What you do in your house is worth as much as if you did it up in heaven for our Lord God. We should accustom ourselves to think of our position and work as sacred and well-pleasing to God, not on account of the position and work, but on account of the word and faith from which the obedience and the work flow. ~ Martin Luther

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

A Little Dutch Girl Goes to Holland: Amsterdam

Going to Holland was one of the most exciting and wonderful things I have ever experienced.  And probably ever will.  It doesn't rival the most important things like staring into the face of your newborn or getting married- but in its' place, it can't be beat.  

I am still amazed that I was afforded this opportunity- something I never thought possible.  

One of the best parts about this trip, for me, was learning in a very real and tangible way that my little sphere of living is just a teeny tiny speck in the experiences of people I would have thought would have been very similar to my own.  I think, in my mind, there were 'third world country' experiences and then there was 'everyone else'.  But 'everyone else' is so vastly different from one another in their experiences- and it is easy to forget that when you watch your husband mow your huge yard or you spend days planting your gardens or you drink mason jars full of fresh clean well water or you drive your car to the grocery store or you shoo a cow back into her pasture.   I don't know how much of this was due to Holland and how much was due to the fact I have never really gone to any metropolis or big city.  Maybe American big cities are similar?  But it was such a sharp contrast to my way of life, I was often left in awe.  Leaving home for a bit made my world much, much bigger.

Even just relying upon public transportation to get you places- being snuggled against strangers every place you go, mothers gathering up their strollers and groceries to get onto the tram, conscious of talking too loudly or having no privacy, being married to the bus/tram/train schedules to get you where you need to go, clicking your transport card before and after leaving any means of transport, reloading it again and again...such a foreign notion to me. 

Narrow houses and steep, narrow spiral staircases.  

Open doors and windows with no screens.

No such thing as air-conditioning.

Eating al fresco and for hours.

Paying money to go to the restroom and the coupons you get when you go.  

Bicycles everywhere.

Girls in dresses, everywhere.

Breads for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Men who do not oogle women and women who do not look to see who is looking.

1 and 2 Euro coins.

Water in glass bottles.

Gorgeous gardens in pots on concrete sidewalks.


Breathtaking architecture.

My world has been forever changed in one week.

The first installment of pictures: Amsterdam!

These would have been tulip fields we were flying over, had we not missed tulip season by a hair!

This beautiful, gorgeously ornate mammoth of a building is not a castle- oh no no no.  It is the train station and extended much further than my camera would allow.  As trains, trams, buses and bicycles (and feet!) are the main forms of travel in Holland- we saw this place several times each day.

The Theatre of Anatomy building- where they would use human cadavers to dissect and study anatomy.  It was in this building that Rembrandt painted... 
The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp...
which I got to stand inches away from the Mauritshuis museum in The Hague.

This is the tower where they hoisted the bodies.   
And this is the very home of the master himself!  Rembrandt's house!

A visit to my Oom (Uncle) Arjo's abode

the staircase he climbs to get to his flat.

And the man himself!

The tourists to the left was a stranger but after him, my travelling companions: Oom Hans, my Mom, Oom Elise, Aunt Jan and Oom Arjo

These houses were leaning!

In one trip, I rode by plane, train, tram, bus and boat- many of which were firsts for me!  

St. George and the Dragon

Because you were taxed based upon the width of your frontage, homes in Amsterdam were built very narrow- and TALL!  Because of this, very narrow spiral staircases are often used (the place where I stayed- my heels didn't even rest on a stairstep-but hung off the end!).  And to get furniture into their homes and upstairs, they had to use hoist hooks at the top of the building and wide windows.  

houseboats are a thing in Holland.  And I loved the houseboat gardens people created to make them feel homey.
Or, as the dutch would say... "Gezzelig".

This building was called "The Twin Sisters"

Is this a parking garage? It is...but you may be surprised by what is parked there...
thousands of bicycles!

So many people traveled by bicycle that is was not the least bit strange to see men in suits and briefcases riding down the road, girls in skirts (even short ones!) with 3 and 4 inch heels, pedaling along on their way to work or school; parents with babies in front/back or older children chilling out behind them after school or in cool carts-either boughten or handmade. 

I loved that so much.

Funny story: my first interaction with a local was not super welcoming.  I was walking from the train station after finally arriving!  I was following a large group of people walking and looking up at the magnificent buildings...when I hear this very loud bit of Dutch yelled at me.  I look over and see a man on a bicycle and let's just say, he didn't look friendly.  He spend off and I repeated to the best of my ability what he had said as I asked my Mom what that meant. 

She said... "He said that to you?!" 

Needless to say, it wasn't very nice.

My first five minutes on Holland and I was called a name, not repeatable.

Lesson being: bicylists are serious about getting to where they are going and you'd BETTER.NOT.GET.IN.THEIR.WAY! 

On one evening, Oom Arjo took us out to dinner at one of his favorite restaurant haunts.

It was the finest dining this country bumpkin will ever see...

 Food as ART

Since coming home, I have been deliberately trying to make our ordinary fare more artistically presented. 

Corynn chuckles and raises her eyebrows at me, but she likes it.  I know she does.

This is very abstract and from the photo you may wonder if it is sweet or savory.  It was Oom Hans' dessert course- a fruit puree with gelato and sorbet , topped with meringue drops and a garish of chopped apples.

These unassuming 'croquettes' look almost like mozzerella sticks but they are NO such thing.  They were filled with a very smooth, mashed chicken and leek and possibly cream cheese (?) filling with a perfectly crispy and light exterior (not breaded at all).  They were DIVINE.  Possibly my favorite meal in Holland...and only the first course! 

