Verse Bloemen

One of things I love about Dutch town markets is the availability of fresh flowers. You can find fresh flowers all year round and for cheap. Roses, tulips, orchids, and heather can always be found at the Hilversum market. The supermarkets and even the Albert Heijn to go at the train station always sell flowers. On any given day (but especially market days) you will pass dozens of people carrying flowers. My friends will tell you that I am not really a flower person (unless we are talking dead flowers). I think that is changing after a year of watching people pass by with armloads or bike baskets full of flowers.

If I am honest the flower bug first hit me back in March. I bought a bunch of tulips and a vase. On the way home from the shop I walked slowly, afraid of squishing the buds or breaking the vase. That afternoon I spent time carefully trimming and arranging the tulips. I debated putting them in the front window or on the dining table. The latter won. The bright colors popped against the dark finish of the dining room table. I was pleased with the effect and enjoyed the flowers while they lasted. But as flowers do, they died and I tucked the empty vase into the back of my cupboard.

The first flowers I bought in the Netherlands.
The first flowers I bought in the Netherlands.

During the rest of the spring and summer I enjoyed walking past neighbors’ gardens and the wildflowers in the city. Eventually they became background and I noticed them less and less. Fast forward to early October. One afternoon my doorbell rang. It was my neighbor with a gorgeous bouquet of flowers. After she left I realized just how big the bouquet was and that all the flowers would not fit in my vase. I set the flowers on the counter and ran to the store to buy a second vase.

Flowers from my neighbor.
Flowers from my neighbor.
Flowers from my neighbor.
The other half of the bouquet from my neighbor.

The flowers lasted an amazingly long time, especially given my track record with killing plants. I had them at least a week possibly two. When they died, I was prepared to pack away my vases again. That is until I saw a perfect fall bouquet in the market that I had to buy. Then friends brought me more flowers. In short, for the last two months my table has been constantly decked out in flowers. And whenever my current bouquet dies, I have my eye on some poinsettias…

Herfst bloemen
Herfst bloemen
Flowers from my friends.
Flowers from my friends.
Roses
Roses
Today's fresh flowers from the market.
Today’s fresh flowers from the market.

Outdoor Living

Outside. The outdoors or in Dutch buiten or het buitenleven. Buitenleven literally means outside living. The Dutch love the outdoors. No matter what the weather you will see the Dutch spending time outside (granted in cooler weather that means slightly less people outside). So “buitenleven” is an accurate descriptor for the Dutch. In warmer weather sidewalks and streets are crammed with people: walking, biking, and sitting in cafes. Actually if the weather is nice no one* sits indoors at cafes. This is one of my favorite things about the Dutch.

Through the Dutch ardor for the outdoors I have rediscovered my own enjoyment of being outside. Feeling the breeze on my face, stopping to admire the hue of flowers, or just enjoying the smell of the outdoors. This summer I have enjoyed het buitenleven: walking, gardening (ok so I enjoy the end result), boating, or otherwise relaxing. And I intend to enjoy a lot more.

gracht Kortenhof

*Slight exaggeration but not too far from the truth.

 

A Few of My Favorite Words

My posts often have a Dutch word (maybe two) related the topic of the blog entry. However, I thought I would share some of my favorite Dutch words and expressions.

Knuffel – This word means hug. I love the way this word sounds as well as the meaning. (Yes, you pronounce the k too.) Who doesn’t love hugs or knuffels?

Knoflook – Knoflook is one of the first Dutch words I learned. If you know Mike and me well it should not surprise you that this word means garlic. Knoflook isn’t just lekker or tasty, it is also fun to say.

Vogel or Vogeltje – Vogel is a bird and vogeltje is a baby bird. I love the way the Dutch pronounce v’s – part f part v. Follow the Dutch v with the Dutch g (which is very visceral since it sounds like you are getting ready to spit) and you have a word that is fascinating to hear.

Gefeliciteerd met je/uw verjaardag – If we translate this loosely you are wishing someone a “Happy Birthday” but the literal translation is “congratulations on your birthday.” You say this to the birthday person and say “gefeliciteerd” or “congratulations” to their friends and family. Why congratulations? I am not sure but it does feel good to be congratulated every so often. So why not your birthday?

