Don’t you wish holidays lasted forever? Almost seems like a lifetime has passed since I returned from my Sydney-New York-Amsterdam-Berlin-Amsterdam-Sydney jaunt.
Last time, I blogged about New York, which was hotter than July. Today I’ve got a Dutch treat for you! Most of my family lives in the land of clogs and tulips, and I had a wonderful time with them. Sorry again to my niece for crashing her brand-new omafiets into a pole — at least there was no damage to the bike. Plenty of damage to me, though. Grapefruit-sized bruise on my thigh. A bruised ear. Oh, and a suspected fractured thumb. Ouch! This still doesn’t compare to the bike crash I had in Berlin. More on that next time.
When I wasn’t hanging out with my family and falling off bikes, I was travelling all over Holland as part of my World War II research for a new book — Arnhem, Rotterdam, Maastricht, Utrecht, and dozens of charming little villages in between. We stopped off at Barneveld, a town in the middle of the country and home of the Barnevelder breed of chicken.
I visited a gentleman who was a teenager during WWII and whose father was a member of the Dutch Resistance. I’m really grateful to him for sharing so many fascinating but harrowing stories (and to my brother-in-law for translating). He has a private collection of wartime artefacts, including hollowed-out books that were used by the Resistance to conceal weapons and tiny homemade radios. It’s said Holland’s Prince Bernhard wanted a sabre from this collection, and when the prince wanted something, he usually got it. But my gentleman friend refused to give it to him and sent the prince slinking away empty-handed.
If you’re ever in Amsterdam and want to learn more about how the Dutch dealt with the Nazi Germany occupation, I highly recommend visiting the Verzetzmusem (Dutch Resistance Museum). I visited Anne Frank House on a previous trip to Holland, and that was also incredibly moving.
But my trip wasn’t all about the war. It was also about ice-cream, getting dressed up in funny costumes, finding the perfect patat met (= fries with mayo). In Rotterdam, we went to the awesome Market Hall. An apartment complex arches over the food hall, so if you have a flat there, you can look out your bedroom window at all the cheeses, seafood, vegies, meaty things and sweets. We wolfed down burgers at an excellent joint called Firma Pickles. On the way back, we passed the famous Cube Houses. My pic of the exterior is below, and here’s a YouTuber’s video of the interior if you’re curious. Caution: It may cause dizziness!
Maastricht is a gorgeous town right down the very bottom of Holland, near the German and Belgian borders. My sister and I went into a centuries-old man-made limestone cave system. The tour guide turned out the gas lamps after a while and left us to find our way in total darkness for five minutes. All part of the tour, of course. We were told the Dutch hid priceless artworks, like Rembrandt’s Night Watch, deep in the caves during WWII. Maastricht is also home to an impressive cathedral that is now a bookshop. That’s what I call heavenly!
The Netherlands is one of my favourite places on earth to visit. The people are wonderful, especially my family. 🙂 I love, love, LOVE the bike infrastructure as well as the ancient architecture and those tall, crooked townhouses. But a word of warning to travellers — credit cards are not accepted everywhere. I couldn’t use my Australian debit/credit cards for train ticket vending machines, for booking museum tix online, and some physical stores wouldn’t take non-Dutch cards. American Express is pretty much dead to retailers. So try to keep a little cash on you for those patat met purchases.
Next time, on my third and last Around the World in 21 Days post, Berlin! For now, enjoy a bunch of random pictures from my time in Holland.
Dag (= goodbye)!