Goran Djurovic’s Prime Time Revisited – A Story of Friendship

To begin: the story about how I came to find the Goran Djurovic exhibit in Gent, Belgium.

I didn’t tell this story earlier when I posted about Djurovic’s Prime Time solo show, but I think it will be nice to pull back the curtain now. It is yet another example of how I’ve met extremely kind people in my travels. (And I want to say how much I really like Belgium!)

So.

I was walking down the street in Gent, on the Saturday morning I was in town. I had my city map in hand, trying to find the “Patershol” neighborhood. Patershol is known for its charming streets and interesting restaurants and is less touristy than the historic center. But I sensed I was lost, although I was walking alongside one of the main canals running through the city.

It just so happened, as I walked down the street adjacent to the canal, that a young man was walking toward me holding a bag of groceries. Now, given that the Gent Festival was getting started, I quickly deduced I’d have a better chance of asking directions of a local than another tourist like me! Who better to ask then, than someone holding a bag of groceries?

I flagged him down and said I think I’m walking in the wrong direction. Can you help me? He looked at where I was pointing on my map and confirmed it. I was walking in the exact opposite direction of where I needed to go! Since he was heading in that direction anyway, he said, why not walk together so he could point out how to get where I was going? I welcomed the opportunity. 🙂

That young man’s name was Wim, and once we started chatting, we realized we had a lot in common. So I invited him to come with me to Patershol if he had the time and wanted to show an American tourist from New York City around his fair city. He graciously agreed, and off we went.

When we got there, Wim actually wanted to show me a different – and very famous – piece of religious art that is known as The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghent_Altarpiece. But when we got to the museum associated with it, we found the Goran Djurovic exhibit instead.

As you may know, reader, from my previous post – I took a sampling of photos at the Djurovic exhibit – but I neglected to take photos of some of the works Wim and I stopped and talked about the most. I regretted it later after I got home.

But, as kindness would have it, Wim and I exchanged email addresses and became pen pals even after I returned home. When I expressed to him how much I enjoyed our viewing of the exhibit and I was sorry I missed taking some shots of the works we talked over at length… he went back and took photos of over 100 Djurovic paintings and emailed them to me.

I was blown away by his tremendous kindness and enthusiasm for the artwork. In turn I promised him I would post another 15+ Djurovic works on my blog to give a much better sampling of what we saw that day.

Also, in fairness to Mr. Djurovic I don’t think it would be right for me to post images of every single piece in the solo show – however – if this blog posting helps spread recognition for his work and talent, then I am grateful to be part of that process in a very small way.

And so, without further delay, here are more of the works of Goran Djurovic … photos taken by Wim of Gent, Belgium, a gentleman I am proud to call my friend.

Let it be said: art brings people from all over the world together.

The art of Goran Djurovic

The art of Goran Djurovic

Goran Djurovic Many Laptops Goran Djurovic010 Goran Djurovic018 Goran Djurovic020 Goran Djurovic026 Goran Djurovic035 Goran Djurovic037 Goran Djurovic050 Goran Djurovic053 Goran Djurovic058 Goran Djurovic069 Goran Djurovic091 Goran Djurovic094 Goran Djurovic105 Goran Djurovic106 Goran Djurovic107

 

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Art in Gent – Goran Djurovic’s Prime Time

During my last trip to Gent, I happened to be lucky enough to see a public art space called the “Provinciaal Cultuurcentrum – Caermersklooster” on Vrouwebroerstraat 6 in Gent.

They were hosting a solo show for Serbian artist Goran Djurovic called “Prime Time.”

Goran Djurovic - Prime Time solo show in Gent

Goran Djurovic – Prime Time solo show in Gent

Mr. Djurovic now lives in Berlin and it seems his work was only “discovered” in the last few years and had his work hosted in a variety of European museums. The painter is currently in his 60’s.

Djurovic backgrounder

Djurovic backgrounder

The Privincial Culture Center (I assume the English translation) is a magnificent, well lit space and worth the visit. For this particular show, the number of works on display is staggering. The solo show must have more than 40 original oil paintings on display in four small and one very large gallery space.

