Charlie and the Photography Factory

May 6, 2009

“Don’t Touch My Heine”

Filed under: Amsterdam, Holland — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , — charlieprator @ 1:11 AM


Another wonderful part of Amsterdam. The Heineken brewery.  Now, I was never really a fan of Heineken until I ventured into their brewery.  But, something with their taste test made me give them a second chance–that and their tour!

Upon our free day, Vinicius, Drew, and I decided to split for 2 hours–and, understandably so. They know I work at a slower pace, so we decided to head to our chosen destinations separately.  On my venture I wanted to get some “free” beer, so off I went to Heineken-land.  Fortunately, the free beer started right from the beginning.  I struck up a conversation with the ticket attendant, and, either because I was flying solo or the interesting conversation,  I got extra beer tickets for my tour!

It actually ended up being a pretty good tour, with fun stuff to do and learn about. Ironically, they had group activities, but I had no partners in crime!  In the middle of the tour, I stumbled upon this room.  An eloquently decorated storeroom with bright copper vats.  The room echoed as you walked through it, and the vats echoed the tour-goer’s chatter.   In this room, they explained how reach wort. A liquid gruel of boiled grain and water.  Luckily, I actually got to try it! However, it wasn’t the first time.  This specific experience, the smell of boiled grain, steam rising from metal pots, fire, and cloudy premature beer, brought back memories of my childhood.  Haha! 

Sidetopic time: No, I never crash and burned my life in the 4th grade from alcoholism.  For a large part of my youngster days my father use to labor long hours preparing wort, fermenting it, and brewing imitation Trappist beer.  Something that, cue the beer connoisseur in you, cannot be done.  I read somehere that their yeast is 400 year-old closely kept secret.  Oh yea, he also installed a kegerator too.  I shouldn’t poke fun though. So far, many of my hobbys and passions fall in line with his.  I probably will try to brew some beer with my son some day.

Anyways,  I started a long conversation with the fellow running this area, and I remember one interesting peice of history about these vats.  Somewhere prior to the time the Netherlands was invaded by the Nazis, the then owner of Heineken came into this room and was disgusted with the sight of their tanks. Why? Well, we all know what happens to copper.  It turns green and brown.  Well, the next day he orders his workers to polish the vats probably to the state you see now. 

Time goes by. And, Mr. CEO is happy. 

Next, come in the Nazis who take over Holland.  Mr. CEO, realizing the value of copper in wartime Europe, orders the vats painted to conceal their bronze color.  Nazis roll through the Heineken brewery, and are never the wiser.  Years later they forget about the vats and their brilliant bronze color. Finally, when the brewery turns into a museum they somehow chip away at the paint and realize they’re made of copper. Thus, polishing them to what we see now. 

Cool story, huh?


April 28, 2009

“Hold Your Breath. Make a Wish. Count to Three.”

Filed under: Amsterdam, Holland — Tags: , , , , , , — charlieprator @ 2:51 AM


Last Tuesday I arrived back from one of the best vacations I have ever been on: Amsterdam.  Now we all know what Amsterdam is infamous for (see article link below), but, surprisingly, this college student fell in love with Amsterdam for many other reasons. 

I had the luxury of staying for free in our wonderful friend’s, Falcão, ex-girlfriend’s flat in the university located in Haarlem.  Even though Haarlem lies 25 minutes away from Amsterdam Central, I am grateful for seeing other parts of Holland that other tourists may not have passed through.  First, Haarlem, and the cities/towns that lie around Amsterdam have some of the most beautiful neighborhoods, streets, houses, sidewalks, front-lawns, etc I have ever toured through.  It was like walking through “Pleasantville”.  Everything was perfect!  There were trees in full bloom casting shadows over roads, lawns perfectly trimmed, verdant foliage growing from every crevice of the neighborhood.  At first glance, a perfect place to bring a family.

Now, I thought I had fallen in love with Amsterdam because of its great night-life, its suburbia, its food (can get I shout out for bitterballen and hamkaassouffle?), its canals, and its beach (Zandvoort aan Zee). But, I had not yet stepped foot in the most serene and beautiful place on Earth (That’s my take for now. We’ll see where my future takes me):  The Keukenhof Gardens. 

To put it into perspective, whatever garden your parents made you take photos in as a child, the Keukenhof makes that garden look like a garbage landfill.  This is because Keukenhof  is world renowned for their endless and endless patches of tulips (approximately 7,000,000). You can imagine the beauty, as well as the work involved. 

I had heard about the Keukenhof gardens, so I, being the avid photographer, told Drew and Falcão that I was, “…going to be in the zone!”  They graciously understood, so I put on my iPod and went to work.  I snapped photos left and right taking approximiately 70 individual photos (In reality, think HDR and multiply that by 3). But, this picture was the pinnacle of the Keukenhof experience.

I had my iPod jamming to some Coldplay, and I quaintly tuned it to Amsterdam. I then wandered. Snap, goes the camera…

Next, I  found myself walking on a clean and trimmed asphalt path meandering through small hills covered with tulips in every color of the spectrum.  Smoothly, the path veers to the right where the sun is spreading its light through the forest in front of me.  I squint to see the sun illuminating tall dark forest trees with vivid green moss growing on their trunks.  Strong crepuscular rays  jet through the openings in the trees casting a golden tint to everything green.  In front of me is a placid fountain quietly burbling, as if it were never man-made and apart of the serene environment it’s surrounded in.  An alabaster swan glides over the still water venturing to explore the fountain.  And, sealing this imagery of tranquility are small tid-bits of pollen slowly swaying and descending to the forest floor. They too becoming golden green from the rays crossing their paths. All around, tulips, nourishing the landscape and my visual experience with bright colors.

I stood there amazed.  Taking it in. Breathing–slowly.  It was if I had died, and had gone to heaven.

Then, I was immediately reminded of Willy Wonka’s revealing of his Chocolate Factory to the lucky families.  All of them in a calm shock from an overload of sensory stimuli. If only that Chocolate Factory were real.  Or, if Keukenhof were an edible paradise.   This is what Keukenhof was like.  A paradise here on earth.

In any case, I wanted to closely recreate that paradise for you as best I can.  Thank you HDR!


  • If you’re Dutch and haven’t been to Keukenhof, you should be ashamed of yourself (you know who you are).  I mean c’mon 7,000,000 flowers, and I think it’s around 42 hectares!
  • Apparently, Amsterdam is not the “liberalized drug capital” we all think it is. Portugal takes first place.  For an interesting read on drugs and the question of legalization: Drugs in Portugal: Did Decriminalization Work?.

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