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Published: August 6th 2018
We were largely unaware of our passage into Rotterdam until we saw the skyline out our cabin window. We needed to be ready to go on our windmill tour. We wondered if these would be the same windmills that we saw when we visited Amsterdam last year; but, this would prove to be a much different venue. I got my cold-cut sandwich again for breakfast and some chocolate milk; and, Sharon was sticking with nibbling on some toast, potato cakes and chocolate croissants. This port-day in Rotterdam will see the crew again do a complete top-to-bottom deep cleaning of the ship and hopefully we will remain free of new cases for 48 hours after embarking from Rotterdam with some new passengers.
Back in the cabin I’m getting ready to head up to the Showroom and Sharon announces, “I don’t think that I’m going today.” I hope she’s not already sick of me after just 18 days on this cruise… we have another 20 days to go yet! She assures me that she’s not sick of me… yet. I go to the Showroom alone. When I walked into the Showroom the room was jam packed full of people, and the only
available seats were at the very front of the room. The tour announcer’s cheerful voice comes on, apparently from the front, “My dematerialized body is speaking to you from the stage of the Showroom!” She continues, “No tours have been announced yet, except for those that have been announced and gone.” I’m mulling over exactly what that might mean, when she continues in an even more cheerful manner, “When I call your number, proceed with your party to the stickering station as you exit the Showroom on the Port Side of the ship; or, as you exit the Showroom, to your right. Please keep your party together, so that you may be kept together on the busses, unless you don’t want to stay with your party, then just keep walking and don’t look back.” So I go off on my nearly 4-hour adventure to see the Windmills of Kinderdijk alone. There are six busses going to Kinderdijk, and we’re on Bus Number 4… the purple bus. I manage to get one of the two window seats remaining at the rear of the bus.
Our tour guide is an energetic 78 year old woman who claims to have lived at
a time when Rotterdam was bombed by the Germans during WWII. She also claims that she walked five miles from her apartment in downtown Rotterdam to be here this morning because the ground transportation systems are not yet working on a Sunday morning. Our guide said that it was fortunate that we were here today, and not yesterday, because yesterday was “Black Saturday”… or, the day that all of Europe changes countries for summer holiday. The Germans and French come to the Netherlands, the Dutch go to France, and so on. This highway that we’re on was bumper to bumper traffic for miles. Amazing that all of Europe can do that in a single day. I couldn’t tell whether it was pride or regret that she felt when she said that today the demographics in Rotterdam is that 48% of the people are NOT Dutch. A quick check with Wikipedia puts the number just over 50%. For the Netherlands as a whole the Dutch comprise about 80% of the population. She seemed proud that the mayor, Ahmed Aboutaleb, hails from Morocco, and made a point that he was a good mayor and had made clear that he would represent people
of all ethnic origins equally. She asked about our demographic makeup. She postulated that many of us would be from the United States, and she heard some cheers, and Canada was represented as well, and the United Kingdom, and for good measure she added, “And America too.” I was wondering if she was referring to the United Coastal States and then possibly Trump’s America; or, am I just being too cynical about the way Europeans sometimes look at us? Do they actually believe that there are two countries between Mexico and Canada? Our guide talked for some time about the Schengen Agreement, which was signed by five members of the EU near a town of that name in Luxembourg. With the exception of the UK and Ireland, it establishes a complete open border policy among the countries of the EU, similar to travelling between states in the USA. She did however lament, “But our differences are just too great, and a United Europe is just not possible.”
Then she started to talk about Kinderdijk. It’s pronounced: Kinder-dike. “’These people’ make life miserable for bus drivers and tour guides!” Well she certainly isn’t mincing any words; and, although she hasn’t
once mentioned how ‘progressive’ things are in the Netherlands, I was pretty certain who ‘these people’ are. And she confirmed my suspicion when she continued, “Here in Kinderdijk, we are in the middle of the ‘Bible Belt’!” The Calvinist Bible Belt! Who knew? “‘These People’ don’t want us here… they don’t want YOU here either.” She went on to explain how last year there had been parking available to go and see the windmills. Now, there is only parking for a few cars; and, busses must drop people off to make the one-mile trek to see the windmill. And you really will be visiting just one windmill. When visiting the Windmills from Amsterdam, there were many windmills, and entire community in fact to visit. There are about 20 other windmills about the area, but only this one is open for you to go inside and see how families here once lived.
