One of the most famous fun parks in the Netherlands is Madurodam in The Hague. Its main theme is to let people see outstanding buildings from around the country in miniature. To some extent, this is comparable to LEGOLAND in Denmark, where objects are built, naturally, out of Lego pieces. Here, the building materials are undefined, probably clay and wood, often interspersed with metals and plastic, all nicely painted, so all surfaces correspond to the originals.

Near the entrance, visitors find themselves in the waterworld of the Netherlands, with all sorts of ships, bridges, dams and dykes.P1130661P1130664P1130681Of course, the windmills cannot be far away, as they have always served water management at least as much as the milling of grain.P1130662This area serves as a major attraction for little children, not only because of the thrill of watching – or waiting to watch – various trains flip by, criss-crossing the area, but because they can cooperate with each other on putting out a fire on a tanker, float wooden containers down rivers and channels or load and unload containers in a harbour.P1130665Further inside the park, the area is more or less arranged by cities. Here we can visit the inner cities of Amsterdam, Utrecht, The Hague and others along with famous architectural relics around them. Starting with Muiderslot, the castle of Muiden SE of Amsterdam, here’s a series of examples without special order.P1130677P1130679P1130680The quality of some of the models is really beathtaking.P1130682P1130690P1130691I really appreciated the care invested in the immediate environment of the models: what in reality are tall trees or full-grown bushes have been pruned back, ikebana style, with breathtakingly realistic miniature trees and bushes, where even the flowers are fit to size.P1130693Fortuntely for toddlers and small kids, there’s a big and good playground behind this row of houses:P1130696There are some other exhibitions showing Dutch history and the life of the person, George Maduro, who was the inspiration behind the park. In the middle, there’s also a huge globe-like structure, ‘Fantasitron’, in which people can be scanned in 3D and afterwards be posted a 3D sculpture of themselves.

Unfortunately, the structure, which can be seen in the middle of this photo,P1130688is, in our opinion, is ugly and destroys some of the effect of the place. Besides, the park is rather small for the €16,5 entrance fee. The size of the area can be judged well based on this photo:P1130699and we can testify to the fact that it is small.

Whereas it’s a nice model of famous Dutch landmarks, little children would hardly appreciate this aspect. On a day with a lot worse, but a lot more probable weather, children couldn’t really play with water. Even we had no interest in the historical exhibitions, how could little children? But those water games offer nothing for parents, who would appreciate the historical features on display, but then again, this all is only about the Netherlands, so if you’re not familiar with most of the buildings, what is there for adults to enjoy for the price?

Taking up the comparison with Legoland again, the area is a tiny portion of that for nearly half the price. This place is not suitable for a daily programme without children as it can easily be walked in a couple of hours. In Legoland, the models represent famous landmarks from all over the world and in larger sizes, even fit for a real slide surrounded by figures. That one is great fun for all ages, this one is only suitable in part for adults and in the other half for little kids. We had a good, sunny day with two little kids, it was worth it, but still, for me, it was a bit of a let-down. I’d definitely not come again on my own, or without kids.

by P.S. and Z.J.S.


Date of World Championship of Living Statues Arnhem 2017?

I know, I know, this is my second photoblog, I should post photos here, but this is about future photos. First we have to know when the exhibition is coming.

Well, today I suddenly remembered that I missed last year’s edition if there was anything. I found something about it a month or so after it had happened early June. But I hadn’t seen any ads about it, or any crowds either, for that matter, so I’m not sure it happened.

From what I can read this year, it has now become a biannual event. Which is strange because I visited each year since 2010, except 2014, when I couldn’t be here. But anyway, I’m glad to be able to find that it’s taking place at the end of this August, when I can be here. You can read more here.

The only problem is that it may not … At the beginning it’s black-and-white. And it gets repeated near the end as well, following the Dutch explanations, under “Gegevens”, i.e., data. However, just above that, it says, “Meer informatie over activiteiten rond World Living Statues in Nederland vind je hier »“, which means, you can get more info about the activities of the event by clicking on that link, and then you’ll get into trouble. No, not that there’s nothing there, no. The real trouble is that there it says it’ll happen on Oct. 1 this year. Quite unlike the Dutch, I’d say. So be careful, if you can, with your bookings this year: you may arrive at the end of August to find nothing but that you’ve missed the possibility of booking for Oct. 1.

If I can get further info and a rectification or clarification of the date, I’ll post it here. Further, if the even does take place one way or another, I’ll post photos too – but perhaps on a third of my photoblogs, as this one may have reached the limit of data I can upload by that time.

Update: I’ve managed to get confirmation from the organisers that the correct date for the competition this year is 1 October (with the warm-up event running on the previous evening in Ede). The date has also just been corrected on the first site, so everything is all right for a great event. Hope to have helped you. See you in October.

by P.S.

