After the wonderful time spent in France seeing friends, eating great food and touring museums and cathedrals, it was time to head north to Belgium. After spending the day in Bastogne visiting World War II sites, we headed to Bruges, Belgium. I had been there once before after teaching in France and I so loved it that I wanted to make sure we stopped there for a few days. It is one of the most picturesque places in all of Europe and built on a waterway of canals, it is often referred to as the “Venice of the North”.
Bruges is also home to one of my all time favorite artists, Jan Van Eyck, who created the Ghent Altarpiece. Love. Anyway, Bruges honors all of its artists, writers and composers with statues like this:
And one cannot leave Belgium without eating a delicious Belgian waffle….there goes another pound! (truly gained almost 10 pounds while gone!!!)
It was a lot of fun visiting this museum even though there were very few original paintings left in the house. But being a collector of all things fantastic, Ensor’s home itself was like a cabinet of curiosities with crazy monkey skeletons, brightly colored masks and all sorts of oddities. Loved it. Down the street on the boardwalk in Ostend was an artful installation…..loved the orange color against the sky and sea…..
After Ostende we drove to Flanders Field and spent the day visiting World War I battlefield sites of trench warfare. This area was known as the Western Front and the town of Ypres was the site of many battles. They have an incredible museum there.
Traveling with my husband who is a former European history and art history teacher is fantastic. He is a wealth of knowledge……and because of this we made a detour to see a German cemetery because of the famous sculpture there by German female artist, Kathe Kollwitz whose work often touches on the tragedies of war. This particular cemetery features one of her most famous pieces called Grieving ParentsShe and her husband lost a son in the war and instead of comforting one another in their loss, they are depicted as isolated and grieving in their own way….the headstone of their son is in front of them….it is a very emotional and heartfelt rendering of the human condition.
After our visit to Belgium where we drank way too much Belgian beer (another 2 pounds gained!) we headed to The Netherlands. First stop there was in The Hague. We met up with one of my husband’s former students who works at the International Court of Justice and we were allowed to sit in on a trial the next day……needless to say, it was an incredible experience.We also saw the Peace Palace in The Hague: On a lighter note, we went to go see the tulips which were in season. Wow, I couldn’t believe my eyes! This first shot was taken of tulip fields…..Then we visited the famous Keukenhof Gardens, the Disneyland of flower lovers! It is one of the world’s largest gardens and it did not disappoint!
After our cultural visit to The Hague, we moved on to Haarlem, a small town outside of Amsterdam and we were so glad we decided to stay here because it was so quaint and charming and was home to painter, Franz Hals, one of David’s favorite Dutch painters. The Franz Hals Museum was one of the best museums we visited. It had a beautiful collection and they had a tulip show running concurrently so that in each room, artwork was paired with flower arrangements! Awesome!
And this is where Part 2 ends…..because the next day we boarded our ship to set sail to the Baltic……(possibly to be continued!)