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Published: January 13th 2010
As the yellow double deck train that we’re on leaves the tunnel from Amsterdam Schipol, we peer out the window to see about fifteen centimetres of snow covering the entire countryside. All the ponds, drains, and most canals have frozen over and as the train heads south we spot forlorn looking ducks wandering across the frozen waterways looking like kids who’ve had all their toys taken away.
At Rotterdam, Sally and Andrew are on the platform to welcome us to their new city and we follow them to their new apartment. In true northern hemisphere style, they’ve got a real six-foot high pine Christmas tree decorated with fairy lights and intricate glass baubles. Cool... how Christmasy...
After dumping our luggage and a quick cup of tea, we figure that, seeing as it’s our first day of holidays, we should kick off the festivities. So we jump on one tram, then another, before arriving at what Sal tells us is the local Uni students’ pub of choice. It’s around 3pm and they’ve just opened up so consequently we’ve got the place to ourselves.
After our first round of half pints, the firewood delivery arrives and the young blokes working
The Christmas Tree
Sal and Andrew's, Rotterdam
behind the bar waste no time in getting the fire going. Once started, they are more than happy for us to drag our chairs around the open fire place and take over responsibility for keeping the fire roaring. It’s a cosy way to start our holiday and we order a final round of Dutch Christmas beers before heading back to Sal and Andrew’s.
Waking up on Christmas day, we peer out the window to see a gentle stream of snow falling from the sky above. Yay- a white Christmas!
The day passes leisurely with breakfast, present opening, snacking and grazing, before we sit down for a dinner of roast turkey in the evening. Sal and Andrew do a great job and our first ever Christmas dinner in the Netherlands is absolutely delicious!
Apparently, the Dutch spend Christmas with their family and then their ‘Second Christmas’ (Boxing Day) with close friends. Luckily for us, some of Sal and Andrew’s mates have invited us all over for Second Christmas at their place.
So, on Saturday morning we catch the train the 25 minutes north from Rotterdam to Lieden. As we walk from the station towards the town centre
View from the castle, Leiden town centre
it really starts to feel like we’re back in the Netherlands. Gone are Rotterdam’s glass and steel high-rises and in only a few minutes of walking we spot a windmill, canals, and typically terraced Dutch houses.
We continue into the centre of town where, after lunch at a local cafe, we check out the 12th century castle. It’s a small stone tower built on top of an earth mound which gives it good views over the rooftops of Lieden. It’s all very Dutch, but we’ve got to keep moving because we’re getting picked up soon.
Second Christmas is loads of fun as we are treated to a massive gourmet dinner. The gourmet set consists of six small individual frying pans (one each) and everyone cooks their own food. The table is laid out with different types of meat, prawns, fish, thinly sliced vegetables and sauces. It’s great fun to eat and cook all at the same time and it takes a good couple of hours for us all to finish dinner. It was so much fun in fact that we’re firmly committed to getting one of these sets when we eventually move back to Oz.
we get up fairly early, catch the train north, and from the Delft station we head towards the church towers that give away the direction of the centre of town. Delft instantly reminds us of Amsterdam (except it’s obviously smaller). There’re loads of canals, terraced houses, and as with every Dutch town - bicycles everywhere!
Similarly to many other European cities, Delft’s market square is built with the city hall at one end and a church at the other (governance and faith). Arriving at the square, Sal points at the church at the end of the square with the massive bell tower and tells us that’s where we’re headed next.
After paying for entry, we enter the circular stairwell and begin to climb to the top of the bell tower. It seems to take forever but the views from the top make the climb well worthwhile. For the first time in the last four days we’ve got blue clear skies and from the top of the bell tower we can easily make out Den Haag to the north and Rotterdam to the south. Jokingly, we agree that this must be one of the highest points in all of
the Netherlands (given that most of it is flat and nearly 30% is below sea level).
After our bell tower climbing efforts, we have a look around the church interior which is significant as it contains the Dutch royal family’s crypt. Of those buried here, the most interesting to us is William II. It was his son (William III, William of Orange) who married into the English royal family to became King of both countries. Apparently, his main interest was not so much in Queen Mary Stuart, or England, but just to get his hands on a Protestant army who could be used in his scrap with the Catholic French. Another notable event which involved William III was the massacre of Clan MacDonald in Glencoe - an act to which he gave the orders.
Having had our fill of history and stairs, we take the chance to grab some lunch on the edge of the market square. After lunch, Sal and Andrew have a few jobs to do back in Rotterdam so we spend the rest of the afternoon pottering around Delft by ourselves.
With such a busy end to the 2009 working year, the last couple
of steady days have been just what we needed to relax - we’ve really enjoyed being back in the Netherlands, especially with Sal and Andrew. Best of all, our holiday isn’t over yet, because tomorrow we’re picking up the hire car and heading off on our five day Euro road trip!
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