A Travellerspoint blog

Day 81, Apeldoorn

sunny 20 °C

So today was the day. We were finally in Apeldoorn to meet a schwack of family. After eating breakfast, we quietly snuck out of our hostel, being careful not to alert crazy-man-hater of our departure. With Gary in tow, we border the bus to the train station in Haarlem for the last time. A train, then a subway, then another train, then a bus later and we were in Apeldoorn and at our hostel...or were we?

NOPE! We sure weren’t. We got off at the stop the internet instructions gave us, but the hostel was no where in sight. We looked to the left, then we looked to the right. Nothing. So using my uncanny man-sense of direction, I forged a path past the bus stop and onwards to the hostel or the great unknown. After two block of complete uncertainty, I spotted a building with a flag. A flag! Surely this must be an important building. And people in important buildings always know important information. And what could be more important then where our hostel was? Right...? Well apparently this was actually a building that hosts lunches for neighborhood mothers and grandmothers as there was a group of middle-aged and elderly ladies sitting around eating sandwiches and sipping tea. “I’m terribly sorry to interrupt you ladies”, I exclaimed as I rudely pushed my way into their conversation. “I’m very lost. Would any of you happen to know the location of the StayOkay Hostel here in Apeldoorn?” This invoked a good deal of debate amongst my saviors, but eventually a conclusion was agreed upon and a spokeswoman pulled out a map and pointed me in the right direction and went us on our way with a smile. I love the Dutch. So polite. Thanks ladies!
Finally we reached the hostel, but not before Gary really started losing it, shedding one of his support beams and half of a wheel(I’m sorry doc, but I don’t think this one’s gonna make it). After checking in and tossing our things into our room(with no roommates...yet), I got on the Skype phone to call my cousin Henrike to inform her that she could pick us up at her convenience. She told us she would be a couple of hours so we took this opportunity to run into town to grab a bite to eat(the days first round of friecandels and fries) and to grab some flowers for Henrike and also to get cleaned up. At 1430 Oom Hans arrived with Henrike(and darling little Noah) to pick us up to start the rounds meeting family.

The first stop was Theo and Ina’s house. Here we had the chance to meet Theo’s wife Ina and their three small boys Jake, Thomas, and Lawerence. These three little fellows we a little shy at first, but warmed up to us right away showing us their cool toys and their ‘motor’bike. We chatted with Ina and had cake and coffee before saying our goodbyes and making our way down the road to Theo’s bicycle shop. The dutch love bicycles and Theo’s store specializes in racing and mountain bikes as well as offering a variety of other very high end bicycles. This shop was just stunning. Very sleek and stylish. It was nice to see Theo again, especially in his element and you could see he really likes his work. After a shop tour and a chat we said so long to Theo. We made a quick stop in (.....) to see a beautiful, but simple old church. We took a quick look around the town and Alyssa bought a few souvenirs. We all got an ice cream and had fun watching Noah eat little bits of ice cream. It was time to go to Oom Hans’ house to see Tante Leah and Henrike’s husband Wynand.
Hans and Leah live in Hattem. Oom Hans took a country road from Apeldoorn and made a couple of stops to show us a blacksmiths where Dad had worked for a few months when he was young and the house where Hans was born. At the house in Hattem we were greeted by Tante Leah. We were introduced to Wynand and then we all settled into the back yard to have a drink and some dinner. Dinner was delicious and consisted of our second round of frekindels and fries complimented with some croquettes and some bami(somethings). This awesome dinner was followed by some tasty dessert. Next stop, OMA AND OPA’S!

I can’t express how happy I was to finally meet my Dad’s parents. I had heard many stories about them from my Dad. I had seen pictures of them and gotten Christmas and birthday card’s from them. My Dad is a fantastic person. One of the best people I know, and now I know where it comes from. Oma and Opa Den Engelsman were wonderful. We spent the evening chatting and going through old photo albums including one from Opa’s time in Indonesia and one with some pictures of Dad as a little boy. In these pictures Dad has this mischievous grin that anyone who knows him would be totally familiar with. When he gets this look on his face, you know the wheels in his head are turning. I guess some things never change.
It was getting late and everyone was getting tired so we said our farewells and we departed with Oom Hans for Apeldoorn and our hostel. We had spent an awesome day meeting some people we hadn’t met and seeing others we hadn’t seen in a long time. It was such a great day and I can’t wait to do it again tomorrow. By the way, tomorrow is pancake day!

