Four Verbanszkys in Europe 2014 travel blog


Izzy wearing her bright orange Netherland's soccer shirt is playing with the wooden train while the soccer game of Netherland's versus Costa Rica is on televison. It is 10 o'clock and the game just started. Although we had a busy day—and Zenny was passed out in bed within minutes after we got home—Izabella is still going strong. Oh, to just be able to bottle that energy! Our stomachs are full from dinner and we are lounging this evening, our last one in the Netherlands.

Jennifer just suggested we should root for Costa Rica since it is in our Hemisphere, but Izzy very emphatically yelled out, “No! Go Holland!” I guess she got some orange into her blood by all of it surrounding us. And boy, was it orange today. People of all ages wearing orange clothing, more cars decorated, and banners proclaiming “Hup Holland” (Go Holland) are hanging on almost every building.

At dinner tonight, we, and the wait staff, were the only ones not wearing orange, and at 9 pm, we, and the wait staff, were the only ones still in the restaurant since everyone made sure to leave in enough time to get to where they will watch the game. Zenny, by this point, had enough of being out and about, and therefore we also hurried home twenty minutes before the game—enough time, per Izzy's reminder, to put on our Netherlander gear.

I left the house at 6 am in the morning to drive over to the German town of Emmerich am Rhein to pick up Jennifer Allaway at the train station at 7 am.

Jennifer was a student of mine and member, then captain, of Campo's Academic Decathlon team. I have known her and older sister, Katherine, for many years. She graduated from Campo in 2011 and is studying a semester abroad in Tubingen through Willamette College. She wished to connect with us for the weekend.

The drive was lovely and peaceful. The storm clouds from yesterday were letting in just enough of the morning sun to make it a dramatic sky above me. The roads were practically empty since it is a Saturday morning. I passed fields with cows lazily eating the breakfast grass, golden wheat fields, crossed still rivers and passed placid ponds.

Amusingly, the bridge over the Rhine at Emmerich looked very similar to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco—but much, much smaller—and was glowing orange in the sunlight.

When I arrived at the rather desolate train station, Jennnifer was very excited to see me for she was feeling rather homesick lately. She had a rough couple of weeks and needed to get away.

When we returned to the house, Izabella was also happy to see her, since she has known Jennifer all her life.

We had a nice breakfast spread as we caught up and then loaded up the car for our excursion of the day. The air was very heavy, muggy, and still.

Since it was our last day in the Netherlands, we figured we should see some more typical Dutch aspects of the country. We decided not to go to Amsterdam due to various reasons, especially because it was suggested by Frank and Sandra that it is not so much fun with kids and parking in the city can go as high as 50 euros per day in some parts.

Instead we went to Delft and the Kinderdjik windmills. We saved this part of the trip when Jennifer was visiting so she could also get a taste of Holland.

Just as we got onto the highway, it started to drizzle. Not long after, the clouds tore open and rain came crashing down. The windshield wiper barely could keep up with the water.

The rain would go of and on as we made our way to Delft where we arrived about 2 hours later.

Delft is truly a charming city and worth the visit. It has quaint alley ways and lovely canals. People are bicycling everywhere along immaculate bike paths. Of course everything was covered with things orange.

Since it was still drizzling, the main square was practically deserted, but it was still grand with its large church on one end and the city hall on the other.

There were lots of souvenir shops lining the square. At one of them we found a magnet for the Netherlands for our collection.

To the left facing the city hall was a store called “Cheese & More by Henri Willig”. It had large wheels of cheese in its display windows. It was selling high-quality artisan Dutch cheeses, some were even signed by the cheesemaker. There were samplings offered of all of them and they had quite a selection of goat cheeses. We picked up a few to take with us.

We then went into the New Church, that was built in 1381. New, according to European standards of history!

The church houses the remains of all the royal family members since William of Orange was laid to rest here after he was assassinated in 1584. The pamphlet we received upon admission gave us great details about the church and its history—including gruesome details of how William of Orange's assassin was executed.

A beautiful, marble and gold monument signifies where William is buried. A large stone slab lies before him where stairs lead down to the catacombs of the other members of royalty. Four video screens showed looped footage of the last four royal Dutch funerals and the coffins being carried down the stairs.

Izabella found this aspect of the church fascinating. She asked a lot of questions about death and why the coffins were taken below. I did the best I could to answer her questions.

There are a lot of famous Dutch people buried in this church as well, including Van Leeuwenhoek, the man who invented the microscope and Vermeer, famous for “Girl with the Pearl Earring” painting.

Gone are the typical white-washed walls since the church has been undergoing a extensive renovation project, allowing the craftsmanship of the masons to be seen. There are also stained-glass windows, not as glorious as we've seen before, but still cool to see.

We left the church and wound our way through the downtown to go to the old church. It wasn't much older and it looked similar to the new church except it wasn't as big and had white-washed walls and no stain glass windows.

Then it was time for lunch. The drizzle subsided and sunshine and some blue sky burst through some angry looking dark clouds.

We found a cafe on a smaller square past the farmer's market called “Vlaanderen” and made ourselves comfortable under one of its giant umbrellas. The air was warm, but fresh from the rain.

