Monday, January 16, 2006

Visiting the Netherlands

We spent the Christmas holiday in the Netherlands (i.e. Holland) visiting Marieke’s mum’s family. It was very relaxing, especially since I could understand very little of what was being said (my limited knowledge of Danish provided me no help with Dutch)… It was even a White Christmas. On Christmas Day 2 (Dutch Boxing Day), there was a bit of snow. By the next day, there was so much snow (3 inches) that they closed the airport and stopped the trains (some people slept on the trains until they started again, to avoid paying for a taxi home).

We visited Amsterdam, which is still a very interesting place, but has unfortunately transformed into more of an American frat boy’s hang out. The city centre is filled with “erotic museums” and small shops selling drug paraphernalia and posters of the pope doing unmentionable things. We visited the Anne Frank House, the world's thinnest house (2m wide) and generally wandered the canals (pictures). Before leaving, we walked through the Red Light District, which Marieke had not seen on her previous visits with her family. It’s a short stretch on either side of a canal, with women in bikinis standing around in red-lit windows, looking bored and talking on cell phones. Quite sad really.

We also greatly enjoyed the larger variety of available foods. Marieke finally found tofu in the regular grocery stores, as well as peanut butter. And, they have some amazing Dutch specialties, like:

  • “Syrup Waffles”
  • French fries with fritesaus (tasty mayonnaise)
  • French fries with curry sauce
  • Chocolate sprinkles (for your morning toast)
  • Vla (like Jello pudding, but sold in milk cartons)
  • Pannekoeks (a.k.a. pancakes)
  • Poffertjes (small pancakes)
  • Olliebollen (literally “Oil Balls,” covered with powdered sugar, a treat for New Year’s Day)

With all these delicious foods, I have no idea how the Dutch have all managed to avoid becoming obese.

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