To be in the land of Netherlanders and not guzzle down a draft of fresh ale would be akin to snoring away in the freezing Iceland when ‘Aurora Borealis’ lights dance in the dark sky :-)
Spluttering, choking and still falling flat while enunciating “Scheveningen” … My epiglottis continues to glare at me bewildered!
Leaving behind a legacy of shattered umbrellas which were slashed ruthlessly by the Wind Gods of the land and truckload of shoes; torn after the long walks and maddening race to signal the disinterested bus driver who swerved around the signals callously. It was tough being in the cycling capital of the world and not know how to ride one (I still reminisce the look of horror on the faces every time I revealed my tiny woeful secret!). Ahh! Probably I should stuff in a few more Dutch drops (assorted Liquorice) into my mouth to avoid being marked as a drop-out.
Beyond the tall green foliage and meandering sandy dunes of Hague; it was wonderful to step into the quaint delicate Japanese garden in Clingendale Park and greet the colorful autumn. Rickety bridges and fragile blossoms crept around and engulfed me before I could blink. A fleeting nymph with enchanted candles would have felt at home in that haven :-)
Rowing through the tranquil canals garlanded with florid hues along the banks at Giethoorn; the blur of the fast paced world around seemed to slow down as charming views engaged the senses. Had it not been for the rhythmic splash of water from the paddles or occasional inexperienced adrenaline pumped maneuvering to avoid bumping into a crossing boat; the idyllic moment would have dissolved the barriers between reality and imagination.
Treading through the reconstructed fishermen’s village in one of its kind open air museum- the Zuiderzee museum at Enkhuizen was a gezzelig moment. [Of course, the word ‘gezzelig’ continues to overwhelm every expat like me! It carries the essence of Dutch culture with élan but metamorphoses in its meaning based on context. I hope Dutch Grammarians do not write me off for using it above to denote fun.]
Smoked herring and quintessential native cultural elements meticulously put together to re-create the heartwarming village within the precincts of the museum; made it outstanding and touching. Clocks turned back and drapes of old world charm descended at Enkhuizen!
While tourists from across the globe thronged to click selfies and revel in the Tulip Festival at Keukenhoff gardens every year or cycle through the acres of colorfully carpeted fields; often I met cheerful Dutch men and women who would ask me if I had seen the bloom already. And the next moment they would heartily whisper their secret into my ears– “You know something, I have never been there!”
For all lovers of Modern Architecture, Netherlands probably puts its best foot forward with Rotterdam! The city born from the ashes of World War II bombing boasts of an ever evolving skyline. Hopping out of the E-sling metro line connecting Hague and Rotterdam; the trendy feel laced with a coat of dynamism was infective. The panoramic view of the revamped city of Rotterdam from the Euromast tower lingers on and declines to fade.
To quote the advice from Dutch colleagues – “Live in the Hague, work at Rotterdam and party in Amsterdam :-)”
Whizzing on a waterbus from Rotterdam; I alighted at Kinderdijk – a village which finds its name on the UNESCO world heritage list. 19 windmills from the 1950s stood solemnly and reminded of the battles that the Dutch had to wage with water often. Though the sun shone generously but the cold breeze heartlessly stung my eyes. Despite the tears and continuous battle of my own to keep back from face the wisps of hair that the wind kept ruffling; it was impossible to miss the transcendental charisma of the place.
The moments in life when you feel like a Cinderella in a wonderland? That was it! A small cottage (or maybe a windmill) to call for home in that extraordinary place and see the Sun rise and set over there endlessly. Don’t insane ideas pop up when you are flushed, heady and carried away?
A scenic ride away from Hague on a leisurely moving tram; the city of Delft famous for its ceramic artistry and Royal Blue Delftware was a pleasant discovery. Graceful canals, pretty churches and shops overflowing with wares for visitors. All I could hope for is a small rucksack to collect some tiny wooden shoes, traditionally hand painted porcelain saucers, cute tulip souvenirs and gobble down some softies during the spree. Priceless!