Castles in Hungary, part 3

In this part, I’d like to show you some photos of one of the oldest and probably the most famous castle in Hungary only second to Buda and built in the 1250s. When you are driving up to it, this is the view you get (the other kinds are made from the other side of the Danube, from where you can’t approach Visegrád).P1130174It has a famous Slavic name, though, also made famous by a part of Smetana’s Má vlast (My Homeland) cycle: Visgrád in Hungarian, Višegrad in Czech as well as in Serbian to denote not only Smetanas mucis but also the castles in those territories. The name meanst Upper Castle, or High Castle. Out of those castles, it is probably the Hungarian Visegrád which stands upon the highest elevation above its neighbourhood. When you’ve made it upstairs, wonderful panoramic views can be enjoyed.P1120211P1120248There are two ways of approach. One is when you drive around the mountain to a parking place relatively high up on the mountain side and pay. Then the entrance is through this tower.P1120208One can park near the Danube, though. It is the much longer path, but on the way, one can enjoy the ruins of the 15th c. palace of the famous king Matthias, who brought the renaissance and power to Hungary before the kingdom was submerged in chaos and was overrun by the Turks. Here are a few photos of the remains of the last real golden age of Hungary.P1020739P1020780P1020783P1020763After the palace, the ascent takes us up through the Tower of Salamon, one of the earliest of the fortifications.P1020811After some more, steep climb, we get to the high castle, where we have to pay for the entrance. There is a small waxworks exhibition inside as well, but the point is the castle itself, which has been restored in good taste.P1120212P1020872P1130155P1020891

by P.S. and S.Z.J.

Castles in Hungary, part 2

To follow on with this topic, you can find some more examples of real castles in Hungary. Contrary to castles in the Netherlands, which were mostly built of bricks, at least in their present state, never really played parts in wars, so they are almost exclusively intact and could best be described as palaces of some sort, most Hungarian castles were built of stone boulders for and used in wars and suffered several instances of being blown up.P1120293My first example here is the castle of Esztergom, which was one of the earliest castles in Hungary. It became one of the most important centres of the king before the Tartar invasion. As the castle withstood that invasion, its importance served as an example to what the country should do to prevent another invasion to happen. Unfortunately, the castle suffered enormously during the Turkish occupation and changed hands many times. Afterwards, the stones were carried away by locals to rebuild their houses. The basilica we can see in the above photo from the Slovak side of the Danube was finished at the place of the fortifications and the earlier palaces in 1869. This view is also the only kind that can show that Esztergom used to have a castle with defence lines and bastions.

The next and perhaps most typical example is the castle of Buják, which is hidden among the low hills of the Cserhát mountains, North-East of Budapest, in county Nógrád.P1130565The ruins can’t be seen from the roads, you even have to guess which road actually leads to near it. The reason has a lot to do with the fact that the area still belongs to the army. But as I was appalled by the fact that for this reason I couldn’t see these ruins 45 years ago, I gave it a try this time, when the army is no longer so important. Still, you are shooed away from the parking place, so you have to park a car by the roadside nearby. Then you have to climb a path of a few hundred metres on a dirt path to reach the ruins. P1130568What is a-typical here is that it was not blown up by the Habsburgs – the Turks blew it up before other castles met this inevitable fate. Not much can be seen today, but the view is beautiful.P1130558

The last castle I’m showing you today stands above the only Hungarian village on the World Heritage list: Hollókő, again, among the Cserhát mountains, only a few kilometres from Buják – though no direct road exists between the two villages, so you have to drive a lot more.P1130585From the village, where you can park your car (but don’t be surprised if the parking metres don’t work), a few hundred metres again lead to the rebuilt fortification:P1130570Again, it’s not a big castle, but shows the middle-ages well. For a small payment, all the restored parts can be visited.P1130571P1130576You can even enter a room which has been somewhat furnished (very rare in Hungarian castles except in Buda).P1130575P1130578The view over the low hills from the walls is again beautiful.P1130579With this, I bid farewell for a while. Hope you enjoyed it all and can visit the places some time to come.

by P.S.

