Of all the icons associated with Amsterdam, most symbolic for me are bicycles and canals. One of my favorite things to do in Amsterdam is walk along the canals and see all the fascinating buildings, narrow and tall, with their ornate gables and facades. It’s fun to see dates from hundreds of years ago inscribed on many of them. Bicycles are everywhere and you quickly learn to watch out for them because bicyclists zip around almost as fast as the cars!
Colmar is in France’s Alsace region and is a really nice “walking-around” town. There are canals bordered by colorful, half-timbered German-style buildings. We had fun searching for storks and their nests on roofs and spires. Having a stork chose your roof to nest upon is considered good luck! The region is also known for decorative pottery baking dishes and giant, fancy iced gingerbread cookies in various shapes. We visited around Easter and there were many giant eggs (one over 3 m high), colorful bunnies and other decorations festooning the shops and windows. We also saw the famous and very interesting Isenheim Altarpiece at the Unterlinden Museum.
You may have noticed I really like art. That’s why I was so excited to visit Rembrandt’s home, now a museum, in Amsterdam. Rembrandt lived and worked here in the mid-1600’s. You can walk through the rooms which are chock-full of his art, props and furniture. I watched a demonstration in his studio of how he made his own paints by grinding pigments (many earth-based) and adding oils. There was also an interesting demo of the etching process he used to create his finely detailed prints. In the lower photo you can see a reproduction of one of Rembrandt’s most famous etchings, “The Three Trees”.
Marc Chagall created stained glass windows for a chapel within the Notre-Dame Cathedral of Reims in 1974. The Reims Cathedral is in France’s Champagne region and towers over the city. It’s so tall we parked quite far away, thinking we were closer than we were. As we walked toward the cathedral we saw many places to stop and try the region’s champagne, which we did after our visit.
I was inspired by Chagall’s windows to create a holiday card from my photo. I used Photoshop to liquify and drag the colors and make a winter scene.
This is one of the many colorful stained glass windows in St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague. The cathedral is part of the stunning Prague castle complex and was founded in 1344. We were lucky to visit on a sunny day when the colors were particularly vibrant. I am amazed at the intricacy and use of shading and color.