(Translation: Feeling Dammed). (Rotter, not Amster).
Saturday morning dawned bright and… cloudy. But never fear! The showers weren’t to deter us. As Yvette said, it was typical Dutch weather; the country had pulled out all the sunshine stops our first few days and now it was settling back into a customary climate. And the showers weren’t going to stop us – we’d just make like the Dutch and don a rain jacket to ride!
Yvette, PMS and I went to the small markets in the town square and bought up on cheese, beschuits and the like after Annelies’ left instructions. We wandered about the separate stalls, taking in the trucks turning out antipasto arrays, chunks of cheeses and dozens of dried delicacies. After we stopped off at Albert Heinz for the stock up grocery shop and went home to make like Homer Simpson and put it away.
As we were doing so the door flew open and in walked Richard and Annelies, back early from their trip to Den Haag. The weather had rendered the beach a no go, so they had driven back (after a flit to Primark, I was so jealous) to get us all on board for a chauffeur around some proximate places to see some more of Holland. So R & A, PMS, Yvette, Joey (over to hang for the afternoon) and I seatbelted up and went on our way.
We drove though contiguous villages, remarking in marvel at all the little quirks – the ever littler lanes, the constant canals, the stupendous street signs and the perpetual wind turbines. The family got all pumped upon taking me to Aalsmeer to see the famous slower fields and expectations were effervescing – but alas, upon arrival we discovered that the tulips had been trimmed and the petals had been pruned, with only one long line of bright red bulbs still waving in the wind (no matter; Sharon had been a mere two weeks before and gotten a photo amongst the blossoming buds, so we had the blooming brilliant idea of photo shopping my head upon her bod and claiming it as my own). We headed home with a stop off in the Amsterdam Forest to clamber about the sort of experience course, climbing along the logs rooted in the water and the flying fox whizzing above the lake. It was great fun with lots of laughs and merriment was falsetto as we made the journey back to Nieuwkoop.
While I went for a run PMS cut up the abundance of vegetables I had gone and gotten earlier in the day to make “vege chips”. The family were most intrigued as he sliced and diced the wortel (carrots), rode aardappelen (red potato), aubergine (well, aubergine), courgette (ahem, courgette), pastinaak (parsnip) and so forth, with a sprinkling of paprika and pepper having them in lunging in to try upon outcoming the oven.
And the main man in the mix? Joey! The very same Joey who declared he only ate four vegetables was going to town on them all, loving the lot. A shipment of snaps was sent through to his astounded mum who asked for the recipe, so with the aid of Google translate I wrote it down for him to take home.
After a wee while Richard and PMS made moves to head to the Talking Horse (Job and Kitty’s pub) asking Annelies and I if we would like to accompany. Her and I met eyes and took in our pyjamaed up state, the comfortable couches and the congenial covers ready to blanket upon ourselves and pulled the, “We may meet you up there”. So the boys bicycled off and Annelies and I spent the evening in.
And what fun was it! It was so nice to spend time just us two. We had yarns and discussed details of our lives and I thoroughly cherished the time. She told me that upon dropping Will home the previous evening, Will had said how she had been “totally in love” with me yesterday, how I looked like a real Wortman and I embodied the “naughty Wortman humour”. Well, my heart swelled with warmth and pride – I class that as one of the topmost compliments I have ever received.
As an added bonus, it just so happened to be the finale night of Eurovision on TV. For those of you not in the know (as I wasn’t before I saw the screening), Eurovision is an international TV song competition whereupon European countries compete by submitting an original song to be performed on live TV. Having been inaugural since 1956, it is one of the most watched non-sporting events in the world garnering a good 100million to 600million viewers each episode. The ultimate winner is decided by each of the participating countries casting a vote for their fav (which cannot be themselves) along with voters at home sending in their election for the apex.
Ireland holds the record for the highest number of wins (seven to be exact – but of course it would be them, the accent alone sets them in top stead) and although getting in with the win rarely results in long-term success there are a few notable exceptions – thus being ABBA winning for Sweden in 1974, Bucks Fizz winning for the UK in 1981 and Celine Dion taking out the title in 1988 for Switzerland. In 2015 Australia was allowed to compete as a guest entrant as part of the 60th anniversary of the even, with heir success positing them with participancy again this year (they actually did super well, taking out the vast majority of votes from the different countries. But in the votes from viewers they fell far back – I put this down to the fact that being broadcast live, many Aussies wouldn’t have been awake, the expense of voting from overseas and perhaps even the inability to do so) (I must say though, what with the performer from Aus being Australian-Chinese, the whole entourage also being Australian Asian and the representative from the country to vote being the same, Aussie really came across as being an Asian country).
Annelies sat and mocked the costumes and contestants (“She looks like she works in the Red Light District!”, “What the fuck is up with that dress?”, “He looks like a tosspot”), pausing only to pick up Yvette from work at 11pm. The three of us then stayed awake to catch the crowning (Ukraine took it out) before bounding to bed at 1am.
