Saturday, August 29, 2015

Wooden Shoe Museum at Zaanse Schans, NL

When I went to the windmill town Zaanse Schans, I visited a museum that showcased wooden shoes. It was interesting to know that wooden shoes were used extensively just a few centuries ago.

Officially known as De Zaanse Schans, the Wooden Shoe Workshop was set up in 1974 by Jaap and Ineke Kooijman in Zaanse Schans, Netherlands. The wooden shoes and other wood based products otherwise known as CLOG soon gained popularity and the industry began to flourish. Before we proceed, take a close look at the intricate art work on the shoes below.

Wooden shoes or clogs were cheap durable and were easy to make. Different kind of shoes to suit various industries/jobs were made. It also became part of dutch culture. Paintings on the wooden shoes, art work on etc also thrived. The wooden shoes museum showcases some of the oldest wooden clogs used in the region and their cultural significance. But over time, with advent of leather and rubber based footwear that were flexible and more durable, wooden products lost their prominence.

 Once a few hours, a live demonstration is given on how wooden shoes are made.

 Finished wooden shoes of various colours are up for sale, from about 30 Euro onwards.

When you visit Zaanse Schans, don't forget to visit this museum. Entry is free. Usually open between 10 AM to 5PM in summer. Official website of the museum is here

Friday, August 28, 2015

Polar Bear at Copenhagen Zoo

Polar bear is one animal I had seen only on TV so far. Recently I could take a close look at them at the Copenhagen Zoo. Here're some photos.

 They look very adorable. Closer look shows some bruises and coloured skin
Whole day they laze around in a small pond with temperature controlled water. Only when food is given, they come out, stand on rock and enjoy their meals. Otherwise they laze around the water.

There were two Polar bears in CPH zoo. Visitors can see them under water via a glass panel.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Zaanse Schans-Netherland's windmill town!

Zaanse Schans is a small village on the outskirts of Amsterdam, Netherlands. A colleague recommended that I visit this place during my Amsterdam visit. I spent half a day in this town and it was totally worth it.

Zaanse Schans is known for its windmills and scenic beauty. These windmills are centuries old and are used for different purposes- such as sawing wood, grinding spices, making dyes and so on. The wings of the windmill convert wind energy into rotary motion, which in turn is transferred down to move the custom build mechanism that can saw wood or grind spices and so on.
Notice the cloths on the wings- if retracted, they let the air through and thus can reduce speed or prevent the wings from rotating. When deployed, they offer resistance to wind and wind will force the turbines or wings to rotate. Very clever.

Visitors are allowed to go inside some of the windmills, for a fee of 4 euros. Besides windmills, the Zaanse Schans town has several museums, gift shops. More about them in separate posts.

SAIL Amsterdam 2015-Once in 5 years event for sail ships

SAIL AMSTERDAM is a once in a 5 years event held at Amsterdam, Netherlands. During this event dozens of big sail ships arrive at Amsterdam from all over the world. These ancient sail ships used to travel across the ocean using nothing else but the power of wind- just using their sails settings to control the speed and direction. Today we are so dependent on fossil fuel, we can't imagine someone traveling across continents with nothing but wind power. It was a slow and risky way of traveling, but that is what separates men from boys. Great sailors emerged from these sail ship expeditions and rewards were extremely high whenever the voyage is successful- they buy commodities wherever they are cheap and sell them in continents where it is expensive and make a windfall of profit.

I had a unique opportunity to witness this year's SAIL Amsterdam first hand. I had planned a quick weekend trip to Amsterdam from Copenhagen and just a day before realized that this once a 5 year event is coinciding with my visit.

So last Saturday, after visiting few other key attractions in Amsterdam, I went to the IJ Havn area to take a closer look at the big sail ships. 44 different sail ships took part in this year's SAIL Amsterdam. Take a look at some of the photos and we can talk afterwards.

Above: Alexander von Hamboldt from Germany.
Below: Stad Amsterdam


Above pic would have been a lot more splendid with the sails deployed. With just pole and ropes a bit of fun was lost.

 The complicated network of ropes and pulleys and pillars- it wasn't an easy job to navigate a ship.

There was one big disappointment for me though. These sail ships look very photogenic only when their sails are fully deployed. But the ships can't afford to have the sail in deployed position all the time, particularly when anchored, as wind will push the ship. So the parked ships had their sails rolled up so we could only see big poles and hundreds of ropes that control the sails. Still it was a good sight to be.

The ships I saw up close were not as huge as I had imagined. They were little longer than a train compartment probably.

Visitors had an opportunity to go on these sail ships and take a closer look- but for that there were long queues.

Also in the evening there was a great show of boats on water. Almost everyone who had a boat was on the canals moving slowly in a never ending convoy of boats. Big boats, small boats, Yachts, sail ships, row boats- thousands of them moving slowly in harmony, with their family/friends on board. 

Suddenly I saw a big Indian flag and I was very proud. Later I realized that it was INS Tarangini. It was docked on the other side of the canal, so I couldn't go (I didn't know it is INS Tarangini and I could go closer). INS Tarangini is a decommissioned sail ship of Indian Navy and is currently on a world tour.

