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Archive for the ‘The European Diaries’ Category

 

The Guardian Angels who preside over the affairs of yours truly recently enabled a short trip to Netherlands. Other than a wonderful meeting with some fans of P G Wodehouse in Amsterdam, one could also visit Zaanse Schans and Rotterdam.

Of tilting at windmills

Zaanse Schans in Netherlands is best known for its collection of well-preserved historic windmills and houses. Built from 1576 AD onwards, these windmills have been used for multiple purposes. Claude Monet was so impressed that he came up with several paintings depicting these.

From 1961 to 1974 old buildings from all over the Zaanstreek were relocated to the area, so as to preserve this unique architectural heritage and to promote this as a unique open air museum of windmills, old houses and traditional crafts.

While crossing the windswept bridge over the river Zaan, one is captivated by the panoramic view of windmills. One could be excused to feel like a Don Quixote who is firming up plans to tilt at some of the magnificent wooden giants.

Much before the management concepts of Customer Orientation and Flexible Manufacturing Concepts came into vogue, the entrepreneurs owning the windmills had put these into practice. The mills were producing whatever the market demanded.

Tobacco leaves were chopped and pulverized in the past to produce snuff in as many as 83 windmills in the Zaan region. From 1675, around 20 smaller windmills were used to crush mustard.

Over time, in keeping with the demand pattern, windmills underwent a transformation. For example, one of the mills was originally a paint mill, but went on to be a mustard mill, tobacco grinder and board sawmill. Post 1911, it was converted into a timber factory with biscuit boxes being made for the Verkade brand. From 1961 onwards, the famous Mustard was produced here.

Of aniseed products and cow creamers

Some of the windmills have been making spices. Some of you may know that herbs and spices form an integral part of the Dutch cuisine. Spiced biscuits and sweets are commonly found. Mulled wine, aniseed milk and even some sandwich toppings containing aniseed have these. Traditionally, the birth ritual celebrating the arrival of a newborn baby involved the proud father stirring a cinnamon stick into the kandeel, a liqueur, providing strength and warding off evil spirits.

If Jeeves and Bertie Wooster had ever visited the area, the duo would have been delighted to have had an easy access to aniseed products. Luring back a dog McIntosh would then have been the work of a moment for them, enabling them to avoid a trip across the Atlantic so as to escape the fury of Aunt Agatha.

While in Rotterdam, yours truly was delighted to have had the opportunity of sneering at the cow creamers displayed in one of the stores. Being aware that these were indubitably of modern Dutch origin, one lost no time in registering scorn. The same was the treatment meted out to some distant cousins of the Empress of Blandings on the next shelf. However, all this sneering and scorning did not leave the sales girl on the counter amused.

But the aim of one’s life is never to keep sales girls amused. Rather, it is to outgrow the inane desires to possess material objects and thereby enjoy unalloyed bliss.

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2019/03/08/another-drones-club-meeting-in-amsterdam)

 

 

 

 

 

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The Art Gallery at Trondheim has a large collection of Norwegian art from around 1850 up to the present. It also has an impressive collection of Danish art and a significant representation of other renowned international artists.

Savour some of these at leisure:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To see artworks of a different culture is quite instructive. The kind of natural forces the people deal with. The kind of life they led. Such mundane happenings as calling a physician, visiting the town square, listening to a street musician or even depicting the means of livelihood of people – all these get captured in exquisite detail. Portraits of some persons – famous or otherwise – invariably form an integral part of the art collection. Even abstract art conveys the inner state of the artist at the time the work was getting done, possibly with a benevolent muse by his side!

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2018/09/01/a-walk-around-the-city-of-trondheim-in-norway-part-1-of-2)

 

 

 

 

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Just like human beings who boast of a life cycle, many of our cities also undergo cyclical changes. These gain importance over a period of time and then end up losing it at times, based on their economic and political fortunes at a given point in time.

But a ready supply of natural resources and the indomitable spirit of those who inhabit our cities ensure that these continue to thrive and do well. Over time, their character might change from that of a major trading centre to a well-known hub of education and scientific research.

Some may suffer repeatedly at the hands of Logi, the Nordic Fire God, and experience devastating fires, only to rise again from the ashes, much like a Phoenix would. Others may witness riots because of a proposal to change the name of the city, leaving The Bard squirming in his grave. Through all these challenges, the city continues to thrive. The resilience of the human spirit reigns supreme.

Recently, yours truly had the opportunity of a leisurely stroll or two through the streets of Trondheim in Norway. One can trace its origins back to the Viking Age circa 997 AD. It served as the capital of Norway until 1217. In the olden days, it appears to have handled the kind of challenges described above with much aplomb.

Here are some visuals which might appeal to some of you.

The Nidelva River

 

 

 

 

 

 

Street Art and Buildings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nidaros Cathedral

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last one, located within the premises of the Cathedral, is a monument commemorating those who lost their lives during the World War II.

