Wednesday, 20 January 2010

White Winter Wonderland

Last December and the first part of this month of January were particularly cold here in the Netherlands and in Europe in general. There was a lot of snow and frost, too. Everything looked really pretty and with it happening around Christmas time, I think it was a bit magical!

Now all the snow and the ice have melted and we have gone back to the usual kind of weather we have around here: rainy, misty, windy... Winter is not yet over and we might still get to see more of White Wonderland, but in case we don't, I wanted to share some of the photos I took around Christmas time and the first week or so, of this month. You can click on each photo to view it larger:

Ice-skaters having fun in one of the canals of Zwolle

Me taking a walk in the "Kuinderbos", in the Noordoostpolder region.

"Fresh" mushrooms I found while taking a stroll in the Westerveldse Bos, near my house in Zwolle.

A view of the pond in the Westerveldse Bos

A street in my neighbourhood after a heavy snowfall around Christmas.

A bicycle path completely covered in snow and a little girl trying to get home from school, pushing her bike along.

A nice car in the parking area of the shooting club we visited in the Kuinderbos, Noordoostpolder.

A bridge over a canal in my neighbourhood in Zwolle.

Farm houses almost outside Zwolle.
This view reminds me of the Argentinean flag!

I took hundreds of photos which still have to be edited, but I hope that you liked this sampler of the white winter in the Netherlands!

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

"I'm not a heroine: I just did what I considered was my duty"

Miep Gies in 2001, she used to receive thousands of letters from all over the world.

Those were the words of Miep Gies, one of the friends that helped the family of Anne Frank hide from the Germans during the Second World War.

On 4th August 1944, Miep Gies was working as usual in her office at the Prinsengracht in Amsterdam. She was probably thinking about the eight people hiding upstairs in the "achterhuis" (the annex in the back). She could not help thinking all the time about them, how they were confined in very close quarters, not able to go outside at all; and above all, she thought about the danger they were all in of being caught by the SS or the Dutch Security Police.

At about 10:30 am, while Miep Gies and Bep Voskuijl (another helper and employee at Opekta, the company partly owned by Otto Frank) were sitting at their desks working, "a short man entered and pointed his gun at me and said, 'stay where you are! Don't move!' I froze, of course. he closed the door again and left. I couldn't see or hear what was happening in the annex because I had to stay at my desk. Later I heard the group of hiders in the annex coming down the stairs very slowly. I couldn't go to the window, because I wasn't allowed to move."*

A couple of hours later, Miep and Bep went upstairs to the Franks' bedroom and there they found the papers of Anne's diary lying on the floor. They picked everything up carefully and took it downstairs. There and then they decided that Miep should keep Anne's diary because she was the eldest of the two.

This is how Miep Gies saved one of the most famous diaries in the world, which is today considered a symbol of one of the darkest periods in the history of the human race.

Anne Frank's diary - saved by Miep Gies after the Frank family and the other hiders were discovered in the Annex and taken to concentration camps.

On 11th January 2010, Miep Gies died at age 100 after a short illness, barely a month before turning 101. Until very recently, she was healthy and living in the Dutch province of North Holland. In December 2009 after suffering a fall, she was admitted into a nursing home, where she died on the night of 11 to 12 January.

Miep, the helper and the friend

Miep, circa 1936, working at the office in Opekta, the company partly owned by Anne's father.
Otto Frank -Miep's boss and Anne's father- came one day to Miep and told her about his plan to go into hiding. The persecution of the Jews in Amsterdam had intensified and his daughter Margot (Anne's elder sister) had received a call-up for relocation in a camp. He and his family were going to hide in the annex located in an empty section of the building owned by Otto's firm and they would need help from outside to stay alive.

Was Miep willing to do it?

She said 'yes' without hesitating. These people were helpless, they didn't have anywhere to go. She was their only hope.

Was she scared?

Yes, she was. But she had to do it - the Franks and their friends needed her and she was just doing her duty as a human being. She never saw herself or any of the other helpers as " heroes".

