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.
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.
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!|
|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|
|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!|
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.|
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.|