Harran: nothing to see!? (1)

harran

In the middle of the wide, flat plain 40 kilometers south of Şanlıurfa lies Harran. It is confirmed that this Harran is indeed the place where Abraham went when God told him to leave Ur of the Chaldees, as the bible book Genesis tells us. Therefor I had to go there and experience it! Moreover, Harran has ruins of a medieval islamic university: a period when Islam prospered in combination with science. People warned me ‘there is nothing left to see’ but I love places without anything to see. So I found myself in fields where nomads seem to live the way Abraham did as a nomad 4000 years ago, overlooking empty plains far into Syria.

Harran Aleppo gate

The dolmuș that brings you from Urfa to Harran stops where the four kilometer long city walls of ancient Harran begin. Some parts of the walls have recently been restaured, more restauration projects will follow. The walls are impressive. I passed the gate of Aleppo, the only gate that remained from the originally six gates (opening the road to Anatolia, Arslanli, Mosul, Baghdad, and Raqqa). In front of me lay a long road going over a hill. Far away on the left, the shade of a tower that could be the spectacular leftover of the medieval university, renowned and successful for hundreds of years.

harran

Up the hill were active excavations in what is called the ‘mound of Harran’. It has a 9000 year old history and thousands of artefacts were already found. Spectacular are the Stèlès from the 6th century BC that are exposed in the Archaeological Museum of Şanlıurfa; look at the pictures and imagine them here in this spot, overlooking the plains.

6th century BC steles found in mound of Harran, exposed in Arkeoloji Müzesi Șanliurfa
tumulus

Today’s Harran is a small provincial city but it had a central place in early history during thousands of years. Akkadians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Hittites, Persians, Macedonians, Romans, Byzantines, Seljuks, Ayyubids, Ummayads: Harran was a mighty town for many different powers, until it was destroyed by the Mongols in the 13th century.

harran tumulus

It never recovered from that and did not regain its central position in the middle-eastern history.
Harran is only 15 kms away from Syria and some actual (December 2018) hotspots in the Syrian war. But Harran is totally quiet. People here fear more an inner war in Şanlıurfa region than a possible attack from Syrian groups to Turkey (‘they do not dare that because we will fight and die for our country’). Read more about these tensions in this blog.

harran

It is true there is not so much ‘to see’ here but the visitor walks over grounds of 9000 years of civilisation and that is a great experience in itself! Moreover the idea that Abraham was here, and his father Thera, his wife Sara and other members of his family. It is an experience not to be missed and a feel of ancient times that brings history closer to understanding.

harran

I followed the path and came to the site of Harran university. It was closed for restauration purposes but I could still have a good impression of the enormity of the complex. Although this university is usually presented as an islamic achieval, it was already active as a study center during many centuries before the arrival of islam.

harran

Harran was originally the core centre of the worship of Sin, with a central place for the god moon and practices in following the sun, moon and planets. Sciences like astronomy were well developed and early Greek works like Aristotle had been translated to Syriac, local language. These efforts opened the Greek world to Arabs later on and it made the rule of the Abbasids flourish, a period called the islamic golden age.

harran tower

Under pressure of the Ummayid caliph Marwan II in 744 the local pagan scientists called themselves Sabeans as this was a religion accepted by islam. Thus they escaped accusations of paganism and possible penalties like exile and hanging. Sabeanism seem to have had the worship of Sin but that was also the religion originally practiced in Harran. Stories are contradictory here, I could not find out what was the difference between the old practicesin Harran and the Sabean practices accepted under islam pressure. Some say it was about cruel blood offers of young people that had to be abolished under islam, but I could not find formal sources for that. The same goes for the story that Sabeans had adopted a ‘book’ – the Corpus Hermeticum – to be accepted by islam.

harran ruins

Most probably the Sabeans are related to the Mandaeans, a now Iraqi minority that lives in the marshes between the Euphrate and Tigris – they might even be descendants of Sabeans who had to flee when islamic religious pressure became too strong to uphold their own religious practices. Today Sabeanism a ‘religion of nature’ that survives in Turkey, though very much underground, waiting for better days to come.

