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The Zuiderkerk (Southern Church), designed by the famous architect, Hendrick de Keyser, was finished in 1611, with the beautiful tower completed in 1614. It was the first Calvist church in Amsterdam. Major reconstruction was done during 1976-1979. Nowadays the Zuiderkerk hosts the City of Amsterdam's planning and housing information center. Here you can find out about city projects including housing, urban renewal, transportation and the environment. You can read about the many municipal regulations including the "'bestemmingsplans". It's also a good place to get the lowdown on new housing being built for sale or rent in Amsterdam. The Zuiderkerk was used as a temporary depot for corpses, during the last winter of WWII (1944-1945) when thousands of Amsterdammers were dying of hunger faster than they could be buried. There's a plaque near the main entrance commemorating this awful time. The Zuiderkerk, is now "deconsecrated" and the new floor hides the grave markers from the old church floor below. Richard Clyfton, one of the founding English Pilgrims is buried there. Tours of the Zuiderkerk tower are offered from June to September, Wedenesdays to Saturdays from 2pm to 4pm. It takes 45 minues and costs about 2 Euros. Use the side entrance on Zandstraat. Metro: Nieuwmarkt
Tram 9, 14 and 20 (Waterlooplein stop) Open: Monday 11am to 4pm
Tuesday to Friday 9am to 4pm
on Thursdays till 8pm Free admission. Contact:
De Zuiderkerk
Zuiderkerkhof 72
1011 WB Amsterdam
phone: +31 (0)20 552 7987
fax: +31 (0)20 552 7988

Note: This beautiful church between the Nieuwmarkt and the Waterlooplein houses Amsterdam's Office of Planning and Housing and it the tower keeps accurate time too!

Posted by on Monday, June 24 @ 07:10:25 UTC (4495 reads)
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Amsterdam Ordnance Datum

While escaping one of Amsterdam's sudden downpours I ducked into the City Hall building entrance by the Waterlooplein and discovered a dioramic wonder.The main lobby is rather stark, except for a diorama stretching along one wall that details the water levels in Amsterdam and the city's underpinnings. You can see in the diorama the columns sunk into the soft sand under the city's buildings, the Metro tubes with subways running, and the various levels of water in the city's canals. The three columns above represent the level of the North Sea at this moment in IJmuiden, the level of the water at Vlissingen (Flushing), and the level the water reached during Holland's worst flood in 1953. This was 4.55 meters above the NAP.The NAP is the NORMAAL AMSTERDAMS PEIL, which translates into the "Amsterdam Ordnance Datum." This water level was recognized over three centuries ago as the referral point for all constructions in the Netherlands and several adjoining countries.What does this mean to you? Well if you walk down the spiral staircase around the columns you will pass a bronze knob, which is the actual NAP point. From here you can see how far you are actually under water.Amsterdam got its name from a dam constructed in the River Amstel which kept water from flooding the town. To allow ships with cargo in and out of town, locks were constructed that would open and close when the water went above a certain level, this level became the NAP.So my escape from a watery downpour only brought me into a more complete understanding of the complex relationship between Amsterdam and the sea.The NAP project here in the Amsterdam City Hall was constructed and designed by Louis van Gasteren and Kees van der Veer in 1988.

Posted by on Saturday, February 09 @ 06:11:38 UTC (5922 reads)
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Modern Dutch Architecture

Amsterdam has hundreds of bridges including old and new drawbridges.
Check out Amsterdam, City of Bridges for more info and photos.

newMetropolis Science & Technology Center Modern Dutch Architecture suffers from a blandness that can be seen throughout Europe since the 1960s.  Fortunately laws were passed preserving the old buildings in Amsterdam from further "modernization". Occasionally there are some surprises that indicate a break with the boring boxiness of most modern European design.

Note: Striking but sometimes downright ugly, modern Dutch architecture's beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder.

Posted by on Wednesday, June 20 @ 04:51:11 UTC (17591 reads)
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Amsterdam - A Living Museum