In the interviews Miep gave in her life, she often said that in those days, she used to lay awake at night thinking about the Franks and their friends in the Secret Annex. She frequently asked herself if she would be able to put up with that - being locked up and not able to go outside, afraid all the time of being discovered and sent to a concentration camp to work, or worse, to die.

What was her opinion of Anne?

In Miep's view, Anne was a very friendly and charming girl. She liked to talk and she was constantly asking her and the other helpers for news from the outside world.
Miep and the others had agreed somehow not to tell the hiders all the horrible things that were going on. They thought that the people in the secret annex were already suffering too much and they didn't want to make them even more depressed than they already were. But this strategy would not always work with Anne; she always wanted to know more and she not always "bought" the half-truths their friends told them.
Miep Gies was, of all the helpers, the person that was probably the closest to the Franks and particularly to Anne. She said that talking to Anne was a pleasure to her - she seemed so mature and could discuss serious topics like an adult would. She once walked into Anne's room while she was writing in her private diary, and after receiving a furious look from Anne for intruding on her, Miep felt awkward first, and completely ashamed afterwards. She thought that, even if Anne was a child, she had a right to her privacy.

How did Miep feel after the war?

Some time ago, while reading about Anne and the circle linked to the story of the secret annex, I found an anecdote about Miep that I found quite moving.

While working in the Anne Frank House (which was open to the public as a museum after the war), Miep was asked to help guide a group of German people around the annex. She agreed to do it, despite that she had until then always stayed away from German visitors, for she hated the Germans, she could not help it. Normally, when German visitors came to the house, she simply waited in the office until they were gone, for she was afraid of saying something insulting to them that would embarass Otto Frank.

This time the group was too big and Miep's help was needed. When she saw herself surrounded by the group who recognised her as the Miep in Anne's diary and were staring at her, she thought; "these people are the enemy; these are the Germans!" and she literally "lost it" and started ranting about what the Germans had done and accused them of it all being their fault. The leader of the group came to her and tried to calm her down. She then realised that these people had not fought in the war but that they had been in the Resistance and in concentration camps. As of that moment, she began to see things differently. It was time to let go and move on.

Right after the war, Miep and her husband Jan (who had also been a helper during the hiding of the Franks and friends) used to talk about all they had been through and asked themselves how something like that could have happened, and why.
One day, Miep looked at her husband and told him that they could no longer dwell on past, they needed to start looking ahead, to the future. During the war years they had not been simple onlookers, but they had helped people in need and in so doing, they had risked their own lives. It was all they could do. ...

... as if they had done too little!

What do you think of what Miep Gies and her friends did? Do you think that you could have done something like that if you had been in their place? I know they're tough questions and that living in a completely different world today makes it difficult to answer, but have you ever asked yourselves these questions? I have but as of yet, haven't come up with an honest answer.

*Sources: Miep Gies Official Site and The Anne Frank Stichting Site

Friday, 8 January 2010

How you imagined Argentina: the one where I answer your comments and questions.

Sunrise at "Cordón del Plata", in the Andes mountains (Mendoza, Argentina).

I would like to start by wishing you a fantastic year 2010 and I hope you all had fun during the holidays! Now all the Season's glitter is over, the Three Kings came all the way from the Far East and left their presents (or not), the Christmas tree and decorations are gone ... and we are just left with the long winter days and maybe even with a little overweight after all those special meals we have been having? (sigh...)

And now keeping the promise I made to those of you who were so kind as to visit my post Imagining Argentina, here are my answers to your comments, questions and remarks:

buday said...
Oh, I was answering in my mind! Maradona, Messi, tango, Buenos Aires, beef (lots of it!), cowboys, del Potro (oh, Rafa!), it's at end of South America and is a VERY large country, Cordoba (hehe), Spanish is spoken, Evita, even more beef!

And I've never been there! (Sigh.)

BTW, your father looks like he danced a mean tango when he was younger. Coolness. :)

You got all that right, buday - except for the part about my father; you see, he was never much of a dancer, not even when he was young, apparently! My mother was, though...
And yes, you should know about Juan Martin del Potro, right? He beat your Rafael Nadal in the US Open last year!