harran

I was surprised to discover that.12th century traveller Ibn Jubayr places the location of the temple of Sin originally on the spot of the university. The tower that in modern literature is described as an islamic built minaret belonging to the mosque built here in the 7th century, is the only left over of that temple. Turkish sources deny that but it is probably true. Anyway ‘stories’ seem to flourish more in Harran than well researched facts. I found Harran a place where there is still a clash of different ideas, although rather hidden than outspoken. The people who warned me ‘there is nothing left to see’ were right and still I am very happy I went there – Harran in all its desertion influenced my perspective as much as Urfa did.

harran dolmus stop

How to go to Harran
I had a lot of trouble finding out how to get in Harran without taxi so I explain it for you here if you like to go. There is a dolmuș going to and from Harran every 15 minutes until 17.30. In Şanlıurfa it starts in the new Otogar that lies outside the center (1 hour walk but there are city-busses and dolmuș-busses on that road). Upstairs are the intercity busses, downstairs the dolmuș-busses like the one to Harran. You can also go to the Nevali Hotel, a high building visible from far away. Follow the (car) road sign to Harran, just 50 meters and that is a spot where the dolmuș stops, right in front of the ‘Urfa Anadolu Lisesi’ sign on the picture above. There is no bus-stop sign but if you lift your hand when you see it coming, it stops anyway. It takes about 1,5 hours to go (as the driver looks for passengers) and 1 hour to return. In Harran, it drops you off at walking distance from the antiquities.

Read also part 2: Harran: nonsense with traces of the real past


Graves near Abraham’s cave

graves near Abraham's cave
“my misery was not finished but my life was”

Graves near Abraham’s cave
‘You can’t go there, it is dangerous’, the man told me while I was walking on a beautiful path amid hundreds of graves. I had come half way the graveyard, enjoying the tranquility and reading the names and comments on the stones. ‘Really’, the man said and he pointed towards one of the exit porches, ‘you are walking here alone and furtheron it is dangerous with drugusers and the like. I can not let you continue, you understand that’. He looked at me in the genuine hope that I would understand indeed.

Graves near Abraham’s cave
Graves near Abraham’s cave

Political correctness exists in many countries, also in Turkey. Here in conservative Şanlıurfa, they find it difficult that a woman wanders all by herself without a clear and useful purpose such as doing shopping, and even then she is usually not alone. Women are not present when their beloved ones are buried; in the best case, they watch from a distance while the men do the ceremony. And here I am, crossing all the lines by walking freely over the graveyard, uncontrolled by a man, undefined by any purpose.

Graves near Abraham’s cave

Political correctness means that the man does not tell me directly to go away because I am a woman, alone. He is aware of western values and my possible ignorance about the middle-eastern ones. Therefor he tries to convince me on the grounds that are always used everywhere in Turkey in cases like these: he tells me that it would be dangerous not to listen to him. I give it a small try, by showing a shocked face when he mentions drug users on this rainy Monday morning ‘oh, do you not have police officers to come and do something about it?’ ‘Yes, of course, they will be here when there is an incident’, is the answer I get, ‘please Madam, follow me’. I decide to give up, it is not that important anyway, and follow him on the way out.

Graves near Abraham’s cave

I was on my way to Abraham’s cave when I saw the immense graveyard and decided to have a look. Is it a coincidence to find so many graves here? I don’t think so. All these people have found a last place to rest in the very neighbourhood of the holiest place in this region. The very very lucky ones have conquered one of the rare spots next to Abraham’s cave and the Mevlid-i Hilal mosque, see the picture on the right. It was taken from the road to the castle (Kale) that looks down on the Dergah Complex. In many places, like Rome and Jerusalem, people get buried close to holy places (Saint Peter’s church, Mountain of Olives) to be the first one to witness on the last day, on Judgement Day. I do not know what is the thought of being buried in graves near to Abraham’s cave: there will be no resurrection of a holy person there because Abraham was buried in Hebron, not in Şanlıurfa, and it is not the spot where a prophet will reveal himself on Judgement Day. There must be a thought that I missed (feel free to comment below if you know how this works).

Graves near Abraham’s cave

Another interesting story here is the grave of Bediüzzaman Said Nursî. If you are in the court that gives direct access to Abraham’s cave, look opposite to the entrance to find a special chamber for Bediüzzaman Said Nursî. He is presented as a Muslim scholar and commentator of the Quran and the author of the Risale-i Nur collection. In Western Europe he is known as the founder of the so-called Nurcu movement.

