Friday, January 4, 2008

New Years in Holland

They don't have exactly the New Year's Eve we know from America, but celebrate Old Year's Eve. There's no mistletoe, no party hats, no noisemakers, confetti and few countdowns. Instead, there are fireworks. And not that you go somewhere and watch them, every Dutch person gets fireworks and sets them off. Little children have sparklers, teens have what sounds like bombs (to me) and adults get the spectacular variety of lights and sounds that man can ignite with a match. The entire country is filled with thick smoke, and everyone is outside. After midnight, at some point, they walk around and say the Dutch equivalent of Happy New year.

Fire in the sky.

The smoke makes it difficult to get a good photo.

Another Dutch tradition - for New Year's they make appelflappen, which I am helping with in the shed, since it's quite messy to cook, and the smell of cooking oil gets in everything. My favorite for New Year's is oliebollen (the grandfather of our American doughnuts).

Okay - here it is. Finally the pictures of the furniture I PUT TOGETHER ALL BY MYSELF. Not really New Year's, but this was my first time EVER, that I did something like this without anyone else's assistance. A big thing for me, what with the brain injury and vision problems.

Sweet! I put together this one too. Luckily, I can follow picture directions pretty well, and it came out rather nice, I think.

Holland Holiday Season

Den Ilp is a village here in the Netherlands where everyone decorates their home with Christmas-themed lights and decorations (other than the religious). There's one main street where everyone drives through very slowly to view. Santa on a bicycle is more common than a sleigh, although occasionally he also turns up on a train or a motorbike.

I learned that Dutch is one of the most difficult languages in the world to master, so I'm lucky there's English everywhere.

Christmas dinner was fondue, not a goose or ham, or even turkey. Suits me just fine. Normally they use every excuse possible to have a party here, but as you might have noticed from the gap in my blog posts, I was ill for a while. So this was just a quiet Christmas dinner with Jeroen's parents.

I followed Santa's path on NORAD as he made his journey around the world. He didn't stop in either the Netherlands or Belgium, so we had to improvise gift giving with some help from Kabouters. In the US, we know them as Gnomes, but incorrectly so. They are completely different mythological creatures, and dang blast that travelling gnome for confusing the two.

Santa on a fiets.

A present for me! How nice!

My very own pair of klompen. I'm doing a clog dance.

Comfy shoes made of wood. A Dutch tradition.

I made Jeroen get a live Christmas tree, and added American candy canes to confuse everyone else. We planted it in the garden next to the tulip bulbs after Christmas.

A real German Christmas tree, from Dusseldorf.

Winter Travel

Most of the motorbike events are over for the cold season, but since I just got here, I'm happy to travel by car or train even though with the wind chill it's often below freezing. I'm really enjoying finally seeing the change of seasons, which I haven't been through in the desert climate of Los Angeles or the tropical Florida for the past, well, it's been many years.

I'm standing in Belgium, almost to Luxembourg

Now I'm leaving Luxembourg, returning to Belgium

Even the churches (this one in Belgium) decorate for the holidays. There are stars everywhere, but no Jesus-in-the manger, wise men, or the like.

A Dutch cat that lives and works (catching moles and mice) in Belgium.

A German bakery in Dusseldorf

Even in Germany one can find American food. Look carefully and you'll see the Starbucks too. No, I didn't go to either.

Funny thing is, in Dusseldorf it's nearly impossible to find worst with sauerkraut. Most of the shops/food and merchandise is Dutch. Three and a half hours drive from Alkmaar to Dusseldorf (a while of which was on the autobahn), and it took nearly an hour in sub-freezing temperatures to find ONE place that had sauerkraut. And yes - I am wearing my stupid glasses.

Delicious! I am part German, and I love this food!

I heard this Christmas Market (for which Germany is famous, they have tons) was slow this year. Too bad, I was looking forward to pandemonium, and there wasn't any.

Holland Weather

It's the new year, and I'm finally updating my blog with photos from last year. The season changed suddenly, and it got cold. There was no Indian Summer here - I don't believe they even have that term.

Sinterklaas arrived from Spain to visit all the kids in the Netherlands, and a holiday vaguely similar to our Christmas ended on the 5th of December. After that, the Christmas season more like what we know in America began. Yes, there are differences - they don't know what candy canes are (they call them party sticks) and they celebrate two days of Christmas, not one.

But, like everything else in Dutch culture, there's always tons of food. They eat constantly, and drink coffee like we might do with water. In spite of this, I just got a pair of jeans from the US, size 2, and they're baggy. Go figure. Perhaps I mentioned in another post that I'm following a Dutch diet plan - it's really cool, and apparently works better than anything I have ever tried.

But enough about that - on to the photos!

This was the view from my window in the morning.

Looking down from the dunes - that's the local village church.

The dunes near Alkmaar are covered in forest.

This is a two-way road, where you can just barely make out a well-know architect's design/house. I believe they also use it in commercials here.

You can laugh - but I was the only warm person in Holland. And my mom made me this scarf, I think it's cute. I don't even know how many layers I'm wearing, but a lot, trust me.

Hiking in the dunes.

That was just green a day ago!