The Dutch Countryside
Monday morning we woke up late to the faint clanging of plates and utensils and the whistle of the tea kettle. Lonneke was cooking up a healthy breakfast feast (much needed after our strict diet of french fries with mayo and pub food). We all sat around feasting on fresh fruit, yogurt, fried egg sandwiches, hot tea and my newly discovered favorite drink – lime flavored milk-type drink. Haha. It was almost like a yogurt-type milk. (I’ve since looked for it in London with no such luck.)
Lonneke had arranged for us to go see her friend Peter’s family at their local farm so we could see the Dutch countryside and get a little history lesson. Lonneke has her degree in geography so as we drove through the fields and canals and trees and farmhouses, she explained to us how the Dutch canal system worked. You could see how some parts of the land where much higher than others and which areas/fields/villages used to be completely covered by water. The waterways are controlled by the windmills – a famous symbol of Holland.
We drove past some of the first farmhouses built in the area – in the early 1600s, before pulling into one just down the street. Peter’s family welcomed us into their kitchen for tea and ginger cookies. The entire room conversed mostly in Dutch, so we sat and smiled and enjoyed the authenticity of it all. Soon after we arrived, Peter’s father showed up. He had been a local Dutch farmer for his entire life. He started us off with a tour of his own farm. There were baby animals everywhere! Cows, horses, ponys, big furry sheep and their one week old little lambs, roosters. Peter’s neice and nephew jumped right into the pens. Cutest little Dutch kids.
After the farm, Peter’s father insisted on taking us out for a drive. He did such a great job trying to explain everything to us in broken English. He took us to a nearby windmill museum and refused to let us pay our own entrance fees. We watched a short video explaining how the windmill system worked and then walked through the coldest and strongest winds into the windmill. It had been set up with beds and a kitchen table in the bottom. Back in the day, if your family owned a windmill, it was aslo your house. Even now, some people live in windmills, although Lonneke mentioned it is a bit of a novelty and therefore quite expensive. We climbed stairs and ladders all the way to the top of the windmill to see how it all functioned. As much as the wind that day was wildly unpleasant, it was interesting to see it all in action.
We were hoping to go to the nearby cheese museum but many things in Holland stay closed on Mondays. Still not sure why. So we drove back to the farm and thanked Peter’s father for everything. It was actually astounding how generous they had been. This man taking time out of his day, it was completely and totally last minute, to drive us around and talk to us in our own language – all for two complete and total strangers from the other side of the world. Amazing.
We went to say goodbye and thank you to Peter who was in his workshop. We found out his job is to create props for films. He was making an arm with a functioning elbow for a horror movie. For when they chopped the arm off. He had some fake fingers and heads in there as well. Along with a wall full of surfboards (him and Lonneke are both huge surfers – they go a few times a week at a nearby beach and have bothed traveled quite a bit).
We stopped at a cheese shop to pick up some local goodies since the cheese museum was closed and we went home and had a lovely beef macaroni dinner and wine.
I don’t think I’ve ever traveled somewhere and learned so much about it from one visit. The Dutch people we met were the most hospitable, kind hosts we could have ever hoped for.
Tuesday morning we packed everything up and walked through the town to the train station, dragging our massive bags behind us (my arms are still ridiculously sore from this) and went into Amsterdam. We spent the afternoon walking about, taking some last minute photos, having a few hoegaardens and traditional Dutch snacks selected by our server at the cutest little pub/restaurant in Nieuw Market, and a quick stroll through the Red Light District. Then off to the airport to catch our EasyJet plane to London.