National Library of the Netherlands

After lecture today we took the Metro to The Hague to tour the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, the National Library of the Netherlands. It has more than 3.5 million items in its collection and adds more every day because it is required to keep a copy of every print item published in the Netherlands. It was very cool seeing the seemingly endless rows of books in the archive (there are more than 50 kilometers of books). Anyone can browse the library’s catalog, but it costs €15 annually for a library card that allows you to check out items.

I’m not quite sure how I feel about that €15 fee for a library card. Yes, libraries — especially archival libraries such as the National Library — are expensive to operate and maintain. And €15 a year is really cheap. However, the idea of limiting access with even so modest a fee kind of sticks. I’d really like for the National Library to be free. At least it’s free to look at the super-cool old books in the exhibition hall of the library.

Day of rest

Today was a much-needed day of rest. I went to church this morning and got a spiritual recharge — something I’ve been overlooking since coming to Europe three weeks ago. The members of the congregation were very friendly and welcoming, and a couple of them even translated the services for me. The only weird thing was trying to sing hymns in Dutch, but I did give it a go. I may have even learned a tiny bit of Dutch pronunciation from it. After church I did laundry, wrote postcards to my family, and went for a short bike ride. I think I may be ready for another intense week now.


After hours of riding public transportation to get to and from the Kroller-Muller Museum yesterday, it was time to stretch out my legs a bit. I decided a bike ride to UNESCO world heritage site Kinderdijk was just the thing. It’s not too far from Rotterdam, but my first attempt at trying to find the place took me two hours — and I ended up back in Rotterdam. After studying the map much, much more carefully, I took a completely different route from the one I originally planned and got there in a much more reasonable 45 minutes. It was great strolling among the 19 working windmills that still pump water off the land surrounding them.

Hoge Veluwe, Kroller-Muller

This weekend the group had nothing specific planned, but Trent told us the program would pay for travel expenses and entrance to the Kröller-Müller Museum in Hoge Veluwe National Park. It was our choice what day to go, but a few of us thought that the museum was less likely to be crowded on Friday, so we set out earlyish to leave plenty of time for exploration. That turned out to be a good choice, because once we saw how incredible both the park and the museum were, we didn’t want to leave.

Continue reading ‘Hoge Veluwe, Kroller-Muller’

Like to be lost

Trent has kind of a complex about getting lost, probably because he does it like, oh, all the time. Personally, I like getting lost. Today after lecture, I decided to ride around Kralingse Bos, a huge park north of Erasmus University. It can’t even touch Amsterdamse Bos in sheer awesomeness, but it was nice to ride around the lake and be out in the open. When I finally left, I thought I was heading out the same way I came in, but apparently I was mistaken. I got profoundly lost.

I rode around some very industrial areas of Rotterdam for awhile and then around some very rural areas. It was delightful I finally found my way back to Erasmus University, and I was pretty sure I could make my way back to Hotel Baan from there (not completely sure). One of the things I like about getting lost is that I’m forced to examine my surroundings more closely than I usually do, and I often see something wonderful that I would have missed otherwise. Today, I saw a bike that was a little stranger than most, so I rode closer to get a better look. What I saw made me smile for the rest of the day: A newly-wed groom was taking his bride out for a spin on his bike equipped with a big cargo cart. Things like that should happen more often.

Museum Boijmans van Beuningen

Yesterday part of the class got stuck in an elevator at Erasmus University on our way upstairs to the guest lecture. Yep, I was one of the unlucky ones who got stuck. Unfortunately, I’m very claustrophobic, so the experience was a lot more unsettling than I let on at the time. So, what does this have to do with a very cool art museum? Nothing, except that when I was looking at a painting by one of the Surrealists, I heard a weird buzzing in my right ear and suddenly got extremely dizzy — I guess my brain needed its own version of surrealism. I went back to the hotel (it was only about 5:30 p.m.) and slept until the next morning. Greta thinks it was a delayed reaction from my elevator experience, and I’m going to agree with her on this one. I’m going to try riding the elevator again when we go to Erasmus tomorrow to try to deal with my irrational fear. I don’t know, though, whether I’ll be looking at surreal paintings again anytime soon.

Back on my fiets*

From the day I arrived in Rotterdam, I’ve been on a mission to buy a bicycle so I can get around using my preferred mode of transportation, which happens to be the same as many Dutch people’s. Yesterday Molly and I went to a bike shop near Rotterdam’s Centraal Station, but it was a bust. All the bikes were out of our price ranges, and the shop owner was arrogant, to boot.

After lecture today, we decided to try again. Jonathan found a bike yesterday at a shop on Niewe Binnenweg, so we thought we’d walk up the street and see if we could find something, too. Continue reading ‘Back on my fiets*’

Biking to the North Sea

Molly had the terrific idea of biking to the North Sea as a day trip this weekend. She planned the route, and she, Jonathan and I set out at about 9 a.m. this morning. Several miles outside Amsterdam, we were delayed by a sudden, fierce rainstorm. Fortunately, there was a house nearby, so we took shelter on the side protected from the wind. We still got a little wet, but not completely soaked as we would have otherwise.

The ride there took us a lot longer than we thought it would, mainly because of a persistent headwind. When we got to the North Sea, we all agreed that the ride had been worth it. Continue reading ‘Biking to the North Sea’

‘ware the chipkaart

We had our first free day – with no lecture – in Amsterdam today, so folks were left to their own devices for entertainment and enlightenment.  Well, mostly. Sue organized a canal tour in the morning, so people just had to come up with a way to fill their afternoons.

The canal tour was lovely. I had taken a tour of Amsterdam’s many canals a week earlier, but the two experiences were completely different. Continue reading ‘‘ware the chipkaart’

NISV Hilversum

NISVThe Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision in Hilversum is amazing. The building in which the archives are housed is itself a marvel of Dutch design. Every detail was planned and executed to fit with the purpose and vision of the institute. The building is 96 meters from top to bottom; it stands 26 meters above ground and descends 70 meters underground. Part of the reason for building so much of the structure below ground level is because of building height restrictions in Hilversum. In addition, the underground temperature is a fairly constant 17 degrees Centigrade, making it easier to regulate the temperature of sensitive archived materials.

The building clearly is built for function, but it’s aesthetically brilliant, too. Continue reading ‘NISV Hilversum’