I will leave you to digest the themes of Djurovic’s work on your own from the sample of photos I took at the show. While the work can be quite dark, I found it inspiring.

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Painting from the Prime Time exhibition

Painting from the Prime Time exhibition

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The work of Goran Djurovic

The work of Goran Djurovic

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This one is called Visitors on Display

This one is called Visitors on Display

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The mouse dance

The mouse dance

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More of the work of Goran Djurovic

More of the work of Goran Djurovic

Gent is Great, Part 2

Since I had the opportunity to go back to Europe for work, I decided to spend my one free Saturday back in Gent, Belgium in order to attend the Gent Jazz Festival.

I had visited Gent in late May/early June (See “Gent is Great” June 8, 2013), and fell in love with this small Belgian city which hosts the largest university in Belgium, along with a stunning medieval town center.

A castle that sits in the historic center of the city of Gent

A castle that sits in the historic center of the city of Gent

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The weather was not too nice the first time I visited, but this time I was lucky to have a warm, sunny day with blue skies and fluffy white clouds.

A view of another part of the historic city center, Gent Belgium

A view of another part of the historic city center, Gent Belgium

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I snapped photos all over the city trying to capture a small piece of what I love about this place.

A charming canal view in Gent

A charming canal view in Gent

Everywhere you turn in the city center, there are beautiful views.

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And I happened to be in Gent on the one day that the Gent Jazz Festival overlapped with the Gent Festival (a city-wide festival where over a million tourists pour into Gent over a 10 day period.)

Here you can see a view of the city transforming itself in preparation for the Gent Festival.

The city prepares to be over-run with tourists during the Gent Festival

The city prepares to be over-run with tourists during the Gent Festival

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But even if you walk outside the city center, you will still find cobblestone streets and more charming architecture.

Street scene - Gent

Street scene – Gent

The charming architecture of Gent

The charming architecture of Gent

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But once the Gent Festival begins, the city center becomes extremely crowded with visitors. I took some photos of people watching the opening parade of the Gent Festival.

Crowds watching the Gent Festival opening parade

Crowds watching the Gent Festival opening parade

Crowds line the canals of Gent city center

Crowds line the canals of Gent city center

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Later that night, I went to the Gent Jazz Festival and saw Elvis Costello as the closing act.

Gent Jazz Festival

Gent Jazz Festival

All in all, I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day in Gent, Belgium.

A final Netherlands – Belgium vacation mash-up

It’s been two weeks since I returned from Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and Belgium. If you’ve read any of the preceeding posts (about 9 so far I think) about the trip, thank you.

This will be my final post, with a melange of images that give you a taste of the many places I visited … some of which I haven’t mentioned yet.

(The blogging about the trip begins with the post “Going Dutch” and adds from there – you can also find them if you search my “Travel” tag.)

Boat making its way on a Brugge canal

Boat making its way on a Brugge canal

Travel Tip: Brugge is beautiful, and worth seeing as a day trip. Stay in Gent, Belgium and travel to Brugge for an afternoon.

The Delft town square

The Delft town square

The other side of the main square in Delft is this magnificent church

The other side of the main square in Delft is this magnificent church

Canal porn - Another tourist taking a canal beauty shot - Delft

Canal porn – Another tourist taking a canal beauty shot – Delft

Travel Tip: The three images above show you everything you would want see in Delft, in my opinion. I suggest you go elsewhere to spend your limited travel time and budget.

Stitched sculpture of a woman - SMAK Contemporary Art

Stitched sculpture of a woman – SMAK Contemporary Art

Travel Tip: And when you go to Gent, if you like contemporary art even a little bit, you would do well to spend an afternoon at SMAK, the Contemporary Art Museum.

Detail - stitched sculpture

Detail – stitched sculpture

Bicycle sculpture - SMAK

Bicycle sculpture – SMAK

Canal in Amsterdam

Canal in Amsterdam

Don’t get me wrong (from my previous blog posts, I mean) Amsterdam has it’s charms. When the sun peeks out from the clouds, and a lone boat sails down yet another picturesque canal in the center of the city, you could come to like the place.