Het was gezellig – This phrase, and gezellig in particular, doesn’t have a precise translation into English. It is used to describe spending time in great company and/or doing something enjoyable. Google translates gezellig as cozy. Bab.la Woordenboek translates it as cozy, close, intimate, homy, and sociable. Wikipedia says it is cosy or quaint. All of these definitions talk around the meaning but never hit it straight on. The best way to describe it is this: Imagine you just had an amazing experience that you are describing to a friend. You can’t quite express all the positive feelings you have about the experience so you finish your story with a lame “well you just had to be there.” You-just-had-to-be-there is “het was gezellig.”

Town Market

Farmers’ markets are one of my favorite food related things. In the US, most farmers’ markets last from May/June to about September/October. For Mike and I visiting the local farmers’ market was always an event. We would plan to eat a meal there, try a new food, and bring back some goodies for at least one more meal. Often we would pick out interesting or unfamiliar foods. To this day one of my favorite finds was a middle eastern bakery. After moving to the Netherlands, I was very excited to find out that our town has a market twice a week.

From what I can tell after living here almost seven months, pretty much every town in the Netherlands has a town market once or twice a week. The town market is very similar to the American farmers’ market but the town market is often bigger and for some people their main source of food shopping. You can find produce, herbs, breads, eggs, cheese, fish, worst, nuts, seeds, tea, coffee, even potted plants, linens, and clothing not to mention an array of things for your bike. Our market also has a fry stand where you can order a cone of fries with your favorite sauce and perhaps a kroket if you are really hungry.

At first, I didn’t do a lot of shopping at the town market. For a couple reasons:

1. I was convinced that it was going to be overpriced or higher priced than the supermarket. This is generally not true, the prices are about the same if not a little less at the market depending on the item and the seller. In my experience the town market produce is often better quality and more varied than the supermarket.

2. It was winter, a balmy winter with no snow, but still colder than Texas where I had spent the last two to two and a half years. Yes, I was a wimp.

3. I didn’t speak any Dutch and was worried that I wouldn’t be able to understand people. Most sellers speak at least enough English to conduct their business but I didn’t know that at the time. Now I know enough Dutch to make my purchases without resorting to English.

The present
I have noticed that some things are way easier to find at the market than at the supermarket. A couple times the supermarket was out of a veggie I needed but at the town market the same veggie could be found in several stalls. I usually plan my shopping around going to the town market and what is available seasonally. One of my recent town market hauls included raspberries, cucumber, and salad greens.

De Huisarts

De huisarts or huisdokter is similar to a primary care physician or family doctor. In the Netherlands, you go to the huisarts nearest to your home. This means mine is literally up the street and around the corner; I can walk there in 5 minutes. In the States, I would have to drive up to half an hour (depending on traffic) to go from home to my doctor.

The huisarts is very efficient for several reasons:

1. Caters to a small and specific area (there are several huisarts/huisdokter in my town each in a different neighborhood). This means they are close to their patients and have less patients to see which means more time is available for each patient.

2. When you make an appointment they see you pretty much at that time (give or take a few minutes)

3. The doctor can send your prescription directly to the pharmacy or apotheek in Dutch

4. The pharmacy is often next door to the huisarts

Here is a brief recounting of my first experience.

Two days before my appointment:

Me: Hello, I would like to make an appointment to see the doctor.

Huisarts: We have an opening available at 8:30 on Friday.

Me: Sounds good. I will take it.*

Huisarts: You now have an appointment at 8:30 on Friday. See you then.

Day of my appointment:
I arrive early for my appointment and take a seat in the already full waiting room. Within 5-10 minutes the waiting room is empty because all patients have been called. At my appointment time, I am called back by the doctor. We enter her office which has desk, a computer, and an exam table. She asks about any medical concerns, performs the exam, and boom done. Total time: 20 minutes.

If only everything in my life could be so efficient.

*I probably could have gotten a different time but I am used to the US where if you don’t that the first time they offer you can be waiting for weeks or longer.

Koningsdag (aka King’s Day)

This year April 26 marked the first ever Koningsdag (or King’s Day). Previously, the day was celebrated as Koninginnedag (or Queen’s Day) however since the queen abdicated last year the Netherlands now has a king. The Dutch celebrate by wearing orange (the national color), selling things, and partying.