Our bus stopped and let us off at a local bus drop-off pullout; but, wasn’t allowed to remain here. We followed the guide across a pontoon bridge to reach the visitor’s center and gift shop for Kinderdijk. We passed by several homes with various forms of “Privat” notices
to their properties bordered by white picket fences. “Don’t disturb these people. Remember, they don’t want you here?” Does that lady from the Bronx follow me around? I hear her pipe in from the rear with a particularly snotty defiant tone of a child who is testing boundaries, “And what if we do?” “They will shoot you!” And she said it without blinking an eye!
Our guide made us a reservation to see the 11-minute movie on the Kinderdijk, which seemed more a comical rendition of how Kinderdijk got its name. The movie was in Dutch with English subtitles, so Sharon would have just loved this without her glasses. Translated, Kinderdijk means children’s dike. Various historical figures in the movie gave their conflicting versions of how the community got its name. One observed, because this dike is so much smaller than others, it was nicknamed “The Child (or children’s) Dike. Another thought that the dike had originally been built by children. And the tale our guide preferred that following one very devastating flood a baby was spotted floating in a basket, that was precariously being balanced in the water by a cat bouncing from side to side. The roundish
room used to show the movie had seating on short metal moveable stools, and this presentation was clearly meant for young school children. I suspect, somebody thought, put English subtitles on it and it will be suitable for dumb Americans… they won’t know the difference. It is after appropriately called: The Kinderdijk!
Next came the longer walk to the windmill. This involved first walking over a diesel pumping station. The Netherlands is currently in a severe drought, and it did seem unusual to notice grass in the parks that looked like it would be more at home as a sun-drenched water-restricted lawn in Southern California. The green had been replaced in many instances of yellow-green and straw colored withered grass. For the first time since 1977 the pumps were being used to pump water into the lowlands to try and meet the areas agricultural needs. We passed an older pump employing an Archimedes Screw and it was currently not being used.
I spotted the picture I wanted to catch of the Netherlands flag with a windmill in the background; but, when I was ready to click two things happened: First, the wind died and the flag collapsed into
what looked like a limp red, white and blue noodle; and, Second, our guide shifted into high gear to head for the windmill. So this picture would need to wait and I hurried to catch up.
The first thing that strikes one entering the mill was that quarters are very cramped. There seem to be two steep open framed wooden steps leading to the next level. The step below clears the step above by not even six inches, leaving you little alternative to have your foot extend through the open slats. And coming down; unless you are a small child I would try this any way but using the “going-up” position. Any other way might get you down much too fast. Other than the very cramped interior, there really wasn’t much to see. There was a wooden bed in one corner where a child may have slept. And a wash basin on the floor of the second level where water was available. The loft level was chained off and off limits. There was no “great view” to be had. A couple of ill-placed windows let light in; but, there was no access to view out. For those just arriving
at the windmill and who want to enter, the cost is 8 Euros.
We only had about half-an-hour to visit the windmill. I decided to head back early and make a leisurely walk of it and had many pictures to take along the way. I approached one lookout place at the edge of a waterway to snap a shot. I was edging to the left to get a better angle. My foot lost its footing at the edge of the pavement and my knee started to buckle to protect my ankle. I managed to catch myself which is fortunate because I doubt that Sharon would be very understanding if I didn’t come back. I proceed on walking on the pedestrian path. Others on our cruise insisted on walking on the wider bicycle path. I heard one lady scream, “Fred, get down here. You’re on the bicycle path.” He just waved her off and was going to do what he was going to do. I did watch a number of cyclists trying to make their way through the mass of “jaywalking” pedestrians. I could appreciate why the locals weren’t thrilled about having throngs of inconsiderate tourists invading their community. I
got my picture of the Netherlands flag with the windmill in the background, and it was nicely unfurled to reveal the three horizontal stripes of red, white and blue. I retraced our trek to the windmill and found my way back across the pontoon bridge. There was a bus where we’d been dropped off, just not our bus. I was the first from the Red-4 group. Others soon trickled in and we found some shelter in the shade of the German bus. Soon people from Red-3 and Red-6 were arriving. Our bus pulled up behind us and when I heard someone say “Bus 4 is here”, I thought, “That’s me!”
