When I was a little kid, someone asked me if I
were an animal, what kind of animal would I be. I thought long and
hard over that and decided that I would be a bear. I still think so.
This year Ive had the opportunity to actually be a bear. This has
been the winter of our hibernation.
Winters here are very dark. Being this far north,
the sun rises very late and sets very early. At 8 a.m. at the
darkest time of the year, there is no trace of an impending sunrise.
Not only that, the clouds are very thick, gloomy, and persistent, so
that when the sun starts to rise its still very dark. Someone we
know referred to these as "get the rope" days. After a year of such
extensive travel and terrific adventures like seeing the Sydney
Opera House, the Roman Coliseum, being serenaded in London on my 60th
birthday and, of course, sleeping on a bench in a police station and
being pickpocketed in France, a little "down" time seemed in order.
We decided that this year we would stay home over
the holidays. It was a good thing, too, because that week was a
travel disaster in Europe and in some parts of the U.S. Delft is
very serene at that time of year. Christmas isnt the mad rush that
it is back home. Stores are crowded and there are lots of people
around but things move at a slower pace and people dont seem as
exhausted. At least thats how it seemed to us.
Since there was no family around on Christmas
Eve, we made a reservation at a restaurant in town, about a block
away. We arrived for dinner at 7 p.m. and found only one of the
other ten or so tables occupied. The staff consisted of the owner
who is the chef, his assistant, and a hostess who doubled at the
waitress. A food critic is something I will never be but heres my
assessment: five courses and everything was great. It also took two
hours to serve and it was perhaps the most relaxed dinner we ever
had. During the two hours, two other tables became occupied, the
front door was locked to prevent walk-ins, and the hostess/waitress
(who seemed to be the chefs wife) went home and was replaced by the
Lynn likes to go to church on Christmas Eve so we
went to the Nieuwe Kerk (the New Church built in 1510) which is just
across the Markt (sic) Square from the restaurant. The service was
in Dutch, of course, but there was a section of pews that offered
headphones with an English language translation of the proceedings.
I was surprised that most of the people in this section were native
Chinese and other Asians from the Technical University of Delft; no
other Americans were apparent but there were a few Brits. Some of
the carols were familiar to us but there were quite a bit that were
not. What really struck me was that here we were, listening to a
service that was about 2000 years old and doing it in a church that
was almost 500 years old. Other than the headphones, I wondered how
much else was different about this church over the last 500 years.
New Years Eve is a great time to stay indoors in
the Netherlands. People throw firecrackers everywhere, start
bonfires next to old wooden buildings, and generally make the
streets not to safe to walk. Theres also no ball falling from the
top of Times Square at midnight because by the time that happens
its 6 a.m. here and who cares? Fortunately this year, we had the
Philadelphia Eagles with us on New Years Eve for a taste of home as
they beat Atlanta and moved into the playoffs. The playoffs are all
on TV here starting conveniently at midnight or 3 a.m. or so but a
fan does what he has to do, right? We were there. On the morning
they lost to New Orleans, we were back in bed at 5:30 a.m. As
disappointing the end was, it had been a pretty decent year for
them. And us.
So now we wait for spring, warmer weather,
earlier sunrises, and a whole new set of things to do. It didnt
happen last year because of the cold, but maybe this year the
flowers at Keukenhof will bloom on time.
See my pictures of
Delft at the Christmas