Walking on Water

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February 6th 2009
Published: February 10th 2009
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I was lucky enough to visit Jo and Ewen in the Netherlands after a period of prolonged temperatures below zero. They live in Utrecht, a pretty little city in central Netherlands. On my first day in the flat country we took a train ride from the airport into Utrecht past frozen canals with Dutch people gliding along on iceskates, larger canals with cargo boats transporting goods, old and new style windmills and a lot of flat farmland.

When in Utrecht they took me on a bike tour of the town, it was awesome to try out the Dutch bikes. There are no hills of note in the Netherlands so their bikes are very basic with no gears and huge seats. Bikes rule the roads and you feel totally safe roaming around on one, despite the fact they ride on the right side of the road. Jo and Ewen tell me that it is always the fault of the motor vehicle if a cyclist is hit, so they take a lot of care around bikes.

The highlight of the bike tour was a trip to the local park, complete with frozen pond. This meant that we literally got to walk on water, or in our case ice. It was like a fairy tale setting, with parents towing the children on sleds and the Dutch people of all ages zooming around on ice skates. It was the first time that the three of us had walked on natural ice, and our initial hesitations were blown away when we got onto the ice, and we even jumped up and down a few times.

On my second day in Holland I headed into Amsterdam for some sight seeing. I joined up with a free walking tour of the city. The tour was fantastic, it took in all of the main sights and was incredibly informative. It was great to learn about the history of the facinating city, from the Dutch East India Company headquaters, to construction of the canals, the influence of the French on the crazy last names of the Dutch people, the facinating architecture of the leaning and slim houses to the liberal attitude to drugs and prostitution. The blatant displays of women in the red light district were crazy and in contrast to the advertising used by the "coffee" shops that are so obviously not just selling coffee.

In the evening Jo and Ewen met me in the city to go to a Pannenkoeken House for pancakes for dinner, a dutch speciality. I was lucky enough to try a few great dutch foods, including Hagerslaag (chocolate hail for bread) for breakfast, stroopwafels (wafels with caramel in the centre) heated so the caramel is goey by sitting them over a cup of tea, pea and sausage soup and the abundence of cheeses available.

I was very lucky to visit Jo and Ewen and have them share their experiences of Dutch life with me. My time in Holland was breif and I would love to explore it further and try out a few more Dutch phrases.

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