I flew from Ireland to The Netherlands at the beginning of December and met Maaike in Eindhoven, where she had just flown in from a week in Portugal with her mother and brother. Maaike needs holidays from her holiday ;)
We stayed a few lovely days in Posterholt, I may have spent a little too much time on adventofcode (more to come on that later). Anyway, then we zipped off to see Eefje, meeting up in Antwerp ….
Where we stayed a night, and then on to Leuven (where Stella Artois comes from). We had a lovely few days touring around with Eefje and her partner Geert, they really looked after us. Eefje has a seriously long garden.
We came back via The Hague, where we caught up with Maaike’s friend Catherine & partner Nivja. We then had a nice wander about Den Haag, they even brought out a military band to play for us?! very kind, no idea why ;)
We also went to the Escher museum. Brain bending stuff, I still find it hard to see where the sneakiness comes in, even when its explained!
And then it was on to the main event – Sintaklaas which is the Dutch sort of Christmas. You say poems to eachother (from the perspective of Sintaklaas), and gentle teasing is absolutely encouraged, if not mandatory. For example, Maaike was given a beautiful new wedding ring as she managed to lose hers on the morning of our party (down the gab between two floorboards).
I was given a house, made by sjoerd, on a spring, as an idea for what to build when we get back to NZ with all the earthquakes ;) It was a lovely lovely evening. My Dutch is still very rubbish, but it has improved a bit, and enough to be able (I think) to understand a reasonable bit of what passes at the table. Also of course, they’re all wonderful and patient & wrote most of the poems in English. Oh to be that fluent!!
In this video here, you can see the Zwarte Pete or “black pete”, who are Sintaklaas’s helpers. Not actually black people, but kids covered in soot. There has been some pushback to make it open to other colours, but so far no change.
We toured around a bit, visiting Femke & Sjoerd & seeing her cousins Sietske and Mayke, hanging out having family times. It was really lovely. I’m psyched I married into Maaike’s family, they’re a really nice bunch of people! I feel quite at home.
Finally, a week back at Posterholt with Maaike’s parents. We went for a really interesting trip to a Gallo-Roman Celtic museum in Tongeren. Really interesting to see the Celtic way of life, the way they marked their territory by means of burial mounds, and how as more and more people turned to farming the competition for resources increased. Interesting museum, enjoyed it.
And then, far too soon, it was time to leave The Netherlands. Many thanks to the Jongerii for a lovely time.