Graves near Abraham’s cave

A sign mentions that he always longed for Şanlıurfa and asked to be brought there when he felt death coming. Thus he spent his last three days in Urfa lying in a hotelbed, surrounded by praying students ‘from all the corners of the country’, then he blew out his last breath on March 23 1960. They buried him in front of Abraham’s cave. But a few months after the military coup of May 1960, officials dug up his body and transported it to another place, unknown until today. So what you look at in the chamber is an empty grave. The fight between secularism and fundamental islam is older than just the 21st century…

You may also like these blogs:
Graveyards as symbol of ethnic conflict
Graveyards: Northern Cyprus heritage

Balıklıgöl – the sacred fish pond

Balıklıgöl – the sacred fish pond
Balıklıgöl – the sacred fish pond

Balıklıgöl in Şanlıurfa is like a place deriving from the stories of 1001 night… or like one of the best places we have in the Netherlands, the Efteling. Balıklıgöl means fish pond and it contains more carps than you have seen or will ever see again in your life. Equally interesting is the story of the sacred fish pond’s origin. Balıklıgöl is not just very beautiful, it is also very holy part of the Dergah Komplex around Abraham’s cave of birth.

Balıklıgöl – the sacred fish pond

Once upon a time there was the cruel King Nimrod and the first monotheist in ancient times Abraham. King Nimrod had not succeeded to kill Abraham as a baby because his mother had given birth in a cave and hidden her child there during many years. So now King Nimrod, a worshipper of idle gods, had to cope with Abraham who resisted against existing religious practices. There is only one God, Abraham claimed and indeed he was pushing to have his point taken. King Nimrod got very annoyed with that man and decided to throw him into the fire to get rid of him once and for all. But Abraham had God on his side! God changed the fire into water for Abraham to make a soft landing and God changed the pieces of wood into carps. This is how Balıklıgöl – the sacred fish pond was created and Abraham survived to fulfill his precious work of the introduction of monotheism. Rumors say by the way that this is a story with roots in Jewish scriptures rather than Islamic scriptures but conservative Şanlıurfa is not the best place to discuss this sensitive type of rumors so I didn’t. Feel free to comment below if you have good knowledge about this, though.

Balıklıgöl – the sacred fish pond
Balıklıgöl – the sacred fish pond

Today Balıklıgöl is a favorite place to go for people of all ages. They feed the carps who will show up with hundreds – no exaggeration! – and squirm up, over, under each other to pick up the food thrown in the water. You can buy special food for 1 lira from sellers in boots next to the pond. And always remember this is a holy pond: if you try to eat one of the carps, you will become blind.

Balıklıgöl – the sacred fish pond

On the west side of the pond is the Halilur Rahman Mosque, another mosque that was built on a former church, a fact supposed to symbolize perceived holiness since many ages. The Halilur Rahman Mosque dates from early 13th century but the minaret, squarish in shape, is said to date originally from the church. I did not see the inside because it was closed for restauration purposes when I visited (Dec.2018). 

Balıklıgöl – the sacred fish pond

On the north side is the 18th century Rızvaniye Vakfı Mosque and Medrese complex, open to all visitors. 

Balıklıgöl – the sacred fish pond

On the south side is a great parc with trees, very green grass to my surprise (because of exceptional rainfall), restaurants and several canals used to bring up the young carps as you can see in the picture below: the young ones are also countless…

Balıklıgöl – the sacred fish pond
Balıklıgöl – the sacred fish pond

The parc ends where the rocks of the castle, the Kale, begin. To the east is Abraham’s cave of birth and the Mevlid-i Halil Mosque and beyond that the grand bazaar. But I’d say that the Balıklıgöl is worth a visit just by itself. It is wonderful to see both in daytime and in the evening!

Mevlid-i Halil Mosque: do as you like…

Mevlid-i Halil Mosque was built in the 19thcentury next to Abraham’s cave in Șanliurfa, Turkey’s South. Therefore it is a well frequented mosque. Especially in the period before the hadj to Mecca starts, many believers gather in this mosque to be blessed before their journey. 