Posted by s-a 21:51 Archived in Netherlands Tagged apeldoorn Comments (4)

Day 80, Amsterdam

all seasons in one day 21 °C

Sprinkle sandwiches I love you. You start my day off on two good feet. We ran out of our room before crazy got up trying to hide so she wouldn’t sit with us. We calmly ate our breakfast and slowly sipped our coffee. While Shane was getting ready our crazy man-hating roommate asked if she could take a picture of us, “it’s not to often you meet a happy married couple.” I said yes but meant no, I didn’t know how not to be rude. We left before she brought out her camera.
Once in Amsterdam we stood in ridiculous lines trying to figure out how to get around this tiny country. Turns out just because it’s small doesn’t make it quick. 7 hours and four transfers to get from the top to the bottom. We stepped outside, myself already very annoyed at the information we got, I thought our long train rides were over. I asked Shane for the map, turns out SOMEONE forgot it in the room. Not naming names though because I’m sure he would protest.
With his terrific sense of man-direction Shane took us right through the red light district where I saw some very scantily clad ladies in doorways even with my eyes averted! We wandered up some streets and down the next, made a few rights and a few lefts. When we finally made it to our destination Shane was proud, he found it. Well of course you found it! I would have found it too if I walked down every street in this quarter of the city! Nevertheless we were at the Dutch Resistance Museum, the only museum worth lifting our museum-ban for.
We spent a few hours reading every article of information we could understand. This was our grandparent’s reality after all. Two things to mention: one, thank goodness the Dutch had the kahunas to resist the Nazis, I’m proud of their effort. And two, why is there no mention of the Canadian liberation? Even in the photos we saw of the flags they hung in celebration of victory didn’t include a Canadian flag. What is with this?
After all that walking we were hungry. We got a huge portion of Belgian fries with mayo. The container must have weighted two pounds! I’m ashamed to say we did finish them and they almost put me in a fry coma. We grew tired of Amsterdam and all it’s chaos so we took the train back to Haarlem. We tried our best to get all of our souvenir shopping out of the way. Haarlem has been voted best shopping in the Netherlands for many years now. It has streets full of boutique shops and we wandered in and out of just about everyone. We found gifts for Dad, Natasha and Erin. Darn it Mom are you sure you don’t want a birthday calendar filled with pictures of tulips?!
We went back to the hostel around 2000 and called Steph to wish her a happy birthday. I jumped in the shower before Crazy pulled out her camera to take our picture, I wouldn’t let her photograph me in my pajamas. We packed and repacked and re-repacked our packs to distribute the weight so that fat Gary wouldn’t break on us the next morning. Then we slept, full of excitement for the days ahead.

Posted by s-a 21:37 Archived in Netherlands Tagged amsterdam Comments (3)

