17 July 2009

European Grand Tour - The Continent: Day2

The Grand Tour continues. A quick express train whisks us away from Belgium, and this morning we arrive in the Netherlands.

Low-lying and largely surrounded by water (bordered by the North sea, and crisscrossed with major riverways) a complex series of dikes have for centuries, successfully kept the country from being swallowed whole. The windmill, which many just regard as an antiquated and quaint symbol of the Dutch culture were in fact used to control the dyke system.

With the water under control, the Netherlands became a country rich in legacy: the hollow clump-clump of the wooden clog; buttery-yellow Gouda cheese; the instantly recognizable blue of delftware pottery and; the springtime delight of the tulip.

In the country that may have the world's greenest thumb, one must expect to find this horticultural nature playing itself out in all manners. Take for instance, these stunningly crafted, felted trumpet flowers by reyaveltman.

The love for flowers also affects photographer, schamka. This photograph will be sure to evoke Grand Tour memories of spring mornings, softly sunlit and fresh with dew.

With the smell of the blossoms still tickling our noses, we make our way on to Germany.

Germany is one of Europe's larger countries. It is comprised of sixteen states, and neighbours nine countries. It has the beauty of the Alps, the Rhine Valley and the Black Forest, with a healthy dose of industrial and urban areas to balance. With a geography as complex as this, one must expect a great deal of regional influence.

Germany is beer and bratwurst and blackforest cake.

Many of the world's deepest thinkers from Hegel, Kant and Marx to Einstein and von Braun were German. Germany also very kindly provided the musical genius of Bach, Beethoven and Brahms.

From the country that gave us the Gutenberg press, comes print designer, seasprayblue. This sweet print of teacups is a favorite.

For a craft that calls to mind the leather of lederhosen, and the lace trimmings of a Black Forest cottage window, see the shop of thymbyldesigns. This ring is as charming as it is unique in design.

And so concludes another day of travels. Tomorrow, we climb the Alps into Austria and Switzerland.

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