Home…

It has taken a while to get to this. Jet lag has been a killer this time, plus not feeling 100% well on our return has really hammered me. Or maybe I am just getting old.

We had an “interesting” final week, some of which shall remain untold. But the highlight, maybe of the whole trip, was a day to what were a couple tourist traps, one of which was a fabulous look at working windmills.

First to an old fishing village that apparently was kind of locked in time until about 30 years ago. They had very strict rules about what people could wear and who they could associate with. Unfortunately the place is also remembered for a fatal fire in 2000

You get a hint of the fishing wharf in the picture above, but it does get a lot better.

Row of old boats at wharf

I think those are the real thing, the one below is cool, but a reproduction

Old Dutch sailing ship
Row of old blocks on a sailing ship

A different boat

Figure head on old dutch sailing boat

Then it was off to one of those historical village type places. It is pretty extensive with a not so good “cheese experience” where there were loads of different cheeses to taste, but they didn’t actually make any cheese there. In fact, that might be my only disappointment, I didn’t get to see a working cheese factory. There were also lolly makers, bakers and all the traditional stuff being made by people wearing traditional clothing. It was also cold and wet πŸ˜›

Four windmills in the Netherlands

But the windmills were fantastic. Being a tight arse I was reluctant to pay to go into any of them but eventually, since it was actually working, we went into a saw mill, which I think is the left hand one in the picture above.

These aren’t original mills. They are faithful reproductions from the originals. But they were built pretty much exactly as the originals were and I have to say it was incredible. We spent about an hour in the saw mill. Although it is a working business, it is mostly run by volunteers who speak good English and are as enthusiastic as you would expect. I applied for a volunteer job ;o)

Inside dutch sawmill showing log being cut by blades
ropes hanging on a wall in dutch windmill
Yes, that is an authentic traditional chain saw

The saw miller – he owns the business – actually wore clogs. I am not sure they are comfortable, but they likely would be classed as safety footwear.

Rows of clogs hanging on a wall (not souvenirs)

This is a winch that is driven by the windmill and when it is engaged it hauls a log up from the canal. It was all very impressive

Gears in dutch windmill
View inside dutch windmill
People standing at the stop of very narrow staircase

I just can’t get around my brain fog to edit a bunch of videos into something coherent, so here are some to give an idea of the day.

Next time Aussies whinge about the price of petrol, this is what it was like in The Netherlands

Dutch fuel price board

“Oh, it is only $2.36” I hear you say. Let me remind you that 1 Euro (I wish I had a Euro symbol on my keyboard) = $1.50 Australian. So fuel is about $AUD3.50 per litre. People don’t seem to care much.

And then we headed home, but that wasn’t without its trials. Firstly, the Australian Government makes you fill out of Digital Passenger Declaration that you are Covid vaccinated and where have you been and so on. But it has to be about the most painful online experience I have ever gone through. It is as though the app was created by a work experience teen with a grudge.

Then to the airport, always so much fun, especially on a weekend, especially when there is a public transport strike.

lines of people at airport

In case you are curious, this is more or less the layout to get into security (on the left)

They have to hold people at the bottom of the stairs, it is so crowded at the top. It is just ridiculous how under-staffed airport check-ins are.

And if you wondered whether some people were making a lot of money out of Covid, this was a big ad in Singapore airport

Advertisement for covid test at airport

But at least this time the butterflies were awake, though it was a little dark to get good shots

Thanks to all our Dutch friends and family for making the trip fantastic.

de Stijl’n in den Haag

After two and a half weeks in the Netherlands we have reached the point where I am saying “we leave next weekend, there’s still so much to do!”.

I was keen to head back to Amsterdam, but we couldn’t see how it could fit into other things. Then, out of the blue, Angela and Martin to the unintended rescue (again) when they called on Saturday morning and said “We are heading to Amsterdam tonight for beer tasting, want a ride?”.

Their event was a private thing, but that was perfect as it meant we had a few hours to just wander, which we certainly did.

Amsterdam really is a beautiful city. Nothing needs to be added to create a great vibe.

This wall, outside a museum, had panels from 17th century buildings embedded. See if you can figure out the occupation of the residents.

If you guessed that the CCTV camera represented a spy, you may be right.

