April 30, 2012

Chapter 4: Holland & Coats

The Tales of Ki-Tan
Chapter 4: Holland & Coats

On a cold Easter weekend, two young Americans journeyed to the Netherlands in search of...

Day 1: Our Hotel.

Or somewhere, anyway. Our entire trip was a constant reminder as to why I do not drive in Europe. Tanya made an excellent effort throughout the weekend, and improved tremendously in her manual driving skills; but the extra stress and concentration necessary for successful driving in Europe is just not a part of what my life needs.

We definitely got to know our hotel's city very personally as we drove in and around it for about 30 minutes before even finding our destined street. But as time and process of elimination factors eventually coincide in most cases, we were finally able to settle into our room and plan our attack.

Day 2: Insanely Bright and Beautiful Flowers.

This was my unrealized day from last year. We went through the Keukenhof Garden again, but afterwards we were able to scour the countryside and find many a painted field to stop and admire.

(Author's note: what you are about to read is a healthy run-on sentence.)

Our finds of the day included Tanya's Asian clones...

...then the tulips that matched my dress...

...and that happened more than once...

...and we made it to the center of the hedge maze...

...then we found Keukenhof Castle...

...with the crazy aggressive horse...

...and after we ate our Swirls..

...we found our fields of pinks...

...and the brightest red we had ever seen...

...and some oranges and yellows...

...and Tanya floated over a field.

Day 3: Our (Tanya's) Dutch Heritage.

We started the day off somewhere you should never go: Madurodam.

It cost us way too much money to basically dodge blonde children for an hour.

So we invested in our modeling careers.

After the Maduro-disaster, we followed a canal in both directions before choosing the right one toward Tanya's grandfather's city of: Niewerkierk.

Upon the discovery of a local windmill in the rain, we saw the city sign just as we retreated back to the shelter of the car and had to go out in the soggy skies all over again.

We were thankful for the car at this point because it was not a bike.

We finished the long, long rainy day of driving all over the place with the stormy windmills of: Kinderdijk.

Day 4: The Softer Side of Amsterdam.

My experience in Amsterdam last year was not even worth talking about in my first Holland blog. I learned quite a few things, but mostly I just found that it wasn't my scene. But with Tanya's and my powers combined, we were able to counter the culture and find our own beautiful version of Amsterdam.

(The only thing we couldn't combat was the ever-present "scent" of the "coffee shops," so we just chose not to breathe here and there.)

Hidden door to the "Secret Annex"
The Anne Frank house is an absolute must if you ever get to Amsterdam. The line to get in takes about an hour, but the entire experience is irreplaceable. I thought it was much more effective in communicating a vision of purpose and compassion than the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. (which tends to communicate horror and depression without much hope in the end). I believe for every girl (or person) who has ever read The Diary of Anne Frank, it is especially poignant. It is the opportunity to live inside of her hopes, dreams, and fears. I found her home to be inspiring, and the credit for this goes to her father. The only family member to survive the war, Otto Frank wanted their former hiding place to serve as a place of hope; a place to remember those fallen and learn better for the future. He was the one with the vision of forgiveness and understanding, and it is beautifully communicated in the entire museum.

We wandered through some of the city center before heading over to the Waterlooplein Flea Market, where we rounded out Tanya's souvenir collection. I found something I had been keeping an eye out for - in France. At an old books and records stall, we really had to dig for treasures, and I pulled up a 3 Euro Bible - in French! It is my first "real" French book purchase, and I have a few English translations already to help me with the vocabulary.

We found the corner "Bagels & Beans" clean coffee shop, and enjoyed the incredibly delicious meal pictured here. The atmosphere was delightful and we were able to relax at our corner table next to the awesome coat rack that may have been intended just for decoration until we showed up.

There is another preciously preserved area of Amsterdam called the Begijnhof. You walk through a heavy gate and step from the gritty streets into a serene paradise. For hundreds of years, the homes surrounding the courtyard have only ever been for single women. In its earliest days (1600s), Catholic women lived here and quietly worshiped in their tradition while Protestant Amsterdam raged their anti-Catholicism sentiments all around the city. The residences are still reserved only for single women, and the tranquil setting provides a much needed escape from the brash vibe on the outside.

Along the outer walls of the enclave, medieval address plaques rest in their picturesque glory. The Dutch (like most people groups) did not use last names or number their houses. Instead, their homes were marked with these creative tell-all moldings. Close-ups show castles, trees, windows, children, occupations, inventions, years, and Bible stories.

Amsterdam was a wonderful way to finish our weekend, and that had a lot to do with the facts that it had stopped raining, we had dropped off our bags in the station luggage lockers, and Tanya didn't have to drive anymore! But we also saw Amsterdam the way we wanted to, and by the time we fell exhausted into our train seats, all we cared about was laughing through each and every photo and re-living the moments all over again.

Last year, when I had made this trip solo, I could only keep thinking about how I had to bring my Dutch best friend here someday. So, Tanya, thanks for making those dreams come true (do-do, do, do).

The Tales of Ki-Tan
Chapter 1: The Beautiful and Free
Chapter 2: To Mob, Or Not To Mob
Chapter 3 VLOG: Le Printemps en France
Chapter 5: The Color of Monet