Sunday, October 30, 2005

BREMEN [Germany], the home of the Town Musicians

When I was a little kid I went to a private Catholic school. The school was co-founded by a German priest and because of that, we have pious and ultra-strict German priests and nuns running amok in our corridors. The school has deep European roots and I believe up to this day, are still active in the exchange student program with a number of universities here in Europe.

Apparently, due to this Germanic influence, our library was filled with all sorts of European fairy tale books. One of them authors was the celebrated German Grimm Brothers of the 1800’s. Disneyland would not have Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and Snow White had these German brothers opted for a different career path.

Bremen is situated in northwest Germany and is part of the Niedersachsen region. See the black square in the map to locate Bremen.

Well one of the Grimm Brother tales I read as a kid was the Bremen Town Musicians, a story about a donkey, a dog, a cat and a rooster, who all wanted to go to Bremen to become town musicians. On their journey to the city, they became hungry and tired, luckily they came across a house with thieves eating and partying. The animals thought it was their chance to hit a bonanza. So according to height and weight, they stood on top of each other and broke into a unanimous chorus. The act scared the thieves; it sent them scurrying off to the woods leaving the animals the house and all the food behind for themselves.

The city’s most popular representation that has gained international recognition is the Bremen Town Musicians of the Grimm Brothers tale. Many tourists come here everyday to pose with the animals that it is quite hard to get a foto without anyone near it. The bronze statue was crafted by Gerhard Marcks in 1951.

So as a child, I have always wondered what Bremen was like...

The MARKET SQUARE

The Rathaus [City Hall] and St. Petri Cathedral

The Rathaus in its magnificent Weser Renaissance facade, this building was erected in 1405 to 1410 and is said to be one of the most beautiful old city halls of Germany. The gothic St. Petri Cathedral dates back to the early part of the 13th century.

I was told of this amusing Bremen tradition, which nowadays is still being practiced, but only for fun. When a man [and woman] is not married by 30, he will have to sweep the stairs of the church on his 30th birthday to show what a great catch he is. To release him from this chore, a woman must kiss him on the lips! So I hung around by the stairs for awhile but alas no one was celebrating his 30th single birthday in Bremen on that day. Ah watjammer, zeg!

Schutting and Statue of Knight Roland

The Schutting was built in 1537 to 1538 in Flemish-Renaissance style. The manor used to house Bremen’s former guild of merchants. It now serves as the Chamber of Commerce office. Knight of Roland is the symbol of Bremen’s civic rights and privileges in 1404. The statue is 5.55 meters long and together with the Rathaus, is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

SCHNOOR QUARTER

Lovely, tiny and vibrantly colored gabled houses from the 15th and 16th centuries clustered together in this old Bremen quarter. Walking in the bumpy narrow cobblestone lanes in this magical place has woken up the sleeping child in me.

As you can see in the fotos, the quarter looks like a charming picturesque doll village which in fact has reminded me of the enchanting Alice in Wonderland fable.

Aside from the Town Musicians, Schnoor definitely strengthened the case why I must visit Bremen. Here you can also see many specialty shops and cafes.

BOTTCHERSTRASSE and SCHLACHTE PROMENADE

Bottcherstrasse is known to be Bremen’s “secret high street”.

Attractions in this sublime boulevard are two museums and a fine Carillon with Meissen porcelain bells. The Schlachte Promenade by the River Weser is visited by locals and tourists alike.

Further onwards is the Martini Landing Stage where a number of excursion boats to other parts of Germany leave everyday. During summer lots of outside cafes are sited.

BREMEN FESTIVITIES

It was also great timing that the city was celebrating its annual Bremen Free Market and on the other side of the market square was also a Historic Market. Seeing all the notable ancient German influences have given me goose bumps, really. It was like I was traveling back through time! I saw people dressed like knights, in old merchants clothes, goblins... it was like my fairy tale book came to life!

The German Bratwurst, a Stage Act, Food Stalls and the resplendent traditional Merry-Go-Round.

The smell of Bratwurst burning in the grill was just so tempting. Lecker! And that’s one of the actors in this small theater stage by the corner of the Historic Market. I believe he was dressed as an elf?

I love the playful and colorful designs of these old goodies stalls. Sometimes I wonder why we ever let go of these... and let be bothered by loud fast food joints.

Travel Period: October 2005

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Killing your Goliath


I am halfway with my ski lessons. Now I can glide easily from the top of the runway all the way down. Hallelujah! I think the runway we trained is not that steep compared to the rest of the runways but still it’s quite high up there.