Jump back to the map and at the bottom you will see an area called Spui, which is a sort of square surrounded by restaurants and bars. With the backdrop of the old buildings and it being a beautiful evening, it was just delightful sitting having a beer and people watching.

No matter where you walk, there is another gorgeous view.

They weren’t dummies in the 17th century. If you had a 3 story building with a hoist at the top and front it made sense to not have your goods banging into the wall. So as well as the beam hanging out, buildings also leaned forward. It all looks a bit wonky, but adds to the charm.

The buildings, and therefore the bars, are narrow and cool…

with a huge range of beers.

Let’s move on from Amsterdam.

I know I rattle on about bikes, but this is the sort of bike parking that is provided.

Time to catch up with Jeroen and Margot – I won’t explain the pronounciation, suffice to say it isn’t how you read it in English. They are some more old friends of the Tall One, so we ride (of course) to den Haag (The Hague) and start with the Kuntsmuseum (with a K!) that houses some wonderful surprises.

For a start, there is a large collection of Mondrian works and other artists exploring the new De Stijl movement.

But what really grabbed me was a huge collection of Theo Jansen’s Strandbeests I suggest exploring the link, but to see them in real life was a treat indeed.

They even had some that you can play with.

The only thing that would be better would be to see Theo trialling one in the wild at the local beach. Jeroen has…lucky bugger.

Oh, and there were also works by van Gogh, Picasso, Rodin, Monet..you know, all the European favourites.

But it gets better. We head back to Margot and Jeroen’s house and it is in a 100 year old block designed by Jan Wils during the De Stijl era. This is a notable historic building and has several books written about it. Apparently Mondrian designed the fireplace and some internal doors, and it looks like it.

Of course we then settled down to a typical afternoon “snack”.

There was also plenty of discussion about music, and of course, art.

Later we ride back to Wassener, which should be fun, it is raining.

It’s June 2nd everywhere

Celebrating a brthday in a different time zone is a little weird.

It started at 4PM Netherlands time which is midnight in Eastern Australia. We were hanging out, ready for an evening at home when the Tall One announced that we had been invited to Martin and Angela’s place for an hour. It registered as a little odd, but I left it at that.

A 10 minute bike ride and as we walk in I notice smiles on faces and pathetic attempts to conceal them. I figured something was up but, unlike me, I decided not to spoil anything.

Soon I was ordered to close my eyes and voila, a cheese cake (literally) with candles. Surprise! πŸŽ‰πŸŒŸπŸ€‘πŸŽ‰πŸ˜€

I haven’t asked if this was a gag or just to hold it together.

Cheese and beer transformed into cheese and tasting several 26 year old whiskeys, yummm. Tha Tall One had a sip, spluttered and very generously left the rest for me.

When we left at 10:30PM Wassener was still struggling to get dark, fortunately, because it was a bit of a wobbly ride home.

Thanks for all the beautiful birthday wishes. If you really loved me you would have remembered that 8AM in Eastern Australia is midnight in the Netherlands. A bit of a disturbed sleep as birthday pings happened through the night.

Aside: Tall One’s father needed something looked at in the hospital this morning. There on the shelf is the hospital magazine with CliniClowns on the cover. Nice!

Tea, your majesty?

If asked what is my favourite thing about the Netherlands, so far it is definitely (still?) the bicycle culture. We go riding every day, ranging from the shops 2 minutes away, to relatives and friends 10 minutes away and a 30km round trip to The Hague yesterday. Today we are heading to the beach.

Den Haag is another city where the centre is full of beautiful old buildings. Here’s the parliament house from the outside

Dutch parliament house

and here it is from a courtyard, which is as far in as we could get.

