Category Archives: Travel

Around Barcelona

A few shots from my wanderings around town:


More from Casa Battlo

Front of Casa Battlo

Here are a few more shots from my visit to the Gaudi building Casa Battlo.  Some say the place is inspired by Jules Verne, and one does sometimes feel that 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea feeling.



Curt atop Casa Battlo

Last weekend I made a quick trip down to Barcelona. I was there back in 1984, and things do seem to have changed a bit; I think the Olympics in 1992 got a lot of things built. But I was most interested in some of the slightly older sights, such as the Casa Battlo, a building (re)designed by Antonio Gaudi about 100 years ago. Above I’m up on the roof.  Below are a few shots of and inside the apartment building.


Casa Battlo was an existing building that was renovated, both exterior and interior, by Gaudi.

Casa Battlo

Ceiling of the front room - Casa Battlo

An interior window at Battlo

Antwerp Streets

Antwerp Tower

Just a few random shots from my wanderings in Antwerp last weekend.  The building above reminded me of some Mayan temples.

Antwerp Wall


Antwerp Walking Man

Antwerp Maroq

Plantin-Moretus Museum – Antwerp

Plantin Press Room

One of the highlights in Antwerp was the Plantin-Moretus Museum housed in the former home and print shop, which was in operation for over 300 years starting in about 1576.  The whole complex is very nicely kept up, and visitors have access to over thirty rooms in a variety of linked buildings that surround a lovely courtyard.

Plantin Table

One of the reasons for the long-lasting success of the company was that the founder Christoffel Plantin decided that the whole thing would be handed over to the descendant most competent to run it, regardless of birth order.  Since Plantin only had daughters, the name Moretus came into the picture as the second chief, followed by many in the Moretus line.  Plantin was the official printer in the area for the Spanish king, and grew quite wealthy.

Plantin Bed

In the museum is an amazing book collection, including most everything the company ever did, along with treasures such as one of the earliest bibles (the so-called 36-line bible printed with Gutenberg’s type, but by another printer).

Plantin Courtyard

Roadtrip to Antwerp


On the weekend I took a little road trip down to Antwerp in Belgium, about a 2 hour train ride.  Antwerp has had a storied history, perhaps peaking in power back in the late 1500s, and revived again by Napoleon in the late 1700s.  I’ll write a bit more later, but here are a couple shots near the center of the old town.

Antwerp, Grote Markt

1935 American Road Trip

American Road Trip

You always get a new perspective when you shift positions and look back at where you were. In that spirit, I found a book last weekend that is a look back both at the past and at America from a Russian perspective. “Ilf and Petrov’s American Road Trip” (2007 from Cabinet/Princeton Architectural Press) was initially published in the Russian equivalent of Life magazine back in 1936, a chronicle of the two satirical writers’ experience during a two month visit to the U.S. They drove back and forth across the country, taking photographs, picking up hitchhikers, and recording their observations.

Here are a few choice observations, first on western towns:

Here is a typical American city out West.  It has none of those basic features that give a city character.  There is neither distinctive architecture nor a crowd of people on the street.  The sidewalks are empty.  Instead, the road is full of automobiles.

On Americans (describing a young hitchhiker):

The youngster warmed up a little in the closed car and was glad to answer our questions.  He was a typical young American man: talkative, self-assured, and incurious.  Like all other young people we took from state to state on our trip, this one also didn’t ask who we were and didn’t bother to find out what language we would sometimes speak amongst ourselves, but was quite happy to talk about himself.

On advertising:

Advertising has so permeated American life that if one fine day Americans woke up and found that all advertising had disappeared, the majority of them would be in a desperate position.  It would be impossible to figure out things like:  Which cigarettes to smoke?  Which store to buy clothes at?

Plenty of interesting photos and descriptions of America still in the midst of the Depression.

Kasteel de Haar

Today was a fine sunny day, and despite the chilly winds we took a bike ride out to a nearby castle, as seen below:

Kasteel de Haar

Parts of the castle date all the way back to 1391 but it was fully and lavishly re-built and expanded when the family heir married a Rothschild back in about 1890.  It was a twenty year project architected by Pierre Cuypers, who also did the Amsterdam Centraal train station and the Rijksmuseum.

It has the best handiwork you could buy at the turn of the last century, outfitted with Ming vases, Belgian tapestries from the early 1500s, etc.  Quite a place, but unfortunately having some foundational difficulties now as it’s a bit too heavy for the marshy land it’s built on.

Apparently family members still come back each year in September.

Back in Utrecht!

Utrecht from the air

Now back in Utrecht in the Netherlands, waiting for the days when the sun is out and things are green again, like in the above photo! But I guess it may be awhile, so I’ll see if I can find some winter amusements.

Lighting the tree!

Gouda tree lighting

Last night a few of us trekked over to Gouda to witness the lighting of the big tree in the market square. While that was nice, even better I thought was the lighting of the candles in each window of the ancient Stadhuis (town hall, dating back to 1540) in the center of the market, along with most of the windows all around the square. The photo above gives a good sense of it. Also fun to hear “Jingle Bells” and “Winter Wonderland” with a bit of Dutch accent.