On our first full day in Holland, we went hunting for the place where my father was born.
We found it only with the help of the GPS. There was a teensy little traffic glitch along the way. Somehow we managed to turn onto a road that was not really a road; more like a single lane with a bike path on either side. Quite a while later, after the Navigator and I had entertained a lively discussion as to the nature of this road and our chances of getting off it (there being no cross streets and nowhere to turn around), we were stymied by a road barrier which halted all conversation. Hmmmmm.
Behind us, a commercial van drove up and stopped, obviously expecting us to do something. I, being the one who speaks Dutch, took a deep breath, got out and explained our predicament to the woman driving the van, who was very pleasant. She did say that “officieel” we were not supposed to be there, but if we would drive right up to the barrier, she would drive up behind us and use her transponder to open the barrier. And that’s what we did. Phew.
It made us much more alert to the roads in general, and by the way, we quickly tuned in to the Terrorist Killer bicycles which have right of way – ALWAYS. I was nearly creamed by a predatory eight-year-old, and barely managed to pull the Navigator out of the way of a housewife similarly mounted on a Terrorist Killer bicycle. And then there was the woman travelling at just under the speed of sound who called me a name for being on the same planet as her. There are no innocent pedestrians in Holland – merely obstacles to bicycle navigation. And the Navigator would like me to warn you all that “fietspad” dos not mean “footpath”!
Back to the place my father was born. The rural town of Frankhuis which my father described has been taken over by the suburbs of the city of Zwolle, with a school, housing development and warehouse crowding alongside, although cows and sheep still live in close proximity with their human neighbours. I must say I was a little disappointed. I hoped for some connection to my father’s fond memories, but didn’t find it.
My father was born in one of these ten little row houses in 1925. Which one I don’t know, although I recall visiting Oom Herman and Tante Jennie Samson (now long gone)here briefly with my parents around 1971. Tante Jennie was my father’s favourite aunt, who was very kind to him after his mother’s early death. Known locally as “De Tien Geboden” (The Ten Commandments) these houses originally consisted of just one room, with closets on either side containing the beds.
These are photos of similar beds, taken a few days from now (ah, the magic of technology) at the Cultural Museum in nearby Staphorst:
I remember Tante Jennie’s house being just like that, with most of the interior furnishings consisting of a round table covered with a round Persian rug and surrounded by chairs, in the Dutch tradition, but I think now they have all been renovated to modern standards, like this one in a realtor’s video:
These houses are built along a dijk, and beyond the dijk is the “Zwarte Water” (black water) river. Family lore is that his mother dressed my father for church, right down to his only pair of leather shoes (because of course he wore wooden shoes the rest of the time) and told him not to move even an inch while the rest of the family got ready. Well, those little leather shoes took little Klaas down to the Zwarte Water, and brought him back again, late for church and soaking wet, to face the spanking of his young life!
We had big plans for more touring, but jet lag fatigue demanded a nap, and I listened. This evening we explored Vollenhove on foot, including its medieval walled garden, the bishop’s ruins, the old church (couldn’t get in) and oh, yes, the local pub.
Fatigue, some disappointment, some traffic troubles, but still a very good day. It’s just wonderful to be here taking it all in.