Dutch parliament house courtyard

There are plenty of museums if you are so inclined. From a website of The Hague attractions…

  • Kunstmuseum Den Haag is a museum for modern art and crafts. The museum is best known for its collection of works by painters of the Hague School, Mondrian, Picasso, Van Doesburg, Monet and Toorop. The current building, designed by the Dutch architect Berlage, was opened in 1935. – we are going here on the weekend.
  • The Mauritshuis has been a museum since 1822, with mainly paintings from the Golden Age. The permanent collection includes Girl with a Pearl Earring and View of Delft by Johannes Vermeer, ‘Soo fed sung, soo na pept’ by Jan Steen, The bull by Paulus Potter and The anatomy lesson by Dr. Nicolaes Tulp by Rembrandt van Rijn – closed for new exhibition.
  • The Louwman Museum is a museum for automobiles. The museum aims to provide a picture of what the automotive industry has produced since 1887.
  • Panorama Mesdag is a cylindrical panorama painting about 14 meters high and with a circumference of 120 meters. The painting, which is one of the oldest surviving panoramas in the world, is a view of the North Sea, the dunes, The Hague and Scheveningen.
  • Museum Voorlinden is a private museum for modern and contemporary art on the Estate Voorlinden in Wassenaar. It houses the art collection of Joop van Caldenborgh, the largest private art collection in the Netherlands – on the edge of Wassener and a good place for a couple of new props.
  • Escher in the Palace is an art museum on Lange Voorhout. It is housed in the Palace Lange Voorhout, dating from 1764, and since 2002 has housed a permanent exhibition devoted entirely to the work of the Dutch graphic artist Maurits Cornelis Escher.
  • The Hague Historical Museum is a museum on the Korte Vijverberg about the history of The Hague.
  • Phototomuseum The Hague is a museum in the field of photography. The museum was founded in 2002 as part of the Kunstmuseum Den Haag. It organizes approximately six exhibitions per year on the most diverse periods, disciplines and genres of photo history, often focusing on people.
  • Prison Gate Museum is a medieval prison. A museum has been located in the building since 1882.
  • The Museon is a popular science museum with collections on diverse subjects such as geology, biology, history and much more.
  • The Mesdag Collection is the former home of Hendrik Willem Mesdag (1831-1915), painter of seascapes, among other things. Besides being a painter, Mesdag was a great art collector. He had a museum built for his exceptional collection. He built this museum right next to his home and opened it to art lovers in 1887.
  • And more…

This is the obligatory “we visited the cafe where you used to work” photo for someone Tall One knows. I could get into a rant about lousy customer service where a “coffee and apple cake” special can’t be modified to a “hot chocolate and apple cake” order because “the till isn’t set up for that”, but I won’t.

woman sitting at cafe on street, holding menu
street scene I The Hague with woman standing holding 2 bicycles

The ride to den Haag took us through a lush green forest and past the residence of the Netherlands king. I made a polite request that we come in and have some tea with the king. The guard struggled for an answer, I am not sure if it was a language issue, but eventually the only response was a disappointing “no”.

When I started to take this photo, the guard became camera shy, I almost got him after shouting “hey!” and he stuck his head out, but I wasn’t quick enough. Though I did avoid getting shot or arrested.

Grand building at end of tree lined driveway. Residence of Dutch king.

It would be an oversight if I didn’t give an update on the Bremen greenhouse. A puzzle indeed, with almost every stage being done at least once incorrectly before being figured out.

Just before we left to return to Wassener it was like this. I take full credit for the 4 opening windows, including the challenge of installing an automatic opener on one.

people assembling greenhouse

A few hours later and we received a message that the job was done. One might be tempted to suggest that things moved quicker after we left, but that would be unkind.

greenhouse in garden setting

Back to bicycles, you can imagine if there are more bikes than people they need to be managed in public areas, and they are. There are plenty of shopping streets that are pedestrian only or no bike parking. But leave a bike that looks derelict and it is removed to the bike pound where it costs €22 ($30AUD) to get it back. These ones have been tagged for removal in 7 days.

bicycles with removal tags attached

In Amsterdam, thousands of bikes are stolen every year. This seems odd as most people seem to already have a bike. Maybe they belonged to someone else originally. If your bike is impounded you can look for it here https://www.verlorenofgevonden.nl/overzicht?search=fietsendepot+amsterdama

Pinch and a punch for the first of the month.

