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So, my parents came to visit us in the Netherlands for a week and a half. After exhausting ourselves cleaning, we had to drag them all over Haarlem, Den Haag, Amsterdam, and Den Bosch. As you can imagine, there was a lot of walking involved. We had thought about getting bikes for my parents, but they decided it wouldn't be worth the effort. (My bike, meanwhile, has been really paying off!)

We don't want to drown you guys in a deluge of vacation pics and blah (like with our previous vacation), so I'll try to be brief. We covered basically all the major attractions--the Great Church, Madurodam, the Efteling, the Rijksmuseum, Anne Frank house, the Artis zoo--and hit some smaller attractions around Haarlem as well.

Arno did a great job of plannning everything out, and left some flexible days to just kick back or wander around. Mom and Dad arrived in the morning... Arno and I have experience with this; you have to stay awake all day to adjust. Thus after dropping their luggage at their bed and breakfast (a couple blocks from the church), they spend most of the day at our place, where Tom and Joke, Simone, Giovanni and Lois came to meet them. Gezellig! We saw the Church and combined two walking tours for an easy first day out... didn't want to overload my jetlagged elders on the first full day here. The following day we visited Amsterdam and took a boat tour that dropped us off at the zoo and picked us up again later. This was my least favorite day of the trip, as near the end of the day, a heron flew over and crapped on my head. I didn't freak out, but it wasn't pleasant either, and took a lot of effort cleaning up. (PS, don't try to dry long hair in one of those Airblade dryers!) The next day, we did the 'new, interactive' Madurodam (which I quite enjoyed, and couple use for my course portfolio as a listening item) and did a brief walk through the Binnenhof, the Parliament building in Den Haag.

My dad had noticed an archeology museum in the Great Market, in basically the basement of the Vleeshal (badly depicted above), the meatseller's hall. It was small, but free, and he seemed to enjoy it. Also nearby their B&B was the Cory TenBoon museum: the house of a woman who hid roughly 800 Jews in her house thoughout WWII. (She was caught, and spent time in a work camp herself, and miraculously escaped the gas chamber due to a clerical error.) Fascinating litle place. Mom, Arno and I got to climb into the secret hiding place, along with three others... just enough room for six people and their meager belongings.

Arno also took us to the Adriaan windmill, which was also a neat little (high!) tour. The windmill was working that day (most weekdays, they don't run it) and it was pretty windy, so the wings were moving at a good speed.

The weather was a little iffy on some days, but for the most part, it was tolerable, if a bit cold and drizzly or windy, but we luckily got some sun on the days we were out and about. (Arno and I got too much sun at Madurodam, in fact... sunburnt!)

My parents were also subjected to a lot of traditional Dutch cuisine: sausage on a bun, boerenkool, gourmetten fare, Bosse Bollen, oliebollen, tompouce, saucijzebrooden. And a pile of cookies, on a plate which I was continually refilling. (On the last day, the dog finished them off while we were out! Bad/lucky dog!)

So, all in all, they had a good time, and we crammed them full of food. They want to come back again. ;)

This dragon is stilgelfnbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbl

Well, we have sort of recuperated from the great 2012 project: vacation! Most of us know hat moment when the parents of your girlfriend come visit your house to see how you live. In my case, they came to visit my whole country, and I showed the heck out of it! ;)

It was fun, though. I was impressed by their resistance to Dutch cuisine, and they definately are in excelent shape! I was kind of banking on that, but I was still impressed.

For me the most important part of the tour was showing my city. I was born here and grew up here, and was never quite aware what a historical trove it was until I left it to visit the United States of America. The big epiphany came in Holland, Michigan, where the Holland museum had a display of 17th century etchings from The Netherlands, a third of which was of Haarlem and surroundings at the time (*). All the major buildings were already there! It's a bit of a hidden fact, though; even my colleagues suggested that I go to Dutch cities such as Delft of Gouda to show them the old Dutch inner cities. I kept having to explain we have one of those ourselves. Beedoo!'s parents' Bed & Breakfast was situated right within the oldest part of the city!

The city of Haarlem is over 750 years old, and the absolute pearl of its legacy is the St. Bavo church, also known to the locals as the Great Church, which is situated right at the Great Market, the center of Haarlem. You can see it in the picture above, which I took on market day (the people in it are all strangers). Next to the church is the Vleeshal, the Meat Hall, a grand building for selling meat in older times. Opposite to the building is City Hall, also many centuries old. A neighbour of my parents gave Beedoo! and I a private tour once, since she worked there. Does your city hall have dungeons!?

The Great Church used to be a Catholic Church, until iconoclasts tore up the grand insides at around 1566. It became a more sober protestant church since then, but they never managed to quite wring all the grandure out of it:

(Click on any image for a larger view)

A fun fact is this: All those tiles on the floor, those are graves. Yes, really. There is an old piece of paper on the wall that meticulously numbers and assigns every last slab you're walking on.

The most facinating thing for me, and I think for Beedoo!'s father as well, was something that I did not notice there on the last visit: 17th century map of Haarlem, lined with images of the cityscape and of all the major buildings.


(Click on any image for a larger view)

Of course, we went to other parts of Haarlem as well...

(Click on any image for a larger view)

Overall, I'm glad I got to show it all. Flagstaff has Northern Arizona to show off. Trees, mountains, canyons, the works. It is a beautiful place that has so much to show. We don't have a lot of great nature. The Netherlands is a cultivated place, dragged out of the marshes before anyone knew the meaning of the words fragile ecology. But this is what we have. Well, and this, I suppose:

(Click on any image for a larger view)

(*) - There's a funny story behind the Holland Museum in Michigan. As a thank you for aid during World War II, they were sent a crate with these 17th century etchings. They were labelled 'Dutch drawings'. The people receiving them saw that and went 'Huh. Right.', and shoved the crate unopened in the bank vault. Only when they cleaned out the vault in the year 2000 did the museum see what they'd been sitting on for over 50 years! They immediately put them on display, of course.

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