With the sunrise in progress and the morning fog floating over the meadows we touched down in The Netherlands. A flight of 28 hours from Melbourne to Amsterdam via Guangzhou. And as usual the taxiing at the airport took more time than our entire flight. Typical. But ... we made it.
We entered the arrival hall without a welcoming committee waving balloons and banners. But we were welcomed by another typical treat: The Dutch sky. A low ceiling of slightly and softly erased clouds.
And because we were a bit earlier than expected, we called the parental taxi service ... my dad and my mum. Cut to scene:
Kiss, kiss, kiss. (*)
(*) Not one, not two, but three times in The Netherlands.
With a bit of Double Dutch chit chat in the car we went to Edam, which is not far from Amsterdam. To my dad's and mum's house. The deserted landscape rolled by the windows. No traffic on our way, which reminded me of that scene in Vanilla Sky. You know? Tom Cruise cruisin' all alone through the streets of New York in a Ferrari 250 GTO and stopping at an abandoned Times Square. Aaaaanyway ... at my dad's and mum's house we were welcomed with croissants, coffee and tea. And look, look, look ... there she was ... the TeeTee. Peeking from the parking space in front of the house.
After a refreshing shower we decided to wander through Edam, where we stopped and stared at the Dam, the Speeltoren, the Sluis, the Kaasmarkt and many more attractions.
We went for lunch at my dad's and mum's house. A typical Dutch lunch though. Some milk and slices of bread with butter and "filet americain", which is pronounced with a French voice ... "phi-lay a-merry-can". After a fulfilling lunch we decided to cycle to the IJsselmeer. And while we were balancing on the beams of the pier, we watched the weather turn to worse. Like Snoop Dogg weather ... "drizzle".
Drip, drop, drip, drip, drop.
We found some shelter underneath thousands of leaves of a large tree in someone's garden, while the drips and the drops were pouring down. We were safe. We thought. The rain turned from worse to cats and dogs. The leaves of the tree gave in and we were getting soaking wet. And when we decided to continue cycling to find some other shelter, it got totally worse. Like ... "totally"! Like ... "oh my God"! And suddenly, while we were cycling, the rain stopped. And the sun ... well ... the sun started shining as if nothing had happened.
After another refreshing shower we decided to cycle to the village of Volendam. On our way we saw our first wind mill with many more to come the following days. And with the picturesque sights of Volendam and Edam imprinted in our minds, we thought it was time to go. To go to my apartment in Utrecht. Cut to scene:
"Byyyeee byyyeee!" (*)
(*) Not one, but two times in The Netherlands.
My apartment in Utrecht is not far from the Douwe Egberts coffee factory. And from time to time I would wake up while the wind carried the indulging smell of beans being roasted through the bedroom window. Not this time though. That morning we woke up a bit weary. Jetlag-ish. We decided not to give in and go to the city centre of Utrecht.
At the train station we were unable to get train tickets from the ticket machine. As a result we decided to live life dangerously and risk it. This (only one) time we were lucky though. And no ... this is not legal in The Netherlands, unlike a lot of other things.
We wandered through the city centre and ate a typical Dutch treat: The "stroopwafel".
We saw some canals, cats and comics. And as a comic artist herself, I showed Rebecca a typical Dutch comic: Fokke & Sukke. And yes ... it is a challenge to explain that name to a native English speaking person. Kinda like Fuckin' & Suckin'. Two characters not wearing shorts and showing their "wittle wieners". Aaaaanyway ... at the train station again, we were finally able to get train tickets for the following destination: Amsterdam.
Strolling through the Warmoestraat and the Zeedijk in the Red Light District we were surrounded by the supporters of the soccer team of Amsterdam: Ajax. Some of the supporters were window shopping in the Red Light District ... hoping to score.
We also did some window shopping ... well ... the tiny windows at the Febo. The Febo is a famous Dutch cafeteria chain selling fast food through tiny compartment windows. Throw in a coin, open up a window ... and "nom-nom-nom"! A typical Dutch treat: The "kroket" ... "de lekkerste"! We continued strolling through the Begijnhof and the Negen Straatjes checking out the boutiques and the canals and ate another typical Dutch treat: The "gevulde koek".
After checking out some buildings of the University of Amsterdam we concluded the day with a cosy dinner at a beer brewery cafe at the Nieuwmarkt. We walked to the train station through the Red Light District. But because it was so busy, we were sucked into the direction where the crowd went. We accidentally went into a labyrinth of brothels. And without us knowing we both went into this "walk-in-club". Whatever and wherever it was. Ladies to the left. Ladies to the right. The whole scene was lit up with glowing lights and filled with thumping music ... it was mesmerising. Movie-like. We walked round and round and finally found our way out. And then ... then we "bumped" into this gathering of gays, which was a great atmosphere. Aaaaanyway ... finally on the train trying not to fall asleep ... time for bed.
Speaking of beds: Because we planned our trip partially on camping and on hoteling, the next day we bought an air mattress at a nearby outdoorsy super store. We were wondering what the "F" was up, because we were the only ones there. Of course it took me ten minutes to find a proper parking space ... for fun.
Aaaaanyway ... after that we took the "B" roads to the Kasteel de Haar in Haarzuilens. By the way: These roads are worth a recommendation. Vleuten to Haarzuilens to Portengen et cetera ... Google Maps it.
Sitting in a lovely landscape with a pond full of ducks surrounding the Kasteel De Haar, we were shockingly surprised with the "first Monday of the month air alarm" at 12:00 on the dot. This air alarm system of thousands of individual installations throughout The Netherlands generates a harsh siren sound and was introduced to warn people for any type of attack, whether by "zee Germanz" ... again ... or an act of God. Glad to be not deaf.
The ducks in the pond probably thought "Fuck this shit!" and took off.
We also took off ... we took the "A" roads to the Zaanse Schans in Zaandam. By the way: These roads are not worth a recommendation really.
The Zaanse Schans is a historical heritage area in Zaandam containing a collection of ancient houses and wind mills of about 500 years. And did you know that some of the houses were actually transported to the touristic area a couple of decades ago? Well ... now you know!
We sat down and admired the wind mills along the dyke, when suddenly we noticed we had front row seats to a fashion runway show of the Louis Vuitton rooster showing off its authentic "LV" feathers.
At one of the ancient houses we had another typical Dutch treat: The "boerenjongens pannenkoeken". That translates to "farm boys pancakes". Think that's weird? The hotel on our way home we stopped and stared at was weird! The Inntel Hotel in Zaandam by Dutch architect Wilfried van Winden ... typical Dutch houses stacked on one another. And it looked like a theme park attraction.
Speaking of theme parks: The next day we went to the Efteling in Kaatsheuvel.
I don't know what to write about this day. It took forever to write ... well ... nothing. The reason:
Did you notice I use words with similar first letters or containing similar combinations of letters in the same or subsequent sentences? It's a neurotic disorder of yours truly ... "aanstelleritis" as the Dutch describe it. And due to this I substitute contextually fitting words with ... well ... worse words sacrificing readability. Reading rhythm. Pure poetry. Thanks to the thesaurus.
Aaaaanyway ... it was an experience. And experiences are difficult to put into words. Instead I wrote down the things on the top of my mind in Dutch and put it through Google Translate. The result:
"The Flying Dutchman. Squirting waterfalls and a swaying ship with Rebecca sick. The politically incorrect Carnival Festival. Did you mean: Hollow Spherical Gas. A talking rubber tree and seven red girls with a big bad wolf dancing in red shoes in the fairy forest. And a currency donkey dumping coins and croquettes."