Bremen, Germany

We have headed to Bremen in Germainy for the weekend. Being from Australia, where we are so internationally isolated, it is bizarre hearing peope say things like “I am going to France/England/Spain/Somewhere for the weekend”, much less doing it. It only takes four hours on a couple of trains with one anxity causing transfer, and we are there. Some things do help get there quickly.

screen display in train showing fast speed of 194kph

We are here to visit Christa, a lifelong friend of the Tall One, and her partner Helmut. They met during holidays when they were kids, became pen pals (when people use to do such things) and have a shared love of art. Here she is in front of one of her works in a bookshop window in Bremen.

woman standing around in front of a painting 🎨 inside a shop window display

To say we are being treated well by our hosts is an understatement. We have bikes, we are shown around, we eat. Even breakfast is an experience; plenty of yummy dark bread, loads of cheeses and some home made strawberry jam. I am not fond of jam, it is usually too sweet, so when I say that this is just fantastic, you can be sure it is.

2 women sitting at a table that has lots of cheese and bread

The only thing Christa and Helmut haven’t organised well is the weather. The wind is cold and strong and it is showery. But so far we have managed to time our bike rides to fit between the rain.

We headed into central Bremen which like most cities in Europe, dates back to the 16th century and earlier. Apart from Rotterdam (and others no doubt), which has no old buildings and has mostly been rebuilt, Europeans were lucky that the older parts of most cities seemed to escape bomb damage during WWII.

I just realised I skipped ahead a couple of days, so let’s rewind to Thursday, “Father’s Day”, but not like the Father’s Day we know, where the idea is to spend time with dad and be thankful.

In Bremen at least, Father’s Day is celebrated by going cycling with other fathers, taking along lots of beer and loud music. They were having fun and were friendly, so didn’t spoil our 25km ride along a dedicated bike track through what I think is a conservation area. I even managed to score a beer from one group, I wish I had taken a photo.

As we rode, I was stopping regularly. I am still captivated by the thatched roofs…they are just beautiful. So are the women πŸ₯°

two women with bicycles standing in front of old house with thatched roof.
building with thatched roof
building with thatched roof

This is a little bit of what it was like.

Did I mention food yet? When we got home it was time to make a Dutch favourite, apple cake. The pictures might do the talking…

Back to our city ride, unless I realise I have missed something else. It is about a 30 minute ride into the centre of Bremen, easy cycling because a) it is flat with plenty of bike lanes and b) cyclists have right of way.

The centre is dominated by a big square surrounded by old buildings including a Protestant church that recently had its floor removed for an archeological dig. They found graves of bishops dating back hundreds of years and many of the artifacts are now on display in a fabulous museum. For the pendants, yes, they put the floor back…

This was the church Christa had attended, so while not getting special celestial access, she did have some local knowledge, including that you could climb to the top of the spire via a spiral staircase, so tight that passing people was a real squeeze and photos just didn’t work. But we were high above Bremen, including above the bell.

church bell in tower, from above.

The old buildings are beautiful, if only we could remove the tourists (irony noted).

old building in Bremen

In case you were wondering, yes that is a Ukrainian flag, they are pretty much everywhere in Europe…except maybe Russia.

wrought iron hanging from front of building

There is a fairy tale about some animals that stood on each other’s back and pretended to be a monster to scare something away: I think I missed this one as a kid. But it is pretty popular here including being made into a statue.

statue of animals on top of each other from fairy tale

Touching the legs brings you good luck…really…I did my research.

2 people standing beside statue
fancy door of church in Brehmen

But not everything is old

modern stairs way with angles and colours
it’s the angles…

Of course, McDonalds makes their own unique contribution to the beautification of this historic part of Bremen.

McDonalds with rubbish outside
This is right on the main square, note the old buildings in the reflections

As if that wasn’t enough for a day, we came home, made an excellent ratatouille and had dinner with more guests, then went for a drive (normally a bike ride, but it was raining on and off) to the rhododendron garden. Who knew there are so many different varieries.

First, a panorama that won’t do the scene justice

panorama of beautiful flowers

Choose your favourite, I don’t think there are any duplicates.

If the showers stop I will try to fix the front step and then we will no doubt tear some hair out trying to finish building this. Best to think of it as a 3D puzzle.

frame of hot bouse

I was about to publish, when a friend of Helmut’s arrived for a visit. Not being German and not being a soccer fan, I didn’t recognise Marco Bode – https://en.m.wikipedia.rg/wiki/Marco_Bode. I don’t think he was offended

I just learned some German – when goingze to der hardwaren, try notten to locken der keysen der caren.