Mevlid-i Halil Mosque inside

The Mevlid-i Halil Mosque is beautiful and peaceful. The grace and harmony that one feels already upon entering the courtyard welcomes the visitor who goes into the mosque. Rules like dresscode are strict in this holy place but that included the mosque is open for women who want to have a look around (‘yes of course, please come in and do as you like’). Most people do as they like, by the way. Men were hanging around, sitting against the wall talking or studying Quran. One man walked around to put some stuff from a stick to everybody’s hand – I got some too, no clue what it was or what it should bring, please comment on this blog if you do! – then he lay down somewhere in the middle of the floor to sleep. One guy asked him some questions but when the man didn’t respond clearly, he left him to do what he liked. Some men came in hastily, in modern suits, doing their prayers and leaving after that. The elderly were often dressed as classic Kurds, with shalvar and headscarfs or smaller caps or even a turban and seemed to pass a part of their social life in the mosque.

Mevlid-i Halil Mosque inside
Mevlid-i Halil Mosque dome

Look at the dome, the windows, the magnificent crystalline in the middle and the different stories with their arches: this visit will leave you with a great impression of fine art and passion to offer the best and if you are a believer, certainly even more. If you want to know the names of the makers of Mevlid-i Halil Mosque, read this Turkish blog.
This blog says one other interesting thing. It seems to prove the holiness of the spot next to Abraham’s cave by telling that it had always been a religious place there: a mosque dating from the 16th century before the actual mosque, before that a Byzantine church, and before that a church dating from 150AD. That church was built on the rests of a synagogue and the synagogue was based on a pagan temple. Well that’s history!

Mevlid-i Halil Mosque

Of course this place as Abraham’s cave is not uncontested: archaeologists in the 19th century have marked a place in Iraq 600 miles away as the real Ur of Chaldees. Others say there is no mention of the place where Abraham was born whatsoever in holy scriptures. And again others say there is no proof at all that Abraham was a real and living creature instead of a myth so that would leave us without any place of birth… Now Abraham’s cave is so holy because Abraham is considered as the man who fought idolatry and introduced monotheism. So why would pagans have built a temple next to his cave? Would they not have hated Abraham rather than loved him? The ‘proof’ introduced in that blog lacks a bit of logic… but if there was indeed a synagogue here and a very early church, that is more convincing than 19th century theories of guessing archaeologists (see this blog for extensive and detailed comments).

Mevlid-i Halil Mosque
Mevlid-i Halil Mosque

Anyway you do not need to know the exact truth to enjoy your visit of Mevlid-i Halil Mosque. Go in the evening as well as in daytime for different impressions and bring back your own stories!

You may also like the blog about the many graves near Abraham’s cave or the blogs about Harran where Abraham went when he left Ur of the Chaldees.

Abraham’s cave of birth

Abraham's cave

Abraham’s cave in Șanliurfa is considered as the place where Abraham was born. His mother gave birth to him and hid him during ten years as King Nimrod had ordered to kill all newborn children when he heard about Abraham’s appearance (and yes this looks like another famous biblical story). Abraham’s cave is an impressive religious place ot visit.


Abraham's cave entrance
Abraham's cave Selcuk objects

Abraham’s cave is surrounded by a large parc with a pond and several mosques. However the cave itself is quite small. You enter it while bowing under a low doorpost, after passing a room with some 12th century religious objects, most probably belonging to the Selҫuk period, and then you find yourself in a kind of open space with carpets to sit on and pray. The core part of the cave is protected by glass: you can have a look in it but not enter it. 

Abraham's cave, the very inside

As it had been raining for a while when I visited, an exceptional event in ever-dry Șanliurfa, the cave was full of water and the glass quite wet – this is why the picture is unclear. Most probably there are several measures to be taken on the background to prevent that the water rises too much, making visits impossible.

Abraham's cave guarded by a man in the evening

Oh and by the way, my comments are made from a female perspective only. Women enter through the left side where the guard is a woman in daytime and a man when it is getting dark (a fact I understood for practical reasons in a conservative city like Șanliurfa but not for religious reasons). As for the male side, you have to go there yourself to know what it is like…
Visitors to Abraham’s cave were few when I came in on a rainy December-day. The silence gave every possibility to let the holiness of the place sink in.

