that we’ll see,” I told my colleague when we finally reached Trondheim after a morning drive from Hitra. I think it was past one in the afternoon. We dropped off our luggage at our rented Air BnB apartment and quickly head towards the centre.
Literally the first restaurant you’ll see when you walk down Øvre Bakklandet street in Trondheim centre is Baklandet Skydsstation. It’s actually a cafe, with a really cramped space full of Norwegian trinkets, old photographs, paintings and crochet wall decorations. Housed in one of those typical Trondheim houses with colourful facade, the interior looks like the living room of an English grandmother.
That’s probably what charmed National Geographic’s Andrew Evans when he listed this cafe as best in the world in 2012. I learned that of course, later on. During lunchtime the place is packed. As you can imagine the Norwegians are not exactly tiny people but the chairs and tables at Bklandet Skydsstation are not for those with long legs.
You’d be welcome with a Danish herring table full of little condiments. I went passed it and went straight for the menu. And since my colleague is Norwegian, I knew what to order.
Of course in Norway you start (or end) a meal with Aquavit. Then there’s nothing more filling than a warm soup in a cold, rainy September afternoon. We ordered Bacalao soup and Wild reindeer casserole, paired with Norwegian flatbread (perfect for scooping the solid bits). It was a no-nonsense hearty meal. Just like what you’d get at your grandmother’s house.
So if you ever find yourself in Trondheim, have lunch here. You’d enjoy it. Do visit their website too. It’s full of interesting history not only about the cafe but about Aquavit as well. This is not a sponsored post.
Baklandet Skydsstation Cafe
Øvre Bakklandet 33, Trondheim
Click here to view in Google Maps
Tel: +47 73 92 10 44
One afternoon, we decided to leave the infant and the elderly in the rented house. After two days of long drives and sauntering, they needed to recover. And we needed our private time as a couple. In the mid-day summer heat, we hopped on the car to find Mille de Etangs or The Thousand Ponds, lured by the aerial shots I saw online. From Rupt Sur Moselle, we followed the route to Faucogney-et-la-Mer, thinking it will be easy to find such a popular spot.
How wrong we were! This is France’s countryside, not the Netherlands. Not everything is 30 minutes away and even if they are, you must have a really good sense of direction or a professional GPS to find the neatly-hidden spots in this “wilderness”. Because we didn’t want to spend all our afternoon with our faces stuck on a tiny screen, we ditched the mobile phone and followed our instincts.
We turned right somewhere, on a tiny village road, unpaved, easy to miss, almost concealed by overgrowth – the kind you see in horror films, which one way or the other, leads to the savage demise of the main character.