Sandra said...
Argentina is in South America, Capital Buenos Aires, Spanish Language, Tango, Astor Piazolla, Evita Peron, Videla dictatorship, Maxima is from Argentina, dolce de leche, Iguaçu Park, Maradona,...

Great idea, Aledys!I want to know more :)
Besos :)

I was glad to read that you recognised Astor Piazolla! He is world-known as a composer but unfortunately, he's no longer among us...
I was also surprised that you knew about Videla and the dictatorship - a very sad and dark part of our recent history.

oranjeflamingo said...
Fortunately, I had answers for most of the questions, but I'm really looking forward to seeing and learning more from someone actually there! I've never been, but would love to go someday. The beef, alone, is enough to make me want to go! ;) A couple of my mother's cousins moved there from Scotland many many many years ago, but the family lost touch with them, unfortunately.

So, my friend, you are a beefeater! Well then, definitely Argentina is the place to go... On average, each person consumes about 70kg of beef a year in my country, which I think is the highest consumption rate in the world.
You should probably trace down those cousins of yours! You might get an invitation to visit them and you can go and see, ehem, I mean taste for yourself!

A g g i e Lap said...
My answers: no, I haven't yet been there | Located in South America | Spanish is spoken | Buenos Aires is the capital, and Cordoba is not another well known city | I know the mate tea, empanadas and dulce de leche I know the Iguazu Falls are famous and I had heard of la cordilla de Cordoba (I think) | music: I know a very famous Argentinean lady singer died at the age of 66 (I thinkg) a couple of weeks ago and that the president declared the day mourning day, but I don't recall her name, but I know so because it was in the Dutch news incl. newspapers | other celebrities: Evita, Maradona...euhh, who else, oh yeah: MAXIMA!! | what I recently heard of here in NL: Argentina qualified for 2010 World Cup | maybe to know more about Cordoba and other towns/cities in the future, since travel programmes focus more on Argentina. Great questionnaire, btw! :)

Wow, you are one of the best in the class! You sure know mate tea, but have you tried drinking it the traditional way yet? I would like to see you do that!
You have probably heard about the hills of Córdoba - I have posted myself a couple of pictures from there on this blog; plus, it is where I come from!
The lady that you were talking about was Mercedes Sosa, a popular singer of native music originally from the north of Argentina. She died recently and the news was on many European stations and newspapers since she was rather well-known.
Travel programmes in general, tend to focus more on Buenos Aires, the capital; or Patagonia and Iguazú, which are very popular tourist areas of the country, but not so much on Córdoba - so I'll have to do that part here in this blog!

JaPRA said...
Ok, I admit. I failed that test. I think I recognized three people in the line up (including Princess Maxima?). I love Empanadas, Argentinean steak (with chimichurri)... and yo hablo un poquito Espanol. I wish I could tango.

I would love to see more photos, of course. I hope you are having a lovely time!

But that's not failing, not at all! Yes, Princess Máxima was in one of the photos, she is Argentinean-born, as you probably know. You've had empanadas and Argentinean steak with chimichurri in Texas? That must be a brave man/woman, the one who dares to open an Argentinean steakhouse in ... Texas?
I'm sure there are some tango schools in your area, should you be interested some day! I've seen them even in small towns here in the Netherlands. After a couple of lessons you might be dancing like this:

Vagamundos said...
Hola Aledys. Well, we belong to the disqualified group :) We would never recognize Evita, we never saw Maradona (Pablo Aimar´s idol) play neither Astor performing ;) Puerto Madero??? Does it have good restaurants? If we had been there we would recommend El Campo ;)
Cordaba we don´t know at all so that´s what we want you to show us :)
Enjoy your holydays at the beautifull Argentina.

You've been Googling for all that information, haven't you?! That's called cheating! Now you have to write 1.000 times, "The parrillada in Argentina, is the best in the whole world." "The parrillada in Argentina, is the best in the whole world." "The parrillada in Argentina, is the best in the whole world." "The parrillada in Argentina, is the best ..."

A "parrillada" that I enjoyed during my last trip to Argentina.