Far canal

people standing around a small boat

Another day, another canal trip. But this time it is in Martin and Angela’s own small boat. It is a glorious Sunday so we are loaded up with supplies and off to Leiden, site of the first side-trip, when the sole mission was beer.

Unlike in Australia, they don’t see the sun often enough to have a sunscreen culture. By the end of the day, pale European skin wasn’t any more. It was mostly a nice pink colour and likely to be a bit tender the next morning.

Dutch flag in foreground on back of boat travelling along canal

Hats off to Martin. Again he demonstrates mad navigational skillz as we head along of series of criss crossing waterways, joining other boats as we all head to Leiden…or somewhere.

The tourist blurb says:

The historic city centre is home to no fewer than 28 kilometres of canals. To cross all these canals, you need bridges, and the city centre alone has no fewer than 88 bridges! The historic city centre is surrounded by water. These surrounding moats, known as singels, enclose many green spaces, which is why this area is called Singelpark. Leiden is fantastic when experienced from the water!

We were chugging along, dropping in at a couple of friends who lived along the water. I said “this has grown to more like a river than a canal” to which I was told “this is the Rhine”. Firstly, I had only ever associated The Rhine with Germany, secondly, I pictured a huge river. This wasn’t.

Seeing a place from the water is almost always more interesting than from the land. For a start you get to see different things. I think this is going to be the roof of a silo

ribbed cone shaped structure, likely the unfinished roof of a silo

the obligatory birdlife photos

two storks sitting on an elevated nest
birds on nest against boat hull

At last, plenty of windmills.

Dutch windmill

Incredibly, they started appearing in the 13th century and at one point there were over 9,000 mills. Some still operate for tourists, the one above was open to visitors. But we were on a mission.

Dutch windmill

Originally they were used to grind grain, saw timber, etc. But most importantly, they pumped water out of the low areas – much of the Netherlands is effectively a drained swamp. Nowadays they are historical monuments that look very cool in the landscape.

Dutch windmill

It was a bit disappointing to discover we were 2 days late for National Mill Day (2nd weekend in May) when the mills open to the public. That is the equivalent of arriving in Australia 2 days after the celebrations because we changed government.

Dutch windmill
Dutch windmill
Dutch windmill

i think this is my favourite shot.

Dutch windmill with sailboat in foreground

Here we are coming into the main old part of town where we could cruise along, sitting in the boat looking very smug, as people in cafes and the streets looked on enviously – otherwise what’s the point?

view of old city from water

The building on the left is dated 1652 or so, about the time the Dutch were visiting what is now Western Australia. Imagine how different our lives and architecture would have been if the land was colonised by the Dutch. I imagine we would still be trying to become a republic, though in fairness, the Dutch did give up their colonies a fair while ago.

old building behind boats on waterfront
old boats along city waterfront

As if being uber-cool cruising the canals isn’t uber-cool enough, we tied up beside an open square and then nonchalantly wandered over one of the 88 bridges for coffee, Dutch apple cake, and beer.

boat parked 8n canal in old city

A beautiful sunny day, if you look through to the other side of the canal, just in front of the waiter with the red apron, you can see our blue boat.

outdoor restaurant with many tables on sunny day

As you can imagine, it was a pretty awesome day out, especially right after Amsterdam. It is great having family or friends in places you visit. It’s often fun for them too, playing tourist for a while.

boat travelling along canal beside old buildings

Finally, just how low were the bridges? This video is of just one of many similar that we passed under. When I have to duck, you know it is low.

Well done Greensland!

Off to Amsterdam with Martin and Angela. It is only a 30 minute or so drive from Wassener and then another 30 minute drive through the city finding somewhere to park πŸ˜› The old city was seemingly built for bicycles. At one point, crossing the road I had to wait about 30 seconds for a break in the stream of cyclists. But I get ahead of myself.

roof bicycles in Amsterdam

Being 7 hours behind in the Netherlands, some things, like news and running 123Host.au are a little wonky. We started hearing the election result at lunchtime and were we not vegetarian, would have hunted down a celebratory election sausage sizzle.

