We Aar Haaving a Greaat Time in Hollaand | Red means Dead | Big Nipple Energy
Travelogue 1 from Europe trip 2023
Without question, my favorite Dutch word I have learned, so far, is “waterkoker,” pronounced (to an American ear) “vater-coker.” It’s a little machine that cooks water. So, it’s a water cooker.
The first one I encountered looked like this:
That little guy takes about a cup of water and swirls it around inside while heating it up. This means if you’ve put too much vater in de koker you now have yourself a warm mess. It doesn’t get water quite hot enough for coffee. But at least it’s really weird.
Goals for this trip include working on my value studies. But we’ve been going hell bent for leather since we got here and I’ve had time to make only one.
Red Means Dead
On our first full day we took a multiple hour bike tour in Amsterdam, which worked out nicely both as a jet lag remediation and introductory class to cycling in the city.
Amsterdam is wonderful for its cycling infrastructure but even more so for its attitude. Drivers give space. They’re careful. They don’t act like the sole owners of the road and they don’t yell out the window at cyclists for daring to use it too. None of this should be remarkable.
I was warned that insane cyclists blazing through the city would scream at pedestrians. This has not been the case.
If you’ve only experienced US cities you do need to pay a little more attention. You need to know what a cycle path looks like (red) and check before you step into traffic. I also recommend knowing what canals look like (brown) and don’t step into those. Don’t try walk into the spinning blades of a windmill or into a burning pottery kiln or up a lion’s ass.
If you’re not paying attention and wander into a clearly marked bike lane in front of a mom with a bakfiets full of kids I think she’s right to give you the business. And the kids should get to mock you in Dutch. Which hurts. A lot.
Speaking of which, I was desperate to ride a bakfiets on this trip. And I did.
The Dutch Mountains
The bakfiets — which we Americans would call a “cargo bike” if we know what it is at all — is just a bike with the box on the front.
Fiets = bike, bak = box, bakfiets = cargo bike. Easy!
But it’s more than that. If you see bakfietsen riding around it’s a pretty good signifier that you are in a place with good cycling infrastructure. They are good for moving stuff around but they’re also expensive. People will only shell out for a bakfiets if they regularly have more stuff to move than they want to carry and know they can count on cycling infrastructure from start to end.
I wanted to ride one for all these reasons. But I hadn’t counted on the Dutch Mountains… Which are wind.
As you can see here, near the F1 circuit of Zandvoort, the wind is blowing so hard that it has made me look like a middle aged man with thinning hair, rather than a striking and vivacious writer to whom everyone is attracted.
The three of us, I on my bakfiets, WGW on a regular fiets, and WGSD on an e-fiets, set out from Haarlem to Amsterdam to meet a friend, a ride of about 20 kilometers dead east. The wind was, naturally, blowing west.
The “bak” part of the bakfeits is wonderful for carrying cargo and even better as a sail. Suffice it to say your boy was struggling.
“Ah,” I thought, riding a bakfiets into the wind, “now this is Dutch cycling.”
Big Nipple Energy (BNE)
We have also visited many churches and museums including the Rijksmuseum. That’s where I ran into this painting by Gerhard van Honthorst from 1623. Honthorst was active during the heady days of the Dutch Nipple Craze, when men stretched themselves to the very limit in order to attract a mate.
As you can see, the satyr’s BNE is working it’s magic. But some folks aren’t impressed at all.
Swans are traditionally threatened by BNE. Probably because, except for the rare and terrifying Mammal Swan, they don’t have nipples at all. That’s why this one’s so enraged in The Threatened Swan (Jan Asselijn, c. 1650). Facts.
Overall, we loved Holland as much as we thought we would and the bike riding, transit, and objets d’art are everything I hoped they would be.
My only regret is that I have not yet found the perfect memento. Something that combines the artwork of the Dutch masters, the seafaring history of the Dutch people and my… uh, unmitigated love of… wakeboarding?
Hope you’re all well out there. Thanks for reading and a special thanks to all the BNE Mammal Swans who have gone paid!
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