Sunday dawned light and… overcast (again, the Dutch norm). I took off for a trot then on return the family got together to go for a day trip to Rotterdam. (That is, Richard, Annelies, PMS, myself and Yvette).
So Rotterdam is a major port city in South Holland, with a seafaring history stemming a long way back (evident in the still seen first port formed in the 14th century). And what with the preponderance of the city being destroyed in WWII, it is known for its bold and modern architecture (such as in the pic below – how rad are these tilting but totally on point in the bizarre scheme of things apartments!).
I got quite sentimental and emotional upon parking up and Richard leading me to the harbour side, pointing out the place – the Holland-Amerika Line New York Hotel – where Opa would have checked in before sailing off to New Zealand, as well as the docking space where he would have boarded the boat. I went into the aforementioned building and took a photo of the large scale Nieuw Amsterdam boat, the model of the one and the same that Opa lived on for six weeks after setting sail, and bought him a postcard which I wrote in the car later on telling him how I’d been there. (I fell about the following day whereupon skyping him to let him know I’d been there, getting a tad teary as I envisaged his mother Margarethe bidding her almost oldest boy farewell, he said – blunt as ever – “You were in the wrong place. I didn’t catch the boat from there, I went from Amsterdam”. Like, of course I fucked it up).
We all then went to the Foto Tentoonstelling (photo exhibition) at the across-the-road, well, exhibition. It was really cool – they had an, again, well, exhibit, titled “Crime Scenes”, which was all photographic and videography evidence on display, examining the way in which experts, researchers and historians produce images as evidence in the case of crimes or acts of violence suffered by individuals or groups.
This included an 11-minute film on the Nuremberg trials, which were the first in legal history where a screen occupied the main space in a courtroom back in 1945. The film shown at the time worked as proof of the horrors and injustices undertaken by the Nazi leaders with footage of the concentration camps, torturing and tormenting of the prisoners and photos upon photos of the dumpings of the dead. The documents from the time said such material showed things “that turned the stomach of the world”, with the proof “being disgusting and robbing the viewers of their sleep”. But what I found most interesting was the real reason behind the screening; rather than working as evidence as per the initial purpose, the narrator said how the exercise brought the criminals face to face with the enormity of their crimes. What with a neon light being fitted above the dock to highlight the reactions of the accused, he described the indicted as thus: “Goring ” (Hermann) “clenched his pale jaw as though it would break… and we were sitting there with our throats tight watching the spectacle from the shadows, feeling like we were witnessing a unique moment of history”. Fuck, how I wish I had been present there to see such a sight myself.
When we went back out into the day PMS commented on how my eyes had undertaken an orange hue; “Very Dutch,” said Annelies (national colour, remember?) where I laughed a lot. I’m going so deep into my Hollandic (yes? No?) roots that even my eyes are taking on cultural ques.
We went by the Euromast (observation tower constructed from 1958 to 1960, 101m in height), the markthal (residential and office building with a market hall underneath; made up of 228 apartments, 4600m squared of retail space and shaped like a horseshoe, the inside is adorned with artwork by Arno Coenen showing strongly enlarged fruits, vegetables, seeds, fish, flowers and insects) the main two shopping streets (necessitating a stop in at the McDs for Yvette and PMS to have some nuggets; in true Dutch idiosyncrasy, the fast food joint was actually inside a clothing store, that being C&A – how odd is that?), past the Feyenoord afbeeldingen (home ground for Richard’s fav team) and then onto Futureland, also known as Maasvlakte.
So Futureland is the expansion of the most modern port of Rotterdam (as time has gone on, there have been a fair few). The construction of it began back in 2008 and took until 2012 to complete – you see, there is a little bit of originality about this one; it was sand that became land.
The full new area is reclaimed land! Carefully selected areas of the sea along with deepening of the port itself led to the creation of the new area, which measures a good 2000 hectares in total – about the size of Schiphol or Disneyworld. Protected by partly soft and partly hard seawall, beach and dunes make up the soft with pebbles, stone, concrete and quarrystone blocks form the hard. The port is 20 metres deep, meaning it is accessible to the deep-draught container ships that cannot moor in many other European ports.
After the others fuelled up on croquettes, wurst and what not, we wandered about the museum watching vids and reading the informative plaques. Richard was in his element showing engineer PMS around and got all jocund in showing me the massive elephant leg and tusk that had been unearthed in the excavating (from the Stone Age or so no less!).
Upon reaching the end we headed home for an early night. I was shattered – the last two months have totally caught up on me. After chilling altogether on the couch I took off to retreat and smash the straw (I.e., “hit the hay”).
I know I keep saying it, so I shall say it in Dutch so as to appear as in new material.
Het leven is goed.
(Life is good). (And “very Dutch”).