Abraham's cave by night

Abraham is worshipped here for introducing monotheism in the world 4000 years ago, when idolatry was the norm. Don’t confuse this with the respect Arabs pay him for being their ancestor: for Turcs he isn’t. This is about the holy introduction of one God, one book, one truth to mankind, about saving mankind from a loveless, ignorant and barbaric empty life.
A popular story they love here is about Abraham destroying a bunch of statues that symbolized idol gods. When people find out about the statues, they soon know where to search: this must be the work of that rebellious Abraham! They go and find him and bring him to the statues: ‘look what you’ve done’, they shout at him. But Abraham denies it: ‘I did not do that, that guy did’, pointing at one of the statues that is undamaged. The people protest, ‘what a fool you are, how could that statue do something, it can do nothing at all’, they snare at Abraham. Abraham shrugs his shoulders, because that is exactly what he had been telling them for a while already. ‘Well, if it can’t do anything, why do you worship it?’ Thus he made his point and introduced monotheism step by step, until it was there to stay. 

You may also like the blogs about Harran, a city where Abraham and his family spent quite some time: Harran: nothing to see?! and Harran: nonsense with traces of the real past

Archaeological Museum Haarlem

archaeological museum haarlemArchaeological Museum Haarlem

This guy lived in the 14th century in Haarlem. The way he looks is estimated as 95% accurate. His bones were found in excavations at the Botermarkt in Haarlem; most probably the graveyard of a former hospital. From his bones it was clear that he suffered from severe diseases like infections and disorders of joints caused by hard labour. The idea is that he died in that hospital, only 34 years old. He was larger than I’d thought: 1 meter 84 which was the normal size for people in that period. A woman working with the police worked on the basis of his bones to bring him ‘back to life’, for us living in the 21st century to identify with and see who made all the things that we find in excavations.

Archaeological Museum Haarlem is a great museumarchaeological museum haarlem. I got all this information from a volunteer who started explaining stuff to me without asking, calmly and politely and very knowledgeable. Thanks to volunteers the Archaeological Museum Haarlem can open five times a week. It is not very big: the size of one room. Both history story lines and the objects are very well presented. Creative methods are used to get stories across and it is very child-friendly. History is in Dutch only – object names are also in English. I am sure a volunteer will be helpful for English speaking visitors. I show here some objects I particularly liked, but there are many more special pieces:

Flintstone arrowheads:
Life in the western part of the Netherlands is older than you maybe thought. There was no stable soil but findings witness that this did not prevent humans from living, chasing, working there.

 

Decorative pins:
The man on the horse is estimated 1500 AD, the round one 1575 -1600 AD. Very beautiful pieces made by real craftsmen.

 


Two jugs:
One is a traditional beardman jug that I saw a lot in museums. The jug with the pointed nose however (1425-1600 AD) is more rare I guess – or maybe I just never saw it. Apparently this type of jug is the beardman jugs’ predecessor. A very fine piece!

 

Ladies’ jug:
I absolutely adored this 14th century jug with the ladies depicted in them.

 

 

Container to collect dripping fat:
I found this one real fun, such a practical invention. It was catching the fat from the roast above the fire. It has a gutter on the right side to cast the fat in a smaller pan and can be hung to the wall through the eye on the right upper side. Someone thought about this before designing it…

Battle for Haarlem:
Not only the museum offers loads of superinteresting info about the battle for Haarlem (against the Spanish, 1572-1573), including the famous lady Kenau Hasselaer – a strong business woman as well as the fighter she is merely known for. They also show it in pictures and a model of the city walls.


Children’s book about 16th century Haarlem:
This idea deserves a price! The objects shown in one of the showcases are also depicted in the book – an excellent integrated approach to make history come alive. Great applause!!!

 

Archaeological Museum Haarlem is small, compared to similar musea in the Middle East but it is special and worth your visit.

Other blogs about archaeological museums you might like:
* Archaeological Museum Amman: caring for 6500 year old child
* Archaeological Museum Gaziantep: ‘just local stuff’
* Stockholm National Historical Museum
* Musée de l’Art et de l’Archéologie du Périgord

 

 

Vesunna Museum in Périgueux

Such a fabulous museum, the Vesunna Gallo-Roman Museum in Périgueux! A complete villa (‘domus’) has been covered and integrated into a museum together with many very interesting Gallo-Roman objects found – and with a surrounding parc that shows the beautiful and quite well preserved Vesunna Tower. To do so was not just an ambitious idea, it has effectively been realized in an impressive way.
Vesunna or Vésone was a celtic (gallic) goddess that gave her name to the capital of the home of the Petrocorii, the ancient Gallo-Roman inhabitants of the actual Périgord region (in French: from Petricores to Périgordin). The first remains of Vesunna were uncovered in the ’60s already and it was step by step developed into the actual shape of the Vesunna Museum and its surroundings. Visiting it is an amazing experience. If you visit the Dordogne region, don’t miss out on this one. The price is 9 euro only for a combined ticket of both the Musée d’Art et Archaeology and the Vesunna Museum; and for a family ticket, 20 euro.