A delicate triumphant grin and pose after the slide. On the 2nd photo is the runway we trained. See those tiny people lined up horizontally on top? That’s us, ready to show off our newfound ski talent, hehe.

Click to enlarge foto.

The first time I was up in the runway, I felt butterflies attacking my stomach, mix emotions of awe [beautiful scenery of the park], fear [the height!] and the dare factor that I have to surmount [to actually have the courage to slither down].

Half of my insides were screaming: “You are damn petrified!
The other half told me: “You must defeat these goliaths that face you

I experienced the chills of nervousness because gliding down can happen so fast. You can soar through the runway in a matter of seconds and if you don’t know how to slow down [such as turning to the left and right] and break [the V technique], then brace yourself for a painful crash landing. Like what happened to my classmate, at full speed she drove straight to the fence. Ouch.

Bloggone away with it

Oops, I just found out that I am the “Blog of the week” at PinoyBlog. Now that’s charming.

The rudimentary description of this Dutched Pinay was summarized into two words starting with the letter N: “Naughty” and “Nice”. The Dutchman thought that the writer was just being polite. Hmm... maybe I need to loosen the collar belt a little bit.

Well dank je wel PinoyBlog!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

A meeting in sleepy town Roosendaal

A few days ago I was down south in the Belgian border, in Roosendaal for a meeting.

As I was trying to find my way, I inadvertently reversed the map and well evidently I got lost. Ugh, how stupid one can be? Then when I found the street, I couldn’t find the freaking building. Right in front of me where a building or an office should have stood, was a construction site filled with mangled bushes. In my mind, “Shit, I hate being late to a meeting, this is just not done! No way, not in Holland!” I rushed to ask several people around the area and they had no idea of the company I was looking for.

Roosendaal is part of the North Brabant region bordering Zeeland on its left, another region in the Netherlands and Belgium on its south.
Time was running out, I decided to call the company but couldn’t reach it. So I SOS’d the Dutchman. As a matter of fact, I panicked that I forgot to dial 0 before calling the local number. That explains why I couldn’t reach the company, haha. But oh well, the Dutchman was quick to rescue the damsel in distress.

I was told that they, well the secretary that is, will call me. Additionally, a lady came running behind me, pointing to an old tall building across the street, 500 meters away. She said, “That’s the number 1 building in this street that you are looking for”. [The office address number was 1]

And there I was, staring and standing in front of the building, bewildered and could not believe what I saw. What on bloody earth…? It is a damn C-H-U-R-C-H!!!? The church is an office? So all the while, across the street, sweating my brains out in hyper adrenalin state because I hate being late, searching for a normal looking building with number 1 plastered in the front gate and only to have been lead to a church. Great.

The general manager that I had a meeting with apologized saying they were quite new in the area so no one really knew them and they haven’t put any signage outside the church yet. OK fine, but this is the first time I have seen a business office inside a church. Guffaw! Anyway, they were sharing the old church with another tenant, a Roman Catholic organization.

After our 2 hour meeting, we shook hands and he escorted me to the hallway. We were talking about the church on the way to the door when he asked if I would be interested to see the chapel itself. I said, yes why not? I took a peek and all I could utter was, wow…

Isn’t it amazing how things can evolve?

Empty streets… and empty café terraces… echt gezellig eh? [real nice eh?]

It was 3PM on my watch and I didn’t want to go back to Utrecht yet, so I went to their Centrum to explore.

Roosendaal is quite a let down really. It was almost characterless and the only thing that saved its reputation is the rows of old medieval buildings in the main square.

I didn’t see people sitting in the terras. Not much activity, practically nothing that will excite your spirits. Could it be the drab 10C weather? Moreover, I felt like I am walking into a sleepy town where everybody knows each other’s business. Everything was slow paced.

The Netherlands coat of arms, “Je Maintiendrai” which is French means, “I will remain” hangs on the doorway of one of the commercial buildings with colorful and stunning windows.


I will make another entry on why the Dutch adopted the French “Je Maintiendrai”.
Anyway, I took photo’s of some of the things that interests me. Check them all in my DUTCH PHOTO ALBUM [not labeled yet].

After my trip in Roosendaal, I realized how truly a full red bloodied city girl I am. But who knows, when I reach 40, I will change? Just like buildings that were once churches, now they are offices...


Visit Period: October 2005
Destination: Roosendaal (North Brabant), The Netherlands

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Fries, Frites, Patat

I guess everyone already know that the French did not invent fries but the Belgians did.

