Saturday, 10 May 2014

On the home run...

Hi everyone,
This will be the last blog before flying out from Holland next Tuesday 13th May 2014. My return journey has come to an end. The weather has changed from amazing spring weather to rain, wind and cooler temperatures more suited to a regular Dutch spring.

Well, since my last blog which told about the first Koning's Dag (King's Birthday), incidentally, the first Dutch KING since Prince Willem lll in the 1800's.( Read about King Willem-Alexander here ).I've been busy re-visiting my home town Wolvega and back to Gouda to see my cousin Henk and wife Sonja.
With two weeks still to go in Holland and having seen and done most of the things I had planned to do, I wondered what we would do during that time. Mieke and I planned a trip in Friesland but then I had a strong, nagging feeling that I wanted to go back and visit my hometown once more. I'd only been there three days, and felt it wasn't enough somehow.  So I made plans to go back and my friends Jaap and Florence kindly invited me to stay with them again.

The week before I went back I spent some time resting at home, visited Amsterdam city again and took an hour's tour by boat through the city's canals, which was fun and informative. The driver/guide asked which nationalities were on board and then did his commentary in Dutch, English, German and Spanish. Pretty clever I think. He had funny little jokes which made us all laugh. It was a perfect Spring day and actually quite hot in the sun - I really enjoyed  that. One of his jokes was that in the Brouwer's Gracht (Brewer's Canal) where all the ancient breweries were located, they used to use the canal water in the brewing process. He said that they ofcourse don't use it anymore these days, only now they just use it for beer that's exported! :-)
After the boat ride I walked into the inner city and enjoyed browsing the quaint streets with so many small shops everywhere. Lots of fashion stores, coffee shops (both those selling coffee and the smelly ones selling drugs, with lounging, bleary eyed young people in the windows), restaurants, ice cream shops, even a hardware store which occupied 3 store fronts with a different department in each. I bought some tops for myself, some souvenirs  and walked and walked up and down long and short streets. I found a very cute 1950's coffee shop and enjoyed a quiet sit down with a drink and some free wifi.

We also spent some time at Mieke's garden, which is really coming on nicely. There is lots of work to be done like weeding, planting, watering, as well as setting up the cottage. Mieke is really enjoying working there, while I sit and read or do some minor gardening that doesn't involve pulling out weeds. I'm lkely to pull out  the wrong plants, seeing I don't know much about Dutch plants.

Saturday week ago, I once again took the bus to the city and caught the train to Wolvega. I really enjoy watching the flat Dutch country side roll by, filled with dairy cows, windmills, little houses and farms and of course lots and lots of water in the form of large canals with large barges on them which transport all kinds of cargoes. As well, rivers meander through the landscape  crossed by many bridges.
I spent a lovely few days wandering around the township with my friend Jaap who explained where things were in the 'old' days, and where we played as kids, where we swam at the pool (now no longer there) and other places of interest. We met a few people along the way from the old days who we had a chat to, which was nice.
On the Sunday Florence and I headed off to church - the church where we went as a family. It was as if time had stood still in all those 60 years. This is what I shared on facebook: Church service in my home town church. I sat on the cross benches under the windows, where I sat with my mum and dad and sisters. It was all there: the traditional psalms and songs; the beautiful pipe organ; the minister in his long black toga with white collar standing in the high pulpit. A child's offering coins still rolled on the floor and the peppermints came out and were shared just before the sermon began, just like when I Was a child. Lots of good memories. I'm glad I took the time to go back to Wolvega this weekend"".

In the afternoon I spent a lovely couple of hours with Henk Pesman and Esther and their cute children. Coffee and 'taartjes' with lots of 'room'. Whipped cream is something the Dutch love - in cakes, with dessert and in their coffee. :-) Also of lots of talking, looking at old historical and family photos. Henk kindly walked me 'home' and I lost (and luckily found) my glasses (thank you Florence) on the path along the waterway. Very grateful that I found them, seeing I can't see without them.
 Stayed another 2 days with Jaap and Florence...lots of talking, good food,(and late night wines), walks on the outskirts of town along farms, fields full of buttercups and freshly sown crops, lots of waterways, and the obligatory windmill, as well as horses, cows and sheep. You can walk late into the evenings because the days are getting longer and warmer each day. 

Jaap and Florence drove me the 2 hours to his sister Sita's home at Breukelen. Her garden adjoins the river Vecht at Breukelen.  Lots of pleasure craft sail by regularly and you can sit right at the river's edge on a nice day. We had a lovely time chatting, eating (of course!) and the next day Sita and I strolled around the very quaint village, browsing the shops and then a lovely lunch with Laksa with prawns for me and a cheese and tomato toasty for her.
 All too soon I needed to get ready to catch the train to Gouda to say my goodbyes to my cousin Henk and  his wife Sonja. That night we ate a delicious old style Dutch meal of Stampot of Endive with rook worst. (Raw endive mashed into hot cooked potatoes, onions etc served with rook wurst) YUMMMMO. 
A lone fisherman.
Next day we walked along the paths and the dyke which runs along the Nederlandse Ijsel. 
Sonja and I  among the wild rhubarb growing along the river
A really lovely walk, with wild rhubarb growing along the river banks, someone enjoying a quiet spot of fishing, boats plying their trade, the lock where the boats wait for the water to equalize. We even saw a long funeral procession with lots of bikes (and cars too)  with the undertakers wearing  tails and high hats!
Again time to move on. Henk and Sonja drove me to Amsterdam, back to Mieke's house. They stayed for afternoon tea and then we ate a hearty meal of Dutch pea soup with sausage and healthy bread and cheese. Mieke had to go out to a meeting, so we three finished off with a coffee before they headed home.

