(This was written 22/08/18 – and posted mid-December 2018. How time flies)
We have a clip over at YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBJhZgMqB6A
The Netherlands is like my third or fourth home. USA would have to be first as I was born there and spent about 33-years before nesting in Australia, then nine-years back to New York for teaching. Australia would be second with about twenty-six years. China could be third with three years, but The Netherlands could be my third home; this is my seventh trip here and Narda was born in Utrecht and her family here is my family now too. This time we are only here for three weeks. Last year we were in Utrecht for February. This time we can ride bikes heaps. In February we needed to stop quite often and warm up. Another house-exchange; a bike ride to the oldtown which we are doing today. There is no point in timing our excursions based on phone-maps as we get lost too easy. Yesterday, we rode to Harmelen to visit Tom and Ineke. The GPS said 25-minutes, we got there one-hour and fifteen minutes after starting. Tom and Ineke are Narda’s uncle and aunt. We visit them each time we are in town. A side-story; they visited us June 2004 when we were living in New York. We were standing in the Times Square’s area when news of Ronald Reagan dying was being announced. A reporter with microphone in hand was asking folks questions on how they felt with his passing. The reporter asked Ineke and she said, “I’m Dutch, I don’t care”. It was playing live on the big news screen there on 42nd street. If we could have posted to social media, we would have put a video up. Of course, social media was just starting its run of silliness then.
Another aside, a pretty sad one. Just a few months after we returned home, Tom died suddenly at the 25th anniversary party of my cousin Hans. Tom, although we miss him; he was the last of his siblings to die; he died surrounded by his loved ones.
We took the Eurostar from London to Rotterdam on my birthday, 10 of August. We wrote about that in the last blog-thingy. Overnight Rotterdam in a nifty Airbnb space, had a nice breakfast served to us and were soon out the door. Hello Holland!
We got to Utrecht Centraal about an hour later. Utrecht Centraal is the largest and busiest railway station in the Netherlands. Bigger than Amsterdam, it is all new. From there we got a local bus to our house-exchange. We got settled quite quickly and the next day we were out on our bikes to explore The Netherlands. Well actually we went about ten-minutes along a canal to Maximapark, (https://www.maximapark.nl/).
Maximapark is large, larger than Central Park in New York City or the Parklands in Adelaide to give an idea. We explored that on other days; on our first in this area, Saturday, we went to the Castellum Hoge Woerd (museum).
Castellum Hoge Woerd, situated in Utrecht’s Leidsche Rijn neighbourhood, is a modern interpretation of a centuries-old Roman fort. One day in 1997, contractors building the Leidsche Rijn residential area stumbled by chance upon the entire infrastructure of the Roman borde, the border road, the river and a ship. Their big thrill came when they uncovered the Roman ship De Meern I. This inland vessel from 150 AD had to undergo conservation for 12 years before it could be exhibited. See photo below; not sure where the suites and buffet area of this ship are but it surely does not match the cruise ship we were on a year-ago today.
And we got to see what we looked like back in the day when the Romans hung out in these parts, a couple of thousand years ago.
Even though they have spent their life in nearby Utrecht they had never been to this part or this museum. Yesterday (Thursday the 16th) we were with Narda’s other cousin named Hans and his wife and they said they had never been to this park or to this museum either. We told a few other family members, all living nearby, and none of them had been to it either. And these people travel heaps. Hans number two goes overseas a lot for work, Hans number one and family travel a lot around Europe. What is it in us humans that makes us see the world but not our local stuff even if it is historic. “Hey mate, we just found a 2,000 year old Roman ship in the ground”, “groovy, no time to see it, on my way across the pond to see New York City, Paris, Adelaide…”. I am the same. Tourist sites in Adelaide I have yet to see, if there were any in upstate New York I never got to see them either; too busy seeing the world.
If you come to The Netherlands, give Amsterdam and Rotterdam a miss and go to Utrecht. And if you go to Utrecht check out the Castellum Hoge Woerd and Maximapark. Don’t just come to visit us, we probably won’t be here.
The northern frontier of the Roman empire along the Rhine in the current Netherlands was established in AD 47 and abandoned around AD 270. Ships were used to transport troops and supplies to the frontier zones. Now days we speed around on freeways or ride bikes.