Because of SAIL Amsterdam, the NL capital city was more crowded than usual but it was fine. Good thing was that SAIL Amsterdam event was largely free- no hefty entry fee involved. There're many supplementary activities such as water-sports etc.Though there are some activities which are charged.

KLM Royal Dutch-world's oldest airline still in operation

My flight with KLM
KLM Royal Dutch is world’s oldest airline which is still in operation. I.e. there were other airlines which were started earlier than KLM, but they all have shut shop (few merged with others). Australia's Quantas is next. KLM is 96 years old and heading towards a century. KLM is based in Amsterdam, Netherlands so they aren’t much known in India- they hardly fly to India on their own. KLM flies to several remote destinations and very challenging airports- do watch various videos available on YouTube.

I had a weekend to spare and I planned a quick trip to Amsterdam from Copenhagen.  Amsterdam being KLM’s hub, KLM was my preferred choice of an airline. Copenhagen to Amsterdam is like Chennai- Mumbai in terms of distance and time. But the trip cost me about INR 17000 in KLM (I had booked only 2 weeks in advance. If I had booked 2-3 months in advance, I would have got it for less than half that price).

Web Checkin only 30 hours prior. Some airlines like Ryan Air open web check in 30 days in advance. So I couldn’t do check-in for my return trip with KLM before leaving Copenhagen. (Web Check in for their flight to US opens only 24 hours in advance- not sure why, because US might expect a passenger manifest a day before flight takes off, to scan for dangerous people- may be they do it based on tickets booked not check in)

I thought KLM was a full service airline but my web check in said Hand Baggage + 1 accessory only. I had nothing to check-in, so this wasn’t a concern for me. I guess they have a different pricing for ticket with checkin bag.

KLM website was easy to use, after I cleared initial hurdle or figuring out which country specific version I wanted. Saturday early morning I rushed to CPH airport- didn't find any counters for KLM. That wasn't a problem because I had web checkin and I had no baggage to check in. But need to locate their counter because I need it to check in baggage next time. Most of European airports operate with bar code enabled boarding passes- no one asks for physical copy of tickets or ID proof for schengen flights. A scanning device scans the boarding pass and lets passengers in. Approx time needed to clear security is also displayed I cleared security and went to the gate. Boarding started on time but as I passed through, I got a slip that said my seat has been changed- from 18A to 30A. I don't know why.
Flight was normal. In flight magazine was fine. I feel legspace in a Boeing 737-800 that KLM operates is an inch or more compared to cramped economy seats in an A320 in other airlines. A cold sandwich was served, which I couldn't eat as it had egg. Through their twitter handle I had got confirmation that in short haul flights it is not possible to entertain food preference. On the return trip I got some nachos (chips). Flight lasted for about an hour. View of Amsterdam from top was nice. 

During return, I went to an open area inside Schiphol airport and clicked some pictures of KLM aircrafts. In the pic below a KLM Pilot is seen closing the window after waving at crowd (I missed clicking his hand outside the window)
Despite being oldest, KLM is not the largest airline in terms of number of planes, no of passengers flown etc. They haven't grown as rapidly as other carriers. To give an example, Airfrance that started 14 years after KLM has nearly twice the number of planes and flies twice the number of passengers every year. KLM still doesn't have an A380 in its fleet. But that is fine. Growth is not the only thing that measures success. KLM merged with Air France few years ago. With a dozen other partner airlines, they provide connectivity to almost all over the world. Best wishes to KLM on their upcoming 100th year. Fly more to India.

Similar: Tigerair Experience * Airfrance Premium Economy ExperienceAirCosta experience *

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Waterworld Live Stunt show at Universal Studios Singapore

Waterworld is a stunt show at Universal Studios, Singapore. This show happens two times a day, at pre-fixed time- 1.30 PM and 4 PM. Lasts about 30 odd minutes.

This stunt show is based on 1995 movie, Waterworld, directed by Kevin Reynolds. Plot happens in 2500 when all of Polar ice has melted, submerging the land. Only a small number of survivors are still alive, desperate to find some dry land where they can settle. And as in any movies there're some bad guys with evil intentions and the lead pair need to fight them out to survive and save the planet-whatever is left of it. More details about the movie on Wikipedia here
 Closeup of lead pair
  Planes in action
The live stunt show involves lots of shooting, fire, jumping into water, boat rides, explosions and lots more action. Doesn't matter you know the story or not, the live stunts at Waterworld will keep you at the edge of the seat. Even a small seaplane crashes into water suddenly, catching spectators off guard. Bad guy is easy to recognize, as one of his eyes is masked. He tries all possible means to kill the lead pair but despite several near death incident, they emerge victorious.
The stage and the seating
 Some happy moments after emerging victorious!

 Lots of fire everywhere

Be advised- if you sit too close to the show area, you are likely to get wet. Be prepared for that. Else take a seat in the back half of the seating area.You may also want to read Desitraveler's version of this topic. He has got some nice pics and story.
So when in Universal Studious remember the time- 1.30PM and 4PM. Read my previous post on Optimizing your time and experience at USS. Read other Singapore posts here.