We ordered the local beer called Jupiler (not Jupiter) and various “Dutch Rolls” which are essentially ciabatta bread sandwiches with different fillings. Stephanie shared a bowl of tomato soup with the girls again. The sandwiches were large and filling.

Suddenly, the wind picked up and we could literally hear the rain come across the square and we saw people running for cover. It came down hard and hit our giant umbrella with quite a force. Miraculously, we did not get drenched. We got a little wet when the rain came in sideways from the wind but nothing drastic.

Our waiter braved the strong rain to bring over my second order of beer. He was drenched, but he covered the beer with his hand so that the lovely, firm white foam on my beard would not be adulterated by the rain.

Within minutes, just as quickly as it came, the rain stopped and the blue sky was revealed again. We had no more rain the rest of the day.

After lunch we walked over to the market and bought some cherries as well as super-strooper waffles. They were thin waffles filled with a warm and gooey caramel filling. They were a perfect dessert.

Our last stop in Delft was, of course, their china factory. Delft copied the Chinese china since the early 1600s and since then has become famous for its incredible work. The irony is that now the Chinese are copying Delft china to make the vast majority of the china in the souvenir shops.

The price for a tour was 17 euros each. I felt that it was too expensive and we weren't sure if the kids would have made it through at this late in the afternoon. It did not matter anyway, since the last tour left 10 minutes earlier.

We did get a chance to walk through their shop that not only sold vases for 10,000 euros, but also had seconds for 25 to 50 percent off. We did not find anything we needed, but we found plenty we liked. But we decided against getting something since we still have quite a bit of travel to do and we did not want to deal with shipping.

Leaving Delft was a difficult process. The road signs were confusing and the many quick turns and short one-way streets mixed in with too many bicycles made it a challenging obstacle course for me. At times, I wound up going the wrong way or on a bicycle path. Thankfully I was able to always quickly and safely pull out of the wrong turn.

Our next stop were the Kinderdjik windmills, about 45 minutes away. When one thinks of Holland, windmills come to mind. Kinderdijk has over a dozen 300 year old windmills that are actually allowed to turn on weekends between the hours of 2 pm to 5 pm (according to our guide book).

We arrived to the town of Kinderdjik a couple minutes after 5 pm. We were still planning on going out to the windmills, even if they were already turned off. Following signs leading to the windmills, we drove along adorable, narrow cobble stone streets lined with cafes, restaurants, and small residences. Of course everything was decked out in orange.

Suddenly, the road opened up more and we could see the windmills in the distance. Many were still turning and it was a beautiful sight. The sky was blue with a few clouds and the wind was blowing strong.

Since we arrived after 5 pm we got free parking and made our way, along with many other tourists, toward the windmills. A paved footpath and bike path followed the canal to the windmills.

About a kilometer walk took us to the first ones that were still turning. Although they were positioned across the canal, we could very audibly hear the whoosh sound of their sails turning in the wind. It was impossible to imagine that a hundred years ago over 10,000 windmills covered this portion of the country constantly pumping sea water out of the Netherlands.

What was really great is that many of them are currently private residences. Cute cottage gardens were at the base of the mills.

The path was nicely set up, with perfect photo spots and benches strategically placed. We walked quite a ways down the path taking pictures before turning back.

Slowly, one by one, each of the mills were shut down and their sails taken down or tied down and only one was still turning when we got back to the parking lot.

At this point it was almost 7 pm and we were getting hungry, especially the girls. Not knowing where to go for dinner, we continued our drive back to Heijen with the hopes of finding something open.

Unfortunately, we had a difficult time finding a restaurant that was open. We even went back to the Seven Dwarfs Pancake house from a few days earlier, and they were closing within 5 minutes. Frustrated we continued home.

Next to the street where we stayed is a Chinese Restaurant and that was still open. (We figured why not, since we also went to a Chinese restaurant in Finland.) We walked in to find out that on Saturday nights they have an all-you-can eat buffet that includes all-you-can drink as well. The price, however, was a gulping 26 euros for each adult, while kids were 2 euros per year of age. But there was no other option at that moment and we sat down.

The buffet had a large selection of seafood, various Asian dishes, and the ability to have the food prepared for you by a chef at a wok station. There were beers, wine, and a large variety of soft drinks.

Jennifer went to the beers and picked up a dark Heineken beer labeled Heineken Oud Bruin. It was disgustingly sweet. I could barely swallow it. After deciphering the label, we discovered that it was a beer and cola mix. It was, literally, one of the most awful things I have ever tasted. We quickly switched over to one of the other beers.

I enjoyed the food more than expected and had fun chatting with the wok chef as he was preparing my meal. As mentioned earlier, Zenny was getting tired fast, making the evening more stressful for Stephanie.

It is 11:45 pm now and the game is still going and it is boring. Stephanie already exclaimed, “make a goal already so I can go to bed!”

Izzy is still up. She wants to see the game to the end, but she is also wired from all of the sugar she ate at dinner.

She is ordering Jennifer where to color and Jennifer is kind enough to oblige. At one point Izzy complained about Jennifer not coloring exactly the way Izzy wanted and Jennifer jokingly responded, “Hey, if you are going to outsource your coloring, then don't complain about the quality.”

Stephanie just announced she is taking Izzy with her to bed; Jennifer is ready to go to bed too. I am going to try to make it through the game and I am still weirded out by that weird Heineken cola beer.



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