Published: January 27th 2012November 20th 2011
Look left, look right and don’t get hit by a bike! Bikes are everywhere in the Netherlands and I got to see what happens when people leave their bike at the train station for too long.. the bike police cut the lock, bike gets loaded onto a truck and if you want it back, you have to pay and pick it up from somewhere! I think bike fines far outweigh car fines in this bike-crazy country! At 81 years fit, Opa (mum’s dad) still rides his bike from Blacktown to Box Hill – a lot further than I would attempt! You might be able to take a Dutchman out of his country, but you can’t take a Dutchman off his bike!
I hope you got the chance to read my last blog ‘Making Memories in the Motherland’, because here we go for a double serve of my time in the Netherlands, this time exploring my dad’s side of the family.
After the war, my Opa (dad’s dad) and his eleven siblings were separated in search of safety and new opportunities. Two children moved to Canada, four moved to Australia (my Opa one of them) and the remaining six stayed
in the Netherlands (Alex’s Opa being one of them). Before the bakers dozen (Woldhuis children) were sadly divided, they lived in the small town of Niehove
and ran a bakery from the same building. I was delighted to hear I come from a family of bakers since I love to bake cakes! Niehove
is à terpdorp
, which means it is built on a hill. The small towns church stands in the centre, with houses, including the Wold-huis and bakery surrounding it. A particular customer at the bakery caught my Opa’s eye and that lovely lady was Anne. Anne worked for the Mayor in a near-by village called Oldehove
, love blossomed, they got married, had six children (my dad being the youngest) and moved to Australia. What a fairy-tale! So that’s my family history in short from the humble bakery beginnings.
Alex and I drove to the city and province of Groningen
to first visit his mama en papa (his mum is my dad’s cousin - I'm learning more Dutch!), René and Jeannet. His dad’s first words were "you’re a little Nicolette
!" (I guess one of the kids had to take after such a wonderful woman and carry the gene's!).
We enjoyed lunch there before visiting his grandparents near-by. Alex’s Opa (Hillechienus) is my late Opa’s (Willem) younger brother. My Opa passed away when I was only a year old and I am told that Hillechienus looks just like his older brother, my dad’s dad (good Dutch looks run in both sides of the family!). Got all that?!
It was a wonderful and moving experience to be able to meet someone so closely related to someone I never knew. He spoke very little English however that didn’t stop him from showing me family photo albums, the marriage, birth and death record of the Woldhuis family and giving me a drawing of the family bakery to take home. It was so nice to connect my dad’s side of the family and discover my other half Dutch identity. I guess that makes me ‘Double Dutch’!
A trip to the Netherlands is not complete without a cruise up a canal and seeing some grain milling machines called windmills! Alex and I spent a day in the capital, Amsterdam
. We enjoyed a relaxing canal boat ride down the narrow canals, taking in the sites such as the Opera House, harbour and town
houses (that have incredibly steep stairs!). For a hit of history we took a visit to the Anne Frank House
, for a bit of fun we climbed on the ‘i am amsterdam’ giant letters and for some culture how can anyone escape the red light district (I think we timed it perfectly walking past during the day).
The sight of one windmill (windmolen) got me excited, so the sight of over 15 windmills at Kinderdijk was a special site to see. Kinderdijk is a world heritage area and even though the weather was cold, windy and foggy it was an enjoyable experience. Each windmill was unique and requires a high level of maintenance so it wasn’t surprising to see some that were showing their age. I spotted one that needed a hand, or should I say four (see photo).
So you might be wondering why I haven’t mentioned the big four letter F word
yet.. FOOD! As a youngster I remember Opa (mums dad) making ‘Oliebollen’
, a Dutch pastry (picture a yeast dough ball with raisins, showered with icing sugar). I was disappointed to hear my deep-fried friends were only made for New Years, but to my delight
Tracing back to my childhood when Opa made these at a school fair - yum!
I spotted a stand selling them in town (guess new year’s was close enough in November!). I went back for seconds to make up for my eighteen year Dutch dough-nut drought.
As usual, I led my taste buds on a ride of adventure and sampled many sweet, savoury, salty and more sweet Dutch specialties; stamppot (mashed potato with vegetables/ herbs, home-made by Alex), rookworst (smoked sausage), speculaas & pepernoten (spiced biscuits), suikerbrrod (sugar bread), stroopwafel (waffle biscuits filled with caramel), kroket (fried crumbed meat), zout drop (salty liquorice) and of course cheese (no translation needed). Have I made your mouth water yet? Then wash it down with the best brewed beverage the Dutch created, a Heineken. If only I liked beer, this could have been another adventure all together! I hope you all, especially my dear family reading this, have enjoyed reading about my time in the Netherlands. I loved every moment discovering my family history, meeting relatives, learning of my grandparent’s years growing up and of course exercising my taste buds with Dutch delicacies. A big "thank you" goes to Alex, who ensured I got the most out of my time here and hosted me at his apartment.
There are more photos below