I’m on an adventure again!
I’ve arrived in the Netherlands for a quick visit with family. We started our day with lunch in the adorable fishing town of Urk.
Urk sits along the shores of the Zuiderzee, an enormous freshwater lake that used to be the open sea. In the far distance, a huge dike built in the early 20th century seals off the water and allows for creation of new land.
You’ve probably heard about how ingenious the Dutch are, and it’s truly impressive to see how they are perpetually redesigning the actual ground that they live on. Next to this old fishing town are the Polders, land totally reclaimed from the sea and technically below sea level.
While all of this ingenuity is fascinating, the traditional lifestyle from another time lives on. Fishermen were busy setting up their nets, and the smell of fresh bread hung in the air. We ate some traditional foods for lunch, including their baffling take on croquette. In Italy, croquettes are made with potato but here the filling is a mysterious brown goop with meat strands, and it is served on brown bread with mustard. I genuinely don’t get it, but it is something that delights my Dutch family. To each their own.
Now off to the cheese shop! More from the Netherlands later!
We are visiting the pretty northern region of the Netherlands, and since I’m a visitor, the family decided to take us to the place you take foreigners for a funny dinner: The Pancake Ship.
The city of Groningen is adorable and has many canals, sort of like a mini Amsterdam. On one of these canals is an actual ship that serves only pancakes. The pancakes are enormous, about the size of a pizza, and are thin but covered in toppings. While I ordered one with spinach and cheese, there were many on the main dishes menu that were sweet. Apparently, it is not at all unusual for Dutch families to have sweet pancakes (more like crepes) drizzled with syrup for the main course at dinner.
Sprinkles for breakfast, pancakes and a giant pot of syrup for dinner. I’m starting to think the Dutch are part elf.
A small collection of Dutch things.
As I am new to Dutch culture, there are little things that I notice. The best part of being a travel writer is that it is my job to notice little differences, the stuff that makes each culture special. Here are a few I’ve noticed this week.
Farms. The Netherlands produces a huge percentage of European foods, and they’ve gotten very good at producing all year round. Farmers are important here, and their farmhouses are gorgeous, with thatched roofs and wood decoration.
Eating out of the Wall. The Dutch love their fried snacks, and you can grab one whenever you like from vending machines with little doors. I’ll probably never understand croquettes, but I’m told to think of them like hot dogs…just eat it and don’t ask what it is.
Narrow Tree-Lined Streets. The northern farming area has beautiful lanes that were absolutely not made for cars, but evoke a time of horse carts.
Ingenuity. The Dutch are incredible innovators. Wind and solar power are all the rage, but there are smaller innovations like a machine that peels and cores a pineapple for you while you wait at the grocery store. Fascinating.
Cheese. You can have any kind of cheese you want as long as it’s Gouda. Cheese stores are fun to visit and try the many variations.
Bread. I love good bread and I think Dutch bread is some of the best. I’d best not live here, I’d weigh 500 pounds if I did.
Canals. You think of canals in Amsterdam but in fact they are everywhere. The Dutch sculpt their landscape with water, and canals appear in unlikely places. We noticed a little hammer in the rental car and why? Because sometimes people accidentally drive into the random canals.
It’s a privilege to have an entry into a new culture. Even if Ive worked with Dutch people most of my life, being a part of a family is different and fascinating.
That’s all from the Netherlands for now, but I have a feeling I’ll be back soon.