Well then, the wintertime is always a more restful time for us, in terms physical of garden work. However, as I have posted before, it is also time to take off for a day or two now and then to do some hiking, take in a picturesque city walk, have a bite to eat at a decent restaurant and spend the night in a hotel. These trips are necessarily short, but we enjoy them like mini-vacations. This latest one took us to the city of Amersvoort. It is a nice and lovely city that is nice to see. I have been there a couple of times, but never when it was sunny. Sadly, once again, it was not sunny. It just does not seem to be possible. Ach wel. The plan was to drive down to Amersvoort and spend that first day taking a city tour, do some window-shopping and choose a restaurant. That was the plan, and that is exactly what we did. We got there and nestled ourselves in a parking garage that was wildly expensive. That sounds funny....we parked the auto in a garage, then. We went on sunday because the parking was supposed to be gratis on sunday (except on a koopzondag). This is a sunday when the stores are open. These special shopping days are few and do not often occur. Little did we know that the law had changed asndf now EVERY sunday is a shopping sunday....sooooo, the parking was NOT gratis. 15 euro's to park the whole day. Ouch! Oké, oké...I mustn't dwell on the negatives. Right then...off we went with our trusty GPS device in hand. I marked a waypoint once outside the parking garage and we began navigating the city. There was going to be a guided city tour, and we had to find the building where the guides were waiting. We found the location relatively quickly...in fact; we were too early by forty minutes. What to do. Well, that isn't really a question, is it. It would be unfair here to say something like--"My bride knew exactly what to do...shop". However...(rubbing the skillet lump on my scalp from that last indiscretion), I decide (in no uncertain terms NOT so say that). We decided to simply walk up and down the shopping streets and check out the windows. As the hour approached, we ducked into the alley and saw a chap standing outside the door puffing on a cigarette. We greeted and he told us that we were the only ones for the city tour. Well, the weather was cloudy and so we thought that it was no wonder. However, as the last minutes ticked the folks began to stream in from under every wee pebble in the cobbled street. Of course, there were a few folks that arrived later than the appointed time and naturally that elicited comments. Cigarettes out, the chatting stopped and after a few words of welcome, we were off. I shan't describe it all. For one thing, I have very few foto's because of the poor lighting and secondly because it would make this account way too long. Suffice to say, in a city centre that dated from the middle ages and had circular remnants of two city walls --there was quite a bit of interesting historical things to see and hear about from the guide. When the walls became obsolete, they were removed and houses were built on the fundaments. The houses were not deep (they could not be deeper than the wall had been wide), but they were wide (from right to left). The trip went by the symbol of the city--the Koppelpoort. Here it is from outside the city looking in: We first went out and had a peek and then went through the arch and looked at the back of this structure (from inside the walls). The guide told all about this and mentioned early stones from the Roman time. It was interesting to me to hear the Hx of the poort (gate), but by far the most surprising and interesting thing was...that our little group was allowed in. Yes, we could actually go inside this structure. This is not something that is generally allowed because of the ancient nature of the structure. There are still some original wooden bits present. What you see when you enter the small red and white striped door is wood work. There are two wheels left and tight of an enormously thick and heavy wooden slab. The wheels on either side turn and the heavy slab goes up or down. The purpose of the slab was to close the incoming water so that enemies could not enter the city, or if there were flood conditions...to keep excess water outside the city. Here you see one of the giant wheels that looks quite like a water mill. What happened was that every time the large slab needed to be raised or lowered, criminals were taken out of the jail and put on these great wheels and they would walk, like hamsters, until the slab was lowered or raised. When the chap had finished his explanation, six women were asked to volunteer to turn the wheels. They climbed into the two wheels and began to walk. As they walked, the slab began to rise. The wheels were very simply made and so was the "path". Here you can see the inside of the wheel a little bit. The horizontal "ribs" are for traction, of course. There was a little surprise when the dames were finished with their "work" (which was performed with not a little bit of laughter. They were so weak from the laughter that when they turned around to walk on that wheel in the other direction to raise the slab again, it was a struggle. Oh well, they were rewarded. They got a certificate stating that they were Raddraaiers and had performed the appointed task. My bride was one of those six comediennes, and so received a certificate. Well, I can tell you there was no joking about that--it was a treasured prize, and that was that. chuckle. We eased away when the guide returned us to the beginning of the walk. We breezed by more windows and went into some stores. It became dark early and when 17.00 hours rolled-around, we began to check out menues posted outside various restaurants. It came down to three: A Mediterranean restaurant, an Indian one and a Mexican one. My bride could not make up her mind, so I did it for her. It was to be the Mexican. Why Mexican, you ask? Because they advertised a plate with mole poblano. Here in Europe you do not see that sauce offered often, in fact until now I have not encountered a waitress that had any idea what it was. The mole poblano was oké, but a bit too sweet for me. Having said that, I did enjoy it and the meal thoroughly. Why, they even had black beans. I was on heaven's doorstep. --A random statement that sort of summed-up the entire 'vacation". The hotel room was great, very comfortable with all the amenities. The brekkie was buffet and I could stuff myself to the ears--I would need that, for the upcoming hike that day was an arduous one. We enjoyed it so much. It was a tract that was downloaded from the internet and put into the GPS. The hike took us over bike paths, foot paths, wild animal paths and no paths at all. It went through all sorts of terrain and there was wildlife to see, and more mushrooms: ...and these: Then from a distance to get an idea of the setting: Here a typical section of the hike: It was an interesting couple of days and when the hike was over and we were back at the auto, it was time to prop the feet up and have some hot tea before driving back across the Bird Dike to home, sweet home.