Me taking a photo of tourists taking a photo of themselves in Rembrandt Square - Amsterdam

Me taking a photo of tourists taking a photo of themselves in Rembrandt Square – Amsterdam

Yeah, the place is over run with tourists but what can you do but go with the flow? After all, I was one of them.

Detail of something I liked at the Rijksmuseum

Detail of something I liked at the Rijksmuseum

And the art is pretty cool, no matter which museums you like best.

Writer sculpture - Eye Film Institute Amsterdam

Writer sculpture – Eye Film Institute Amsterdam

Despite all of my experiences, I still found it hard to encapsulate them into blog posts. There was so much to write about, and I didn’t even realize it until I got home.

View from top floor of the Amsterdam library

View from top floor of the Amsterdam library

Top Secret Travel Tip: This is the best view you can get in the city of Amsterdam. Behind Centraal Station, you can take a free ferry across the water. Find the Amsterdam Public Library, and go to the 7th Floor, which is their EXCELLENT restaurant. Go to the outside deck, and snap a couple of incredible shots of the city, then go back inside and get one of the most reasonbly priced, delicious lunches you’re going to find.

Worn Out - Van Gogh sketch

Worn Out – Van Gogh sketch

When it was time to leave, I was ready to come home to New York City… still the best city on the planet.

Brugge Beauty Shots

After all the moaning and whining I’ve done on the blog about the bad weather and difficult transportation conditions, I’d like to show you some photos I took in Brugge, Belgium.

Yes, these are beauty shots, there is no way around it. Brugge is a beautiful town and a designated Unesco World Heritage site.

It’s a town for tourists, the place is overflowing with them, but it’s easy to see why. The architecture is magnificent, even on a grey-skied, rain-drenched day like the one I spent there.

The view from my overpriced tourist hotel room in Brugge, phenonemal view

The view from my overpriced tourist hotel room in Brugge, phenonemal view

A rainy street scene - Brugge, Belgium

A rainy street scene – Brugge, Belgium

The views along the canals in Brugge are so charming, and somehow the misty rain just added to the romantic feel of the photos. I doubt you can take a bad photo there.

Canal view of Brugge - ancient buildings and lovely greenery in the mist

Canal view of Brugge – ancient buildings and lovely greenery in the mist

Yeah, yeah… “oooh and ahhh”

The charms of Brugge

The charms of Brugge

Come on, aren’t you getting tired of seeing all this loveliness?

No?

Okay, here are some more… but you asked for it…

Lovely canal view - Brugge

Lovely canal view – Brugge

Brugge town square

Brugge town square

This next one feels like cheating, too easy to romanticize it…

Horse and carriage - Brugge

Horse and carriage – Brugge

Another canal shot in Brugge

Another canal shot in Brugge

Okay, that’s it for Brugge. Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you – it’s a beautiful place but being run these days for tourists.

Travel Tip: If you are going to go to Brugge, do it as a day trip from Gent which is close… Gent is a bigger city that is gorgeous and you’ll have a ton of options in the evening for entertainment and the hotels will be much more reasonably priced!

SMAK Contemporary Art Museum – Gent Belgium

As a New Yorker it’s difficult not to compare other museums with our world class museums, and in this case, SMAK Contemporary Art Museum in Gent holds its own as an innovative space showcasing European contemporary talent.

At the entrance to the museum you will find SMAK publications called “The Artist in Their Own Words,” which are magazine style printings of interviews with artists who have had shows at SMAK.

Below are some photographs I took of the works on view now, but if you are in Gent and interested in contemporary art, SMAK is a must-see destination.

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KOEN THEYS – Home Made Victories

I was particularly excited about the ground floor galleries dedicated to the work of Belgian artist Koen Theys. The exhibition, “Home Made Victories” is the first major retrospective for the artist and includes extensive use of compelling video and photography and will be on view until mid-August 2013.