People filed in and it became clear that two people were missing. They’d been sitting one seat forward from me, on the opposite side. I hear the guide say, “Excuse me. I must make a call. Not for the ambulance, that is on the way. I must call…” and she sighed, “Holland America.” She came back on board and explained what had happened. One of the ladies was taking a picture and was moving to get a better picture… and I’m thinking this is like déjà vu all over
again. She lost her footing, fell into something and tore a bad gash into her leg. She obviously needed stitches, so she would need to go to the hospital. Holland America evidently told her to remain with the tour group. She then told us that another lady on a Princess Cruise had been walking along and was looking so intently at the blood streaming down the lady’s leg, that she either didn’t see an obstacle (or more likely fainted) and did a face plant into the asphalt and was out cold. She’ll be getting a trip to the hospital too. I guess this touring way of life can be hazardous business.
We did a brief tour about town as we meandered back to the Rotterdam, past some “old port” marinas with a time capsule of small sailing craft of yesteryear. This was juxtaposed with modernistic, even cube-anistic buildings in an avant-garde style that sprung up to replenish the completely demolished “old town” buildings of Rotterdam during the Second World War. Only the massively damaged Cathedral stands as a reminder of the architecture that once was reminiscent of Rotterdam. Today, the urbanization process which continues today since the rebuilding started some seventy years ago offers major highway traffic in, around and through the center of town. A modernistic suspension bridge with a geometrically expanding array of support cables gives illusion of the massive sails that must have once stood on the sailing ships that ventured into this harbor.
I went up and enjoyed the baked rigatoni, and a salad with sesame dressing, and feeling particularly dehydrated, I decided to allow myself a “Bonus Coke” for lunch. Sharon had some fried chicken and roasted potatoes.
I headed up to trivia and wondered if any teammates would show up. Plenty of other teams also appeared to be emaciated. Duncan and Pam did appear; but, Jim and Rose Marie were no-shows. A nearby gentleman was sitting alone, forlorn that he was all by himself. Then another joined him, and we invited them to join us. About five teams altogether materialized and I reckoned that we should have an excellent chance today. Linda started with what she calls “A Fifty-Fifty Question”. We’ve been murdered by her 50/50 questions! “What came first: Diet Coke or Diet Pepsi?” Our chagrin continues as we started out by missing this simple question. She continued, “Romeo was Juliet's famous lover, Napoleon had his Josephine, who was Madame Pompidou’s famous paramour?” I was trying to come up with “Sir Walter Raleigh” I remembered him having some recollection of his having secretly married someone that got him in trouble with the queen. But it wasn’t him. It was King Louis XV. “Which animal does NOT have a multi-chamber stomach?” The choices were (a) Antelope, (b) Camel, (c) Cow, (d) Goat, or (e) Pig. I was surprised not to see Bumble-Bee in the list. We were pretty certain that the answer was “Pig”, and we were right. “What country does not border the Arabian Sea?” Our choices for this one were: (a) Afghanistan, (b) India, (c) Iran, (d) Oman, or (e) Pakistan. Except for Oman, I wouldn’t have guessed that the others could be; but, certainly the land-locked Afghanistan must be the correct answer. And we got another point. The Bonus Question was a word-for-word repeat from a previous cruise. “List the six official languages for the United Nations.” I was sure that I could remember them and instantly wrote down: “English, Russian, Chinese, Arabic and French”. Then an instance of panic set in: I’d only listed five languages! It only figures that this final language could NOT be German, Italian or Japanese since considering the genesis of the UN, why would languages of the axis-powers be in that list. Duncan wasn’t sure that Arabic should be in the list; but, I assured him that it was. Pam suggested “Spanish” and I was already leaning that way. So, we did get the full six possible points for the bonus, giving us 15 out of 21 points. Approaching 75%! Only one other team did worse than us and the winners got 19 points! Linda must have wanted to throw us a bone because she offered us “participation prizes”. She asked if there was any particular pins that I wanted. I asked if she had any “Greenland” pins; but, she said no. I did however get an “Asia” destination pin; although, I’m not sure that is kosher on a Voyage of the Vikings cruise itinerary. Our pinch-hitting teammate had initially declined the pin; but, when he heard that I was getting an “Asia” pin he volunteered, “Yeah, I’d like one of those too.” Why not, they can go for $5 on eBay!
