Tuesday, 5 June 2018

A Story of Friendship

When I was last in the Netherlands in 2011, I took the opportunity to catch a basketball game. You can read about it here.

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
Did I mention Edwin always looks cool? And I think Tim's looking even cooler.

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.
Dinxperlo sits on the German border. I didn't get any photos of it, but the border runs right down some streets and it marked with yellow X's. Street names and signs in Germany are in German, in the Netherlands in Dutch, but other than that, this is about as seamless as a border gets.

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
Tim's technique is to take a crusty bun, poke a hole in it with a knife, swirl the knife around to make a hole inside, then pour in the chocolate sprinkles; Esther frowns on this. Edwin's more a "spread butter then pour on the sprinkles" kinda guy. Pelle liked milk chocolate, Edwin liked dark. Who knew there could be so many ways to eat this stuff?

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...
I was tempted to try it, but let's face it -- I'm an old fart who breaks easily.

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
Next stop was the Rhine. In the Netherlands -- in reality, a country built on the Rhine delta -- the Rhine splits into 4-5 large rivers. Here, at Rees, just before the border, it's just one fast flowing megariver.
The promenade
I learned that the Rhine is not dammed all the way to it's source in the Swiss alps. Big snow or big rain can result in the river flooding, which it has done fairly often. There's a river gauge on the promenade, and a small plaque showing just one of the many flood heights. Even though I lived through a flood of epic proportions, I had trouble imagining the river being this high.
The water got to the little plaque to Pelle's left. That's 10 m above the river this day
Rees has very funky art scattered through town.
A bench on the promenade 
Just makes you wonder what he's looking at 
In a pond 
Pelle wondering what he's looking at
We had ice cream -- because it was a perfect day for ice cream, and why not -- and then, the ever handsome Pelle and Tim...
Cool dudes
... had to jump off a wall (and why not?).
Tim: Good height. Excellent arm placement. Judges rating: 9.6 
Pelle: More conservative. Safely executed. Judges rating: 9.7
Our final stop for the afternoon was Xantan (X is not a common letter in either Dutch or German). We were headed there to see the spectacular church and possibly the Roman ruins... but unexpectedly found the town a bit of a zoo, hosting a medieval festival. There were folks walking around wearing medieval garb...
Not typical Saturday wear
...on their way to jousting matches. Seriously. Right out of "A Knight's Tale".

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. 
The facade 
Exterior detailing 
Vaulted Gothic ceilings 
One of several alters 
Alter detailing 
The apse 
More of the cool ceiling
Tim had to take us to a candy store where he once bought a giant jawbreaker -- then proceeded to choke on it. His mom saved his life with the Heimlich manoeuvre.

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?).
The town is pretty and had interesting fortification walls and towers.
Nifty architecture 
We don't do pedestrian malls like this 
Town towers 

The other side. Imposing. 
Wall fortifications
They also have a windmill.
Very Dutch in Germany
Edwin told me that this area of Germany used to be part of the Netherlands hundreds of years ago, and shows lots of Dutch history.

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.

1 comment:

Blondi Blathers said...

Thanks for the tour!
Just reading through the comments from Ken Levine's blog (in response to his question "Who's here?") to see who else has Levine on their blog-reading list and who else has a blog I might like to add to my own blog-reading list.
I'm over in Saskatchewan, where it's a snowy morning and looks cold out so I'm in bed with my laptop, putting off the getting-moving part of the day. -Kate