Castles in Hungary

I showed a large number of “castles” in the Netherlands and some in Germany in this blog and in my first photoblog as well, but so far nothing from the country where I come from: Hungary. The reasons are numerous, the important ones being that I only visited them a long time ago and my relatively recent visits to the country were not about castles. I did visit some of them, however, over the last few years, so let me start with the largest one in Hungary, the Buda Castle.P1120035Buda castle is the largest castle in Hungary, probably second largest in the world only to the Hradzin in Prague (please enjoy my earlier photos about it starting here), and it’s definitely the most important in the country’s history, as it was the official residence of the kings of Hungary when they were present in the country. This was not always the case under the hundreds of years under the Habsburgs, nevertheless, it has always been the most important administrative centre of the country since the Tartars left in 1243. A morning view from further off shows a great deal of why Budapest is so famous and popular among foreign tourists.P1080001Although it was the ground for many a battle for the hegemony over Hungary, Buda castle survived relatively well, showing a lot of its original fortifications, partly thanks to its importance, which made it imperative for its rulers to restore damaged parts over the centuries. Here is a rarely-photographed side.P1020116Inside the huge complex, there are still scores of buildings going back to at least the Renaissance, which are mostly housing restaurants and shops for tourists today.P1020195A lot of other, usually larger buildings are used by various organisations, the National Gallery, museums, churches, a theatre, and among them, the building of the Hungarian president can also be found. This one is one of the most beautiful of the early remains, just opposite the famous Matthias Church:P1020231As Buda castle is one of the most widely photographed areas in the whole country, I’ll just show a couple of more photos for those who’re unfamiliar there. This is about the famous Fisherman’s Bastion, which is, despite its fortification-like looks, is a late-19th c. addition, followed by views of the Eastern side of the city, Pest.P1020221P1100094P1100096P1100093Definitely beautiful but touristy, so let’s head to another beauty, which is a lot more typical of what kinds of castles are mostly found around the country. This one is above Lake Balaton (or Plattensee for German speakers) and is above a village called Szigliget. The castle was built on a smaller one of the famous and picturesque volcanic leftover mountains above most of the Northern side of Europe’s largest lake.P1040242It has also had a turbulent, but typical history of wars, battles and desolation in Hungary, but has been restored quite well, without overdoing it, not trying to show any of its “full” form, but it’s not in complete ruins either – both of which kind I’ll show some examples in my following post. So let’s scale the winding paths and stairs and see it.P1040299P1040264P1040274We’ll definitely notice the beautiful landscape around, which is a lot less touristy than that from Buda Castle, but definitely enjoyable for rovers. The bigger mountain opposite is St. George’s mount, a bit further from the lake than the touristy Badacsony.P1040283Hope you’ve enjoyed roving around with me and you’ll join me on the next tour as well.

by P.S.

Keukenhof – the perfect day out on Easter Monday

4cef0d00-1f06-42b0-8ce5-603e3412d710.JPGWe had a really fortunate day when we had to travel to Den Haag anyway. By the time we finished there, it was a bright sunny day, albeit not entirely warm at all. But after a short visit to the seaside nearby, we went on to enjoy a wonderful day among the flowers in this enchanted world. Keukenhof can be approached easily by car either from Amsterdam, Haarlem, Leiden, The Hague or Rotterdam as it is situated right in their middle. Expect to pay €16 per adult and €8 per child and also that even small children with small rollers are not allowed in – we came with two of these to make it possible for the kids to roll easily from place to place without getting to tired but we had to park them in a locked place. I personally don’t know why exactly this was the rule as people were allowed in with dogs on long leashes, which definitely disturbs lots of people, but one can’t argue. Instead, enjoy! We aren’t adding comments as the variation of flowers – and with them, names – is so vast that it’s impossible to keep up.



Hope you enjoyed all these.

by Z.J.S, P.S. (first two photos and one more near the end courtesy of “De Gitarist“, and with participation of Zhuo and Julcsika)

Prague, part 4

p1120612If one has more than two days to spend in Prague, (s)he will most probably come back to the castle again, at least to have another look at the city, even if it’s a cold, windy day. This time around, we’ll look at the outer walls of the palaces overlooking the river, then look down.p1120520p1120607p1120609On a sunny day, it looks a lot more cheerful, of course. So does the city below.p1120525p1120515But wait, what’s that dark wall over there? Closer …p1120511Still uncertain … Let’s get down there.

It’s actually within the Waldstein Palace complex, which I approached from the direction of the garden.p1120615_waldstein-palSome interesting sculptures can also be seen in the garden as we approach that wall.p1120618p1120618p1120622p1120623Some of those sculptures are quite old, this Laokoon below, for example, by a Dutch sculptor, is from the early 17th century.p1120626To the left of this path is that wall, which turns out to be called ‘dripstone’, which, outside of geology, is a a stone moulding used as a drip, also called ‘hood mould’. I’ve been to countless cities around Europe and China, but this is the first time I’ve seen such a wall. A rare sight indeed …p1120628_dripstonep1120629and there is even a big aviary for eagle owls made of these walls there.p1120632After having a good look, we can retract our steps and then, on the left side, we can go through a door to the Senate of the Czech Parliament – we have actually seen this entrance down the path among the sculptures, above. Here we get into a nice inner yard. p1120635_walstein-palaceThis is the Senate building, where, in the basement, we can see a nice collection of presents presented to members of the Parliament and other government official on their visits to a lot of countries around the world, from Zimbabwe through Turkey to Malaysia and further – a rare collection of people’s self-reflection.p1120638p1120640Only then did I find the front of the palace. Looking around a bit here, I finish my accounts of Prague. Hope you’ve enjoyed all of it and that you can also visit this gem of Middle-Europe, or similar Czech cities if you haven’t already been there.p1120642p1120643p1120645p1120648p1120650

By P.S.