Monday, October 25, 2010
I'm cheating a bit with the photo, which was taken a couple years ago on the Ooijpolder. It's an oldie but a goodie, snapped through my old Fujifilm in the bitterest cold of the middle of December, on my way to freezing my ass off while counting geese.
BTW: if anybody wants to do a bird tour of the Ooijpolder, do let me know. I'm not an expert on "little brown birds that go 'twit'", as my boyfriend puts it, but in the winter the pintails, widgeons, teals, and gadwalls all descend upon the uitwater and it's an incredible sight.
Anyway: the point is that the photo isn't truly reflective of where I was this weekend, which was Friesland. More specifically, somewhere outside Groningen, where the signs are bilingual. We were visitng Jasper and Corrine, an ecologist (who is an expert on little brown birds that go "twit") and a literary event organizer, which is my way of saying "I have no idea what her title actually is but what she does is REALLY COOL". We had fun, stayed up half the night discussing the value of human life--Jasper exemplifies the infamous "Dutch Directness", you'd never have a conversation this heated or this philosophical after dinner at the Cleavers-- in a mixture of English and terrible Dutch, from my part. The next morning Jasper and I drove out to the Puddles, two little lakes and ponds, in hopes of seeing something special. Like a smew. I have seen this bird before, only once....
Anyway-anyway: The point of all that was to say that after living in Nijmegen and Maastricht for a year or three, I'd kind of forgotten how flat the rest of the country is. Which is not to suggest that the hills in the south of Nijmegen are actually all that hilly, but it's only in the complete absence of topography that you realize just how well-endowed the east and the south are. Even though I poke fun at the Dutch people who are so excited about climbing St. Pietersberg (300m, the highest point in the ENTIRE COUNTRY is literally in my backyard), I have to confess that I do understand: the monotony of the rest of the country could bore you to death, if it weren't so pretty.
Because that's the other thing most tourists will never really understand: there is a whole different world outside Amsterdam and the Randstad. And it's a nice world, a beautiful one, one full of animals and fungi and trees and, if you're lucky, hills. It may not have many windmills and the only tulips you'll see are sold in cut bunches at the florists--you'll never see a wooden shoe and people will offer you beer instead of weak tea and a whole plate of cookies. The drivers are polite and people might actually pick up after their dogs. There's a Netherlands that's not really the Netherlands, as most non-Dutch think of it, and they might never know....