Monday, March 31, 2014

Day 123-126: Friesland

After the Overnight Bus of Death dropped me off in Amsterdam, I immediately caught the train up to Friesland, the area in the north of the Netherlands where my mom's parents are from. I stayed with my mom's cousin and family in a village just outside Drachten and spent a fairly relaxing weekend walking around the countryside and accompanying my relatives on a few trips to local towns.

What I enjoyed most about Friesland was meeting my mom's cousin (Linda) and her family, and experiencing normal life with them for a few days. We went to a soccer match one night, watched Dutch TV most evenings, and shopped at IKEA in Groningen. I liked the traditional Dutch food, some of which I had eaten before and other kinds that I hadn't (I'm not going to list any, because I can't even begin to spell the names!) I'm so used to Dutch-Canadian culture back home, so it was interesting to see what normal life with a real Dutch family was like. 

Friesland is a really odd place. Like most of the Netherlands it's fairly compact, and half an hour by car can get you to a city in the next province over. It's not that much different from Prince Edward Island, in a way, with farmland everywhere and everything within easy driving distance.

However, there's something about it that feels completely detached from the rest of the world. It's a weird mix of idyllic and desolate, isolated yet cared for. It feels so far away from everything, but Amsterdam is only two hours by train, and less by car. Compared to the huge spaces of nothingness in Canada, Friesland is hardly in the middle of nowhere. 

It's definitely a place I need to come back to. While I enjoyed my stay, meeting my relatives, experiencing daily life in the Netherlands, and walking through the countryside, I really want to see Friesland in the summer and dig a little deeper into my roots. I want to see the place where my great-grandparents were buried. I want to see where my grandfather fired a single shot at a German soldier during World War Two. I want see the church where my grandparents were hurriedly married during the war. 

In June, hopefully, mum will come out and we'll travel Europe together, focusing on the Netherlands and Germany. Mum can introduce me to even more relatives (although it'll be really nice that I already know some of them from this past trip) and we can re-live family history together. 

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