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. )

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.

London

A few days ago I went to London with my brother Kurt. In two days I received a very sound understanding of the London Underground system. My first thoughts when I saw the tube trains was you’ve got to be kidding. The Paris Metro was nicer, easier to understand and cheaper to ride. Rome’s Metro was drab and little smelly but it least it was inexpensive. The London tube looked old, run-down and tired and, paychecks beware, quite pricey. There were no trash cans to be found anywhere, only small plastic rings with clear trash bags in them – filled to the brim with trash, but they did not seem to be placed in any sort of way to maximize utility. Anti-pigeon technology was deployed everywhere (for which I was grateful) along with video surveillance equipment (for which I understood – having gone through Kings Cross Station.)

On the first day we went to Windsor Castle, The Museum of Natural History, The Science Museum, Houses of Parliament/ Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. On the second day we went to St. Paul’s, The London Eye, The Templar Church, Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Platform 9 3/4 and 221b Baker Street. Then I caught my flight back to Schipol. Whew! Living here in Europe and going to see all of the things there are to see, I am starting to see the wisdom in Thoreau’s quote,

“I have traveled a good deal in Concord. “