Night view from the Egon revolving restaurant

 

As with most historic cities of the day, Trondheim also appears to be striking a fine balance between preserving its heritage and absorbing contemporary building designs. One merely hopes that forces of crass commercialism are kept on a tight leash by those who matter.

Stay tuned for a saunter down the Trondheim Museum of Arts!

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Here is a country where the mind is without fear

And the head is held high

Where knowledge to children and youth is virtually free

And those distressed by the world are welcomed with open arms;

 

Where the definition of nationalism implies inclusivity

Fine arts of all countries and cultures are welcome

If narrow domestic walls exist, these are only to protect national interests

Where respect for the law of the land reigns supreme;

 

Where gender equity and diversity is not a mere slogan

The care offered to the elderly is exemplary

Some wish the taxes to be lower but realize the money is well spent

In many ways does it serve and comfort the citizens; 

 

Where human endeavour aims to attain perfection

Words come out from an inner conviction

Gentle, helpful, physically active and resilient

Following a work culture which deserves to be aped;

 

Where one can encounter the true gifts of nature

Clean air, pristine water, lakes and streams

One amongst which is the clear stream of reason 

Leading to ever-widening thought and action;

 

Into this heaven of freedom, I wish this country to remain.

 

(Inspired by the famous poem ‘Where the mind is without fear…’ by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore)

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Artists appear to love depicting human beings in all conditions, including in the buff. Perhaps they are in awe of the wonderful creation known as the human body. Understandably so.

Somehow, members of the tribe of the delicately nurtured attract much more of their attention than those who happen to be members of the so-called sterner sex. One wonders as to why the latter have so far not formed a union of some kind and registered a protest at this kind of discrimination!

Madonna (Edvard Munch)

 

 

The Sleepwalker (Gustav Vigeland)

 

At the entrance

 

Dance of Life (Edvard Munch)

 

Female Nude (Per Deberitz)

 

Female Nude (Jean Heiberg)

 

Bathers at a Forest Pond (Eric Heckel)

 

Women on the Beach (Bjarne Engebret)

 

Fishing Boats (Max Pechstein)

 

Another one at the entrance

 

One more at the entrance

 

It is praiseworthy that Norway’s rich artistic heritage is being preserved and presented so well at the National Gallery in Oslo. To soak it in, all one needs to have is some time and interest.

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/07/24/the-dance-of-life-at-the-national-gallery-of-norway

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2018/04/16/revisiting-the-national-gallery-of-norway-nature

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2018/04/28/revisiting-the-national-gallery-of-norway-humans-part-1)

 

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We continue our exploration of the National Gallery of Norway in Oslo.

In the previous post, we looked at the manner in which different elements of Nature have got captured in some of the paintings on display.

In this post, and in the next one, we admire the life-like depiction of human beings and their interactions with each other. Some are mythical, some are real and some are a product of the artist’s creative genius.

Woman Suckling an Infant (Ferdinand Bol)

 

Mary Magdalene penitent (Artisia Gentileschi)

 

A rustic party (David Teniers)

 

The Three Graces listening to Cupid’s song (Bertel Thorvaldsen)

 

The Farewell (Harriet Backer)

 

The Return of the Bear Hunter (Adolph Tidemand)

 

The Thinker (Auguste Rodin)

 

La Coiffure (Edgar Degas)

 

The Dreamer (Halfdan Egedius)

 

Portrait of Gerda (Richard Bergh)

 

Albertine to See the Police Surgeon (Christian Krohg)

 

Mother and Daughter (Edvard Munch)

 

The Girls on the Bridge (Edvard Munch)

‘Nature is not only all that is visible to the eye… it also includes the inner pictures of the soul.’

This is what Munch had to say. How very insightful!

(Continued…..)

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2018/04/16/revisiting-the-national-gallery-of-norway-nature)

 

 

 

 

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An opportunity arose recently for yours truly to be able to revisit the National Gallery of Norway in Oslo. Time spent in its serene ambience, soaking in the artistic brilliance in each of its works on display, was time well spent, indeed.

This post captures some of the paintings which depict the beauty of nature in all its glory.

Oak Tree by the Elbe in Winter (Johan Christian Dahl)

 

The Labro Falls at Kongsberg (Thomas Fearnley)

 

The Grindelwaldgletscher (Thomas Fearnley)

 

Winter at the River Simoa (Frits Thaulow)

 

Storm, Evening (Eugene Jansson)

 

Street in Roros in Winter (Harald Sohlberg)

 

Flower Meadow in the North of Norway (Harald Sohlberg)

 

Summer Night (Kitty Kielland)

 

Moonlight (Edvard Munch)

 

Landscape from Holmsbu (Oluf Wold-Torne)

 

The White Horse in Spring (Nikolai Astrup)

 

In the Garden (Astri Welhaven Heiberg)

 

Each painting is unique, and captures a different mood of Mother Nature in a very effective manner.

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/07/24/the-dance-of-life-at-the-national-gallery-of-norway)

 

 

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