Day 79, Amsterdam

rain 23 °C

So today started off the most awesome way imaginable. Colored sprinkles on fresh bread. That should be all I need to say for you to sigh and curse me with jealousy. No? Well then something is wrong with you. These coloured sprinkles I speak of are in dutch called vruchtenhagel, though in my childhood they were called sprinkles. Period. You eat them on a slice of fresh bread with a thin spread of butter so they don’t fall off (though I load mine so full they always fall off anyway!) The hostel we are staying at here (equipped with the requisite one crazy roommate) has a spread for breakfast that includes these sprinkles and hagelslag, (chocolate sprinkles) which means I can totally pig out without guilt! And pig out I did, after far to much sugar and a few cups of coffee Shane and I left for Amsterdam.
Amsterdam, to me, can be summed up in one word, chaotic. It is insane. Everywhere you look there is something or someone. Bikes, graffiti, people, garbage, bikes, so many bikes. The only place I can see some sort of order is in the canals, which is why all my pictures are of canals. I like clean lines and peace, hard to find in this city. Once you get out of the main tourist areas the city becomes a lot easier to love, for you can find quiet and beauty. The houseboats line the canals bobbing slowly up and down, potted plants anchor stoops and tall green trees give fresh air (something certain streets definitely need.)
We had two main goals this day, shop and eat. We started by buying klompje, the dutch wooden shoes. My grandparents always wore theirs doing chores outside, so I figured I needed a pair to be a good dutch girl. I bought them in blue, and I expect you’ll be seeing them on my OTHER blog when I get home. We also bought me a pair of wooden-shoes-slippers, yellow of course. Shane and I did some brainstorming for gift ideas and walked up and down streets squabbling over what to get, neither of us wanting to make any decisions.
Eventually it got to 1115, the start of our free walking tour. We followed our guide around, through the red light district, (ew!) up alleys and down streets. We saw nieuwmarket (still very old, the square was built in 1614) and the narrowest house in the city (only the width of the door.) The skies darkened threatening rain. We visited a floating flower market and breezed through Begijnhof (a (sort of) convent started in the 15th century.) When the tour finished three hours later everyone was soaked, the skies had delivered. Luckily we finished just outside a gourmet chocolate shop, the perfect refuge from the rain.
We hussled back across a few canals to Cafe Hoppe, which we noticed earlier in the day. It is a very old brown cafe, opened in 1670! The bar side, which is not very large, had sand on the floor (which I think is a cheap way of polishing the floors!) and felt as gritty and dark as it would have when it opened. Shane and I drank Amstel beer and ate bitterballen which were very good, but not quite as good as Opa’s. We soldiered on, we had shopping to do.
We walked a lot, looking everywhere for gifts. We did find some really great ones for Steph, Heather, Hunter and all of the relatives we are due to see in a few days. By the end of the day we had amassed a lot of bags and Shane’s credit card was steaming. We bought a freshly made, piping hot stroopwaffle from a vendor at a market, which we ate standing in the rain.
We ate dinner at an Indonesian restaurant near the market. Shane ordered a nasi dish which turned out to be very, very good. And that was basically the end of our night. We made the long walk back to the train station trying very hard not to get run over by bikers. The sidewalks in Amsterdam are merely an addition to the bike lanes (or so the bikers think.) Anywhere there is space you’ll soon find a biker and you better watch out! When ever you cross a street you must first look left for cars and then for bikers. You run to the middle and then again look right, first for cars then for bikes. If the coast is clear you run like mad and hope a phantom biker doesn’t pop out of nowhere to mow you down.
We took the train back to Haarlem and the bus to the hostel. Of course waiting for us was our crazy man hating roommate, where else would she be? She tried asking us some questions but we tried not to answer them, luckily she went to bed early.

Posted by s-a 08:26 Archived in Netherlands Tagged amsterdam Comments (1)

