Monday, 14 April 2014

Some quiet reflection...

I'm now well into week 2 of my return journey and so far, so much has happened that my brain feels quite full! haha.
I don't seem to easily remember things I've done, said or heard the day before at the moment. I am busy with planning what's next on the agenda and what to wear each day to suit this climate, that events and conversations slip into history faster than usual.
So here are a few of the differences between my life in Oz and here in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Dressing in clothing suitable for a colder/cooler climate, is proving to be quite complex for me. The days can start with brilliant sunshine, but within an hour or two, the clouds roll in and the lovely spring day turns quite cool. Or, a wind springs up out of nowhere, adding another dimension to the 'feel' of how cold or warm it is. So, when I'm dressing, I need to think about how my Queensland style winter clothes will be warm enough for a Dutch Spring day. I am learning fast that days can change to cool or quite warm within minutes, so I need to 'be prepared'! So, a camie first, then a tee or long sleeved light tee, then a jumper, topped by a cardigan. When going out, take off the cardy, then add a short jacket covered by a windcheater and finally a scarf. I do have a beanie, which I forget to take in my bag and not something worn here, so I may go and buy another type of head cover to keep my head cosy.  Then, when/if the sun comes out to surprise us, the reverse happens and the top layers come off but never far removed because the weather can change back to cool again very quickly.  Anyway, I am so fortunate to have come this year, because last year it was still snowing in April and I don't think I would have coped.

Rugged up for the cold
Who wants to walk on a 35C day? Not me, that's for sure. Who wants to walk up and down hills in the blazing sun? You got it, not me. in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, EVERYONE walks EVERYWHERE. Well, at least anything within a 1-2 or 3 km distance. Maybe not 3, because then they ride their trusty, rattly, Dutch style bikes.
So, seeing Mieke doesn't have 2 bikes here atm (her other bike is at the garden house) we walk.

We walked to:
  • church
  • the shops
  • to a friend's place and back
  • to the dyke and the farmlands
  • in the city
  • at Keukenhof
  • and ofcourse to the Rijksmusem after catching a bus into the city. 
  • up and down the stairs to her unit which is on the second floor
So, lots of exercise for me. Luckily Holland is totally built on flat land, most of which is below sea level, so that walking is,a pretty straight forward exercise. One benefit of walking is that it makes you nice and warm despite the biting wind (at times) and makes your cheeks rosy. Mine are a little too old these days to get rosy, but one can live in hope :-)
Then there are the stairs! Lots of them everywhere. In the city, at the shops and ofcourse in the unit buildings where most of the population live. Here, where I'm staying we need to get to the second floor, so there are 3 stairs to climb. There are no lifts here, so groceries and any kind of purchases need to be carried up the stairs.
So it's all quite different but very beneficial. I sleep brilliantly at night but wake up thinking about how much walking I'll be doing that day. :-) (smiling...) self talk:  "It's good for you Tricia!".

Most housing here in Amsterdam is in large Unit buildings or very small worker's cottages situated on the dykes, or rows of slightly bigger, semi detached houses. Most are very small compared to Aussie houses. Even our small houses seem larger than what I've seen here. My sister's one bedroom home is lovely and roomy though even though it essentially consists of only 4 seperate spaces - lounge, dining/kitchen, bedroom, entry/bathroom. Lots of light coming into a house is very important here as every ray of warmth is utilised and enjoyed, so houses have very large picture windows whenever possible. The curtains are rarely closed and you can look into people's homes as you walk by. This is regarded as normal as people actually like it that way. Seems strange to our way of thinking but here it is normal and almost desired.

 Yesterday we were at a friend home, who lives in a very unusual unit in the rounded roof space of her building. The windows here are fully sliding doors but there are no balconies! So she has installed some artistic railings to stop one stepping out into the air! When I mentioned that this would certainly not be legal in Australia, I was told that the Dutch feel they are all adults and therefore responsible for their own and their children's well being. So they have less regulations in place. Something to think about, as we have so many regulations in place in Oz. 
rooftop home in Amsterdam
Unit in the roof top space of unit building- view to the Marina

View from the main bedroom

Looking down the length of the one beddroom unit.
Access is via a very narrow and steep circular staircase. For furniture to be moved into her apartment, everything had to be winched in through the front windows, as nothing would fit up the staircase space. This house is in a very sought after area in a very old section of Amsterdam Noord (North). The ancient houses are actually built on top of the side of a dyke with the front of the old cottages at street level and the back of the houses descending down the outside of the dyke, thereby giving them another one or two levels. Behind most house in this area there are small canals, so lots of water everywhere and hundreds of small bridges that can open to let the small boats through. It really is very special.

I was just eleven years old when I left Holland. When we arrived in Brisbane, my mum decided we would speak English at home, because she needed to learn it and didn't want to be one of those mothers who went shopping with a child in tow to translate for her. So I very quickly lost my Dutch, until a few years later a family with 6 teenagers arrived from Amsterdam. I became friends with one of the girls and soon picked up the language again because they still spoke it at home. I've never really lost it since then. However! Having said all that, now, being here, I know my Dutch is not quite up to scratch. Going to the shops asking for things is ok. Talking with people about this and that on a daily level is ok. Talking with people about politics, religion, or anything more than light conversation is not ok. I'm struggling to translate things like 'free trade policy', or finding words for appliances or IT terms etc. On the other hand people generally are amazed that someone who has been away from their country for 58 years, speaks the language as well as I do. Must say though that my head aches with all the new informations (as I said earlier) and I wake up in the morning rearranging sentences in the correct order for Dutch, as they really can say things back to front to English. Or is it that English is back to front to Dutch?
As well, most Dutchies speak English very well and regularly include English words in their speech as a normal way of speaking, so that helps.

Latte Machiatte and Appel Taart.
There's lots of cheese about as is to be expected. Nothing new for me there, as I love my cheese and it's hard to change that in a girl from a dairy country. Coffee is best taken in coffee shops as Latte Machiato and resembles a three tiered drink - coffee, then milk, then froth - in a tall glass. Appel taart is my favourite so far, as other small cakes seem to be filled with loads of whipped cream and quite sweet.
Haven't tried anything typically Dutch so far as we mainly eat at home, because my sister if gf and gf foods are very hard to find in Holland. You can ask for them, but there's not much creativity in that area, so the meals are rather basic when eating out. I hope to go eat some more Dutch specialties when I'm with Dutch rellies and friends. I must eat a raw herring at a stall, as well as some croquettes. Will see how it goes.

So that's my little diatribe for today.
Today is washing and packing day, as tomorrow I head out on my own to Gouda to visit my cousin Henk Dijk, who I recently re-connected with on fb, but haven't seen in the flesh since the 1960's when he lived with us in Brisbane for two years. So that will be an adventure for me to catch buses and a train on my own.

More about that next time.
Enjoy your day, wherever in the world you may be this new day.

Please click on the photos for  a larger version.



  1. Such enjoyable reading. I hope one day you put together a little travel book. You're a top notch photographer, beautiful stuff! xx

    1. Oh thanks so much Hil. I'm glad you are enjoying my ramblings on about my travels. I'll think about doing what you suggested. Maybe I can just transfer it all to a book making site and, hey presto, there's my book!

    2. I wanted Melissa to do that too. She wrote fantastic emails during her trips, so hilarious all the stuff that happened to her. Love, Hil xx


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