(cue angels singing)

In the Netherlands, dining is as much about the conversation as it is about the food.  There is no rush to eat and get out to make another table available.  The waiters bring you your food and leave you alone until you summon them for the check.  None of this "Here is the check for when you are ready" business.  None of this eat fast and then later the food catches up to you and you realize you are overstuffed.  No.  You eat small courses and linger over it.  You have conversation.  Another small course arrives.  No rush.  The table is yours.  The place is yours.  This particular meal lasted for several hours.   I loved it.

Less lovely, apparently Dutch people don't drink plain 'ole water.  It is carbonated water only- and that, in 8 oz glass bottles.  You have to ask for 'dead water' or 'still water' and even that comes in a glass wine bottle to share among a table of people.  And don't get me started on the 'iced tea'.  They do not drink tea cold, apparently, because they had NO idea what I meant when I said 'unsweetened tea'.  The closest I got was bottled Fuze tea- carbonated, of course.  (ick).  From a country girl who is used to drinking almost a gallon of liquid a day- it was rough.  And carbonated water is gross.  My thirst wasn't quenched until I got back in the States and I ordered the biggest honkin' supersized unsweetened tea I could find the minute I got back. 

This is the "King's Palace" but is only one home while he is visiting Amsterdam.


Helena said...

My mom is Dutch but the last time I was in Holland was when I was 16 (30 years ago!). So I loved seeing all these photos. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

My husband's whole family still lives in the Netherlands (in Geldermalsen, about an hour southeast of Amsterdam). I have been there about 5-6 times and you have captured it beautifully! I was hoping you would learn the word "gezellig" because having read your posts, I felt that you would love that word! Reading this post reminds me of the very first time I went to the Netherlands and how much it expanded my world. Just the language alone was fascinating...and the bread...so much bread...lol! Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful pictures! ~Kara van Doesburg

Amy Marie said...

Sigh. Soooo fun reading some of your impressions and your photos! SWOON.

Unknown said...

I love seeing the photos and reading your insights. The comments about the carbonated water made me laugh! That's what I prefer and ordering it at American restaurants will get me odd looks from the wait staff.

Pink Panda said...

Love this! Now I want to go to Holland too!

Els Drijfhout said...

Loved your pictures of Amsterdam! And seeing the title of the post I suppose we will get to see more of Holland through your eyes.
I will show these to the kids (who are all kind of adult now) so they can see their country through the eyes of a non-native :)
Also recognize what you said about leaving home and your world made so much bigger. Very enlightening and enriching. And you take little bits from those experiences and they change you, you take it back into your life and you notice your perception has changed and you look differently at food and mealtimes for instance.
Nice to see pictures of the family! I remember that at your wedding we were seated with Jan and Elise; knowing their Dutch heritage we assumed Uncle Jan and Auntie Elise....... How wrong we were! Embarrassing and funny!!
Looking forward to the next installment!
PS Pieter broke his collarbone while we were in USA, and he took his arm out of sling asap as that was too restrictive

Ulli said...

Loved your photos and commentary. Thanks for posting your wonderful trip. I've been in a few European countries, and also through Holland on my way to the airport. Yes, life is different over there. Such a wonderful opportunity to experience it! I also love the non rushed meals. What wonderful memories you have!

Rebecca said...

Helena- you may take that back by the time I finish posting all of them! There are quite a lot!

Kara-my mom speaks Dutch and though she never taught us children how to speak, she would speak to my grandparents all the time. Growing up, I became very familiar with certain words and Gezzelig was one of them- so I knew that word ahead of time! And yes, I do love that word! I was also very familiar with some of the dutch treats- and licorice! I grew up on Drop!

Amy- thank you. I felt very much the same way when you posted of your travels!

Unknown-you must be European to like carbonated water. Either that or aristocratic! ha!

Pink Panda- funny! Seeing these pictures, so do I! :-)

Els- Matt made the same mistake when we were first together. And it took him years to pronounce Elise properly. :-) Yes, there will be many more photos to come- probably too many. But since my family was not with me, I wanted to be sure they felt as if they had been there too. So I was a typical tourist- and had my camera at all times. ;-) Judah just had another appointment with the orthopedic surgeon and the doctor said he should wear his sling all the time (and Judah hasn't worn it all all for the same reasons as Pieter!) and due to his dirty hands, he said he was 'doing too much'. But keeping Judah from playing is like keeping a pig out of mud!

Ulli- yes, how fortunate to have been able to go to several European countries! Memories are treasures. I blog them because my memory is BAD and I am afraid I will forget!

Miranda Hupp said...

This is so awesome, Rebecca!! What a cool experience! ❤

Making Cents Of It All said...


Hans van der Meijden said...

Great to read about your adventures in Holland. You had a typical tourist week! Amsterdam, Volendam ( I’ve never been there), Kinderdijk, Delft and so on. Great! You have discoverd the word ‘Gezellig’ and so it was in the restaurant where we had a lunch with almost all your relatives. I can imagine it was a very cool experience for you.

Abigail said...

Oh, these posts are so exciting! I am thankful you're placing your photographic memories here so we can all travel vicariously. I want to comment about every last picture! The buildings are impressive; I love that last shot. The food! OH, my, the food...WELL worth the break from your recent American fare. ;) It's plated so beautifully you must have hesitated before marring it with a first bite!

And I'm going to show Annika all those rounds of cheese. Nearly every night before bed, without fail, she comes up and whispers to me, "I'm so hungry. Can I have some cheese?" Ha! Heavenly.

Abigail said...

And all the functional red shutters!
And window boxes!

I die.

Window boxes are already on my wish list; now I'm tempted to add red shutters, too. :)