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Monthly Archives: March 2018

Before spring arrives, we want to post these pictures before they become out of season. We went to Norway over Christmas.

Our first destination was Tromsø in Northern Norway – at the top of the Scandinavian land mass.

It is the third largest urban area north of the Arctic Circle (following Murmansk and Norilsk). Most of Tromsø, including the city centre, is located on the island of Tromsøya, 350 kilometres (217 mi) north of the Arctic Circle.

In the city centre, the sun is not visible between November 21 and January 21. We arrived around noon – the brightest time of the day.

The city is warmer than most other places located on the same latitude, due to the warming effect of the Gulf Stream. The temperature was fairly constant at around -10 degrees celsius. Thankfully it was not windy.

We rented an apartment south of the city center.

Our apartment building looks like the one above except that ours faces the harbor with a balcony above the water.

This area is full of new buildings unlike the older town center that is famous for its wooden houses.

The view across the harbor is the mainland.

A cable car goes up to Mount Storsteinen, 420 metres (1,380 feet) above sea level, with a panoramic view over Tromsø.

All kinds of ships passed by all hours of the day.

Our apartment has two bedrooms and a large living/dining room that opens to the balcony (one can sit outside and stare at the harbor, if there was no snow on the outdoor furniture).

The apartment was about 10-15 minutes walk from the city center. We trekked back and forth many times.

On the way, we passed the Polaria – a museum/aquarium – a touristy place for the cruise ship crowd – the building looked like a toppled deck of tiles or books.

The streets were largely empty due to the holidays.

This is Tromsø’s cathedral – built in 1861 largely with wood.

More pictures to come.

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Rotterdam Blaak Station is the intercity train station nearest to my hotel. Above ground it has a flying saucer-like canopy.

It is a station situated below ground for the national railway network but not part of the Rotterdam metro system. The metro stop also named Blaak is next to it. Confusing isn’t it, unless I misread the maps.

While waiting for a train to take me to Schiphol Airport, I snapped these pictures in a quick burst before my train arrived.

To me, the station is an exercise in De Stijl (and perhaps a bit of Constructivism).

De Stijl was founded in 1917 in Leiden which is only 2 stops away from this station.

Having 4 platforms, the station was completed in 1993.

The blue/green neon-ish lights and transparent glass bricks do remind me of some MTV music videos of the 80’s.

Sections of the roof is wavy.

Simple arrangement of tiles to depict train carriages.

Sculptured underside of the landing and walkways … it echoes the graphical lines on a transport network map.

A hint of surrealism with these framed mirrors.

Notice the optical illusion at the feet of the white-tiled pillars.

Since this is not a major stop, many trains dashed past passengers on the platforms at high speed without slowing down.

My train arrived on time. It stopped at Delft, The Hague, and Leiden before the airport which was about 30 minutes away.

 

 

Cube Houses (Kubuswoningen) are a set of residential houses designed by architect Piet Blom and based on the concept of “living as an urban roof”, i.e., high density housing with sufficient space on the ground level. It is built in the late 70’s over Overblaak Street between Blaak and Oude Haven.

Blom tilted the cube of a conventional house 45 degrees, and rested it upon a hexagon-shaped pylon. The walls and windows are angled at 54.7 degrees. The total area of the apartment is around 100 square metres (1,100 sq ft), but around a quarter of the space is unusable because of the walls that are under the angled ceilings.

His design represents a village within a city, where each house represents a tree.

The cubes share a common area with no traffic which presents a nice atmosphere of a community. They reminded me of the heads of giant anime robots – mecha – think Gundam, for example.

There are 38 cubes and two large cubes, all attached to each other. There is a museum of chess pieces in one of the 38 cubes and a hostel in one of the larger cubes.

An apartment is opened as a museum –  Kijk-Kubus  – but it was too crowded and I did not bother to get inside.

Just across the square from the Cube Houses is Marthal. On 19 November 2009 work began on Marthal – the first covered market in the Netherlands. It was officially opened in 2014.

Its design is unique in that apartments are draped over the daily market in a horseshoe shape. It is spectacular given the scale of the whole structure.

The main hall houses the market itself, shops and restaurants, a supermarket and a 4-storey car park underground. It was a very popular location for locals and tourists alike.

There is a Chinese grocery store – Wah Nam Hong – which has a “restaurant”. The store is well stocked but the menu is however very limited. I tried but would not recommend it. If you want Asian food, the all-you-can-eat sushi chain restaurant is much more attractive and extremely popular.

The artist Arno Coenen created the Horn of Plenty, the biggest work of art in the world. Its bright colours cover an area of ​​11,000 m2.

While I was there, the weather was quite miserable – wet and cold. This marketplace is the perfect antidote to the grayness outside and to fill up with foods from the world.

One stop shopping for all of one’s culinary needs.

Wish there is one in Switzerland.

Rotterdam is a fun city.