Back home in the Philippines and in other countries, we always order fries by saying, “I’d like some French fries with my burger”. But alas in Europe, people don’t. They just say “Fries please”. What’s so French with it anyway? *raise eyebrows*

So how do these fries differ from each other?


The Dutch Patat [Dutch Fries] ordered “Speciaal” with mayonnaise, curry sauce and chopped onions.

The Belgian version, which we usually call here Vlaamse patat or Vlaamse frites [means Flemish fries] are quite thicker and bigger. The fast food standard fries, like the ones in McDonalds, Burger King and other fast food joints are smaller, thinner and crunchier. The Dutch version which we call here Patat [means fries] is in between the Belgian and the fast food standard.

You have a choice to order only with mayonnaise, or without, or with curry, or without the chopped onions. I will have to point out though that the onions and mayonnaise are by nature very typical Dutch.

I found it so odd at first to see onions sprinkled on top of the fries. You just don’t eat the onions raw, right? It’s supposed to be a kitchen ingredient or say, garnish it with your salads, but not on your fries? However, I tell you, I was surprised, the fries really tasted good with it!

Then there is this mayonnaise anomaly. On the contrary, I am not a bit surprised with this fries and mayonnaise combination after all I also eat like this sometimes back home. From time to time, I order an additional mayo at McDonalds or Jollibee for my fries. Before you make faces and let out a blech, here’s the catch, the mayonnaise here in Holland is very different than the mayonnaise sold in bottles in your supermarket. It is simply not the same thing that you use to whip up your dressings at home. Their concoction is quite distinctive, much smoother, creamier and tastier.

And this might be worthwhile information, ketchup is almost non-existent here. Instead, people prefer the curry sauce [see foto above], and this has nothing to do with Indian curry by the way.

Well, I am not that fanatical with this Dutch Patat specialty. The Dutchman too, but he has his lucid moments when he craves for it. It’s just like me desiring for my green mango and bagoong [sautéed spicy shrimp paste] on certain days.

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Happy Travels! Enjoy Life =)

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Maastricht: Holland’s Culture and Lifestyle City


The city of Maastricht lies in the river valley of the Maas where the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium meets.

See Maastricht on the red spot in the map.


Founded by the Romans in 20 AD and a former bishop diocese, this once upon a time fortified city has fought and survived countless assaults and sieges of armies and kings in the 16th to the late 17th centuries. After the defeat of Napoleon in the famous Waterloo battle, Maastricht in 1815 became a part of the united kingdom of the Netherlands.

Please check MY DUTCH FOTO ALBUM to see the beauty of Maastricht [foto’s are not arranged and labeled yet, so my excuses].

Points that makes Maastricht UN-DUTCH:

TOPOGRAPHY & CLIMATE – The area is not at all flat! They have small hills and valleys! The climate too is at least 2C to 3C warmer and dryer. Since the city is more inland, you do not have the ubiquituos pesky Dutch sea wind here. Arriving in Maastricht is like having a mild placebo effect of having left the Netherlands. Not quite but it felt more like France, haha.



I can’t leave Maastricht without posing by the River Maas. This medieval Sint Servaas Bridge is Maastricht’s emblem of recognition and was built in 1280.

LANGUAGE – The locals there speak a dialect called Limburgs named after the region it belongs to, Limburg. The official Dutch language they learn in school. I noticed too that they have this somewhat strange accent. I thought for a moment and wondered if it was Flemish accent, from the Dutch speaking Belgians in the Flanders region; but it was not, though quite close. But suffice to say, I got pretty much diverted and had a good chuckle on their pronunciation of the Dutch “e” as “i”. It reminds me of the linguistic clash back home, the Tagaloge” vs Visayani”. Hah!



Enigmatic arches in bricks and the St. Servaas Church. Colorful flowers hanging in the balcony.

WOMEN - A known fact: In Maastricht, the women are beautiful. Walking in the streets of the city is like being transplanted live in calye Madrid and rue de Paris. All those coiffed up women in exquisite sophisticated ensembles with their matching spruced up hondjes [little dogs], was such a breath of fresh air. I know I am being rude, but frankly, I thought they weren’t Dutch women at all. What gives, after living in the midst of the Y-chromosomed Dutch women, I was really taken aback by the display of glam. Have regretted not frocking myself up to the max! Damn.

The Helpoort [Hell’s Gate] dates back to 1229. It was perfect weather and more reason to sit under the sun in Vrijthof square.