We had our lunch in Máximapark (https://www.maximapark.nl/), watched people go by with carts of children, ducks coming and going, the museum, and generally had a best time ever. Máximapark is a place to see, check out their website for stuff happening like free concerts, Australian tourists on bikes… Máximapark is rated number three on stuff to see in Utrecht.
As everywhere in The Netherlands, Germany… school buses are quite personal. A bike full of children on the way home from school.
We spend so many hours each day riding bikes; so fit, though admittingly very sore at the end of each day. Being me, or being the average guy, I noticed the people passing by on bikes or jogging; especially those in their twenties and thirties, forties, fifties, you get the picture. Such nice smiles. Are those females flirting with me? Do they think I am hot? OK! Reality check, those nice smiles are them thinking of their grandfather, maybe even great-grandfather. Maybe they aren’t sexy smiles, just kind-to-an-elderly-person smile. Thoughts of a kindly, frail, a bit-confused, slightly eccentric, OLD, grandparent. Dam! Dutch women have enchanting smiles. I know, I married one.
Riding bikes should not be a challenge. Narda’s 92-yearold uncle who had two knee replacements, one at 91, rides every day. Sure enough I managed to fall off. Twice. The second time was in the old-town, so many folks on bikes, so fast, I moved over and hit the curve and sure enough not only fell but hit my head, lucky I was wearing a helmet; something locals rarely do. Knocked my glasses off, got a few cuts and scrapes, several people helped me up. Shattered ego.
We rode to Utrecht centrum several days, bought and tasted cheese, and took another armful of photos of the Dom (Domtoren, the 14th-century bell tower) as we do every time we come to Utrecht. We go into details of this area in our previous blogs (2009, 2017, 2006). Of course, our old video clips are the best way to see this area: The Dom, Boating in Utrecht, Old Utrecht and of course the one from this trip = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBJhZgMqB6A
Today we went to visit two of Narda’s uncles and a cousin. Remarkable Oom Pete (oom being Dutch for uncle) (remarkable because he had his second knee reconstruction at 91 and is now riding his bike most days). We have stayed with Rienk before and in his 80s is feisty as ever. He has a great German World War 2 boat which he has taken us around the canals of Utrecht.
After two-weeks at our home-exchange we moved to our Airbnb, Tugboat the Anna from 1927, https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/4426214, on the river Vecht. Our host from our house exchange drove us the half hour there which made the transition from a large home to a tiny home easy. We loved the boat and the area. We were here for four-days. The space was small compared to a larger space (and of course a larger space larger than a large space but who is measuring?) but hey, who is complaining? We could bump our head inside our cabin, worry about falling in the river crossing over on the narrow plank to the boat, drop our cameras into the River Vecht or wonder what happens when we poo in the toilet – yes, we can now tell you where it all goes. It goes into the river. Apparently, as we were told, due to the age of the boat, and size, that which goes into the loo goes into the river – directly. Of course, we did not look out the porthole to confirm if anything floated by, saying all that, we did make good meals in the kitchen and spent time riding on the bikes provided.
We rode around the quaint small town of Oud-Zuilen where there is castle, Slot Zuylen Castle. Being the tightwads that we are, we took sandwiches and ate on the lawn of the castle rather than go to the overpriced café and we watched a YouTube video about the castle instead of paying lots to go inside and see it. An economical day out can easily involve packing a lunch and reading internet pages and viewing online clips about the inside of a place. Some museums are surely worth the money and some restaurants are worth the bother but save fifty bucks a day on a three-month trip and that is more than four-thousand dollars. Do a house exchange with a car included and that can be worth more than five-thousand dollars a month. There are ways to do Europe for months at a time on a budget and still have a great time.We found a couple of windmills and did lots of riding on trails into the Dutch countryside. Our hosts in Germany did a four-day bike riding trip recently (Germany is our next blog) and they are 78 years old and they took their cousins with them (both in their 80s). Because of their age they only go thirty kilometres a day then stay at a hotel. Narda’s uncle in Utrecht, after his second knee reconstruction, age 92, rides his bike to his son’s house most days. Hopefully we will still be riding around various countries when we are much older too. The concept of being tethered to a car is a bit repulsive, limiting, imprisoning, crap.