Much of Amsterdam's charm comes from the architecture dating from the city's "Golden Age".  Amsterdam goes back more than 700 years and a good portion of the central city is 200 to 550 years old.  These beautiful old buildings have been wonderfully restored and preserved.  Many older buildings awaiting restoration have serious structural problems! It's truly remarkable when you realize most of them are built on stilts stuck into the mud.  So many structures lean at odd angles that it's rare to see a whole block in alignment.  Many have had to have their supports replaced over the centuries to keep the buildings upright.
Oude Kerk in the Red Light district As beautiful as these buildings appear on the outside, unless they've been completely remodeled inside they are likely to suffer from the typical drawbacks of Dutch architecture of the period.  Most buildings are deep and narrow.  This was a result of city taxes that were measured by frontage.  Of course the thrifty Dutch decided to keep their buildings narrow and thus avoid paying too much tax. Other drawbacks to old Dutch buildings are steep, narrow winding staircases with low ceilings to bump your head into.  These staircases make it impossible to bring any large objects into one's house, thus most of these buildings have a hook extending from the top of the building allowing the residents to hoist their larger furnishings up through the windows.  Nowadays you can rent an electric ramp that works like an escalator whisking belongings as high as six stories. Possibly the worse feature of Dutch design is the bathroom, or W.C..  It's usually separate from the bath/shower area, often in a very small room, just big enough for you and the toilet. Typically they're claustrophobic, with poor ventilation.  Add to this the bizarre toilet design with a platform to hold your smelly waste up in the air (I think it's some kind of altar) so that it can fill the room with the scent of, well you know...  The Dutch will often light a match, supposedly to remove the smell, but I keep expecting an explosion.  I can't say I've enjoyed much of my time spent on the crapper in Holland. Another drawback to living in Amsterdam is the fact that the city is about 15 feet below sea level.  This creates a sink for moist air from the North Sea to blanket the city most days.  This incredibly humid air mass is responsible for high mold counts and little sunshine.  In fact the narrow streets, multistory buildings and high density of Amsterdam allow only brief periods of sun to grace the streets.  These moments are relished by the residents.  The saving grace is that good breezes keep the air moving.  The numerous canals channel the wind and water (feng shui) making up for the lack of open space in the city.

Note: From the Golden Age to the Amsterdam School to Bauhaus inspired design, to ugly boxes, Dutch architecture can be inspiring and functional or neither.

Posted by on Wednesday, June 20 @ 04:42:52 UTC (19998 reads)
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The Amsterdam School

At the end of W.W.I, the Amsterdam School architects designed large housing projects to replace slums and to expand the city.  These buildings incorporated larger floor plans with balconies overlooking huge central gardens.  Many of the design elements incorporated a progressive attitude towards apartment life allowing for more light and air and taking into account human ergonomics. These block sized streamlined brick structures also had some unique design elements such as busts of famous people and unusual doors. Large windows sometimes at odd angles or in weird shapes make each building unique.  Visit Amsterdam School Architecture for more about this celebrated design movement. With it's masterful art deco decor, the Tuschinski Theater is a landmark of the period.  Now a very popular movie venue, it's worth a visit just to gawk at the interior.  A great illustrated reference with numerous walking tours of Amsterdam is: Eyewitness Travel Guides: Amsterdam. I highly recommend it!

Note: The Amsterdam School of architecture explored pioneering new solutions to urban residential design that radically improved city living.

Posted by on Wednesday, June 20 @ 04:33:32 UTC (8013 reads)
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Indigenous Australian Foods: Bush Tucker

The continent of Australia, being remote as it is, evolved along different pathways from the rest of the world. The indigenous peoples here survived some 60,000 years without interference from European or other civilizations. These people survived on the meager resources of this continent, in perfect harmony with nature, using the natural resources without destroying them.

Native Australians survived in the bush without such things as pots and pans, and did not usually boil water. They didn’t brew teas and make coffee. They drank water from rivers and streams, or the dew from grass. The natives used foods from their area, and did not trade foods with other groups.

Recently the media has made fun of some of the more interesting dietary items of the indigenous people of Australia, such as the witchety grub. This is just one example of the diversity of herbs, fungi, fruits, flowers, vegetables, animals, birds, insects, fish, and reptiles known as ‘bush tucker’ down under.

The Witchety Grub is a primary food source for desert dwellers. Witchety grubs grow in the roots of Acacia bushes, and ten of them per day can keep you alive. Roasting them in the coals of a fire, and rolling them in ashes are a favorite way of preparing them. The Bogong Moth, Agrotis infusa, found in the mountains of southern New South Wales is eaten roasted, or ground into a paste and dried into a flour. These moths were highly prized as a food source by the native Australians. Honeypot Ants, stingless native bees (Trigona sp.), Bush cockroach, Green tree ant, Lerp insect, Processionary caterpillar, Termites and others round out the list of insects to eat here.

Apart from their fascinating use of insects as food, the indigenous peoples also enjoyed a variety of fruits, seeds, and nuts in their diet.

The Santalum Acuminatum or the Quandong is a truly native species dating back 40 million years on the Australian continent. This small red fruit grows on a parasitic tree, that uses another trees root system for water. An important food source with a high Vitamin C content, the trees grow throughout Australia. The dried fruit lasts for years without a loss in flavor. The wood was often burned by natives in ceremonies and is known as the Wild Peach, Desert Peach, or Native Peach by Australians.

