Showing posts from September, 2010

Boys toys

Time for a confession. And please do not scorn me. Deep in my heart I want an SUV. Not any soccer mom car, but one particular SUV. The cynicals amongst you will tell me it is not an SUV, but a crossover, but I do not like that name. Alas, it will never happen. Because our tax regulations do not make it interesting to drive one. But even more so, because that vehicle is not available here in Holland the way I would like to have it. And let’s not talk about the money you need to bring with you.

With Ford Explorer in Beaverhead National Forest, Montana
Travelling to North America with a railroad buff means that you have to be prepared for the new world’s often challenging back road conditions. Because photographing at yards is only a small part of the fun. The real stuff is found out there on the tracks, so into the wild with the right gear. On the second trip to the USA in 1994, starting in Seattle, going to the Cascades and Glacier Park in Montana, it was deemed advisable to rent someth…

The eye of the beholder

We live in a society dominated by efficiency, rationality and functionality. Beauty takes a back seat to our drive to make most of every inch of land, euro, dollar or minute we have. It is called life in the fast lane, addressing the needs we create for ourselves in our society. But what if we don’t take time to look at the things we see as beautiful, that can help us to enrich our lives?

Years ago I visited Vienna. Austria’s capital is one of the most boring and certainly geriatric cities I have ever visited. If you like pompous and baroque architecture, this is the town for you. But not for me. Still, there was one place in Vienna where I just sat down and stared at a building that stands out from the rest. Friedrich Hundertwasser is an Austrian artist and architect, famous for his colourful buildings. And I don’t think I have seen an apartment building as colourful as the Hundertwasser Haus, located on the corner of the Kegelgasse and Löwengasse. A building where Jugendstil and Gau…

A trip to Solitude

Solitude is a subjective state of mind. For me it is experiencing nature with all your senses, without being bothered by people. This does not say I should be alone however. “Solitude is painful when one is young, but delightful when one is more mature”, Einstein said. Alas, it is impossible for me to find solitude here in The Netherlands or in the countries around it. I’ll have to go back quite a few years to dig up the memories of solitude.

17 million people on a piece of land barely larger than the state of New Jersey give you the constant awareness of people around you, even when you wander around in nature. Visitors will find the concept of Dutch nature parks to be like city parks in their own countries. “Do not leave trail” is a sign you will see in Holland, but that I have never seen abroad.

I have memories of solitude while travelling in the USA and Canada. Lake Superior’s north shore comes to mind, just as the Oregon forests, where we got lost in our SUV until we found a ran…

You can find me on a bench in Bacharach

A border is a line drawn in the land. Funny then that people on both sides of that line do not speak the same language, do not share the same history and have a different way of life. Just because of that I like it so much to travel east, two hours from my hometown, to cross the Dutch-German border. And just in case you are missing me, there is a pretty good chance you’ll find me sitting on a bench on the banks of the Rhine River in the small town of Bacharach. My secret spot that is not secret anymore.

I love Germany. I know there are people out there who have some prejudices against the Teutons, but to them I say: forget about that. It is time to discover a country that has so much to offer. Autobahns without speed restrictions, beer, Bratwurst and Schnitzel. That is what many people think of when they are asked about Germany. But I rather tell you about the long and winding country and back roads with excellent blacktops, that follow through fields and forests and mountains and tha…

The Coffee Conspiracy

Few companies have made such an impact on America’s drinking habits as Starbucks. I love Starbucks, but then, I love coffee. You might argue that coffee is too expensive there, but Starbucks completely turned the way America handles this precious drink around. A company that made an impact on Europe’s culture comes from Switzerland - and I am not happy with that.

I remember that, when visiting the USA and Canada in the first half of the last decade of the past century, café’s and restaurants tried to poison you with some kind of brown colored hot beverage. After a week I had to switch to tea, because my stomach started protesting. But I do vividly remember, while walking through Boston’s historic center quarter on a very hot July day, that I sat down in a Starbucks-like bar at the edge of Beacon Hill near the state capitol. The names of the beverages were a mystery to me, as they still are when I walk into a Starbucks, but my cold coffee drink was great. A few years later going to Star…

The end of desire?

Seeing a vintage Pioneer tuner on eBay made me start thinking in reverse. When I was a teenager, it was common to collect all the bits and pieces to build a nice stereo system. It was a dream that could become reality. Looking back, it was actually a rather modest dream, set against the material welfare so many young people have these days. But dreams we had when we were young. Where have they gone?

Stereo systems were an important part of our young lives. When you compare it with the small mp3 players of today, or the small audiosystems you see, a stereo system was a rather substantial element in our rooms. For most of us, we had to be patient. You could not buy an entire set at once. You had to save up for it. You started with the amplifier, speakers and turntable, then a tuner and a cassette deck. Aluminum fronts, soft turning switches, toggle switches, illuminated dials and VU-meters – they were a dream. Lovely sound quality, provided you had good speakers. I still remember the so…