Sunday, June 28, 2009

Jessica's European Favorites: Holland, Part 1

After 3 full and enjoyable days in Paris, we boarded a train for Amsterdam. I've wanted to visit The Netherlands since I was very young, having heard quite a bit about it from family and friends. We've talked about taking a trip there since I was about 6.

Well, 19 years later, we made it. And after having visited once, I can't wait to go back. I fell in love with the canals, the cute little towns, and the skinny houses. People in shops and restaurants looked a lot like your standard Grand Rapids, MI stock - tall, blond, and freckled. We fit right in.

So, what did I enjoy about Holland? Hm... how to narrow it down...

Well, there were the bikes.

Dutch people are nuts about their bikes. They're everywhere, all the time. THE preferred form of transportation. And if you have kids? Just load 'em on. My mom called this one "the minivan":
You can fit two kids in the front cart, and one in the seat on back.

If I lived there, I'd want something like this:

And outside Centraal Station, there's this structure. A parking garage. A BICYCLE parking garage.

And I definitely fell in love with dutch houses. The tall, the skinny, and the quaint.

Especially fun if they're on canals.

Ahh... beautiful.

I want one. And I'd put a little box in front for wooden shoes.

Some of them are a teensy bit crooked. Like this guy on the left:
Hi, buddy.

Aren't the gables cute? Some peaked, some bell-shaped, some stair-stepped.

If you're ever traveling to The Netherlands, I recommend staying in a central place and taking day trips into the countryside. We rented a little flat near the train station and had a blast exploring a bunch of Dutch towns. One that I really liked was Haarlem.

This was the main square, anchored by the massive town church:
The streets were pretty and the shopping was good.

One of the reasons I've always wanted to visit Holland was that it is the place where my family comes from. My dad's family immigrated a year or so before he was born, so Dutch culture, memories, and food were a significant part of family parties growing up. We made sure to include some "family history tour" stops on our itinerary.

We saw (and LOVED) the small town where my Opa grew up - Brielle.

You know, I loved it so much I think it deserves a post of its own, even though Josh already covered it. Stay tuned.

Anyway, we really enjoyed the history part of the visit. Opa grew up on this street - how darling is it?

Later that day we drove down to Drimmelen, a little town where my grandparents lived before they moved to the U.S. Several of my aunts and uncles were born there, and Opa worked as a water policeman on the nearby canals.

We went to this little cafe and my dad started chatting it up with a few old men. A couple of them actually remembered my family from back in the '50s.
All of us Witte children were told of the jail cell that was a part of my grandparents' house. Since Opa was a policeman, it must have been handy to have nearby. I believe it was usually reserved for the town drunk, but my clever grandparents also used it as an excellent place for "time out."

Well, this was the house with the jail cell:
And here is where they lived before that:


Lynn said...

What amazing memories. So glad you got to experience the country as well as a piece of your family history.

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