The Macadamia nut is another native Australian species, domesticated in Hawaii, but enjoyed locally as well. Bunya Nuts (Araucaria bidwillii), produce huge 3 kilo cones which are chock filled with nuts, every three years. They can be eaten raw, roasted or ground into a nut flour. Candle Nuts, poisonous if eaten raw, can be roasted and eaten. The intrinsically high cyanide content of Candle Nuts makes them upsetting to your stomach if you eat more than just a few. Early settlers used them as candles, because of the high fat content they burned nicely.

The Cedar Bay Cherry, or Beach Cherry is one of Australia’s best fruits, and found along almost all its coasts. The Davidson’s Plum is used to make jams and wine, as a food coloring, and as flavor for sauces, desserts, and drinks. The Midyim is a small bluish fruit that is eaten raw, and it grows well in the arid sandy soils of Australia. Native Ginger produces a small blue fruit that is lemony in flavor. The young root tips are edible, and the leaves are used in a layer underneath meats roasting in an oven.

The native Lemon Aspen tree is neither a lemon, nor an aspen, but an Australian bushfood plant and not an herb at all. Growing as a tall tree up to 20m high, it has deep-green leaves, and clusters of scented white flowers. The small lime-green fruits are harvested in autumn and winter for their unique flavor, a strong citrus tang with undertones of eucalyptus and menthol. This makes for a delightful, if unusual wine. You can read about more wines made in Australia from native fruits here.

Wattles, or Acacias, are another food source, and some 47 varieties provide edible seeds in Australia. Indigenous people ground the seeds into a flour, and then made a flat bread. Coastal dwellers have been known to roast the pods in fire, and then eat the seeds. The current fad in upscale modern Australia is coffee flavored with ground roasted wattle seed.

Roots and tubers were a staple in the diet on this continent, as well as what animal meat that could be found. Kangaroos, possums, lizards, fish and shellfish, and insects were all important sources of protein. Along the southern coasts whale and seal meat would also make their way into the diet.

In the many areas of coastline blessed with Mangrove Lagoons, the natives would have a feast. From prawns and shrimps to mussels, clams, worms, to birds eggs and rare species of fruits and plants, the mangroves are a plentiful food source.

All of this sounds like a glamorously exotic diet, but survival was based on water as well. Natives found food and water in where many Europeans have perished. Here an Indigenous person could find enough food and water to survive for a lifetime. Natives knew where to look for water holes and soaks, how to collect water, how to conserve water, and how to clean it. These are survival skills for the locals.

Tribes would consist of small family groups, who camped together and shared in the daily search for food. Men hunted, and the women and children collected plants, insects, and made the food.

~by Martin Trip

Posted by on Monday, October 10 @ 03:05:04 UTC (3935 reads)
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Eat, Drink and Be Merry in Prague

One of the great pleasures of life is to dine well. In Prague this pleasure is considered to be part of life, not something reserved for special occasions. In fact few European capitals can claim a greater variety or more sophisticated cuisine than can be enjoyed in Prague's hundreds of restaurants. And when you consider the low cost of dining out in Prague, you can understand why it's so hip to visit this culinary mecca. To start there is Czech cuisine, which like most central European food, is centered around meat and potatoes, with vegetables and excellent salads. Whether you like goulash or not, a meal in a traditional Czech restaurant is an unforgetable experience, if not a gastronomic high point. For that kind of experience you need only visit one of the many French restaurants dotting the city. From hardy French country food to Nouvelle cuisine, Prague does justice to the epicurian palate. World class restaurants serve up excellent fare, in elegant, classical surroundings. In many of these places you can easily imagine you're in Old Europe with many restaurant buildings in the Old Town dating back 500 to 1000 years. So ambiance plays a big part in the Prague dining experience. Seafood, Italian and Asian food also appear prominent in Prague's culinary scene. From traditional mediterranean fare to the latest Pacific Rim cuisine, adventurous gourmets will have many a good meal here. Although Prague is far from the sea, we found fresh seafood that was flown in from places like Greenland and Sri Lanka. Thai food has caught on, adding a bit of spice to the traditional Chinese and Japanese experience. Vegetarians and vegans aren't forgotten in Prague, as there are several very good vegetarian restaurants including a Govinda's (hare krishna) restaurant, and another in Old Town Square. Many non-Czech restaurants also cater to vegetarians, often with a whole section of vegetarian dishes. Other popular cuisines are Indian, Greek, Mexican, Caribbean and South American. Please check our Restaurant Guide for specific dining suggestions. Of course every meal must be accompanied by a good beverage, and in Prague there's no shortage of excellent options. By far the most popular beverage is Czech beer. With a long tradition of brewing beer with the most natural ingredients in the old way, you'll be amazed at how good beer can be! The best we tried were Krusovice and Staropromen. These beers come in several flavors, usually a light and a dark. These are not your everyday Budweisers (even though the original Budweiser is Czech!). One or two half liters (ask for a big beer) is usually enough for a meal. At prices from under one Euro to two Euros per half liter, it's hard to beat. And when you consider the price of wine in Prague, which unfortunately isn't a bargain, you'll want to imbibe the foamy stuff unless you're splurging. Wine may be pricey, but you can't go wrong. Even Czech wine will surprise you. The Czech reds in particular can be good to excellent, with a range of flavors, somewhat different from say French or Spanish wines (because some of the grapes used are different). They also make a good, rather dry Muscat wine, which retains the flowery taste, without the sickeningly sweet sugar content. For more about Czech wine, please read our story The History of Czech Wine. Besides the local wines, there is a plethora of French and Italian vintages on most wine lists. But be prepared to pay even more than in the EU because there's a 30% import duty on these. I'd say most imported wines were 50 to 100% more than in an EU country. That beer's sounding better and better, eh? In addition to all these full service restaurants, much of Prague's eating and drinking scene revolves around cafes and bars. Most Czech's can't afford to eat in the fancy restaurants, so their social life revolves around the pubs and cafes where lower priced meals and drinks abound. There are so many cafes and pubs in the tourist districts (Old Town and Mala Strana) most visitors miss those further out, where beers go for 35 Eurocents, and menus for under five Euros. If you're on a budget, or want to practice your Czech or just want to rub shoulders with the average working stiff, you might check these out. An interesting feature of the night scene in Prague is that many clubs that cater to the younger crowd also cater to their stomachs. Prague clubs are now sprouting restaurant/cafes where a decent late night meal will keep you powered up, dancing till dawn.

