The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition > My Day
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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MOSCOW—Early last Friday morning we stopped at the Dutch Pavilion at the Brussels World's Fair and were greeted by the Dutch secretary-general and his wife, who invited us to see their exhibit before the opening morning hour.

The most striking thing about the Dutch exhibit is that the planners managed to make it seem like a little bit of Holland. Their land slopes downward and there is plenty of water, so dikes were built, and there actually is one area where the water surges just as it would in the sea On display are maps of the islands that are being joined together to make more land.

There are beautiful flower-bordered walks and lawns connecting each of the buildings, and nearly always on hand is an immaculate white goat munching grass or just lying calmly on the walk The secretary-general told me she was the most-photographed goat he had ever known and she had become quite accustomed to being petted by passersby.

Near the restaurant at the pavilion is a typical Dutch farm, and as one walks into the first farm building the familiar clean farm smell greets him. The cows are beautilul, black and white and brown and white Fresians, which are large producers of milk[.] I was told, however, that the ones on display are for breeding purposes also[.] There are many, many chickens, too, and some wonderful pigs with a large litter of piglets.

My guide told me that some Russian visitors came oy and admired the farm, but said that their cows produced more milk and just double the number of piglets in a litter! This reminded me of a visit I paid to New Zealand in 1934, when I was taken into a good fishing area and shown an enormous trout. Then I learned that the New Zealanders had imported the species from the United States, but that in New Zealand the breed had grown to be at least twice as big!

After we left the Dutch pavilion we drove to Ghent in a remarkably short time, and we found it a most fascinating city.

I was very fortunate to have Dr. and Mrs. David Gurewitsch with me because Mrs. Gurewitsch knows where all the paintings are and Dr. Gurewitsch always has his eye out for anything interesting that is to be seen.

As we drove into the city he announced that there was a new exhibition showing the free towns of the 16th and 17th centuries. So, we went to that first and found it most rewarding.

We saw one of the few authentic signatures of William Shakespeare, and in the exhibition rooms each town was represented by numerous treasures. Perhaps the most beautiful exhibits were the hand illuminated Bibles and other books, but there was so much to see and to admire that it was hard to decide.

The curator, a very likeable young man, took us to the museum, which had closed for the two midday hours but he got the concierge to open it. Then he telephoned the museum director and we had the joy of walking through the museum entirely by ourselves, which made it much easier to see the pictures.

There were two most interesting paintings by Bosch—one of which is so nearly like modern painting that it is hard to believe it was painted in the 15th century. The second one was more usual for that period, but it also was very beautiful.

After lunch we visited the Cathedral of St. Bavon and saw the Van Eycks' masterpiece, "The Adoration of the Lamb," which has to be examined in detail to be really appreciated. Because of the fact, I suppose, that painters at that time were subsidized they could work unhurried, so that every face and every detail was done with such care that you almost feel it impossible to look at a painting at all unless you have time to examine each figure and face and almost every flower.

I love the little landscapes in the background of these medieval pictures, and I found Ghent difficult to leave but we had to see Bruges as well. It was only a short drive and we went off course first to see the Memlings (Hans Memling) in the hospital of St. Jean[.]

There is a portrait of a woman there wearing one ot the headdresses of the day and it is just a small head painting, but it is exquisitely beautiful. Every one of the paintings, hung in a small enclosed corner, deserve hours of study, but even after our short time we came away, I think, enriched bv what we had seen. The color in these paintings is so remarkable that one wonders how the artist succeeded in painting so that it would last so many centuries without showing any signs of fading[.]

We proceeded to the cathedral to see the Michelangelo "Madonna and Child." This is truly a beautiful piece of white marble sculpture. A service was going on in the cathedral at the time, so we knelt at the rail looking at the altar piece and felt, I think, a little of the peace and calm and beauty of the service[.]

After that we visited a lovely square and a very picturesque spot on a canal, so that Dr. Gurewitsch could take some photographs[.]

One of the modes of travel in both Holland and Belgium is by canal, and though I always feel that people are careless in throwing things into the canal, making the waters less attractive than they should be, still a trip on the canals is well worth while. So many charming, old houses are built along them and one gets a good idea of the architecture of all the cities through which the water flows. And here and there swans swim about, giving an added touch of color.


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My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, September 15, 1958

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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