Well done Australia, I wasn’t convinced that enough people had seen through the bullshit and would switch to other, less brown, bullshitters. And some lovely sprinkles on top…Pauline Hanson may lose her senate seat? Greensland, I didn’t think you had it in you. Potato Head as leader of the Liberals…hilarious! I stopped voting Labor years ago…let’s see if they can restore a little of my faith (spoiler, I doubt it).

Let’s start with a poingnant reminder that would be easy to not notice as you wander the streets of Amsterdam. The plaques about are about 75mm square and are dotted around the city in front of houses along the canals. They give details about someone, likely Jewish, who was removed by the Nazis during WWII. To be honest, had they not been pointed out. I likely would not have noticed them, but once you do, they can’t be ignored.

To give you some context, let’s get our bearings, something I should have done before we got there.

Don’t quote me on facts, some may be post-truth. In the 17th century as Amsterdam was expanding as a port, the semicircular canals were dug progressively as the city grew. Merchants and shipping companies built along the canals and were mostly keen to outdo each other and flaunt their wealth.

view along the canal in Amsterdam showing houses and boats

Add into the mix the fact that taxes were paid based on the length of a building’s frontage and savvy business people were soon building narrow, deep and tall, leading to the distinctive streetscapes of Amsterdam.

I admit that I had no idea at all. I knew people flocked here, but I thought it was for the coffeeshops, amongst other things. Well it is the coffeeshops, but now I realise that there is a lot more. Clarification ppoint There is a difference between a coffeeshop and a coffee shop, especially in the items on the menu.

coffeeshop

Cannabis is not legal, but is decriminalised, so coffeeshops kind of look like cafes or bars with people hanging out enjoying their intoxicant of choice, openly and naturally.

Bar in Amsterdam
Beershop

Did I say canal trip? I had no idea what the plan was for the afternoon, mine was the coffeeshop experience at a minimum. Behind my back, a tourist experience was being discussed and pretty soon, there we were, doing something I never would by myself, jumping on a canal tour boat.

Amsterdam canal tour boat

I never thought I would say this, but if you get to Amsterdam, do this tour. Only 13 Euros ($20) and a fantastic way to see many of the canals and have the history described (in any of 19 languages).

So many photos to choose from, I may let them do most of the talking.

Before we actually got on the boat, there were obligatory stops in the “we only sell one (overpriced) thing” stores. I have already mentioned the weed shops and the beer shops, there were also cheese shops galore, as you might expect. But who knew there was a rubber ducky shop

rows of shelves in shop

or a sock shop

shop filled with pairs of socks

But lets get aboard that boat.

rows of blue seats inside a long tourist boar
Amsterdam canal tour boat
houses in amsterdam

A series of bridges up a canal. Aha, this is why the boats are so low.

view under bridge of other bridges in Amsterdam canal
bridge with three openings in Amsterdam

Almost all of these places were warehouses along the canals, so they had a point to hang a block and tackle to haul goods upstairs. Modern houses still include this to move furniture in and out as they are so narrow, negotiating stairways is impossible.

decorated gable on Amsterdam house roof

The ultimate tiny house? At least taxes were low.

very narrow house in Amsterdam

Once we had finished the tour, there was more fun to be had in the beershops…

Bar in Amsterdam

my drink of choice was a 3 beer sampler…my order is always “surprise me”.

2 people enjoying a beer and smiling at camera

These are bitterballen. Deep fried goodiness with a filling traditionally made from meat, but that is so last century. The vego ones we had were scrumptious.

bitterballen - deep fried balls
Street scene in Amsterdam, people walking past buildings

What a fabulous and surprising day out. Of course, photos never do the views justice.

I particularly noticed that there are hardly any run down buildings. They are all in excellent condition, even those not facing the tourist route.

Row of thy house models in a shop window

If you live in one of those tiny houses, you might want to drive a tiny (electric) car.

tiny smart car

I am starting to remember to turn on my GPS tracker. No, we didn’t walk in circles, the big one is the tour boat. I was half convinced that we would never find our car again, but Martin was on the case.

Right at the end of the day there was a Dr Kerfuffle moment

row of teapots in shop window

Beer o’clock

Souvenirs are an essential part of travel. They are brought home then remind of that holiday as they collect dust for years. Then you move on and they are replaced by other souvenirs that begin the cycle anew.

