November 02, 2008

Trip to Holland

Our family took a vacation in Holland last week. Some of us vacationed anyway as the Swedish schools were having fall break. I was officially on duty and gave some lectures at the University of Utrecht, and spent what time I could with my family. We stayed at a youth hostel in the countryside and rented bikes to get around. My camera went on strike so all I have to show you is these fuzzy cell phone photos.

Here's one of the University buildings. Colors are popular in Holland. The plastic trays they used at the airport to X-Ray your pocket change used this same combination.

Holland is a cyclist's paradise. Every road has a bike lane. The Dutch favor an upright cycling posture, as I imagine the handlebar-moustached Sturmey Archer himself rode.

Here is a canal in Utrecht, a beautiful city. Back in the day merchants would load their goods out of barges through these doors, and then sell them through the shop at street level.

Utrecht has one of the best post offices I have seen in a long time. Public buildings like this (train stations also catch my eye) are a high water mark of civilization. We don't seem to be building things like this anymore?

We hung out in the countryside, biked into Utrecht and one day took the train in to Amsterdam. After our walk through central Amsterdam I can only conclude that the favorite native sons are not Rembrandt, Escher or Vermeer but Marley and Guevara. I carried our younger son on my shoulders and we sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star at the tops of our lungs through the streets of the red light district on our way from Rembrandt's house (worth the trip) to the train station. Yes they have women in the windows. You can smell wacky weed and the shops sell hash lollipops. I don't think much of what was going on registered with either of our sons, I imagine their innocence protects them. When we sing Twinkle Twinkle, in the last line, 'How I wonder what you are', you have to say the 'are' like a pirate would, 'Arrrgh'.

These stands selling french fries are popular. They are named after a famous statue of a little boy relieving himself. The fries are really good -- served hot in a paper cone with mayo.

I don't know if you can see this so well but it is a triple-decker bicycle parking ramp, located outside the central station in Amsterdam.

At no time did I see any land that was more than two feet above the waterline. The waterline is easy to find because there are ditches, canals and rivers everywhere. Somebody explained that they have discovered how to make a watertight lining so some new houses are built with basements, but the problem is that these houses can float up out of the ground. The countryside is lousy with mallards.



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