M.Eugenia said...
Qué genial este post, se muchas mas cosas de las que pensaba... la foto del dulce de leche me ha hecho recordar la primera vez que lo probé, fue el día de la fiesta de la primavera en Buenos Aires.
.........Tengo que volver.

I still have to read your account of your trip to Buenos Aires! You celebrated the beginning of the spring (21st September) there? Did you go to a picnic in Palermo? I would like to read about that!

Droomvla said...
How about a picture of Patagonia? Someday.... I'm going to see that place. Someday! hahahaha

About the pictures, Evita, Maradona, Maxima (of course! lol), Che Guevarra??? (I thought he was Cuban), tango, bandeneon (bandoneon?), Astor Piazolla (I have CDs hehehe)...

The Patagonia argentina is certainly one of the most beautiful places on earth. I don't have any pictures from there - not from the digital era, at least - and the photos I do have, are in Córdoba, so I don't have them with me here.
Luckily, I have a couple of friends who have been to several places in Patagonia and have lots of wonderful pictures. Here are some of them:

©Patricia Sgrignuoli. Salto del Agrio, in the province of Neuquén, northern Patagonia (Argentina).

©Ramón Tello. Perito Moreno glacier in the province of Santa Cruz, southern Patagonia (Argentina).

©Ramón Tello. Whale-sighting in Península Valdés in the province of Chubut (Argentina).

©Miguel Nonay. Wale-sighting in Puerto Madryn in the province of Chubut (Argentina).
©Miguel Nonay. Isla de los Lobos in Tierra del Fuego (Argentina).

More photos from Calafate, Bariloche and pls pls pls: Ushuaia !!

I'm planning on visiting Bariloche this year when I go to Argentina to visit my family. I hope I'll be able to go - it's a bit too far from Córdoba, where I normally stay - about 1600 km. But it's one of my favourite places in Argentina and I definitely would like my husband to see it. The same goes for Calafate and Ushuaia. My parents lived in the latter for two years when they were just married.
I have a friend, Patricia, who recently went to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, or "the End of the World" as they call it. Here is a preview of what she saw there:

©Patricia Sgrignuoli, Ushuaia, in the Province of Tierra del Fuego (Argentina).

If you want to read her account of her trip to Ushuaia (and you speak Spanish, too!), you can visit her thread Ushuaia, Fin del Mundo o Principio de Todo, in the Skyscraper Page Forum.

Xoán-Wahn said...
It's a good thing I knew the answers to all of those questions, otherwise a lot of people would have been very angry with me! Great post, as always!

One thing, though: 'home-made dulce de leche' This just made me hate you a little! How lucky! I LOOOOOVE dulce de leche. I grew up on the stuff, which is odd now that I think about it. Argentine empanadas were also always a staple in my house. The only thing I haven't tasted is mate. I suppose that's as good an excuse as any to catch a flight down to Buenos Aires!

Well, Xoan, I am sure you can get dulce de leche over there! Or if you want to make your own, you'll find the recipe in my blog entry A Taste of Home: .... I just found out by reading your blog that you are an accomplished chef, so this should be easy as ... eating dulce de leche for you!

Sol said...
Hola Aledys
No creo que sea justo que desde Lujan Bs.As. participe de esta MARAVILLOSA encuesta.
Agradezco que haya personas COMO VOS que hagan conocer a nuestro país de la forma FABULOSA que lo hiciste en este post y en TODO tu blog!
Aprovecho para desearte una MUY LINDA estadia y que pases unos dias ESTUPENDOS junto a tus seres queridos!

Thanks a lot, Sol! Very kind and nice words...

thamarai said...
hey I knew at least 70% of the answers to your question..:)..I hope you are having loads of fun visiting family and of my friends is Argentinian and he too apologizes every time he says how he misses beef..:D.

Well, you will have to forgive me too, every time I post photos of barbecues or mention beef too!
I'm sorry, thamarai....

Apost(r)illada said...
I guess it's not fair if I participate in this poll... Anyway, great entry! Have heard lotsssssss of things about Máxima here in Netherlands. The funny thing is no one really knows here there!

