67 years

Today is the 67th anniversery of the Rotterdambombing of Rotterdam by the Germans. Rotterdam has a completely different feel to it than the rest of the Netherlands, especially Amsterdam. Rotterdam feels new and modern. Post-war renovation completely removed all traces of the destruction. Well, all except one, the absence of all buildings older than sixty years. Driving your car in the city is much easier and much less nerve-racking than driving in, say, Leiden – a much smaller city. When I was on my mission in Ohio I met an older Dutchman who emigrated to the United States after the war. He told me that Rotterdam was a beautiful city before the war and in a way quite similar to Amsterdam. He told me that he still remembered quite vividly the bombing after all of the years. That was 15 years ago when I last talked to him. This post is in loving memory, Deo Gratias.RotterdamDe Verwoeste Stad

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Koninginnedag-Part Two

Monday was “Queen’s Day” here in the Netherlands. Queen’s day (and Queen’s Night [Koninginnenacht] – the night before) is more like a nation-wide festival van Oranje. We had the day off from work and school so we did what all of the Dutch do, go shopping. The holiday is nothing like your typical President’s Day holiday with sales on mattresses, computers and clothes. No, the traditional shopping experience is the vrijmarkt – free or open market, which means in actuality a garage/car boot sale. People line up on their shopping streets, place their blankets down and sell most anything – but usually junk. Whatever is left over from the sale is left in a pile for people to pick through before the city hauls it off. The kindervrijmarkten or the children’s open markets were what we were off for. Children sell their old toys and clothes and some have the hawkers patter down quite well – “Alles voor fijftig Euro-cents!” or “Een Euro Alstublieft!” This from kids as young as eight or nine. There were also kids selling “cookjes”, “snoepjes”, coffee, playing musical instruments (with the hat out for money) and all other sorts of things. There was a couple of kids in Voorschoten playing an accordion and an acoustic guitar that quite surprised me. It sounded nothing like Tejano, polka or Cajun music!

LittleN took a little time to get used to the crowds but soon was quite the little shopper. She had Mommy’s pockets bulging with coins she saved up from her allowance so she was able to get “My Little Ponies” to her heart’s content. She would walk by the blanket full of toys, take a look and either walk to the next one or would smile to the kid on the blanket and point to whatever she wanted. She also had an eye. She saw something on the other side of the street she wanted ( there are no cars allowed on the street ) , pulled on MrsS’s hand quite strongly until we were at the correct spot and started gesticulating at a snoopy toy. When you are three feet tall you can see things that others cannot.

Last year we only went to one vrijmarkt in Leiden. This time we went to two, Voorschoten and Wassenaar ( we met a family that goes to at least three a year – “This year it’s four we’re going to”, they tell us. ) Next year we might go to Amsterdam’s Vondelpark were the selling is officially reserved for children.

Koninginnedag-Part One

Young BrandoToday (Friday , 27 April) was the Koninginnedag celebration for all kindergarteners at my son’s school. (There are several Dutch in his grade and in the whole school in general. The Americans are first in percentages, then come the Scandinavians [lumped together of course] then come the Dutch with about 20% of the school’s national makeup) It is actually the 40th birthday of Prince Willem-Alexander, the crown prince, but since there is no school Monday, Friday is the day for the school’s celebration. Monday is the real Koninginnedag which is in actually the birthday of the mother of the current queen. Everyone was decked out in orange (oranje?) clothes, hair, ribbons, or what not- it was the World Cup all over again – Hup Holland! My son decided on his orange pants and an orange shirt, and his “fancy hat to make Queen Beatrix happy.” Here he is, Number One Son, trying his best to do a young Marlon Brando imitation. Johnny Strabler anyone?

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

Rebels without a cause

Today we were plunking around in the center of The Hague, it being a nice day for walking around. We tried to take a little tour of the Binnenhof . We went to to the desk and asked about the guided tour. The guide advised us against it. He said it was too boring for little kids and the tour was all in Dutch. So we satisfied ourselves with a small perusal in the waiting room (really it was more like a large church crypt than anything else). There was a paper model of the Ridderzaal and the surrounding buildings, various stone grave slabs(for the lack of a better word) about 7 feet tall standing against the wall. There was also an illuminated (as in manuscript) family tree of the house of Oranje-Nassau. William III ‘s picture was the one who most interested me. After awhile there was not much left to do so we left. We plunked around the courtyard while the kids chased pigeons. As we were leaving another group came in. It was a small group of about 15 people and two of them were waving the Tibetan flag and shouting “Free Tibet” and something else in Dutch. They were going the same way we needed to go so we inadvertently joined their procession (15 protesters to 19 – not a bad increase 21%). Mrs.S saw thier flags and asked, ” Are we part of a protest or something?” This as we saw the police van and officers waiting on the other side of the passageway.