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Still Life with Apples

Still Life with Apples

Above: Koen Theys photograph, Still Life with Apples II, 2010

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Series, Still Life with Apples - Koen Theys, 2010

Series, Still Life with Apples – Koen Theys, 2010

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This photograph I took is a small detail portion of a larger "collage" framed photograph by Koen Theys

This photograph I took is a small detail portion of a larger “collage” framed photograph by Koen Theys

The image above is kind of hard to explain, but I’ll try. Koen Theys creates large tableaux photographs where he carefully assembles thousands of objects like clocks, skulls, books, candles, old computer equipment and various other items he uses in these works.

The photograph I took, is a tiny portion of one of these tableaux photographs because unless I took a small part of the image and blew it up there would be no way to see the detail.

Another thing I cannot show, but which I thought was extremely interesting, he set up a video camera on a trolly and slowly rolled the camera through the tableaux, and then showed this video in another room adjacent to where the large-scale photographs were displayed.

This extremely innovative use of technology, photography and found objects made for an extraordinarily compelling viewing experience.

It's not really possible to see the details of this Koen Theys collage but this is the entire image

It’s not really possible to see the details of this Koen Theys collage but this is the entire image

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The upper floor exhibitions had a variety of sculpture, painting and photography too, some more thought provoking to me than others, but all worth seeing.

A sample of other items on view at SMAK…

Sculpture: three grotesques holding a pencil, a paint brush and a screwdriver

Sculpture: three grotesques holding a pencil, a paint brush and a screwdriver

This sculpture of three artists features grotesque heads, and the artist’s arms are bound one to the other so they cannot move, or ever see one another. The description of the sculpture suggests their poses are like samurai warriors with their pencil, paint brush and screwdriver stuck into their belts like swords.

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Framed photographs of grotesque head sculptures

Framed photographs of grotesque head sculptures

These framed photographs of grotesque head sculptures was also a part of this exhibit. Text describing these items suggested that some of the heads were modeled loosely on some European politicians.

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Horse hide sculpture - a provocative display of what looks like two decapitated horses

Horse hide sculpture – a provocative display of what looks like two decapitated horses

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Mark Manders - MomentenMachine

Mark Manders – MomentenMachine

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This installation features classic art hanging on the walls with grocery shelves of old sacks of flour and other staples blocking the view

This installation features classic art hanging on the walls with grocery shelves of old sacks of flour and other staples blocking the view

This detail view of the installation shows the classic art seen through the shelving and its contents

This detail view of the installation shows the classic art seen through the shelving and its contents

 

Gent is Great

Cuppola style gazebo in Gent. Around the corner in this park is SMAK, the contemporary art museum.

Cuppola style gazebo in Gent. Around the corner in this park is SMAK, the contemporary art museum.

Gent, Belgium is the only place I visited during this trip where I wished I could have stayed longer. Much longer!

Gent (also spelled Ghent) is a fantastic city: it has medieval architecture and cobblestone streets like Brugge; it’s a University town so there are students and a great vibe; there is an amazing art scene including SMAK (among many other museums and galleries I didn’t have time to visit); and it has a swinging nightlife with several jazz clubs, including the Hot Club de Gand where I spent my one precious evening in town.

But most important to me? Gent is a real city. It’s not a place geared specifically for tourists (like Brugge and Delft) … it does not feel like an artificial environment, no, it’s the coming together of ancient traditions and modern Belgian culture with the hum of workaday life.

Landmark church in Gent with tram tracks out front - a blending of old and new

Landmark church in Gent with tram tracks out front – a blending of old and new

Travel Tip, Lodging: The nicest hotel (and most moderately priced of all the places I stayed) during my trip was at The Sandton Grand Hotel Reylof.  It’s a contemporary styled hotel with all the amenities: a chic bar, great concierge service, a wonderful breakfast (not included with the room), and a stellar staff who make you feel like nothing you could request is too much for them to accomodate.

What few hours I had to wander around Gent, I used oogling the magnificent architecture. I’m disappointed to have to report that due to the misty and overcast weather I did not take many photos outside. (Most of my shots were taken in SMAK. I’ll be putting up another post about art from the trip later.)