Posted by on Sunday, September 07 @ 06:40:40 UTC (16376 reads)
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Sugarcane in Australia

Cane Trains on the Coast of Queensland Sugarcane has been cultivated for more than 2000 years by mankind. Botanically, Sugarcane is known as Saccharum officinarum, and it belongs to the family Gramineae. The grass’s two-inch thick stalk can grow as tall as 20 feet in densely packed rows. Sugarcane is comprised of six different varieties, none of which produce hearty seeds. These grasses have been propagated by root cuttings, and according to some this plant would not have survived to any extent in the wild without human intervention. The world’s largest producers of Sugarcane are Brazil, Cuba, Kazakhstan, Mexico, India, and Australia. Australia's Sugarcane industry exports more than 5 million tonnes of the stuff. 94% is grown in Queensland, 5% in New South Wales, and 1% in Western Australia (as of 2003). You can see Sugarcane plantations for miles and miles as your drive through the
Wet Tropics region of Far North Queensland in Australia. Queensland now has over half a million hectares of land producing sugar cane, and sports 25 sugar mills where the cane is crushed and the raw sugar is extracted. Whole towns have grown up around these mills, and the surrounding jungle is cleared at an ever-expanding rate to make room for everyone, and the cane fields. The cane fields have more than doubled in area since the year 1998. Vast areas of pristine primeval jungle have been cleared for Sugarcane plantations averaging 80 hectares in size. This has resulted in species such as cassowaries becoming endangered, and hordes of people have moved into the area creating communities where none existed before.
~Martin Trip

Posted by on Sunday, October 09 @ 06:30:57 UTC (1575 reads)
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Oude Kerk

Originally a small wooden church on a bank of the Amstel River in the 1300's, it grew to be the stately Gothic structure it is today during the 14th century. Over the centuries it was a place for traders to meet and a refuge for the poor. A wonderful pipe organ was built in 1724, but little else has changed. Walking around on the gravestones of the rich and famous and royals from centuries past is an eerie feeling, especially when you recognize someone you've heard of! See Map

Note: A splendid example of Gothic architecture, the Oude Kerk, in the center of Amsterdam's Red Light District is worth a visit.

Posted by on Thursday, June 07 @ 04:51:24 UTC (10023 reads)
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Nucifora Tea

Nucifora Tea is a delightful full-bodied smooth black tea grown outside Innisfail in the Wet Tropics of Far North Queensland in Australia. It is without a doubt one of the finest black teas I've consumed - ever
You can buy Nucifora Tea on the roadside or in shops. Grown in the rich agriculture district of Palmerston, the Nuciforas have been growing tea here for more than 15 years. They only harvest the tender young tips of the plants, which produces top quality tea. Nucifora Tea is grown without pesticides or herbicides in a tropical paradise. The weather in the area near Innisfail is surrounded by vast banana plantations, miles of paw paws, millions of acres of sugar cane, and pasture land stretching from the eastern fringe of coastal forests on the Coral Sea to the Atherton Tablelands to the west. This is a very special place. Stop by any time, day or night, and get some tea from their roadside stand, just leave the few dollars they ask in the can and when you get home brew a pot of delicious tea from Queensland.

Posted by on Saturday, October 01 @ 02:55:54 UTC (1126 reads)
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