Since Koningsdag fell on a Saturday many people began to celebrate Koningsnacht (King’s Night) on Friday. In Amsterdam, carnival rides and food vendors set up to help people celebrate. Every other shop sold orange clothing or accessories. Streets were lined with orange balloons, garlands, and Dutch flags. Hilversum also had a carnival and food vendors along the main street. Mike and I forgot it was Koningsnacht and decided to head down town for gelato. We grabbed gelato then ran into some of Mike’s coworkers so we stopped to have a beer or two with them. I don’t know if that counts as celebrating Koningsnacht but I am going to count it.

Everyone told us that Amsterdam on Koningsdag is a must see sight and very crowded. I did visit Amsterdam on Friday so I feel like I got a taste of what it would be like on Saturday. However, Mike and I aren’t really crazy about crowds so we opted to visit friends in Zwolle. We still got the food, music, and all the orange but less crowds. We also visited a farm (more on that in my next post).

Drum band on Koningsdag.
Drum band on Koningsdag.
Vrijmarkt - people set up blankets and tables with goods to sell, often toys or decorations.
Vrijmarkt – people set up blankets and tables with goods to sell, often toys or decorations.
This was earlier in the day. People added more orange to their outfits as the day wore on.
This was earlier in the day. People added more orange to their outfits as the day wore on.

Kunst

Let’s talk about art (kunst in Dutch). Art is not exclusively found in museums. In fact I found quite a lot of art by just walking around town. Art is in parks, train stations, buildings, and many other places; you just need to keep your eyes open. Below is some art I have found whilst wandering.

Haarlem
A window in Haarlem
Amsterdam
A statue in Amsterdam
Buurtatelier (an exhibition of art by Dutch children)
Het Buurtatelier (art by Dutch children, this painting and the next four are in a tunnel under the Muiderpoort train station)

trein station kunst 2

trein station kunst 3

trein station kunst 4

trein station kunst 5

I found this face on a bridge.
I found this face on a bridge.
Gedeeld verleden, gezamenlijke toekomst (shared past, common future). This art installment is in Oosterpark in Amsterdam
Gedeeld verleden, gezamenlijke toekomst (shared past, common future). This art installment is in Oosterpark in Amsterdam
De titaantjes (Little Titans). Oosterpark, Amsterdam
De titaantjes (Little Titans). Oosterpark, Amsterdam
Another statue in Oosterpark
Another statue in Oosterpark

Food Discoveries #2

Once upon a time I would only drink wine (usually red) and occasionally some vodka (loaded with cranberry juice). Then I discovered American micro-brews and eased into the world of beer drinking. In the Netherlands, you can find almost any style of beer: IPA, pilsner, stout, Trappist, lambic etc. Due to our proximity to Belgium and Germany, stores stock a lot of Belgian styles and German beers. Mike and I are on a mission to try as many of the beers available as possible.

Here are some of my favorites:

Palm Speciale Belge – This beer is a caramel color and tastes like a light amber. It drinks easy on its own or with food. Bonus: I can find it at almost any pub or cafe.

Belgian Wit – I love the light and slightly bitter/sour taste. This style is very refreshing.

Belgian Bruin – This style reminds me of a lighter stout, caramelly but not as dark.

So what are some things you eat with these beers? Well aside from drinking a beer with dinner the Dutch will have bitterballen, kaassoufflés, krokets, and maybe a loempia or two. Personally, I enjoy

kaassoufflés – cheese sticks wrapped in rice paper and deep fried served with sweet chili sauce

loempias -think spring rolls also served with a sweet chili sauce

Another one of my favorite Dutch snacks is Katjang Pedis, peanuts covered in a spicy sambaal mixture. I always try to have some Katjang Pedis or mixed nuts in the house.

Walking

When people ask me what I like about living in the Netherlands, I always give the same response. Walking. When Mike and I moved we sold our cars and decided not to buy a new one. This means our main mode of transportation is walking (followed by taking the train).

Most of my walking has been around town to figure out where I can buy this or that. However, last week a friend invited me along on a walk in the woods. From my house, it only takes about a kilometer before you reach the woods and the heather. (In this weather the heather is brown and not very picture worthy but I promise I’ll take pictures when it is in full bloom.) There are paths through the heather and the woods. On weekends these paths are packed with cyclists, walkers, and even a horse or two. All that walking and cycling makes a person thirsty, so the Dutch have thoughtfully placed tea houses (not to be confused with coffeeshops) and cafes throughout the woods. My friend and I stopped at one for a drink. Sadly they were out of the fresh mint tea that is very popular here so we opted for mulled wine instead.

I think more trips out to the woods will be on my agenda in the future.