Travel Tip, Snack Food: Because it was so chilly, I went into a (mostly) organic snack shop called ExKi (just off the main town square) and had a bowl of cream of mushroom soup. It was divine. Food like that is served in New York City, yes, but only in a fine restaurant and not at snack shop prices (with free WiFi too.) This place has great options (for both vegetarians and non-veg) and I recommend it for lunch or a quick snack break.

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Travel Tip, Jazz Festival: For anyone who loves jazz, you may also want to know about two festivals going on this summer. The North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam, Netherlands from July 12-14; AND the Gent Jazz Festival from July 12-20th (which will include stars like Diana Krall this year.)

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After a late siesta (nap), I went out on the town to the Hot Club de Gand for a night of jazz and making new friends.

You won’t find the Hot Club de Gand if you look for it on the street because you have to know where it is to find it (thank you again, Sandton staff.) The club “entrance” is a one-person wide, dimly lit, cobblestone alleyway. There is a sign, but you’ll miss it if you don’t know what you’re looking for.

The top secret alley entrance...

The top secret alley entrance…

You snake your way down the alley, and on the right side is a corregated tin door (if this sounds like an adventure, it is!) When you open the door you are in the “garden courtyard” of the club. But once you go inside, it is jam packed, with no room to move!

The night I went, there was a revolving set of jazz musicians taking the stage (the musicians were all guys in their 20’s). When I came in, a drummer, guitarist, and base player were playing acoustic jazz; 20 minutes later the drummer switched out and a piano player came up; 20 minutes after that the base player and lead guitarist switched out, and so on.

I’ve never seen that kind of “open mic” set up, and it was a lot of fun watching all the musicians play together when you could tell their abilities to improvise were being tested in front of the crowd.

In the meantime, I made friends with a New Zealander named Kristen at the bar. She was staying at a youth hostel up the street, and she introduced me, in turn, to a group of people at a table… some from the hostel (Laura from Florida, an Indian guy who had relocated to Australia, a guy and gal from Canada, and two others were local.)

But certainly the nicest guy I met had to be Peter, a former Amsterdamer who moved to Belgium and lived in Gent. Peter and I sat next to each other, joking all night. When it got to be about 2am and I said I had to get back to my hotel, Peter offered to walk me back.

(What is it about gentlemanly Dutch guys who want to escort a tourist woman to her hotel? I don’t know, but it was the second time in the trip it happened, and I felt lucky to have the company. It should be noted that like Jon in Amsterdam at Alto Jazz Cafe, Peter was a perfect gentleman and deposited me at my doorstep safely.)

Gent is extremely charming at night, and that night it was especially so, lit by street lamps with mist in the air giving the whole town a golden glow.

I remember my precious hours in Gent fondly; I have to figure out a way to get back there soon.

The Train, The Train! Transportation Nightmares between Amsterdam and Belgium

A small variety of tram, high speed, and local train tickets needed to get around

A small variety of tram, high speed, and local train tickets needed to get around

Yellow tickets for travel inside the Netherlands; Blue ticket for the Amsterdam tram (24 hr pass); high speed computer print-out ticket for travel from Amsterdam, NL to Brugge, Belgium… the dizzying array of tickets needed to get from place to place was confusing for this traveler.

In Belgium, if you announce to the conductor before you get on the train, you can purchase your ticket on the train. In the Netherlands, if you attempt that move, you’ll be asked to pay a $35 euro surcharge for not having your ticket in hand.

What does that really mean? Miss the train sitting on the platform in front of you, go downstairs, wait on line to buy a ticket, then go back up to whatever platform for the next train, wait twenty minutes… did I mention drag your luggage around with you? Yeah, do that too.

And how are you supposed to know all this?

I have no idea.

The three days I decided to roam the countryside by train were a logistical nightmare.

Amsterdam to Brugge, Belgium

The day before I was supposed to leave, I went to buy a ticket at Amsterdam’s Central Station from the company that runs the HiSpeed rail service. I was informed that there were no more seats on the HiSpeed train, and that I would have to take a local train, that would add another 40 minutes to my trip – but – the cost would be half of what I would have paid for HiSpeed service ($43.80 euros vs. $97 euros for HiSpeed.) O-kay…

But, I was told, you have to change trains multiple times. That’s right: there is no train between Amsterdam and Brugge. There is train service, but you have to go from Amsterdam to Rotterdam, then from Rotterdam to Antwerp, and then go from Antwerp to Brugge.

