We spent a few days in the small village of Boxmeer in southeast Holland, not far from the German border. We stayed at the house of a friend’s parents (I myself stayed in his boyhood room). Our hosts had each day’s schedule planned out, it seemed. They drove us for sightseeing to nearby towns, including Nijmegen and Arnhem. Here we were introduced to wonderful Dutch hospitality, Dutch cuisine and, for me, an excellent Dutch treat, the stroopwafels. As the name implied, the stroopwafels are waffle-like cookies sandwiching a syrupy middle. They’re particularly good with hot tea. I was addicted to them for a few years afterwards, and my friend always brought some whenever he came back from Holland. I was also introduced to the the custom of terrassing, which was a colorful way to referring to passing time, a lot of time, in a cafe, preferably one with a terrace. As I later found out, this practice was not particular to the Dutch, but actually quite common in Europe :)
The village was quite small. I remember that it had a train station, of course, and a post office, where we fired off all of our postcards. As a nod to the seemingly predominant Dutch hobby, we commandeered a couple of the ubitiquitous bicycles and rode around town. The Low Countries are of course known for dikes and crisscrossing canals, and we were fortunately enough to see a canal lock in action. In the picture, a barge has just cleared the lock. In the subsequent frames, the lock gates would be closed again so that the water level could be controlled. Seconds after I took the photos, a voice came over the PA, in Dutch, telling my sister to get back to the other side of the fence :) We all burst out laughing. We also saw a Dutchman flying along the road on long rollerskates. That’s another reminder that here they also take speedskating seriously.
My friend’s father didn’t speak much English, but his mom did, so we conversed mostly with her. I learned a few simple phrases, like dank u, and how to pronounce certain tongue-twisters like van Gogh. It’s not supposed to be “van Go” or “van Goth”, but if you make a sound as if to vigorously clear your throat, you’re on the right track :)
After our warm and pleasant sojourn, we headed by train to our next stop in central Holland, Utrecht, to visit my friend’s older sister.
Last visit: June 1999