SHOPS – Why well, of course they have better shops than the rest of the Netherlands. Otherwise where will the women buy their fine clothes? In fact the PC Hoofstraat in Amsterdam; where the nobles, socialites and celebrities in Holland shop, cannot compete! On that note, I am so annoyed because we don’t have anything like it in Utrecht. And Dutchman wasn’t much of a help too, he didn’t waste a minute in pointing THAT out to me. Argh. *claws at him*

Shopping is woman’s best sport. Cafes are all over Maastricht. Did you know that there are about 350 of them in this small city?

GOING OUT – Finding a table in let’s say the terras of Vrijthof is like looking for that libidinous itsy-bitsy T-back panty in a mountain load of laundry. For the record and comparison, this kind of dilemma never happens in other parts of Holland. I swear! Not even in good ‘ole Amsterdam. Like they say, the southern people know how to purely exonerate their zest and lust in living life to the fullest. They love going out, entertainment, dining out… ah, the perfect Burgundean lifestyle as the rest of the unswerving Dutch’s would say.

A running joke in the Netherlands: Maastricht is not anymore part of the country. It’s very un-Dutch. Now I know why!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

The view from top


I was having my favorite vegetarian salad; a mix Italian Antipasto stuff, in La Place, a modish restaurant on top of V&D [Vroom & Dreesman, a Dutch department store] in Utrecht. I always take the window seat every time I am here because I love savouring the picturesque view outside. Later, I noticed [yeah after years of coming into this restaurant] that they actually have an open air terras [balcony] on the topmost part. So after I had my fill, I went up…

The panorama caught me by surprise. It was simply breathtaking! The weather was perfect, not that cold and the skies were clear [something that is considered a luxury or a phenomenon here].

So I started clicking away with my camera…

Here are some of the beautiful [with the help of my Fuji Camera and Picasa] snapshots of Utrecht’s Medieval City Centrum. Click each picture to enlarge.




Then there was this English girl and Swedish guy, obviously tourists, who passed by me and opened the gate to the outer section of the secured balcony. I had the idea that they were entering a prohibited area. The outer balcony section is too dangerous, but this Swedish guy flipped on the latch anyway. Guess what? I followed them, hehe.

You might ask how on earth I knew she was English and he a Swede. The answer is very simple actually. After 3+ years of living in Europa, one can easily identify the English accents of Europeans and the languages they speak, that is if you are an observant one like me. Other than that, I eavesdropped in their conversation. *wink*



I took the opportunity to give myself a tour of the building. About half round of the tour, I was convinced that I was in a forbidden area but nevertheless I pressed on. My curiosity and the spectacular view from atop have totally controlled me. I know, but what can I do, I am such a naughty girl!

To the south were the newer buildings, and where we actually live, but unfortunately the sun was glaring from that direction so it was not possible to take pictures. I only get a black shadow in my camera, or is this just a Fuji thing?

Satisfied, I collected myself and off I went back in to the secured open air terras… when suddenly I saw a distraught Chef [yeah he had that funny white hat on, how can they cook with a huge hat like that on their heads anyway?] coming out and waving his hands up on the air shouting, “Je mag daar niet komen!” [You cannot go in there], which actually means I or we were trespassing! Ooops…

The Chef gave me a really stern look… but I smiled cordially in return and quickly hurried away downstairs to avoid any lecture from him.

Whew, a narrow escape! At least I was done with my shots ;-)

Friday, October 07, 2005

Can’t buy me love, Dutch-Man


Setting: Manila, Philippines, around 7 in the evening inside Starbucks Coffee Makati [the one beside Shangri-La Makati Hotel]
Circa: 1999, I was then 29.

I was checking the menu trying to figure out what I want but could not decide, so I ordered the normal cup of coffee. While waiting for it, this almost 60 year old something white guy was trailing my back until such that I finished garnishing my coffee with sugar, cinnamon and milk; he, with his coffee too in tow, followed me outside to where my friends were sitting chatting with each other.

These set of friends are not the flaccid and prude types, so I knew exactly what’s cooking in their mind. Let’s just say, something not good.

True enough, they thought it was the perfect idea to pull my leg me so they asked the old white guy to join us, which of course he gladly did. Well, I am sure all his glands were flapping over with joy! To complicate matters, after the excessive bantering, my friends gave him my business card [someone had to have one in their wallet]. Ach, this is always the drawback when you are with friends huh?

In the next days, this Dutch man kept calling me. He says he wants to have dinner with me. I said plainly, “No I am busy”. But the funny thing is this… all my friends were begging me to go out with him at least once for the “experience”. I thought, “Why not, it’s not that I am going to hold hands and kiss him?” So out of curiosity, peer pressure and let’s just say for the heck of it, I obliged. When he called back, I said yes BUT lunch. I thought lunch was less of a date than a dinner.