The Tall One’s father has a house full of, rather than souvenirs, curios that might one day pass on to her. As if to tease us about our (still outstanding) trip to India, there is a mini Taj Mahal that I suspect is made from marble and came from India.

model of Taj Mahal alongside other knick knacks

Although it might be a little tricky to transport, bringing it into Australia wouldn’t be a problem. On the other hand, since I am always honest on biosecurity questions, I would have to declare this item.

carved elephant ivory with other knick knacks

Yes, that thing on the left is ivory, appatently a gift from Africa many years ago. It wouldn’t (and shouldn’t) be allowed to be imported. But it does make me wonder about what might happen to such things that are historic yet no longer cool.

We are cycling all over, every day. It is really enjoyable thanks to how integrated bicycles are into the culture. Yesterday we visited the grave of Tall One’s mother. It was a bit creepy seeing Tall One’s exact name on the headstone.

woman pointing at headstone in graveyard

I was relieved to discover that she isn’t a zombie, but was named after her grandmother. Then into the church where I was reprimanded for not being quiet/respectful/guilty/pious enough. Truth be known, I wasn’t being any of those things, but let’s not get into a conversation about my opinion of religion. Having said that, it is a big beautiful church, I can only wonder how they built such huge arches in the early 1900s.

No, she didn’t genuflect or cross herself.

colourful stained glass window in church

2AM might seem a bit late to start eating and drinking, but Gold Coast 2AM is 6PM in the Netherlands. The Tall One’s sister Angela and her husband Martin (Angela’s, not Tall One’s) plus a friend (theirs, not hers) drove us to Leiden, a university town not far from Wassener.

It is old and beautiful.

canal in Netherlands with boats and houses in background

Bikes outnumber cars hundreds to one, it is a treat walking around here. Our destination was the StadtBrouwHuis bar, it was for more than dinner, it was a Dutch brewery experience.

Translated, StadtBrouwHuis is State Brew House, and apart from brewing their own beer, they have a pretty big variety to choose from.

roof handles for pouring beer

I wasnt too interested in big glasses of one or two beers, so negotiated for a series of sampler glasses. Let’s just say I am glad I wasn’t driving, or riding.

table with many half filled glasses of beer
people sitting around table

Rain was forecast for this afternoon so we went riding in the morning. There are several forests around here, all with a network of fietspad (bike paths). One led us to a lovely old building that used to be the local government offices, it is now a reception centre. Except not entirely.

We went inside and while I was looking around, Tall One started chatting to a man who I assumed was the building manager or something like that. I wander over and am introduced to the Mayor of Wassener! After bowing deeply and licking his shoes clean, I half jokingly ask if his office is in the building.

He immediately ushers us through a couple of doors into what can only be described as a sumptuous room that is his office. He told us the story, but there was too much info about the history of the building to remember. Suffice to say it once belonged to the king and the desk and some other furniture is original, dating back to the 17th century.

man and woman in ornate office.  man is mayor of Wassener

Then on to a local modern art gallery.

row of sculptures of people with real person standing in front
sculpture of person standing on head

It is starting to rain, so we will hunker down for the afternoon. Oh, I have seen some windmills, but will wait until I get the money shot.

I do know I have no right to complain about anything, but if you play Wordle, you will understand

https://wordle.davis.net.au 335 X/6

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On yer bike

Day 1 was a looong days (deliberate plural). Door to door it took 34 hours to get from the Gold Coast in Australia to Wassener in the Netherlands. When we eventually went to bed, it was about 7AM body time, 45 hours after leaving home. That trope about falling asleep the moment my head hit the pillow became a reality.

The Tall One had big plans for day 2 despite my suggestion it be a rest day. It is worth noting that due to what turned out to be her misinformation campaign, my expectations about Dutch weather had me anticipating something worse than Melbourne. But it is magnificent! Sunny and warm.

Weirdly, it doesn’t get dark until about 10:30pm and it happens so slowly, there is no dusk, as such. I can only imagine what time it gets dark in late June.

group of parked bikes in netherlands

We’ve all heard about the bicycle culture in the Netherlands, I can report it is absolutely true and I am wondering if it is at all possible to make real in Straya.

