Sunday, January 31, 2016

Leeuwarden, Holland

Our first stop on this art history cruise was in the tiny town of Leeuwarden, it is situated in the northern part of Holland. This charming city is absolutely gorgeous, it is very similar to Amsterdam with canals covered by bridges paralleling the tiny, one way streets, bicyclists riding to work, cobble stone walk aways, overflowing window boxes, mismatched gables, and so on.  We had a lovely walking tour of the city as we made our way to a very special museum ... 

The very special museum was a planetarium, but probably not the type of planetarium you may be envisioning, it was an orrery, which is a working model of the solar system. In 1774, Eelco Alta, a Frisian minister, cause a wave of panic to go through the Netherlands. He predicted that, on May 8 of that year, a number of planets would come so closely together that the earth would escape from its orbit and would be burned by the sun. Eise Eisinga had mastered mathematics and astronomy and so to reassure the Frisian people and to prove Alta was wrong, Eisinga decided to build a planetarium in his living room.  It took him 8 years to complete, 1774-1781

The Eise Eisinga Planetarium is the oldest, still working planetarium in the world.  The orrery was nominated December 12, 2011 by the Dutch government for UNESCO World Heritage status, based on its long history as a working planetarium open to the public and its continued efforts to preserve its heritage.

The "face" of the model looks down from the ceiling of what used to be Eisinga's living room, with most of the mechanical works in the space above the ceiling. It is driven by a pendulum clock, which has 9 weights or ponds. The planets move around the model in real time!  (A slight "re-setting" must be done by hand every four years to compensate for the February 29th of a leap year.) The planetarium includes a display for the current time and date. The plank that has the year numbers written on it has to be replaced every 22 years.

To create the gears for the model that are housed in the tiny attic of Eisinga's home, 10,000 handmade nails were used.  In addition to the basic orrery, there are displays of the phase of the moon and other astronomical phenomena. The orrery was constructed to a scale of 1:1,000,000,000,000 (1 millimetre: 1 million kilometres).  It was beyond fascinating to see this amazing work of science, I cannot even begin to comprehend all it took to make this orrery become a reality. I feel so lucky and blessed that I was able to visit these tiny little European towns and witness such awe inspiring works from our globe's history.  I had never even heard of this planetarium before this trip, and now I am in awe that I got to stand under it and read each detail with my own eyes.

There was a little museum attached to the house that displayed other early masterpieces in this particular field of science.  I was totally fascinated by all of them, they were works of science, but I also thought they were beautiful works of art, with all their intricate, delicate details displayed so precisely. 

After our time in the marvelous planetarium, we took a nice leisurely stroll to our next stop.  The weather was absolutely perfect.  The sun was shining, but there was that delicious cold, autumn chill in the air, so we made sure to bundle up in our jackets and scarves. 

Our next stop was at a quaint, family owned, delft tile factory.  My parents' back splash in their kitchen is made up of delft tiles, so we were all excited for this stop since this kind of tile has been a major part of our lives for many years.

We were first given a lesson on how the tiles are decorated.  The decoration pattern is applied by means of a piece of pounced paper. The stencil (in Dutch called 'spons') carries the lines of the pattern in pricked holes.  The stencil is laid on the tin-glazed side of the tile, then a pouch with charcoal powder is pressed onto the stencil and the charcoal dust is forced through the holes, so the decoration appears in black marks on the tile. The painter draws lines along the black dust tracks and proceeds to finish the drawing by adding color and shading.  Any exposed charcoal dust is burned off in the firing process.

Then we were shown into the tile making part of the factory.  

What an amazing first port day!  This cruise itinerary is starting to prove itself to be extremely unique.  I feel like we are lined up to see some truly amazing pieces of art, history and science that we wouldn't ever get the chance to see on any other type of trip.  

Next up, Rotterdam.

1 comment:

  1. Fabulous pictures! It was such a picturesque village! I appreciate you capturing all the facts about the planetarium that I have now forgotten.The unusual shade of blue with the black and gold made the ceiling so beautiful as well as scientific. You are right, this cruise itinerary took us off the beaten path to some hidden wonders.