It was not my best day in taking photographs, alas. But I have a few objects here to show from the Vesunna Museum Périgueux that I liked most:

 

A taurobolic altar from the 2nd/3rd century. It remembers the sacrifice of a taurus to the mother of the gods Cybele. The four sides of the altar show the symbols and the accessories of the cult.

 

 

A figurine of the mother goddess who is breastfeeding two children. It was made in white terracotta. Copies of it can be bought in the museum shop.

 

A bit difficult to see on this picture but this is a
bronze balance weight with the head of Bacchus.
Very beautiful!

 

Interesting websites:
1. The Vesunna Museum in Périgueux itself has a wonderful website:  http://www.perigueux-vesunna.fr/
2. Also useful: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vesunna_Gallo-Roman_Museum
3. And this one about the Vesunna tower and practical info.

Other interesting blogs about archeology:
Archaeological Museum Amman: caring for 6500 year old child…
Who tells your history? And other questions in Stockholm
Archaeological Museum Gaziantep: ‘just’ local stuff

Museum of Art and Archaeology of the Périgord

museum of art and archaeology of the perigord
Archaeology in the Museum of Art and Archaeology of the Périgord in Périgueux, France, means prehistory. The Périgord is home to many caves with findings of prehistoric painting, like the famous Grottes de Lascaux and Font du Gaumuseum of art and archaeology of the perigordme and the prehistoric part of the museum reflects this period with very interesting findings. A dazzling collection of different stone hand axes is just the beginning. All kind of instruments useful in daily prehistoric work are presented in many shapes – and some beautiful pieces show craftmanswork like the pendant with a bison head (Magdalenien era, 15.000 BC, exact function unknown.

 

museum of art and archaeology of the perigordmuseum of art and archaeology of the perigord

Other nice presentations in the Museum of Art and Archaeology of the Périgord are a prehistoric burial ceremony on one side of the wall, while a real skeleton that was buried in that way is found on the other side. (Magdalenien era, 18.000 – 11.000 BC, skeleton of the man of Chancelade, Homo Sapiens). Both are made in a beautiful way.
museum of art and archaeology of the perigord
The rebuilding of a Magdalenien hut, as shown on the picture (left), also adds to the fun of the visitor. At that period mankind had already horses, the head you see on top of the tent is a horse skull. Nice to see, nice to visit.

The central part of the Museum of Art and Archaeology of the Périgord is a cloister (see first photo in this blog) where they seem to have stalled all pieces that are not prehistoric and not art. It is a very interesting mixture of mmuseum of art and archaeology of the perigordostly mediëval stuff, I highly recommend that you take a quiet walk through the cloister just to enjoy the many details in the pieces you see there. Also the rooms with art are very nice with a great variety of interesting art objects but I am not into art myself so this blog does not describe more than just the encouragement to visit.

At the entrance you can buy a combination ticket for this museum and the Vesunna site at a 10 or 15 minutes walking distance – I did, my next blog will describe the visit to Vesunna. Both museums are in itself worth a visit to Périgueux, if you can visit them both: do so!

Other blogs on this subject you may like:
Archaeological Museum Haarlem
Archaeological Museum Gaziantep: ‘just local stuff’
Archaeological Museum Amman: caring for 6500 year old child…

 

New Rembrandt in the Hermitage Amsterdam

It was an unexpected extra gift at a breakfast meeting of VNO-NCW entrepreneurs at the Hermitage Amsterdam: to see the new Rembrandt painting Portrait of a Young Gentleman exposed since a day in the museum. We were so happy that we could be part of this new joy! The new Rembrandt was discovered by Dutch art collector Jan Six on an auction in London where he bought it for 137.000 pounds only – as a 17th century specialist he knew rightaway that it was a real Rembrandt and he worked two years with several experts to prove it. He published his findings on May 16 as you can read in this NYT-article. The new Rembrandt is a spectacular finding that you can admire in the Hermitage Amsterdam until June 15.

