12 November 2007

In Holland

Preface: I traveled through Morocco with a dear friend I met ten years ago in Ghana, West Africa. When we lived there people constantly asked us, "Are you twins?" which at the time seemed laughable because she is a least a foot taller then I am and has bright red hair while mine is brown not to mention the fact that she is from the Netherlands and I from North America. However, I often wonder if the Ghanians didn't see something beyond the surface, something other then "all white people look alike", because although it's been seven years since we saw each other last and much has happened to both of us in that time, both good and bad, it was as if we had only seen each other moments before. After Morocco I had the luxury of being able to travel to her home in Holland and finally meet her husband and two children (who thought it was about time the met me). It's one of the most amazing connections that seems to persist no matter how outwardly different our lives might appear and I am grateful for it.

So here are some images from a wonderful visit with a dear friend which included such delights as bicycling everywhere, playing with her kids, going horse riding, eating luscious Dutch cheese, joking with her husband, having dinner with her mother, bird watching at a local park, walking through autumn leaves, going grocery shopping. We were both recovering from salmonella that we caught in Morocco (did I mention that?) so we were lazier then we otherwise might have been. At the end we both felt so strange saying goodbye because in so many ways it felt like I had always been there, sleeping in their attic.

Notable Smells: farmlands and manure, rain and water, fresh cheese, autumn leaves, rich chocolate and hot tea, line dried laundry

Notable Noises: small children playing in the streets, the sound of bicycle bells, migrating geese, crunching of leaves underfoot, the sound of children in the house, laughter

Look at all those bicycles!!! There was about a kilometer of them, this picture doesn't show the half of them. This is the bus/ train station. I don't think there are this many bikes in the entire US. I love watching the bicylicists during rush hour in Holland: men with their ties flying out behind them, women in fashionable skirts and boots, and teenagers in packs often with linked arms down the pathways.

A village street. Notice the bicycles (you wouldn't imagine that I'm in favor of bicycle commuting from reading this post would you?). Here we went into a delightful store that specialized in freshly roasted nuts. Yum!

Fall colors at a lakeside park.

At a bike trail crossroads...and the bike I borrowed from my "twin's" neighbor. I tell ya', they don't make bikes like this in the USA. This was the limousine of bicycles. I have recently been trying to get a pedal power operated light for my bike because it is cold enough here that batteries freeze up and then I end up with no light. The main response I seem to be getting is that it isn't available because after all they would slow you down! Well, this lovely bike comes with one built into the frame and it even has an automatic setting that turns it on when it gets dusky out. And it may be that it slows me down but you'd hardly notice unless you were in a race and that's not something I'm planning on doing any time soon. Ooo - and this has a cool built in lock that just goes around the back tire, no need for a bike rack. I want one!

My "twin" and her two children (faces obscured) using a common mode of transportation. When we went to pick up her oldest child (rear seat) at school I noticed that only two of the parents had driven to pick up their kids, the rest had either ridden bikes with similar child seating arrangements or walked. Notice too, the lack of helmets, the Dutch think Americans are absolutely hysterical over helmet safety.

Just boating through the neighborhood. Something that one can do most anywhere in Holland due to all of the canals.

Traditional thatch roofing on a farm house.

A picture of the village that my "twin" lives in.


  1. Friends like that are a rare and precious commodity! Glad to hear you had a good time.

    About the bicycle helmets, I wonder if bicyclists in Holland are actually safer than those in the US because there are more of them and car drivers are more careful around them?

  2. What a lovely tour of Holland, I have a friend leaving for Amsterdam in 2 weeks to work at the University. I will share this with her. I understand your story of your friend. We found a Celtic phrase "anam cara" -soul friend that seems to suit.

  3. It is so nice to have friendships like this - where the passage of time is like the blink of an eye.

    I, too, wonder if the lack of cars makes it nicer to ride a bike there. Loving the pics, especially the canal.

  4. i love these glimpses, particularly the additions of sounds and smells.

    how lucky you are to have that kind of a connection. how fun!

  5. mad hatter & qt ~ interestingly there have been scientific studies (Dr. Ian Walker, Bath University) recently that show that automobile driver's feel they can get closer to bikers wearing helmets and that this actually increases the chance of collision. This makes some sense as studies also show that drivers are more cautious if there are no road signs then if there are. Of course, if one is doing stunts or super fast biking (or new to biking) a helmet is good protection against brain injury.

    doris rose ~ soul friend, yep, that about sums it up.

    maypole ~ glad you like them! I'm a multi-sensory kind of gal and although pictures say a lot they lack some of the more subtle things that make up an environment.

  6. The fall colors are so nice. This year has been dry, so the colors have been disappointing. Just think how much healthier Americans would be if they road bicycles for local errands.

    Thanks for not describing the salmonella, been there, done that, bought the t-shirt :)

  7. ms chica ~ no problem ;) I figure that would be WAY too much information.

    Yeah, I think we would be healthier too - as would our environment. Think about how much less gas we would consume? How much less fat our kids would be?

  8. ahhh, fresh cheese, old friends and bikes...this trip keeps getting better and better! its really too bad that this style of bike is passed over in favor of the racers and cliff huckers that we're told to buy. they can be had here, breezer makes some good ones, but when i went to find the website, i came across This Place which sells sweet dutch bikes that seem far beyond what we have here. anyway, thanks for this post, very inspiring and luxurious.

  9. matte ~ yeah, I'm familiar with the Breexer bikes, and they're nice but they really don't compare to what's available in Holland. I'll check out your site! (And I'm remembering I need to buy studded tires too - oopps - meant to do that earlier).

  10. It sounds like you have a very valuable friendship there. Those kind of friends are always worth holding on to.

    I remember when I went Amsterdam a long time ago being amazed by all the bicycles. I wish that here in the US we had more more of a bike culture.


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