Then it was time for dinner where I was the last seated at the end of that awkward oval table in the center section, and again was seated on the end. There was an Aussie couple on the opposite end. Between then and me were two Canadian ladies travelling together. For my first appetizer I ordered the Jumbo Shrimp with Brandy Sauce. Three of the others ordered a Shrimp Cocktail for their first course, and another one for their second course. I asked if they’d had the shrimp cocktail the previous night as well; and, of course they had. I also asked if they preferred the spicy cocktail sauce or the brandy sauce. They all echoed, “Brandy Sauce”. So, I guess it’s just me. I prefer the other, and the stronger the horseradish the better; although, the brandy sauce is also very good! The first Canadian woman asked that we finish dinner by 7PM and the steward assured her that that would be no problem. She volunteered, “We want to see the movie in the Wajang Theatre on the ‘Heineken Kidnapping’.” My second course was the Shrimp and Calamari Chowder; which, I did enjoy. The popular entrée was clearly the Prime Rib. I went with the Cordon Blue which I invariably enjoy. And I was happy to see a Cheese and Fruit plate that didn’t include Blue Cheese for a change. It claimed to offer Brie, Leiden, Cheddar and Provolone. When my cheese plate came, it had only three cheeses on it, two almost identical looking triangular pieces that might have been Provolone. But it was the huge hunk of Blue Cheese that I was objecting to. I alerted the steward, saying, “This is Blue Cheese, it should be Brie.” He nods, and claims, “Yes, is Broo Cheese.” I said, “No, it should be Brie.” He goes and consults with the head steward who comes over. I point out, “This is Blue Cheese.” He looks at the dessert menu card, and agrees, “Yes, Broo Cheese.” Okay, this wasn’t getting anywhere, so I point out, “There are only three cheeses.” He counts them, “One, Two, Three.” He looks at the menu, and brightens, “Ah, so sorry. Just one moment please.” And he returned with a plate with one normal sized serving and two very large portions of Leyden Cheese, a cheese made with Caraway, and not one of my favorites. Brie cheese IS one of my favorites. I ate the smaller piece and called it a meal. As I’m finishing the cheese I hear the first Canadian lady chatting to the Aussie saying, “…That idiot just thinks he’s a dictator.” Taken out of context she could be talking about almost anybody. I thought possibly she was talking about President Erdoğan of Turkey because earlier conversation had addressed current affairs involving Turkey. But I really knew better than this, and my eyebrow must have raised because the Aussie goes, “Uh oh, Do YOU like Trump?” I guess my response, “What’s not to like?” wasn’t quite PC enough. I think the Canadian lady bit her tongue and the Aussie suggested, “Maybe we shouldn’t talk politics.” That was fine by me, I wasn’t the one that brought up the subject in such a disrespectful manner.
The choice of entertainment for the night was 2 movies. The Black Panther in the Show Room and Kidnapping Mr. Heineken in the Wajang. Sharon decided to skip them both but I did enjoy “Kidnapping Mr. Heineken”. The memorable quote from the movie, by Mr. Heineken. “There are two types of richness. A man may be rich in money, or a man may be rich in friends; but, a man may not be rich in both.”
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