|Chasing a sound
Told everybody I believe I’m Europe-bound
Here I am
Well I guess its no surprise
Up to my knees in water
Up to my ears in dragonflies….
I ran away from Latin America, well actually I flew. I flew from San Jose, Costa Rica on the 4th of July and had a stop over in Atlanta. So I was in the good ol' US of A for a little bit on the 4th and if the plane hadn't been delayed, I may have had a chance to catch a glimpse of some fireworks going off over the city. But it wasn't to be, I did manage to have a hamburger though. Then I caught an overnight flight from Atlanta to Amsterdam.
Europe for the summer. That's what I dreamed and that's where I am. My thought was to come visit some of the people I've met on my travels so far. To come visit, to stay in their houses, to eat where they eat, to get to know their neighborhoods, bottom-line to NOT be a tourist. Well or at least not a total tourist. I haven't bought a guide book, have not done any research, and don't plan to. All I did was send emails to friends. Well that and buy a plane ticket.
People are amazing. Friends are amazing. The first friendly face I saw was my friend Maaike (whom I met on one of my journeys in Africa - we were in Zimbabwe together). She was waiting for me as soon as I cleared Immigration, Customs and Baggage Claim. Very nice to actually have someone waiting for me at the airport.
I spent the next week or so hanging out in the Netherlands and trying to soak up some of the local vibe. Maaike and I started off with a walking tour of Amsterdam escorted by two of her closest friends - Hein and Patrick. We took the train into the city and it was a perfect summer day to wander around. I really know life has changed when I walk right past the "Coffee Shops" and the "Red Light District" without batting an eye BUT can't contain my excitement when we stop to sample the local food. Hein and I had Herring at a street corner fish market. Then all of us enjoyed a Kroket (croquette), a local Snack shop favorite of the Dutch for lunch or anytime the belly rumbles. We capped it all off with a beverage while soaking up the sun in a local park.
Maaike and I were not through though. We finished off the day back in Utrecht at the Roots in the Park Festival with none other then Gov't Mule headlining. Woo hoo! Friends, food and my favorite music. What a fabulous day.
The city of Utrecht is an amazing place. There are more bicycles there then I have ever seen anywhere! There is the old and the new, lots of walking streets, and of course the famous canals. It is the only city in the Netherlands with two story canals and there are restaurants and cafes at water level all over the place. So, the next day some friends I had met in Laos (they were living in the treehouse with me), Sander and Bram drove up from their hometown to come visit and have dinner on the canal with us. It was awesome to catch up with such good friends.
So, besides some sightseeing in Utrecht (we managed to climb all 465 steps of the Dom Tower!), we also ventured out to explore more of Holland. One night we drove to Hein's house (he lives in a pineapple at the bottom of the ocean) in Flevoland which is new land that was below sea level and has been pumped out and land filled to create farmland and communities. (The Dutch are incredibly inventive when it comes to land and water management). That night I enjoyed a traditional Dutch meal of Pannenkoeken (pancakes) homemade and filled with such delicious treats as cheese, bacon, and my favorite cheese & bacon! Mmmmm….
We aslo ventured out on a road trip (everything is close in the Netherlands!) and drove down to pick up Sander one day in his city - Tilburg - and then we continued on to Zeeland and went to visit the Deltawerken (delta works). I mentioned the incredible inventiveness of the Dutch, well there is no greater example then the Deltawerken. It is literally a series of "Gates" or "Walls" that they have built (after the great flood of 1953) to hold back the ocean whenever it threatens with high tides. They can close off the entire southern coast with these "Gates" they have built and keep the torment and destruction of the sea at bay. Incredible! Hmmm… maybe Chris Christie needs to come take some notes?
After marveling at the modern wonder we set out for a more traditional (touristy) town. The quaint little town of Veere. It was actually pretty cool. Once you got over the fact that it is the summer and that there were tourists everywhere. The town itself was picturesque and beautiful. We wandered around and I made the mistake of tasting some "Traditional" Dutch Candy. Yuck! I have no idea what it was that they had me eat but I think they said it was dried and powdered Bay Leaves? (of course they told me this after I had it in my mouth!) Yuck!
My two friends recovered well from the candy debacle though and took me for something good to eat. We ended the day back in Tilburg, where Bram once again joined us, for a remarkable dinner at a local restaurant where we sat on the patio and dined on oysters, cheese, and meat platters. Another excellent day with friends.
My time in the Netherlands was quickly coming to an end. Though I did spend a few more days in Utrecht wandering around and sampling some more traditional Dutch treats. This time it was all yummmm. I had the pleasure of eating fresh, hot, Poffertjes (pancake batter cooked into a ball and smothered in butter and sugar), Stroopwafels (a thin wafer/waffle sliced and filled with caramel,) and also indulging in Oliebollen (deep fried dough with powdered sugar - think Zeppoles)!
Friends, food, music….
I think I am going to have an excellent summer!