Freaking hell, I thought, but what other choice did I have if I wanted to see picturesque Brugge?

So on the morning of my trip, I got onto the train in Amsterdam as planned. Half-way between Amsterdam and Rotterdam the train broke down. Dead. Stopped in place for more than 40 minutes. During the ticking of the clock, I missed my connection for Rotterdam to Antwerp.

Uh oh.

Skylights above the Antwerp Train Station, upper platforms

Skylights above the Antwerp Train Station, upper platforms

 

I could go through the hell I experienced in detail, but I will spare you and tell you this: I had to change trains five times before I finally got to Brugge in the pouring rain. And instead of taking 3 hours, or even 3.5 hours, the trip took me over six hours to get from Amsterdam to Brugge.

You can already guess, correctly, that all that changing of trains, waiting on platforms, purchasing of tickets and transfers and the rest of it… was exhausting. By the time I got to Brugge (in the pouring rain) I had little strength left to see the town. I walked around for two hours in the rain, and then went to my hotel and collapsed.

So much for Brugge. Which is beautiful, by the way, but not a “real town.” I mean to say, Belgians call it an “amusement park” because everything there is geared to tourists. Yes, it’s a Unesco World Heritage Site, and it’s a phenomenal example of medieval architecture and worth seeing. Once.

Travel Tip: Brugge is a very small town, so my recommendation is don’t bother staying there overnight to pay tourist hotel rates and instead stay in Gent and do it as a day trip.

Brugge to Gent

I don’t recall the trip from Brugge to Gent being that arduous, but it was time consuming. You’d think it shouldn’t take a few hours to get to a town that is really close by, but the stuff that takes up your time are all the little tasks you must attend to in order to get where you have to go.

For example, once I got to Gent I had to find out which Tram would get me nearest to my hotel. Then I had to go outside the train station and find an out-building where they sell the tram tickets (harder to find than you might think.) The trams in the Gent station are numbered, but even when you know which one you need, you have to make sure you’re getting on the right one, going in the right direction and you need to know the name of your stop (which they’re going to announce in foreign accent you probably can’t understand.)

So yeah, it took me all morning to get from Brugge to Gent due to all the little things.

Gent to Delft

I had had it by the time I tried to get from Gent to Delft. I had to do the reverse order crap I did before and change trains in Antwerp, then Rotterdam then… somewhere else I can’t remember because there is no direct train from Rotterdam to freaking Delft.

Travel tip: If you are going to see Brugge and Gent, SKIP DELFT. It’s smaller than both of those places, and just as touristy. It’s not worth it, especially when you consider the hassles of getting there by train, which are considerable.

I think I mentioned this in my other post Going Dutch, that it was freezing cold and windy the day I traveled to Delft. What I didn’t add then, but will add now, is that it took me from 9am until 1:30pm to get to my hotel. That just plain pissed me off.

Like in Brugge, between the horrible weather and the ridiculous arduous trip, it knocked me out from enjoying the sights for the most part. I walked around Delft and I’m sure I saw most of it, it’s a tiny place… but the near-gale force winds chased me inside to my hotel.

And finally…

Delft to Amsterdam

Yeah, that’s right… you can’t get to Amsterdam from Delft. You have to go to the Hague, where I did not visit because I was not going to take even one more tram, bus, train or horse drawn carriage ride to ANYwhere by the time I made it to Delft in the middle of the afternoon. So, sorry Hague, I could have spent some tourist dollars there but you’re train system sapped me of my willpower to get to you.

Ironically, and this is ironic to me… the train service between the Hague and Amsterdam is fast and nearly non-stop.

It was a quick and efficient trip.

Too little, too late.

Oh… yeah… the views of the countryside out the train window(s) are pretty. Lots of green space, cows, sheep and not much else.

For hours.

And hours.