Introducing Paul

December 2, 2014

in Europe, Netherlands, Paul Van Vliet, Spring 2015

I don’t mind rainy days, which, if what I have been told is true, is an important quality to have when spending time in the Netherlands. Being a Minnesotan by birth, I have, as all Minnesotans do, an intimate relationship with poor weather. While every snowflake is different, conversations about the weather in Minnesota are generally the same. It starts with a comment about how long the winter is or how we were robbed of a proper springtime, which leads to a reply along the lines of, “but it just makes you enjoy the good weather more.” I have heard much about how poor Dutch weather tends to be, and while weather stories are always especially prone to hyperbole, I have no experience with which to refute such reports. That figures to change.

In the forward looking parts of my imagination I see myself skimming across water-logged bike paths, a wheel of Gouda tucked under my arm trying not to be stampeded by the vastly more skilled Dutch bikers. There are two things that the Dutch are notorious for: cheese and bicycles. When Grandma turns the television to an episode of Rick Steves Europe, any exploration of the Netherlands includes a five-minute segment on cheese and the b-roll is comprised of people on bicycles filmed from every possible angle.

The Netherlands so far has been presented to me as a series of generalizations. The kinds that headline the travel brochures that fall out of fanny packs worn by old folks in pleated pants and visors. While these generalizations are benign and in general endearing, in the following months I hope to discard such generalizations and explore Dutch culture like a plainclothes officer.

I will be in the Netherlands before I have a chance to catch my breath, but the trip still sits in the surreal stage that is immediately followed by curse words and cursory packing as I realize the departure date is all-to-fast approaching. I feel like a traveler in the desert nearing an oasis. Wandering in delirium, driven mad by mirages, the shimmering water in the distance doesn’t register as reality yet. But soon I will be stumbling down the sand dunes to find my feet submerged at the bottom. And so I drudge through the last few stacks of pre-departure paperwork, weary with anticipation, filled with excitement, waiting for a plane to take me off to a low, wet, cheese-filled spot on the map.

Yours in travel,

An Excited American

Leah December 5, 2014 at 2:31 pm

Please wear clogs while doing said bicycling with a wheel of Gouda tucked under your arm. I’ve heard it’s the only way to truly embrace the full Dutch experience.

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