Tracing my roots in the Netherlands

Trip Start Jan 22, 2013
Trip End Jun 03, 2013

, South Holland,
Saturday, March 16, 2013

"If you ain't Dutch, you ain't much," or so the saying goes, a saying I have heard many times in my life from friends and family with Dutch heritage. Being one-quarter Dutch, or at least having an Oma and Opa from Holland (my mum's parents), it was inevitable that my travels would eventually lead me back to where it all (or one quarter of it) began, Holland! (Or more accurately, the Netherlands, but I like to call it Holland because that's what Oma and Opa called it).

We began our Dutch adventure in AMSTERDAM! This is an amazing little city. I love it. It's really cute, with its canals weaving through it, gorgeous old crooked houses with plenty of charm, bicycle riders everywhere and friendly locals. I was reunited with many old Dutch food favourites (please excuse the spelling, my Dutch is terrible/non-existent): specculas, Dutch cheese, almond fingers, poffertjes, croquettes, King peppermints, Heinekens, Chocomel, Dutch pea & ham soup etc etc). It's also extremely well set up for tourists, as the Dutch are pretty savvy business people. There are a record number of museums, cafes, restaurants, clubs, bars, souvenir shops...and then there's that OTHER side to Amsterdam...

What happens in Amsterdam, stays in Amsterdam....which is why although Amsterdam can be a lot of fun with its plethora of "coffeeshops" (buy your joints and space-cakes here, it's not legal, but you won't get in trouble), sex shows and sex shops, and legalised prostitution (girls stand in lingerie in the windows advertising their "goods"), I won't be delving into any details about anything to do with these activities. I am still employed as a high school teacher, after all. (All I can say is if my students somehow stumble upon this blog whilst trying to stalk me, you SHOULD NOT get involved in any of the above activities.)

Some highlights about our visit to Amsterdam that I will mention are: the Anne Frank House museum, where you can go through the actual house where the Frank family hid from the Nazis during the war, the Rijksmuseum, where I was really excited to see the huge "Nightwatch" original by Rembrandt, the Reypenaer cheese tasting experience (delicious), the Heineken experience and a walking tour we did of the city. We are going back to Amsterdam in a few weeks to get the cast off my arm so I hope to see a few more things when we go back, in particular the Dutch Resistance museum, the Van Gogh museum, the Tulip museum and maybe a few other things.

Speaking of my arm, I got a new cast done in Amsterdam. I went to the doctor, who got me an appointment that day at the hospital (when does THAT ever happen in Australia?), and after having a good old laugh at my old cast ("If I do casts like that, they kill me," and "oh, but they gave you a needle," when looking at the large red lump on my hand from my anaesthetic needle), they fixed me up with a new one, x-rayed my hand and said it was all going well. Yay! Apparently it's only a wrist fracture and it's anatomical. That's good, for us non-medical people who don't/didn't know what that meant. Yay! Good news.

Heading on from Amsterdam, we took the train up to Groningen, which is near Winschoten, where my Oma grew up. Groningen is a gorgeous little university town, and we enjoyed having a drink and some food and some good old fashioned people-watching. The next morning, we got on the train to Winschoten.

Winschoten is about half an hour by train from Groningen, and is a very small town set amongst a fairly rural landscape. My Oma grew up here and she and my Opa got married in a church in Winschoten (unfortunately I did not get a picture of the church, but I did get one of her house!) My Oma was a bookkeeper and my Opa was in the army. They left the Netherlands in their twenties, on a ship for Australia, in search of a new life. I suspect the war had a lot to do with it, although my Opa told me when I was younger it was because they were "young and silly." The Netherlands, like many European countries, copped it pretty bad in the war. Rotterdam, where Opa is from, was all but flattened, due to the bombing. I think a new life in a faraway land like Australia would have looked pretty attractive, even if it did mean getting on a ship for six weeks and saying goodbye to your family.

We had a lovely walk around Winschoten, walked down Oma's old street and had a good look around the place. I wonder how different it looks now to how it did when she lived here. I know she has a lot of relatives living around here, but as they are distant relatives and I have never met them or have any contact details, I didn't get to meet them. I was pretty stoked to find a Kloosterhuis (Oma's maiden name) family tree on the net, as well as a picture of her parents and Oma (and aunties and uncles). I also know she has sisters in Holland who I have seen photos of, but as their English is bad, and my Dutch is non-existent, we didn't meet up. I wish I spoke Dutch. I think I will try to learn when I get home. (I can hear Steve saying, "add that to the list of things you want to do.") I like to learn a lot of things.

From Winschoten, we took the train to Opa's hometown, Rotterdam. Rotterdam is a big, exciting city and it has done well to recover from the war. Instead of rebuilding exactly how things were (a la Munich, Germany), they built everything new and went for the craziest, most out-there architecture they could. It's a great city. Unfortunately the weather was foul the day we were going to look at architecture so I went shopping instead and Steve had to do some work for his business partner at home. But this morning we went out and saw as much as we could before our train left. It's got some really great things and I hope Opa likes the pictures when I show him. (I might google the bits I missed).

We're heading off to Belgium now for the weekend (I plan to eat Belgian waffles, Belgian chocolate and drink Belgian beer the entire time) and then we are going to Paris. I hope the French aren't too rude to us. We're trying AirBnB and the lady whose place we are staying in seems really lovely. I think I'll try to learn a few French phrases so I don't get branded as a lazy Australian who can't learn a bit of French for her trip to Paris :-)

Love to you all at home.
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