To all my wonderful hosts here in the Netherlands, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your care during my stay with you. Without you all my 'return journey' would not have been what it was. I really would have been completely lost without you all - would not have known where to go or how to get there; what to see or do without you either taking me or pointing the way. Thanks for all the meals, wines (wijntjes), walks, drives, beds to sleep in and above all, the talks about the old times when I was a child; the history lessons about my forebears and about Wolvega town.

I loved seeing old friends and family again:
  • Jaap, Sita, Afke and Jan Sleyt
  • Henk and Klaas Pesman
  • Tante Tinie
  • Henk Dijk
  • Bert Dijk
  • Piet v/d Hoef and his family (thanks for the tompoucen!)
I loved meeting and making new friends too:
  • Nelleke Bosshardt (friend of Mieke's)  - thanks for the meals and coffees
  • Florence Sleyt (thanks for your hospitality - it was simply amazing)
  • Els Dijk  (heel gezellig!)
  • Sonja Dijk ( so hospitable and kind)
  • Cor and Paula (cute house in the Tuynwijck -thanks for the tea and chat!)
  • Henk and Ria (visited their fabulous house in a river ship - thank you!)
  • Mariella and her family (Henk's daughter in Gouda)
  • Marleen (Sleyt) and her farm they are renovating at Ter Idzard...what a job! wow!
  • People at Mieke's church - very friendly
  • People in shops, coffee shops and restaurants - always helpful and friendly. Didn't come across one who wasn't. Even the bus drivers greeted us!
Most of all I THANK my wonderful sister Mieke who shared her home with me and put up with my cases (and at night my bed with me in it :-)...) in the corner of her dining/kitchen. Without your guidance as to language, etiquette, what to see, where to go, taking me here, there and everywhere, my 'return journey'would have been really hard going. You made it easy, fun and so enjoyable. Thank you soooo much.

On Tuesday morning I fly out. Someone suggested I could now cross this off my bucket list. Yes, I can but it was so much more than that. Something  like this trip  is not just a wish to cross off a list. It's something that I mulled over I guess, almost all my life. Something I may have needed to do earlier, but it never seemed the right time somehow.
Now that it's almost over I am so glad I went  when I did. People were able to spend time because they are mostly retired, so didn't have to go to work, or take kids to school etc, So that was a major plus. The weather has been unseasonably mild with minimum days of rain. The tulip gardens were flowering in early April, instead of in May. There were lots of sunshiny days where a coat was unnecessary, so even though I didn't come for the weather, it certainly was a plus to have great days to go out in. Another plus is that I was still young enough to be able to do the lots of walking and climbing stairs you do here. People ride (bikes) and walk everywhere during the day. To the shops (groceries), to church, for fun (as if they need to). In the cities people ride their bikes very fast. Your really have to watch out as they have right of way over pedestrians and cars! People also walk fast, are nearly always busy with something - either in the house, the garden or outside it. They walk fast, talk fast, act fast. It's a small intensely busy place, especially in the cities...I found the country life much more relaxed though.

So there you are  my lovely readers. There should be one more instalment and then this blog will be just floating around in cyberspace, finding it's way onto someone's laptop, tablet, phone or whatever communication device is created in the future, who googles 'The Netherlands' or some related subject.

Photos below of some of the happenings this past week:

With Henk at the lock where the boats wait to go down stream

Taking the stairs to the top of the dyke next to the river

Cute pussycats in the window in Bruekelen


Laksa soup - out for lunch with Sita

Sita's beautiful garden at the river Vecht

My auntie Tinie's house where I played with her kids when I was little

On the steps of Lindenoord, recently restored - we used to collect chestnuts under the old trees here.


  1. Sooo good that you have had this time in the land of your childhood and been able to reconnect with family & friends. Love reading your stories. Thank you so much for sharing. XB

    1. My pleasure Brenda. Am back now and recovering from jet lag! fun, fun.

  2. So happy you had a wonderful time. Like you say, you def went at the right time, it all came together for you, special when life is like that. Hope coming home won't be too much of a culture shock. Will be lovely to have you back, missed you but enjoyed your blog & calls very much. Now for the travel book. Love you xx

    1. It's lovely to be back with MANY memories! Such a surprise to see all my lovely family at the airport when I arrived. Talk soon.

  3. so so lovely. what a wonderful time & stories. sounds like u have filled a part of yr life in. love you. happy mothers day

    1. Thanks Charein. It was so lovely to see you last night and this morning. The Mother's day cards arrived at Mieke's when she got back from the airport on Tuesday! They have no mail delivery on Mondays or I would have got it then before I left!


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