We’ve arrived on our second continent, Africa. I haven’t really had time to let that sink in yet, so here I’ll say a proper goodbye to Europe.
On Tuesday we made our way across the side of Germany I hadn’t yet traveled in to Amsterdam. As I mentioned in my last post, borders seem pretty much nonexistent around here. The only way I knew we were in the Netherlands is because, instead of announcements in German and then an abbreviated English version, the train announcer started using Dutch, then German, then English in full. Just showing off. Then the conductor came through looking at our tickets, even though we’d already shown them to a conductor in Germany. In English, she cheerfully proclaimed, “We’re in Holland; we’re gonna do it again.”
If Germany is easy for an English speaker to get around in, Holland is ridiculous. In Berlin we had the interesting and somewhat nerve-wracking experience of getting haircuts, while the one hairdresser who did speak English helped translate for the one who didn’t. (Look at the pictures to guess whose didn’t understand.)
|Cruising the canals|
|Gay Pride tram|
Dutch people, however, just seem to speak English all the time, even when nobody asked them to. I know how to say “thank you” in Dutch, but I’ve never gotten the chance. The Dutch are also famous for being tolerant, perhaps to a fault. It was in Amsterdam that the first memorial to gays and lesbians killed by the Nazis, the Homomonument, was erected in 1987. It stands right next to the Anne Frank Huis, where the young Dutch diarist, her family, and other Jews hid for years.
But we didn’t do any Holocaust history in this city. Instead, we learned about the history of the Dutch "golden age," and how Amsterdam was built as a city of merchants. Like Jewish history, Dutch history is short on kings and wars. I admit it was a little weird to hear our walking tour guide say “we” in regard to the Dutch, even when he was talking about centuries ago (swapping a string of beads for Manhattan, say, or trading slaves). I don’t think a German would say it that way.
|"Hidden" (in plain sight) church--the way the Dutch tolerated congregations other than Reformed back in the day|
Rather than “coffeeshops” or the Red Light alleys cheek by jowl with churches, official and “hidden,” the biggest adventure we had in Amsterdam involved a little stuffed duck. If you’ve seen any of my albums on Facebook you may recall the duck who’s been featured in a photograph everywhere we have been. Well, he was all set up for his shot at the canal, but no sooner had T. let go of him than a gust of wind came, and he blew into the water! (She maintains that he made a break for it.)
The first thing we discovered is that he floats, like a real duck. We couldn’t reach him, however, even though T. resourcefully borrowed a hooked pole that a boatman was using. Then a boat came by. She called to the boatman and he answered, in an American accent, “What are we looking for?” With the help of a passenger who fished the duck out of the water, he was restored to us. I’d been sure that we’d have to leave him in Europe and this shot of him on the Singelgracht would be the last.
This episode lasted quite a while, during which a moorhen came along and spent some time trying to get to mate with the duck. So he ended up having quite an eventful time, getting in not just a swim, but a date!
|Reunited in Moshi, Tanzania|