The love for Gothic architecture took me to yet another beautiful and historic city of the iconic country – Den Bosch. The magnificent St. John’s Cathedral and its intricate build pacified my grouse of not finding enough churches to walk into. It arrested, captivated and left no stone unturned.
The experience of summer is forever a game of peek-a-boo in the land of Dutch! To be throttling down on the crazy rollercoaster rides on the hottest day (warm would be an understatement!) of the year was indeed the last thing to do on the checklist. But as Miss. Luck chuckles at her own games; there I was spiraling down dizzying heights and falling into nothingness at Wallabi Park when the temperatures soared and soared. So, the weather Gods considered my complaint against the plummeting degrees this seriously?
It was fun to welcome the good ol’ Sinterklaas from Spain, cheer the cheeky Zwarte Piet and queue up to grab handfuls of ‘pepernoten’ and ‘speculaas’ in the streets of Breda on an icy (for my taste!) cold evening. Mr. Santa Claus suddenly seemed a distant uncle.
When the sleepy yet glorious Sun set over the gushing water and mighty dikes at ‘DeltaWerken’/ Delta Works; the prodigious phenomenon unraveled itself and evoked only awe in its witnesses. The placid diminutive lagoon at ‘Deltapark Neeltje Jans’ whisks you away to a fairyland. A slight breeze gently rippled the water every now and then, in the inlet on one side; while the dikes kept churning and taming the roaring water on the other side.
The undulant pathway through the waters continued to beckon ever mystically. Stories unknown, worlds unseen appeared to await at the end of the road.
A walk through the calm blues and gurgling waves offered to guide to a mythical dreamland.
Roaring sea lions waddled around in the Expo Park amusing numerous eyeballs. Curious sharks swam around in the aquariums yawning or sneezing once in a while, only to scare a few souls glued to the glass window innocuously :-)
A colorful and artistic creation out of junk intrigued me at the entrance hallway to the park.
Not far away from ‘Neeltje Jans’; the exotic Saturday night at small town of Middelburg offered to drape in its warmth as the night befell. Savoring a dish of ‘garnaalen’ (shrimps); my eyes ran up and down the late-gothic town hall adorned with proud statues of Counts & Countesses of Zeeland. Illuminated in the ethereal glow of surrounding lights and standing calmly under the starry night; it dazzled and bewitched onlookers and created a surreal aura of its own.
Bewitching wintry evening walks continued in the city square of Haarlem. The place I had long identifed as the host place for a random data center; suddenly had flesh and meat added to itself.
Snow footed 'Christmas' tip-toed into the sparkly velvet caves of the otherwise sleepy town of Valkenburg; and brought the exquisite mural paintings to life. As the markets buzzed with cackle of excited voices, jingle of heavy coins and twinkle of merchandise; the misty air reeked of elfish magic. I would not have been surprised to bump into a few wizards or witches down there :-) (Thou messed with our minds forever, oh Rowling!)
Shivering and chattering, stuttering and stammering when the temperatures kept dropping steadily and blood froze in its course in veins; exploration of the ancient castle ruins on the hills turned out to be a test of survival against odds. Drizzling icicles and merciless patter of rain droplets still did not mar the beauty of the place.
tingle of Spanish liveliness, touches of Roman proportions and a pleasant openness to it. The playful aura of the place refused to conform to Dutch austerity and chose to infuse gaiety.
A memoirs of Netherlands would never be complete without a chapter earmarked on Amsterdam. The capital of fun & frolic; lights red & whatever you can conjure ;-). The hunt for the (in)famous streets, hushed shops and a grand rendezvous with Heineken makers; the city gives you memories you would recollect and laugh at forever! I can never look at another brownie without a giggle.
P.S: The title of the post is inspired from a book that one of my favorite Mr. Dutch Manager gifted me as a parting present. :-)