It wasn't just any basketball game; two folks I knew from my Calgary Dinos team were playing pro in the Dutch league, and it was their two teams (Leiden & Groningen) playing in a playoff match. Our tickets were comped because we were crazy Canadians who came all the way to Leiden to see a game, Karen and I got interviewed and were on TV -- and that game was the indirect start of a wonderful friendship.
The next day, I blogged about groceries and houses and using pulleys to get things to upper windows -- all that normal stuff I blog about when I'm on vacation, that's only of interest to about 45-60 of you. On that post, I got a comment out of the blue from someone named Edwin.
Apparently, he heard about my blog from another Dutch basketball fan who somehow found and read my first blog about the Groningan game -- because Edwin's possibly Groningen basketball's biggest fan. Edwin said he liked my blog, and he started following me, providing really interesting insight to some of our Netherland questions and experiences.
For some reason, Edwin kept reading my blog after our vacation was over and we got home -- long after we got home. For the last 7 years, he's been one of my most faithful readers. I only occasionally post about basketball, so that hasn't kept us connected. Somewhere along the way, we also connected on Facebook (and Instagram and Twitter, too) -- there's more basketball stuff there, but not that much.
I started following his adventures with his young family. I learned of his two young sons (who were very young in 2011), and have watched him post his "proud papa" moments. I learned a little bit about his business of supplying bar coding & RFID equipment for businesses. We traded thoughts on politics from time to time, sometimes Trump and sometimes Brexit and sometimes just how the world was coming out. When I wrote my book in 2016, I autographed and sent one of my 10 free copies to Edwin. Social media created, and helped two people who had never met, cement a friendship.
Edwin was thrilled when he heard that my daughter was going to study in Groningen. Even though he lives ~2.5 hrs drive from there, Groningen's still his team, he still has season's tickets, and he gets up there all the time. He surprised her this spring and took her to a basketball game, much to her delight.
So meeting Edwin -- my dear friend of the last 7 years -- for the first time was a critical "must do" for us this trip. We arranged a day as soon as we arrived, one that worked around his family's camping trip to Tuscany (A CAMPING TRIP TO TUSCANY! I was SO jealous!). Edwin ever so kindly invited us to visit him at his home in Dinxperlo, a small town on the German border east of Arnhem. Karen and I were both pretty excited heading down on the train... but how would we find him?
I had seen many pictures on Facebook of Edwin, so kinda knew who I was looking for. But I'm not very photogenic and avoid posting pictures of myself wherever I can. We were less than 30 minutes away, and trading texts. I told Edwin that both Karen and I were dressed in pink. He texted back this from the train platform:
|Edwin and his awesome son, Tim|
Our day was wonderful. In addition to Edwin and Tim, we loved our time with Pelle and his wife Esther -- who was born and raised in Dinxperlo, and they live just a few doors down from where she grew up, surrounded by her family who also live in the town.
On our way from Dotinchem -- the closest train station -- to Dinxperlo, we passed a house flying a Canadian flag for some reason.
We enjoyed a genuine Dutch dining staple for lunch: chocolate sprinkles. You laugh. Tim and Pelle had to teach us how to make chocolate sprinkle sandwiches (they're called hagelslag). This is serious Dutch eats.
|A photo stolen from the internet|
It's a wonder the Dutch don't all weigh 300 lbs.
Tim showed us an exceptionally cool contraption that I have never seen here. He has a hoverboard; they're fairly common here. But he had this seat attachment for it that just looks wicked.
|You can pull wheelies|
|Boppin' at 40 km/hr...|
Edwin thought it would be fun to spend the day in Germany. First stop was the Schloss Watterburg in Anholt, an old castle turning into a high end hotel and private museum (all of 1 km as the crow flies from the border).
|Entering the castle gates|
|Let's hope those guns don't work|
|The front door|
|Edwin proving the original guards were not that tall|
|Pelle doing his best guard impression|
|The water got to the little plaque to Pelle's left. That's 10 m above the river this day|
|A bench on the promenade|
|Just makes you wonder what he's looking at|
|In a pond|
|Pelle wondering what he's looking at|
|Tim: Good height. Excellent arm placement. Judges rating: 9.6|
|Pelle: More conservative. Safely executed. Judges rating: 9.7|
|Not typical Saturday wear|
The Church (St. Viktor's) was beautiful and a bit of peace in a town otherwise a little crazy. It's a biggie; the biggest north of Cologne, and was started in 1263, taking 281 years to build.
|Vaulted Gothic ceilings|
|One of several alters|
|More of the cool ceiling|
Esther's not a fan of jawbreakers any more.
The candy store didn't just sell candy; it also was a duck store (what is with duck stores?).
|We don't do pedestrian malls like this|
|The other side. Imposing.|
|Very Dutch in Germany|
We ran out of time to see the Roman ruins, but seeing Roman ruins wasn't why we came to Dinxperlo, so it didn't matter. We finished our day with a wonderful Mexican dinner (Mexican food in the Netherlands? Why not) with even better company.
Edwin, Esther, Tim and Pelle are wonderful folks; kind, gentle, generous, friendly, and pretty much everything else I've come to know about the Dutch. Edwin speaks something like 6 languages (I'm sure Mandarin's next), Pelle's, Tim's and Esther's English is excellent (seriously, Esther: take Italian lessons just for fun!), so we had a lot of fun trying to improve our pathetic Dutch pronunciation (no, Tim, I'm convinced we will never pronounce Scheveningen correctly. Groningen's hard enough!).
If I am very lucky, we will have convinced them to come visit me and my mountains sometime soon. It would be an honour to take them hiking or maybe see dinosaur bones.
I'm proud to call Edwin my friend.