Our meeting in the Hermitage proved us all about the benefits of the Art for Children program. Thousands of children in Amsterdam learn about art every year and some 140 talented kids follow a special program to develop their skills. All this is completely free of charge thanks to many generous donations. The approach is inclusive, children from all parts of the city participate.
   
I was impressed by the size and the quality of the program. Our meeting took place before the opening times of the museum and this is also the moment when children are free to visit 63 top pieces like the fantastic Dutch Masters, coming from the Hermitage St Petersburg and still to be seen in the Hermitage Amsterdam until May 27 (2018). They were watching, discussing, asking questions, making comments or just lying on the floor among top pieces to make their own drawings. I have not just fallen in love with the new Rembrandt but also with the Hermitage itself 🙂
Some specific paintings I like to mention here (it is impossible to describe 63 top pieces from the Dutch Golden Age):

 

Landscape with the prophet Elia
by Abraham Bloemaert (1583-1633)

 

 

 

Portrait of Cornelia Haringh
by Govert Flinck (1615-1660)

 

 

 

 

 

Birds in a parc 
by Melchior d’Hondecoeter (1636-1695)

 

 

 

 

Portrait of an Old Jew
by Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1666)

 

 

 

 

Also in Amsterdam:
Anne Frank House
Amsterdam Heritage Days
Amsterdam Tower: a must-visit!

Heimatmuseum Borkum: variety, wealth, surprise


The Heimatmuseum Borkum
is larger and richer than you’d expect on a small island. Borkum is one of the Wadden islands in the north of Germany and houses just some thousands of inhabitants. The Heimatmuseum (Homeland museum) gives a very interesting overview of it’s history and socio-economic life. You learn about the history of whalers, find a full whale skeleton and of course the famous little seals, see a complete room, kitchen and laiterie like they had in the old times; but apart from that, there are many great, even amazing artefacts that tell you maybe even more about life in Borkum. This was a museum that gave me much more than I expected when I entered. It is impossible to resume, so I show you here the artefacts that impressed me most:

Unique sand collection: every little box contains sand from a different part of the world. The cupboard has two sides, filled with all colors and structures of sand. This exhibit changes your idea about sand forever…

 

A garland made out of the hair of the deceased… Elsewhere in the museum, jewelry made out of female hairs can be found. My mouth fell open; I find it a bit spooky but here it seems to be a piece of art. One thing is sure, the results are beautiful!

 

A 18th century cistern where water was collected both from the rain and from groundwater. It is big and covered with Dutch blue painted tiles who were valuable already in that era so the owner must have been very rich. The cistern kept the water cool and fresh. It is quite unique, no other cistern like this was found in the north of Germany.

 

A 19th century bucket that served to collect the household money. It hang at a beam in the kitchen. That is what attracted my attention; that there were times where people hang their money in a bucket in the kitchen…. I liked the idea that it was safe there, out in the open!

Last but not least, two things that particularly caught my attention: one not positive, one very positive. Let’s start with the difficult one: the museum shows several artefacts from the Nazi period: price winning objects with swastikas; a document about a given price (Kriegsverdienstkreuz), signed by Führer Hitler himself. It was exposed partly hidden behind binoculars (?) but clearly visible.
 

 
There might be reasons to expose this kind of artefacts but at least some explanation is needed. Nothing in this museum suggests that Borkum is not proud of this part of the past….
Now the positive artefact, it goes back to 1579 and was found at the beach of Borkum in 1971: a silver coin that was made in Hedel, the Netherlands which is….  the village where I was born. There is a long story to tell about coins from my native village Hedel … another time… For now: I was – happily – surprised to find this particular coin so far away from home. It proves that you will never know how far the things you make can reach, and that the extent to what it reached can be observed until centuries afterwards… so great!

As said, this is just a small selection of what the Heimatmuseum Borkum has to offer. If you go to that Island, do not leave without paying it a visit.