Bikes are everywhere, every road has a bike path, there are bicycle specific traffic lights. It is fantastic! The photo above is pretty typical, bike racks are outside every shop, in the streets, all over the place. Notice the bike path, well away from the road, leading into the roundabout.

bikes in bike path at roundabout Netherlands

Even in the roundabouts , bikes are kept separate from cars and cyclists are treated with care by car drivers, unlike in Australia where there is a certain level of contempt.

Another common sight…

children in buggy on front of bicycle

As the woman said, “this is very Dutch”. There are all sorts of variations on this for carrying kids, goods, whatever.

But it gets better. There has been a shift in the culture here where what were once manicured lawns are now allowed to go wild, encouraging insects and therefore, birds. There are definitely a lot more insects here than at home, though as Tall Girl pointed out, they are much bigger in Straya and like everything else, liable to kill you.

long grass in road verge

Just before we left home, I had floated the idea of letting the front lawn go, maybe I will soon have less to mow, at least I now have some ammo to justify my idea.

white flowers growing in grass

We have a couple of bikes and today set off to a beautiful protected area along the coast known as the dunes, because…there are dunes. There is a constant stream of cyclists going in both directions, I can’t quite figure out if they are commuting or just going for a ride. I suspect it is a mixture of both. It is only about 10km to The Hague, the capital of the Netherlands, which is at the end of the substantial and well signed bike path along the coast.

black water birds with white faces sitting on a nest

For those who don’t know me well, I hand-built an earth walled house about 30 years ago. So seeing these beautiful thatched roofs was so wonderful. If only I could see one being replaced or repaired. Though my Dutch isn’t close to good enough to be able to have a conversation…yet…if ever.

house with thatched roof

Banks are extinct here in Wassener for some reason. There literally isn’t one left, which makes getting some cash hard. Apparently the rest of the Netherlands isn’t the same, so not sure what is going on here. But oddly, despite no banks, ATMs are critically endangered, the closest is a 10 minute ride and there is only 1 in each of the local shopping areas.

Finally, I would like to thank big finance for making the exchange rate 1 Euro = 1.5 $AUD which makes calculations easy.

Praise Cheeses

Hooray, borders are open and May 16th has finally arrived. After our non trip to India at the start of 2020 it was good to be travelling again.

Holidays are boring if they get off on the right foot and we had a great start when we thought our ride was taking us to Brisbane airport, but he thought he was taking us to the train to Brisbane airport. Forensic inspection of emails revealed that somewhere I did mention train, but that is no excuse for Dave not knowing I meant airport.

Fortunately, the fear of covid paperwork and airport chaos meant we had left way too early for my liking, but perfect timing for relationship harmony.

As it happened, Brisbane airport is a very big place for there to be only one flight leaving, so checking in was pretty stress free.

people standing in line at airport

But it likely wasn’t so stress free for an amphibian attempting to stow away. The bag owner had no idea where they had picked up a frog on top of their suitcases. With all the rain last week it was likely looking for higher safe ground. Much hilarity as I chased it around the line of passengers. I hope it survives where I released it in the little garden at the front of the airport.

It had been so long I had forgotten the joy of long haul flights. Seven hours to Singapore, 3 hours transit spent trying to spot a single butterfly in the butterfly garden in the airport – haven’t they genetically modify butterflies to be nocturnal yet? – then 13 hours to Amsterdam.

Photos never do justice to sunrises, this is titled Full Moon Rising Over Wing Above Turkey. The flight wasn’t too bad, the entertainment technology is pretty cool these days. Apart from a huge range of movies and TV shows, there is an excellent Where Are We maps thingy with loads of options to help passengers help the pilot not get lost.

And here we are, in Wassener, Netherlands. It has a reputation as an upmarket area, I have told Dutch people this is where I am going and the response is always “oooh, Wassener” and little sounds indicating that Wassenarians (I just made that up) are snobs.

We only arrived at 10 this morning and I already have my favourite cheese shops and bakeries. They are constantly changing as I discover even more amazing cheese shops.

cheese shop

I have been cycling a lot recently and starting to lose weight, this could be my undoing.

cheese shop

I’ll be updating here as often as possible. You can look forward to our trip to Germany and a visit to the notorious Amsterdam cafes. OK, there may be more than one trip to the cafes.