A Saturday afternoon drive

Trip Start Apr 15, 2003
Trip End Sep 01, 2011

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Sunday, July 20, 2003

Well, no big trips this week. We had our second Dutch lesson, got some things done around the house, and took a day trip to Friesland.

Friesland is the northeastern part of the Netherlands. We drove up to it hoping to take a ferry to the Wadden Islands -- very remote islands with big sandy beaches. Due to other commitments in the morning, we did not leave Amsterdam until 1:30. The drive was shorter than expected - just over 1 hour - but by the time we found parking and got to the ferry terminal we had missed the last opportunity to get to an island and back again in the same day. We could get to the islands, but there would not be a return ferry until the following morning. Since we had not brought our camping gear, we stayed put.

Another couple, Julie and Stephen, had come with us. Stephen is also an expat working for ABN AMRO. He came over to Amsterdam the same time that Melanie did. Between the four of us we had packed a cooler with good cheeses from markets, fresh fruits and breads, pretzels, beer and salad, hoping to have a picnic on the islands. Instead, we found a bench overlooking the harbour and had a picnic there.

The ferry terminal is in an old fishing village called Harlingen. It is a very cute little town with lots of very old houses and lots of beautiful old wooden sailboats docked in the harbor. There is a lot of sail traffic in this area and consequently we spent a lot of time waiting for bridges to go up and down to let the boats through. It was fun to see the beautiful boats and also the many different ways in which bridges can move to clear way.

For those of you who read the Copenhagen travelpod, you know that we have a theory that every European town has an obligatory tourist statue. Well, Harlingen is no exception. Right at the ferry terminal there is a statue of the legendary boy who stuck his finger in the dyke and saved all of Holland. After we arrived home we found out that the statue's creator is actually on of our landlords, Johan. How cool is that!?! He created the statue for a movie about. . .are you ready. . . Mannekin Pis! And after the movie was made, the statue was cast in bronze and given to his hometown, Harlingen. Unfortunately we did not get a very good picture (sorry, Johan). We intend to go back in the fall when it is not so crowded or so hot, so hopefully we'll get a better picture then.

After our picnic and a walk around town we decided to take the scenic route back to Amsterdam - around the other side of the IJsselmeer (IJssel lake). On the way to Harlingen we had driven on top of a sea wall and had seen the lake on one side. It was beautiful with small waves (it's a big lake) and large masted sailboats. On the map it looked as though we would be doing a flatter version of the California coastal highway for the trip home - along the coast and able to overlook water. In reality, however, the road was on the other side of the seawall, so we saw a very tall embankment to our right - sometimes covered in flocks of sheep - and beautiful agricultural land to our left. The water was on the other side of the embankment and never visible. When Melanie mentioned this to a group of co-workers they pointed out that the road is actually lower than the water, so putting it on the water side of the seawall would be a very poor idea. Duhhh. With over half of this country below sea level, I guess the expectation should be that coastal roads will generally be behind the seawall.

Despite the beauty of the farmland, there was one drawback - cow manure. It smelled like driving through Amish country in Ohio. And it smelled like this for over an hour - not just a little 10 minute stretch. I think people get used to it after awhile, but we did not. After taking the scenic route for 1 hours, we headed back to the highway and were back in Amsterdam 45 minutes later.

Some other interesting tidbits about Friesland: They have their own language, they have their own cheese, and this is the place where the black and white spotted Holstein cow was first born. We encountered the language difference during our country drive. As we entered a town, its name was on the sign twice - once in Dutch and once in Friesian. As we left a town instead of the familiar "Tot ziens" (Dutch for "see ya later"), we saw the Fresian version. The cheese is a very interesting one with cloves in it, which Johan had introduced us to when we first arrived. And, of course, we saw lots of cows.

Other big excitement for the week: Chris set up the wireless network. So now we can write travelpods, check email, and do a bunch of other stuff on the laptop anywhere in the house or out on the deck. YEAH!!!

Several people have asked how Dutch lessons are going. Our main issue: Who has time? Last week we did our homework after arriving home from Copenhagen on Sunday night. Bad move - we were too tired and grumpy, so it wasn't much fun. So this week we swore we'd listen to the CD a little every night and do our homework earlier in the week. Well, the first draft of this t-pod was written on Sunday morning and had we done our homework yet or listened to the CD once? Of course not! There are neighborhoods to explore, restaurants to visit, music to listen to - so many more interesting things! Here's a cool thing that Melanie learned though: to say "My husband, Chris. . ." in Dutch is: "Mine man, Chris. . ." (Actually, mine, is spelled mijn, but sounds like mine). Sounds pretty powerful, huh?

By the way, Julie and Stephen, who went to Friesland with us, also have a Travelpod site. (In fact, Stephen is the one who introduced us to Travelpod). If you're interested in their version of the trip feel free to visit "Kantor's Abroad". They may not have this trip posted yet, but check out their site anyway. - it will give a different perspective on this whole Amsterdam experience.

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Tot ziens!
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