Day 78, Amsterdam

Guest post by Shane

sunny 22 °C

Wake up! Time to get the hell out of Dodg...er Frankfurt. Crackheads outside of the hostel. Homeless peeps sharing breakfast with us. This wasn’t really our cup of tea. So with a belly full of coffee and Nutella, and a new and improved Gary(now equipped with a belt!) in tow, we made our way the few feet to Frankfurt Central to catch our train to Amsterdam. Amsterdam, Holland. HOLLAND! The motherland. The famous dykes, and cows, and cheese and stroopwaffles, and bicycles, and wooden shoes, and windmills. First things first. We got off the train at Amsterdam central, Gary still behind us, and right onto a connecting train to Haarlem where we decided to stay to avoid the more unseemly hostel mates we figured we would be likely to find in Amsterdam herself.
Haarlem is a picturesque little Dutch city, located a fifteen minute train ride from Amsterdam. Not to be confused with Harlem in the USA. This Haarlem has an extra ‘a’ and I can only assume a little more class. Although having never been to Harlem I can’t be in any way certain. Haarlem is pretty small and our hostel had it’s very own bus stop so it was pretty straightforward. After checking in, (and meeting our crazy, man-hating, bizzare-question-asking hostel mate), and setting up our beds we jumped right back on the bus, then the train straight back to Amsterdam. We had a city to explore.
So first impression as we walk out of the station, “Wow! That’s a lot of bikes! Way more the Copenhagen(the self-proclaimed cycling capital of Europe).” A three-story-parking-garage-exclusively-for-bikes, lot of bikes. Bikes everywhere. Anywhere there might have been a free space, there was a bike. It was insane. And these were just the ones not being ridden. Cars aren’t likely to run you over. Bikes will pretty much definitely run you over. Next impression was kind of like, “...uhhhh, this doesn’t look so clean...” But what can you expect from a city where pretty much anything goes. The first neighborhood we wandered through was kind of the outskirts of the infamous ‘Red-Light-District”. The maps don’t tell you, but it is pretty much directly outside of the train station.
After some first neighborhood jitters, we calmed down and started checking out the city a bit. Amsterdam is filled with narrow houses, and countless canals. People are growing beautiful flowers outside most of their houses. But the city is filled with tourists and locals alike who come for the seedier things the city has to offer. And being as business-savvy as any good Dutchmen ought to be the Amsterdamers take full advantage of the reputation their city has. Everywhere you look there are stores selling pot and paraphenalia, or some sort of erotic art, device, or experience. I would go as far as saying Amsterdam doesn’t really seem like part of the Holland I had come to expect from the stories of family. But I wasn’t really expecting it to be that way. I know the Holland my family talks about has nothing to do with Amsterdam.
Feeling a little let down by the city, but not totally hopeless we went to find dinner. Alyssa had picked out a place well known for their pea soup. Supposedly one of the best in the city. We started out with a appetizer of 6 small Dutchish items. There was a cheese croquette, a shrimp one, a mustarded(yes that’s a word now) leek soup, a pâté of some sort, a potato salad, and some sort of figgy-type bread with pickled herring and beets. It was all pretty tasty, with the croquettes being the best, although nowhere near as good as Opa Wilbrink’s. We also both had some local beer. Lys had a dark, caramel tasting beer, and I had a wheat beer. I am loving the wheat beer. It’s such an interesting flavor and I have been making a point to try them whenever I get the opportunity. I think my favorite has been ‘Edelweisse’ from Austria. The one I had tonight was pretty good too. Next was the ‘famous’ pea soup with bacon AND sausage. It was super thick and salty delicious. I would have to say that Alyssa’s pea soup blows this one out of the water(wink, wink, make me pea soup when we get home baby). Still a tasty meal.
It had been a long day, and not being interested in any of Amsterdam’s late night activities, we decided it was time to make the journey home. As we pulled into the station at Haarlem, we realized that we were out of toothpaste. After any meal involving herring, it isn’t really acceptable to be out of toothpaste. So we decided it would be best to walk around Haarlem’s center area a bit and try to find a grocery store. This would prove to be a little more difficult then we had initially thought. After about 45 min of searching we found one, but not before having the opportunity to explore a little bit of downtown Haarlem. Finally done for the day, we made our way back to the hostel for fresh breath and fresh beds.

Posted by s-a 23:36 Archived in Netherlands Tagged amsterdam Comments (2)

Day 77, Frankfurt

sunny 25 °C

The morning was still fresh and the sun had not yet shone on the little town of Gimmelwald when we left early this morning. Okay so it wasn’t all that early, it was 0800 when we took the cable car into the valley, but we had already remade our beds for the next visitors (lazy hostel buggers.) We took the bus to the train station in Lauternbrunnen and a train from there to Interlaken. From Interlaken we took a train to Bern and finally we connected to Frankfurt. We realized already back in Gimmelwald waiting for the cable car that we had neglected to write down the name or address of our hostel. How many times are we going to do this?
We made it to Frankfurt at 1530 and immediately wished we had gone straight to Amsterdam, it was only 4 hours farther! (and a few hours wait.) When we found the hostel only 100m from the train station we could tell the area was not great, train stations usually gather a transient crowd. Later in the evening, when we got back from dinner, we saw a guy smoking a rock of crack in a pipe right in front of our door. The hostel itself was uber-ghetto, an office building turned into dorm rooms. We kept telling ourselves it was only one night!
While getting Gary on and off the trains during the day the pulling handle had broken right off. Gary was getting harder and harder to deal with. We brainstormed what to do about him, duck tape? rope? tie him to a skateboard? In the end we used Shane’s belt and this seems to do the trick very well. The rest of the evening we did laundry, drank applewine and ate Chinese food. Oh. And dried not to go crazy.

Posted by s-a 21:54 Archived in Germany Tagged frankfurt Comments (3)

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