Sunday, July 31, 2016

The AGONY of Der STAU!

I keep trying to tell Kirse that Germany is a wonderful place. Unfortunately the German department of highway maintenance is doing their best to prevent her from ever having a singular kind thought about the country. Let me tell you about the agony of yesterday.

We drove from Haarlem in the Netherlands through Germany to Copenhagen in Denmark. What's funny, and what I mean by funny, is NOT FUNNY OR FUN IN ANY WAY SHAPE OR FORM, is that within minutes of entering Germany, we saw a permanent sign on the freeway that read: "STAU" which roughly translates to: "Hellpocapalypse Mother of All Traffic Jams." There we idled in our rental car for hours and hours. 

The final blow came as we neared the border where we would catch our ferry to Denmark. Slow became stopped, and it was almost as if the spot our car stopped became a community of equally-frustrated travelers.

Seeing a ferry docked there at Puttgarden just made it worse. We could see other people escaping on a ship, but we were stuck on the mainland. Finally providence shined and we were allowed safe passage out of the Fatherland.

As time passed on the ferry, moods improved.

Okay so the funny part was that the minute we exited the ferry on Danish land, we never had another slow-down. Everything was fine. No more traffic. Our GPS told as we set-off us we would arrive in Copenhagen at 4:30 PM. As we pulled into our AirBnB at 10:00 PM, we were grateful to have made it. And we all now have a new common reference point we can talk about when something is taking a long time or seems boring.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Haarlem - Unbelievably Quaint Since 1245

So after two weeks in a lovely apartment in Amsterdam, and a weekend adventure in Leiden and Delft, we headed to Airbnb number 3 in Haarlem. It's just a 15 minute train ride from Amsterdam, so Tim can still get to work, and its great place to stay all on its own. In fact, the Netherlands is ridiculous in its never-ending cavalcade of amazing canals, market squares, and medieval churches. I'm already frustrated with all the new places I keep hearing about that we won't have time to visit!

We are in a three floor row historic house close to the city center in Haarlem, with lots of backyard neighbors which makes things interesting. But we can hear the church bells in the morning, and that's pretty magical. We went to some more museums (surprise, surprise) and did a lot of wandering. We picked up a map at the tourist office and Ethan has been highlighting where we have walked.


We have discovered many great bakeries, parks, and cheese shops in this little town.

Again, what is the deal with the big metal ball on the playground? Such interesting parks here! 

One of the most interesting places we went this week was the Corrie Ten Boom house, author of The Hiding Place. We saw where the Ten Boom family hid Dutch resistance fighters and Jewish people during World War II. Two of the kids were allowed to climb into the false wall hiding place (I'm not sure they should have been smiling in the picture, as it was a pretty somber place, but it's a great pic.)


Side note and minor complaint. So no residential places have air conditioning, and most museums don't have great systems either. So you open windows. But they don't believe in screens. Or having fans. And the only blankets they use are heavy and hot duvets. It's a killer summertime combination for us Mays, who are always too hot, and are now covered with quite a few bug bites. We had our first real hot day of the summer and it was a killer. We bought the last two fans in Haarlem, and figured out the bus system to escape to the nearby North Sea in the middle of the week. Strangely, the beach and nearby surf was littered with jellyfish, which meant you had to be pretty careful where you walked!

And luckily the multiple nearby ice cream shops help take the edge off. I'm trying not to do the math of how many Euros we have spent on ice cream so far this summer :) Hint: It's a lot.

The Netherlands is a great place to visit for English-speakers, because a lot of the time things are in English, and other times you can use helpful context clues.


But I worry about the opinion of Dutch people about the American diet - here's some pics from a local candy store and the supermarket freezer!


And we started and ended the week in the Grote Kerk, one of my favorite places on the planet.
There's an organ festival going on, so free concerts all week, plus carillon bells, and then Sunday evening we went to a Vespers service all in Dutch. But we knew the hymn,"Praise to the Lord, the Almighty," and they had a trumpeter accompanying the organ. It was lovely.



We also went to Mormon church services in Haarlem, and enjoyed a lovely bus ride where we picked up lots of kind and helpful Dutch and international Mormons on the way.  

We have another week in Haarlem - and have a fun week planned seeing some more local sights and venturing once again to Amsterdam and the ocean!


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Leiden and Delft...

So we headed to Leiden...
Where there are churches, canals, and history a poppin'!
 Leiden is where Rembrandt began painting.
Magical canals

Magical market breakfast.
Giant, freshly-cut slices of delicious Gouda.
Red doors—like two giant lungs, or the 10 commandments, or something else cool like that.
 Weird shot, I thought it would turn out better.
 Also weird
Doorway, older than America.
 He's making the same face as the scull.
 The type on this ancient placard was iridescent and awe-inspiring.
 As is our love.
 Hofs everywhere.
 The canals in Leiden — cleaner than our Amsterdam canals.

 We couldn't pull Karina away from the Greek vases depicting the Greek Gods. Thanks Rick Riordan.
This woman was biking with a full-sized poodle in her saddle bag. The poodle was cool with it.
 Good wall.

The textured plates in this room were this amazing embossed leather from a few centuries ago. Why don't we care about stuff like this anymore?
This photo is weaksauce. The back-lighting makes it impossible to see my kiddos. Cool stained glass though.
Ethan shall heretofore to be known as "De Valk." Ethan was born in 1743. And he's a windmill.
 This is "De Valk" from the outside.
 This is "De Valk" inside "De Valk."
 Sullivan sits on "De Valk." The other one.

The guts of a windmill are amazing. This was a 5-story windmill museum.
If you'd like to know how the weather was up there, it was, wait for it, windy.
Majestic Mays.
SUPERDUTCH™ canal homes.
This may be my favorite picture of the whole lot. It looks like a Vermeer. Seriously. Look at it.
In case you were wondering, is Leiden also beautiful by night? Well, here's your answer Walter!
My iPhone6 — I love how night photos look good.
So next day we gathered our lean & mean trip belongings and went from the beautiful, historic, charming city of Leiden and took the train to the beautiful, historic, charming city of Delft.
When you're in the Delft, you sit on cool benches and look cool.
That's the New Church. Began in 1396. The Old One is still there.
Look! Stuff!
This is the oldest house in Delft. It was built in 1985.

The Princenhof is where Willem van Oranje was murdered.
Sullivan was sad about it.
Ethan and Karina are adorable.
 We had lunch at this place, which has been a fish market since 1342.
This metal bible on the corner of a SUBWAY sandwich shop features the "studded" bible, an early bible printed in Delft.
Lot + Kiddos.
Lot took us to this amazing old-time candy shop.
Ethan and I got these old-time licorice sticks. They were literally sticks that tasted like licorice. You just chew on 'em.
This is the afore- mentioned Oude Kerk. It is older, twice as tall, and slants twice as much as the tower of Pisa. Began in 1246. You heard me. 1246. 1246.
After an exhausting tour, Ice cream is a must.
Karina keeps all of her ice cream spoons.
This is the Ooster-
poort of Delft.