Other blogs you might like:
Who tells your history? and other questions
The vikings, did they really exist?
Lore: movie that silences the public

Keukenhof: 7 million spring-flowering bulbs


Millions visit the Keukenhof in the Netherlands; this year, I did what I wanted to do since many years, and visited it too. It is one of those strange things in life, that one travels the world to see amazing beauties in all kind of places and finds no time to visit the amazing beauties at home. Because beauty, that is definitely what the Keukenhof is about. It is a parc full of tulips presented in spectacular ways. And you will find many other flowers, in every imaginable combination. If you love flowers, this is your place. The beauty of nature and the compositions will give you a happy heart and mind. What you find in the Keukenhof is not to be found anywhere else in Europe!
I had some interesting contacts, too. It started at the entrance as for some reason or other I couldn’t succeed in opening my e-ticket on my mobile; they solved it in just a minute, their efficiency is faster than the speed of light. Then they added with a foreseeing knowledge: ‘remember you entered through the main entrance because we have several entrances and at the end of your visit you might worry where your car is’. How did they know I am exactly one of those people who can never find their car back because they do not remember where they came from? We laughed a lot.
I also spoke to visitors from Indonesia. They asked me to take their picture at the mill in the parc. Their camera was smaller than any camera I ever saw: the size of a match-box. I love that with people from South-East Asia; they always come up with fabulous gadgets, and they are cool enough to do as if it is completely normal. While I admired their camera, they admired our flower culture, and the mill of course.
It is a strong point anyway in the Keukenhof, that they created lots of logical, nice places for visitors to take pictures: little seats between flowers, wooden shoes they can stand it, even a wedding gown full of flowers to show yourself as a bride in white and flowers.
Absolutely remarkable in the Keukenhof is the show with the orchids; from white to red, from pink to yellow, from orange to blue (really!): small and big, familiar and unfamiliar. It shows how much the Netherlands progressed in the cultivation of orchids.
What I loved too, is the fields around the Keukenhof, where bulbs are produced – they are in full flowers now! If you go to the Keukenhof, do not forget to wander a bit around in that area: you’ll love it, no doubt about that.

Find all info about the Keukenhof at www.keukenhof.nl
About the history of the Keukenhof: https://keukenhof.nl/en/footer/about-keukenhof/

Other blogs you might like:
Anne Frank House
New Rembrandt in the Hermitage Amsterdam
Adam Tower: a must visit
Vlinderado
Floriade 2012: splendid but with limited identity
Malawi Fever Tree: what do you see?

Apostolos Andreas Monastery – Northern Cyprus heritage (21)


The Apostolos Andreas Monastery lies in the Karpaz, the rather deserted and naturally beautiful northern peninsula of Cyprus. Historic sources tell that the Apostle Andrew landed here for a moment on one of his travelings through the Mediterranean. Since very old times this place was considered as a holy place and visited by many pilgrims. However, christians were not the first people to visit the Karpaz; not only remnants from the Roman period were found, also from the far earlier Iron Age. 
The actual Apostolos Andreas Monastery dates from 1867 and rest partly on walls of a 15th century chapel. The former cells for the monks lie empty around the complex that is guarded by one or two priests only. President Erdogan visited the region in 2011 and promised to cooperate for a UNDP project to renovate the church. Most of the work has already been done by a combination of Greek and Turkish Cypriots (or their companies), with nice results, worth a visit. Some adjacent buildings are still being restored.

Monastery in a divided island
Since Turkey took hold of the northern part of the Island, there has been a lot of hustle and bustle around this holy place. For the restoration, cooperation of both the Greek and Turkish Cypriot community did not come just by itself: UNDP had a strong role in that. Anyway it is the Greek-Cypriot hope to get back not just the monastery but the whole Karpaz peninsula once that peace negotations have finally proven successful. And the Turks do what they always do in areas that might be disputed. They keep investments low > the last part of the road to go to the monastery is the worst road of Northern Cyprus. And they show their power by calling the primary school of Dipkarpaz the ‘Recep Tayyip Erdogan School’ and the large square in front of the Apostolos Andreas Monastery the ‘Bülent Ecevit Square’; Ecevit was the Turkish Prime Minister in 1974 who decided to send the army into Cyprus to help the Turkish Cypriots. It is a strange pattern since over 40 years now of Greek Cypriots Always complaining as if they have no role whatsoever in what is happening, and the Turks showing muscles instead of empathy.

Useful links

Other blogs you might like:
Sourp Magar, Armenian monastery in Turkish Cyprus
Monastery Antiphonitis in Turkish Cyprus
Monastery Pandeleimon in Turkish Cyprus