Nuenen and Van Gogh

Visited the village of Nuenen, near Eindhoven in Holland. Nuenen is linked to Vincent van Gogh because he lived and worked here from 1883 to 1885.

There is a sculpture in the park which represents one of his works painted in Nuenen, called The Potato Eaters (De Aardappeleters). Some consider this his first masterpiece. Not bad for someone who had enrolled in a beginner’s art course in Brussels in 1880, 5 years before.

We had to wait a few more years for the many colorful Van Gogh works beloved of visitors to many art galleries around the world. Most of these were painted in the last 2 years of his life, before he died in 1890.

Van Gogh’s Father died in Nuenen, but he was probably buried from one of the Protestant churches in Nuenen, not the Catholic one in the photo above. Although, as it happens, there was a funeral in this church when I took this photo, hence all the cars parked outside it.


Back in Belgium, it is warmer than St Petersburg, but still there is ice. At least the ducks can walk on it.


Many thanks to Yuri, who showed me the naval Cathedral of Kronstadt, which is a destination for pilgrims in memory of St John of Kronstadt.

There was a Eucharist service going on at the time.

Kronstadt is built on an island 30km West of St Petersburg, and is a naval base for the Baltic fleet. 

It was in involved in the Revolution, the Kronstadt rebellion in 1921, was bombed by the Luftwaffe, and even attached during the Crimean war.

There are names of naval personnel lost in battles back to the Crimean war on tablets around the wall. This is just a small part of them:

Despite the fact that we built defences in Sydney harbour against the Russians at the time of the Crimean war, there was no mention here of sailors lost in action in Sydney!!

Евгений Онегин

Last night I went to a performance of Tchaikovsky’s opera Eugene Onegin, at the Mikhailovsky theatre, which is conveniently located near a park in the centre of town. I think the facade of the theatre is being renovated and was therefore covered, but the theatre itself give an idea of the magnificence in those non egalitarian days. A treasure.

And a fortifying snack was available during the intervals

 The performance itself was controversial and fairly new, by the Ukrainian Stage Director Andriy Zholdak.

The two ladies next to me did not like it, too eccentric an adaptation.

The staging was certainly entertaining, though I thought some of the symbolism of fate was a little heavy handed: all the stage and costumes were black and white, mostly white at the start, but black in the final act. Lots of spinning tops and bags of marbles. Also a fair bit of water and milk, which I didn’t understand.

I thought the biggest applause was for the good old fashioned bass solo at the start of the last act.

Still, I’m no expert. The words of the director and some video is at this link.

Блокада Ленинграда

This Friday, 27th January, is the anniversary of the lifting of the 900 day Blockade of Leningrad, from 1941 to 1944.

The Christmas and New Year decorations have been removed in Nevsky Prospekt, and replaced with signs recalling the seige.

One version of Hitler’s aims in attacking Leningrad is that he did not want to occupy the city, because he would then be responsible for feeding the population. Therefore he blockaded the city, with the intention of starving the population out, and he then planned to destroy the city. He did give orders to his generals not to accept any offers of surrender from the city.

In the words of a newspaper article in the LA Times in 1994,

“Three million people endured the 900 day blockade, which was lifted 50 years ago today. A million or more died, mostly civilians felled by hunger and cold. That’s 10 times the number of deaths caused by the bombing of Hiroshima, and about equal to the number of American military deaths, on and off the battlefield, in all US wars.”


I have spent the last couple of weeks travelling by metro a lot here, because it is by far the fastest way to get around. In general they are not as ornate as some of the metro stations in Moscow, but they are efficient and clean, which is the main thing.

One interesting thing is that some stations have doors on the station as well as the train, a bit like the doors on both a lift and each floor where the lift stops. This means that the train must stop at exactly the right place, so the doors on the train line up with the doors on the station.