Nature’s alarm clock

Outside our bedroom is a tree and the canopy is level with our window. At about 4:30 in the morning the birds star to sing. Well more like chirping and quacking (and pooping over everything in a three foot radius)than any sort of singing – it almost sounds like the grackles back home but not quite. This goes on and on and on until abut 5:30 and then it suddenly stops and they fly away. During the rest of the year there is a respite but for right now the birds enjoy themselves tremendously and we get our own early morning wake-up calls.

Texel

Over the school’s Easter break we went on a trip to Texel, one of the Frisian Islands in the Wadden Sea. We sent three days there and had a good time. When I was planning our trip, I would ask some of the Dutch people we knew what they thought about the place and its possibilities for vacationing. The three that I asked all said it was a nice place to go but it was filled to the brim with Germans(!). All of them then proceeded to tell me what they thought of the Germans. Our dry cleaning man who comes around once a week1 told us that, “the place will be full of them, you will see”, “all of the property there is owned by them, they want to rule”, “it’s even worse there than Katwijk!” One of the people I asked at my son’s school said,”Oh, it’s terrible! They take over the beach and it should be for everyone.” And finally the last one we asked said that we need to watch out on the beach, “They dig holes in the sand to lie in, and will quite forcibly tell you that this is their spot.” You would think that they were being overrun with Californians the way they went on about the Germans.

Taking the ferry over we noticed that their were very few Dutch license plates on the cars but many from Germany. We were greeted in German many times by people in the shops and restaurants. Many seemed surprised and touched (or just maybe amused – it is hard to tell sometimes) that we tried to talk to them in our halting Dutch. The concierge at the hotel sure seemed momentarily taken aback when I used by Dutch drivers license for identification. Even with all of the Germans, who didn’t bother us in the least bit, we had a good time. Texel seems to have only three industries: tourism, sheep, flowers. That is pretty much what we saw; all three, in abundance, everywhere. The lambing was over about a month ago and little lambs all over the fields, hyacinths growing in enormous swaths of color, people riding bicycles everywhere, it was beautiful.

This was in the paper about the tourists in the Netherlands over the past year:

  • 2.6 million from Germany.
  • 1.85 million from the UK.
  • 970K from the US.

Main Tourist Activities in the Netherlands:

  • Visiting pubs and cafés
    • British
    • Scandinavians
  • Going to the beach
    • Germans
  • Visiting tulip fields and museums
    • Americans

I am quoting these numbers because these are the places you normally will find these nationalities.

1 (Yes, we have home pick up and delivery of our dry cleaning. We don’t use the others but there is the home delivery “Cheese Man” who delivers cheese, eggs, butter, jam, etc. and the “Chicken Man” who delivers all things poultry-it seems to be a very Dutch thing to do. )

Keukenhof

We went to the Keukenhof today. The weather was perfect and the bulbs were out in force everywhere. It never ceases to amaze me when I drive down the freeway and see row after row of flowers – everywhere – even almost right up to the train tracks. Once inside there were tulips of all different shapes, different petal shapes – tiny, enormous,fluffy, spiky, variegated, tea rose-esque, colors of all kinds. Also hyacinths (the smell of some of the displays was quite strong), daffodils (or narcissus), crocuses, flowers, flowers, flowers – rivers of flowers (quite literally! One of the “rivers” is called the Blauwe Rivier. There are others.) . The cameras were out in force today too – high powered ones: not at all like our simple, humble camera.

Bulb fields behind the Keukenhof

Little Brown Bird

Little Brown BirdThis little guy was pretty curious when I brought back my wounded bike to the house. I should chase these little guys away when I see them (I can’t because I don’t want to leave our backyard to only the Jackdaws and Pigeons) because they are the messiest birds. They use their beaks to turn over leaves, dirt, mulch to find food. They are pretty effective at making a mess all over the paving – especially just after when I sweep up after one.

Lunar Eclipse

Last night we got to see a total lunar eclipse; the first one in three years. Three years ago we were in Texas and saw the eclipse through LittleE’s Viewmaster binoculars. Not the best looking through little plastic lenses! There was quite good viewing despite intermittent clouds. (Cloud cover is omnipresent here on the coast of the North Sea. A few days ago we had several hours of bright sunshine and LittleN was quite put out about it. She told me that I should take the sun away because it was too bright outside!) LittleE got to say up late and watch the thing. He had his own little pair of binoculars and quite enjoyed himself. We did a little star and planet watching while waiting: the two o’clock position from the moon was Saturn, then over to Rigel and Betelgeuse in Orion, then the Big Dipper in Ursa Major, then back to the moon. The partial eclipse began at 10:30 our time (GMT+1) with the total beginning about 11:43. About ten minutes before total, the clouds rolled in, the sky turned to erwten soup and began to rain – typical Dutch weather drat it! Moon watching was over. August 28th 2007 is the next total lunar eclipse and if you live in California or New Zealand you can see it. LittleE likes to look at the stars. Sometime I’ll have to see if the binoculars that I have are powerful enough for a little star-splitting. Buying a scope here is almost a waste because it is normally so cloudy, and then during the summer it doesn’t get dark in the evening until after eleven with full darkness until way past midnight.

Krokusvakantie

This time of the year is what the Dutch call the “Krokusvakantie” or the Crocus Vacation. Crocuses are usually the first flowers of late winter and are found everywhere right now. Our backyard has quite a few of them growing amongst the grass; along with that dratted moss(!). Schools are out for the week or so of it – the dates are a little fuzzy as to when it actually begins. It is also Carnival (Crocus colors are Marti Gras/Carnival colors- gold, purple and green) time in the south of Holland, Belgium, Southern Germany, etc. Yesterday, LittleN and I were watching the German ARD TV channel “Das Erste”. On it was a Carnival parade in one of the big southern German cities. They had big floats, including one from a local Lutheran church, and the people were all in historical costume. There were kings and queens, all kinds of 18th Century soldiers, kids as princes and princesses and so on. There were no beads being tossed but plenty of flowers and candy. LittleN wanted to know what this one little girl on a float was throwing. I said candy. LittleN then wanted to know if Zwarte Piet was in the parade. Well, I said, it’s the wrong time of the year. The Pieten (plural of Piet) are all in Spain waiting for the beginning of December to come around.