Monday, June 29, 2009

Enchanting Holland

After chasing the sun across Eurasia and experiencing glorious views of hundreds of spectacular miles of cloud-intimidating sunlit peaks of the Himalayans, Maggie and I eventually arrived in Holland from Thailand...still in broad daylight. It'd seemed so long since I'd seen the sun setting, and in tandem with the required acclimatising from long-term hot tropical temperatures, I caught myself thinking I just might've ended up in the frigid Arctic where the summer sun simply rebels to lie down.

We had a great time with Savannah and visiting Kees whose truck I feel priviledged to have driven through much of Africa with family and friends. With Hein, a newly met friend and outstanding host with whom we stayed, the five of us visited Vollendam which is a quaint, tourist-oriented fishing village where Kees treated us to an apparently very popular and traditional dish that was frequently seen being sold from roadside vendors...six inch salted but raw herring. We three Watkins had no problem eating the bite-size-sliced fish that was served with diced raw onions, but somehow minus the salt. As we were chewing away, however, I wondered why neither Kees nor Hein participated. Hmmmm.... I think I'd rather back-track to the town of Edam and taste-test the delicious cheese made there. Now that's what I'd consider a very enjoyable and salubrious food product!

Nearby, a small museum had on display traditional Dutch attire including, of course, the famous wooden shoes, but in addition there was a most unusual and truly unique room. Here one could find scores of fascinating floor to ceiling and wall to wall art comprised solely of innumerable cigar bands with each of several brands having their own identifying band design!

It was fun to meet up again with Wes, who also traveled with us in southern Africa for several weeks, when our group of five attended a Percussion Festival where Maggie and I met the zany and friendly members of a percussion band to which Kees belongs. Hein, Maggie and I had such a good time that we stayed until the wee morning hours and I found myself chuckling at how ironic life can be. Along with many local and a few international groups, here we were in Amsterdam of all places, once again listening to the amazingly talented and fully native-dressed drummers from West Africa's Senegal, a country we'd visited and which is world renown for this type of truly energetic music.

I thoroughly enjoyed Amsterdam, well-known for its many flood control canals placed in concentric "rings" throughout the city. As is ubiquitous throughout the country, there are drawbridges weighted at one end and also arched stone bridges built so low over the water that one must occasionally duck the head or lose it! We attempted to complete a city-wide tour but somehow opted to convert it to a self-guided tour of the walking variety. After taking in some impressive Cathedrals, various historic government buildings, Dam Square, the Amsterdam Dungeon, and dodging the perceived millions of bicycle riders, our feet screamed "enough", and we took the 30 minute train back "home" north to Alkmaar. Just for the record, we simply "skirted" the Red Light District.

Still, another day found us traveling northwards effortlessly gliding along what I'd rate easily as perfect highways considering circumstances of prior biways encountered. We whizzed past rows of modern energy-producing windmills with their mega-gigantic arms rotating high in the heavens and drove the entire 30 kilometer long Afsluitdijk (Closure) Dike, the vital earth, sand and stone element keeping the vicious unyielding North Sea at bay. If this monster dike goes under, the ensuing
catastrophic mayhem will make Katrina seem like a baby!

It's true, just as Ammon has alluded to in previous blogs, living perpetually in tank-tops, shorts, and flip-flops in warm tropical weather can be extremely addictive. And yet, as attractive as that may sound, when I later felt the invigorating sun on my face and the crisp, cold wind in my hair as I cycled alongside Holland's canals and flat verdant fields so evocatively dotted with those same iconic windmills Don Quixote once challenged, I'd joyfully found another worthy entry on my grand list of things one should experience.

Smiles to all,



At 9:49 AM , Blogger The Bear said...

Hey Brandon,
Sorry we didn't connect when we were out there this time, but not to worry we will see you in the fall.
Netherlands has always been one of my must see places, and the biking part sounds fun.

Cheers and Hugs

At 5:56 AM , Anonymous Savannah said...

Loved it. Bravo


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