The Lunch

We met at Shangri-la Makati Hotel in one of the chic restaurants there. The moment I sat down, I encountered what I have always feared upon. On the farther side of the restaurant, were my acquaintances in the business world smiling and nodding towards my direction. They were all male. The first thing that came to my mind, “What are they going to think of me lunching with this old man?” On second thought, they might think he is a business partner or client since he was wearing a suit.

Anyway, on to the lunch... we talked about the usual stuff. I found out that he is Dutch, very well traveled in the Philippines and had many well to do Filipino friends. He was staying at a friend in Bel-Air, one of the posh albeit older subdivisions in Makati. He is I think 57 years old or so. He is an Expat stationed in another country working for the airline/airport industry and goes home to the Netherlands from time to time. He even showed me pictures of his ex GF who was a stewardess before but died of cancer. Whew, what a story, zeg!

The “Can’t buy me love” LP.


I was crazy with the Beatles and adored Paul McCartney in the 1980’s, as if he was still 25 years old. I even had a poster of him sealed on my ceiling so when I wake up in the morning, I can see his baby face smiling down at me. Ironic, he’s way older than me but then again he’s a rock icon…

The Proposal

Then he made the proverbial offer which during that time I didn’t know if it was that common or what, normal? Maybe I was just naïve, at 29 haha. So just like how things flow on a business lunch during a deal negotiation, he offered me airline tickets to anywhere in the world, he also offered me to buy a new car, a cool SUV Rav4, all in exchange for a “relationship”. That direct.

My reaction was utter shock. I don’t know but I felt like, “Are you trying to impress me or buy me… you prick?” I felt disgust but like a professional erudite woman I kept my manners. Making a scene and public spectacle and even leaving him in the midst of his lunch would be the last thing to do. After all, I had some business friends a few meters away who might see it differently and spread rumors about me if I were to do that. This is the Philippines, the land of controversies and gossips. I would not mind if the rumor was “She stood up and slapped this Robert Redford look alike and stomped out the restaurant’s door”. Alas, that was not the case.

But I let everything what he said simmer down into my trying hard to be objective brain and decided to take it with a grain of salt. This is truly the ugly real life out there. Relationships are born out of need; need from love, companion and money. I actually pitied the old man sitting across me but who am I to pity him when he probably don’t even see it the way I do? After all, relationships can be anything. Whether it’s the ideal route or the convenience model, it’s not really my role to pick on people’s lives. I can critic generally without judging personally [oops, can that be? haha]. In fact, all I can do is say, “NO” and I am pretty sure he would move on to the next available meat in sight.

Sigh of relief

The 1.5 lunch hour was nearing to its end. I did well with stretching my patience and at least the curiosity was quenched. I should not forget, I promised to tell my friends the “experience” which they were all dying to hear. I am sure they’d be all ears and tongue out hearing this great scoop!

He kept calling me in the next couple of days and I answered him once or twice out of politeness and told him I am NOT interested with him or any of his offers. He was a persistent hunter though, if that’s something to shed a positive light on him. On second thought, maybe I should just have cursed him flat out so he won’t bother the daylights out of me? Anyway, I found an easy solution. I just left my mobile phone ring or pushed the off button when I see his number on display. The trick worked and he finally got the message.

On the other hand, my friends were very much thrilled and delighted with the reportage. They kept teasing me with leering faces that I should just have taken the SUV Rav4 and the flight ticket bookings. Ah, I wish I was a gold digger! Duh *laughs evil-y*

A year later, I met the now Dutchman and told him about this encounter. He can’t stop grinning ear to ear. He asked me why I didn’t bite when he wasn’t giving me any of what he offered?! Hmmm, now I am regretting!!!!!!!!!!!

I know they were all JOKING but can you see the message in between? It’s so sad that people would even try to buy love and companionship. Much sadder if you accept it. And saddest because it is happening as we speak.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

A Real Dutch Treat: KIBBELING

Any seafood lover would want a bite of this! Crunchy and so good.


Made from deep fried white fish such as Kabeljauw, Wijting, Roodbaars, and Koolvis [Sorry, I don’t know the English terms] to name a few, this typical Dutch fish treat will definitely leave your palates asking for more.

Best eaten as a snack in the morning or afternoon, and for a few Euro cents, you can select the sauce you want. I chose my favorite, Knooflook Saus (Garlic Mayo Sauce).

People, try this when visiting Holland!

Utrecht Centrum, The Netherlands
October 2005

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