My first international visit takes me to The Netherlands, also known as the ‘Biggest City in Europe’.
Holland is well known for a lot of things.
Reminders of the past are positioned in the city centers.
I am not even sure if they are signs to deter or encourage me.
Guess what I opted for?
One thing Holland always will be is being traditional.
There are continual historical reminders, no matter in what direction I look.
Old-style housing reflects over calm waters.
These are called ‘grachten’. They were manmade and have a few purposes I would imagine.
Safety from enemies in the early days.
A transport connection for pleasure and pain.
Good enough reason to decorate them with bike paths all around. So much water attracts opportunists of all kinds.
Perfectly adapted to city life, a hunter becomes the hunted.
Still waters are like mirrors early mornings.
The dark water reflects incredibly well in low light.
Obsolete bridges connect the mainland with one another. It would have been fun to fly this water maze with my drone.
Cobblestone streets pass by ancient architecture.
There is an enchanted feeling here.
I can imagine what this castle looked like in its hay days.
And hay is for horses. Glamour for those who can.
Cinderella just got married. I wonder how many Clogs she tried on?
Prince Charming was still a frog.
Look at those ‘prachtige’ horses.
But not all that shimmers is what it seams, Holland is in Dire Straits.
‘There are few things not going right in Holland at the moment’ says Nicolette on our Friday evening outing. ‘Many Dutch citizens are not happy with this government. Farmers and many other ‘dutchies’ hoist the Dutch Flag upside down’. A local and objective statement about ever rising costs and the meaning of life.
Technically, the Australian flag is hoisted upside down from Holland’s point of view.
Nicky and I met 23 years ago in Darwin, Australia and we’re still very good friends.
I was invited by her, partner Jeroen and son Ruben over for a weekend. Who knows when we get another chance to meet? And so I took a train ride to Zwolle, Overijssel, with the sheep train. Most sheep were back at work on the ‘Deich’, I hoped for a smoother connection. Last weeks week’s experience was quite traumatic. The negative vibe was insane.
But not this time and definitely not in Zwolle with the family home I was invited in. Everyone was relaxed and perfectly comfortable.
Ruben has grown into a young teenager with high ambitions.
Seven years had passed since his visit to Australia at a tender age.
There was so much to talk about, to question, and to remember. An opening night in the old town of Zwolle opened the doors for an entertaining and humorous weekend to come.
Unfortunately for me, not for all in the house. There was always someone watching me with confused eyes.
Every step I take. Every move I make. Even the police caught up on this theory. Who is this guy? And what is he doing here?
‘Luna’ is short for lunatic, Nicky says. She is just a big scaredy-cat and one of the few dogs, to not fall for my monkey cheek.
She didn’t even share her balls with my Australian Crocs.
She is extremely cute though, in her own little world.
Zwolle had another surprise for me and invited me to the LGBTQIA+ Pride Festival.
Ha ha, isn’t this world going ‘nuts’? It stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, and get this. The ‘Plus’ stands for all other sexual orientations, genders, and sexes. What else did we miss? This is actually Google’s interpretation of the gay and lesbian festival. I just don’t get it, I really don’t. What does Demi-sexual even mean?
I don’t care who you are or what you want to be. If you’re a friendly ‘somebody’, let’s have a beer! Simple as that. I don’t mean to offend anyone, I never have. I just don’t understand why we have to spend so much time and energy on people, who are already free, and left with too many choices.
Many people on this planet don’t have that option. The weather is ever-changing and so much more extreme. Many villages on small islands were relocated due to rising sea levels. This issue I would like to discuss with you because this is what matters to me.
Boy oh boy, I don’t even know why I am writing this. I may delete this section anyways. (Obviously, I didn’t)
Zwolle has kept its charm, as it did 100+ years ago. The Saturday street markets sell everything Holland is known for. Local visitors arrive with fitzie, clearly the best option to get around.
Flowers are laid out on the market square.
A whole van full of cheese wheels.
As young or mature you like your flavor.
So much to choose from. Fruit and fresh fish I’ve been told, lekker matjies. ‘Bakker Bart’ took over a fair chunk of the cobblestone market area.
A convertible conventional oven baked off par-baked goods and business was booming.
Just the perfect spot to spend mid-morning with a healthy slushy for Saturday night to come.
The last time I was in Zwolle was in 2014. Germany won the Football World Cup that night. Marko Götze relieved German supporters finally with his golden goal in the 105 th minute. We did beat host nation and heavy title aspirant Brazil before. What a game that was.
No football this weekend but plenty of laughter and beer consumption. Some things never change, thank dog.
And a big, big’ Thank you’ to Nicky, Jeroen and Ruben.