We had thought dragging our stuff out of the boat area would be difficult but there is a bus stop within walking distance of the river which we managed to keep from falling into and we got to Utrecht Centraal a couple of hours before we had planned. The train to Gouda from Utrecht is only eighteen minutes and the walk to our Airbnb took us half an hour. We are still dragging too much stuff with us and as usual are realizing we need less than we have. Our week rental home was an older arty quaint two-floor plus attic house within walking distance of the old quarter of Gouda. We explored the Church of St John ~ ‘Sint Janskerk’ (The Netherland’s longest church)
built for and by the Catholics in the sixteenth century but after the reformation the Protestants grabbed it and have held on to it since.
In our Utrecht clip there are a few minutes of organ music as well as shots from inside this beautiful building. Included with the entrance fee of about six Euros is a listening device which very clearly explains the many huge stained-glass windows – one of the better information deliveries I have found at any museum. Plan to spend at least an hour here to get the low down on all the capers that went on in this neck of the woods. Wikipedia has lots about it over at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sint_Janskerk and if you want to jump to see just the stained-glass trip hop over to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sint_Janskerk. My suggestion is to just watch our video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBJhZgMqB6A . Better yet check out their page http://www.sintjan.com/ with great photos and stories told. There are many windows like the one below.
Gouda of course is the cheese place and apparently there are seven different types, but I cannot recall which was the best. I think it was the fifth one we tried. We also found out that Gouda cheese accounts for 50 – 60% of the world’s cheese consumption (I read it on the internet).
In the bike-mad country of The Netherlands there is always a better bike – this one below has a bit of a rustic appeal.
Below is a Photoshop rendered image from the centre of town. I manipulate photos for my writings that I post on Twitter (https://twitter.com/neuage), Google+ (https://plus.google.com/u/0/collection/E_6JaB), tumblr (http://neuage.tumblr.com/), pinterest (https://www.pinterest.com.au/neuage/picture-poems-by-terrell-neuage/), behance (https://www.behance.net/neuage), linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/neuage) and most other sharing sites.
Below is the town hall. (not Photshopped) Unlike our house exchanges our Airbnb places usually do not include a bike so we rented one for a day and rode morning to night. There are bike paths to country farms and along rivers. We had lunch beneath this lift bridge below – see our video to see this in action. What we found unusual was that it did not lift at one end but the whole bridge moved up.
And that was The Netherlands, again. I wrote a lot less this time because not only have we done this six or seven times before and written heaps then, but our daily life was riding bikes most of the day, making dinner at home and watching our television shows in the evening. House exchanges were best for us as we could live ‘like a local’ and as we would spend more time in one place, life became a pleasant routine. Of course, we shopped at Jumbo, our favourite grocery store. I was able to fulfil my foody-needs; low-carb, vegetarian, slightly-organic, affordable, tasty, Narda-eye-rolling meals. Next up is Berlin for a month, of course if someone in our family was to read this, they would rightfully claim not only are we past Berlin, but we are through our next couple of stops in the UK and headed off to Spain; but, this is a slower process this time. Earlier in the year when we were in India for three-months we wrote every day and posted many videos. This trip we are just living our life – though most mornings I spend an hour or two on my textual-images that I play around with in Photoshop and other programs and I have listed a few of the places I post them above. I do the same thing back in Adelaide and I have been doing textual illustrations since the 1960s – making this a very routine part of my life. We love to travel – the idea of living life on the road or at home in quite the same fashion appeals to me. At seventy-one having routines is quite comfortable and I write every night and have for more than fifty years and most mornings I find a way to illustrate something I had written the night before; doing this anywhere in the world: in a new setting home, on a plane, train, bus, even in a park using my phone makes this a life that has a continuous flow, with everywhere being home. The only difference is I have a shed full of crap back in Adelaide which is nice and for some reason Narda won’t let me carry it all with me. Narda writes as much or more than me, though she does it by hand and pastes in photos of places, meaning she did not write a lot here, though I refer to her notes for a hook to remember things.
Next little blog will be our month in Berlin. Thanks for sharing.