The Belfry of Bruges by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Saturday 21 September 2013

In the market-place of Bruges stands the belfry old and brown;
Thrice consumed and thrice rebuilded, still it watches o'er the town.

As the summer morn was breaking, on that lofty tower I stood,
And the world threw off the darkness, like the weeds of widowhood.
Thick with towns and hamlets studded, and with streams and vapors gray,
Like a shield embossed with silver, round and vast the landscape lay.
At my feet the city slumbered. From its chimneys, here and there,
Wreaths of snow-white smoke, ascending, vanished, ghost-like, into air.
Not a sound rose from the city at that early morning hour,
But I heard a heart of iron beating in the ancient tower. 

From their nests beneath the rafters sang the swallows wild and high;
And the world, beneath me sleeping, seemed more distant than the sky.

Then most musical and solemn, bringing back the olden times,
With their strange, unearthly changes rang the melancholy chimes,
Like the psalms from some old cloister, when the nuns sing in the choir;
And the great bell tolled among them, like the chanting of a friar.

Visions of the days departed, shadowy phantoms filled my brain;
They who live in history only seemed to walk the earth again;
All the Foresters of Flanders,— mighty Baldwin Bras de Fer,
Lyderick du Bucq and Cressy Philip, Guy de Dampierre.
I beheld the pageants splendid that adorned those days of old;
Stately dames, like queens attended, knights who bore the Fleece of Gold
Lombard and Venetian merchants with deep-laden argosies;
Ministers from twenty nations; more than royal pomp and ease.
I beheld proud Maximilian, kneeling humbly on the ground;
I beheld the gentle Mary, hunting with her hawk and hound;
And her lighted bridal-chamber, where a duke slept with the queen,
And the armed guard around them, and the sword unsheathed between.
I beheld the Flemish weavers, with Namur and Juliers bold,
Marching homeward from the bloody battle of the Spurs of Gold;
Saw the light at Minnewater, saw the White Hoods moving west,
Saw great Artevelde victorious scale the Golden Dragon's nest.
And again the whiskered Spaniard all the land with terror smote;
And again the wild alarum sounded from the tocsin's throat;
Till the bell of Ghent responded o'er lagoon and dike of sand,
"I am Roland! I am Roland! there is victory in the land!"
Then the sound of drums aroused me. The awakened city's roar
Chased the phantoms I had summoned back into their graves once more.
Hours had passed away like minutes; and, before I was aware,
Lo! the shadow of the belfry crossed the sun-illumined square.

(The Belfry of Bruges by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is in the public domain.)

Bookish Amsterdam

Thursday 19 September 2013
“Some tourists think Amsterdam is a city of sin, but in truth it is a city of freedom. And in freedom, most people find sin.”
— John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

I can't write about a trip to Amsterdam without writing about the Anne Frank House. Located along the Prinsengracht canal, above, the Anne Frank House was once home to Opekta, the jam company where Anne Frank and seven others hid during the Holocaust. As all who have read the book, Anne Frank: A Diary of a Young Girl know, Otto Frank was the only one to survive.

Beside the Anne Frank House is the Westerkerk, a church built in the mid-1600s. The chiming of the Westertoren clock is referenced numerous times in Anne Frank's diary.

"Father, mother and Margot still can’t get used to the chiming of the Westertoren clock, which tells us the time every quarter of an hour. Not me, I liked it from the start; it sounds so reassuring, especially at night it's like a faithful friend."
— Anne Frank

There are few things as comforting as being halfway across the world and getting a random glimpse of #CanLit like from the posters below.

The new and modern main branch of the Openbare Bibliotheek is a stunning contrast in a city ruled by row houses that are centuries old. It also offers a wonderful view of Amsterdam from above at its rooftop restaurant. (Books and rooftop beers make for one happy traveller!)

Amsterdam is the most walkable city I've travelled to, which made it easy to stumble upon bookstores, and even an outdoor book market just outside the Rijksmuseum.

Supercrawl 2013

Sunday 15 September 2013
“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”
— Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities

Thousands of us took to the streets this weekend to celebrate Hamilton's fifth Supercrawl. It was a humbling and awe-inspiring experience to be part of something that seemed so huge, yet so driven by community.

This city inspires me. And if I had any advice to give, that would be it. Choose a city that inspires you. Choose a city that fills you with pride. Choose a city that you can't help but feel protective of. Choose a city that you don't simply live in. Choose a city that you feel a part of.

This doesn't mean choosing the city that's the least flawed or has the fewest problems. Because all cities have problems. But when enough people truly believe in a place, things begin to change. They get better.

Choose a city that forces you to care. Choose a city where your heart actually hurts when you hear that a favourite building is being torn down or converted into condos. Choose a city that can sometimes make you angry.

Choose a city that you truly believe in. Choose a city that you believe is unique enough and talented enough to continue growing. Choose a city that is always changing, giving you new reasons to feel inspired every day.

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