And who would've known, that just a few weeks after you wrote this, you would actually get to see her in person in Groningen!!!
If anyone is interested in Apost(r)illada's account of her meeting with Princess Máxima, you can find it here. (in Spanish)

A Touch of Dutch said...
Beautiful photos! Enjoy your stay!

1.) I've never been, but would love to one day.

2.) Yes, I know exactly where it is in South America :-) Atlantic side, south on the continent, & I can point at the capital, Buenos Aires.

3.) Español!

4.) Buenos Aires & Cordoba.

5.) Dulce de leche & I can't forget about the steaks!

6.) Patagonia.

7.) I immediately think of the tango, but no particular artists come to mind...

8.) Besides Princess Máxima, Juan and Eva Peron.

9.) I remember hearing especially on the news about the Falkland Islands in the early 1980s.

10.) I've been learning all of the great things via your blog :-) So keep it up!

Wow, Isabella! Together with Aggie, you are among the best students in this class! A star for each of you!

~Lopa said...
To be honest, i had read this post yesterday, but i was ashamed of myself as didn't know answer of many of questions put here, putting a que for myself if i know nothing about this beautiful country more than it's name ! But then i realised, but now through your blog I am getting to know it better, and that is I am back to read it again...Thanks :)

That's the idea, Lopa! We can learn lots of things through our blogs. I surely need to learn more about your country, too...

EFRUTIK said...
1. South America, most likely I could point it out
2. Sultry Spanish
3.Buenos Aires, of course
4.Dulce de Leche!!!!!! Empanadas, yum, yum, yum. But I want the MEAT!!!!!
5.Not really
6.Tango, actually a story here. My b/f and I last year went to a free Tango session at our Uni., not to brag but I was told by the instructor that I have a future in the dance if I practiced. Sadly, my schedule was so busy we never went back :(. Argentine Tango dancers performed at our university last year, they were phenomenal!
7.Evita, Diego Maradona!
9.Umm to be honest not any time recent…right now it is all about the health care reform and other political junk. Plus in US to hear any international news you would have to dig or have cable networks, sadly :(

I would like to know how it really is living in Argentina. What people are like, how they are towards foreigners and what kind of immigrants live in Argentina
Does everyone really know how to dance Tango?

Enjoy your lovely vacation :)

Well, I wouldn't call THAT not knowing ANYTHING, EFRUTIK! A pity that you couldn't go on with the tango lessons! Some other time, perhaps...
People are in general, very friendly and open, very much like people from southern Europe are. Immigration in Argentina has been very important - actually, what the country is today, is a direct result of all the immigration we received during the last half of the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries. And no, not everyone can dance tango -which is a dance and a music typical of a very small area of the country, in fact!

Alejandra said...
Hola!!!! qué lindo!!! bueno, te pido disculpas por nopasar a visitarte, pero estoy con falta de tiempo, ahora tengo la pagina de viajes en Facebook, y cada vez me quda menos tiempo!!! Si necesitas fotos, tomalas de mi blog sin problemas!!!
te cuento que hoy o mañana podré un post que te va a encantar!!! el domingo pasado fue en Cañuelas la Fiesta del Dulce de Leche y me acordé de vos, vas a ver qué fotos!!! una delicia!!! besos porteños.

Thanks a lot, Alejandra! I hope you had lots of fun in that Dulce de Leche Festival in Cañuelas, I would have loved to be there!

workhard said...
I barely know anything about argentina except that u can find llamas..What a lovely place!!! The pictures are really beautiful and the food looks delicious...

Actually, I not only saw lots of lamas in my trip to the north of Argentina during my holiday, but also got to feed them in a farm where we stayed for a couple of days! I will be posting the pictures soon. Thanks!

cordobaliving said...
Aledys, I liked this entry very much. And I'm not alone, judging by the large quantity of comments. Congratulations!

Thanks! I hope you will continue to enjoy visiting my blog from time to time!

And thanks a lot to you all for participating in the quiz and leaving your comments!

I would especially like to thank Patricia Sgrignuoli, Ramón Tello and Manuel Nonay for allowing me to use their photos here! By clicking on their names, you can see more of their photos or read about their travels in Argentina. Thanks for your generosity, my friends!