Having first moved to Europe in the spring, our first trip was perfectly timed to take us to the Keuknhof Gardens in Holland. Spring means everything is blooming in most places, including this amazing collection of gardens. Unfortunately, spring is taking its sweet time this year where we live, so I'll take this opportunity to reminisce about a much warmer and colorful spring six years ago, our first overseas.
It was late April, one month to the day since we arrived on the Continent, and a few friends were planning a trip to the Netherlands, specifically to see Amsterdam and the Keukenhof Gardens. We lucked out in that we were just in time to jump on and tag along, making this our first weekend away. We'd just moved into our first apartment in the small beach town of Tirrenia, Italy, and were excited to start traveling.
We flew up to Belgium on one of the wonderful, budget airlines Europe has to offer and rented a car for the rest of the trip, spending the first night somewhere along the way to Amsterdam in Belgium. I remember sitting down for dinner at the hotel restaurant, and after being ignored for a little while, our server dropped a stack of menus at our table and continued on her less than hurried way. This restaurant accommodated its international guests by having menus in various languages, and ours were in German. I guess we had a German look to us, being four blond women and my husband, all with light eyes, and perhaps a little short to be Dutch. When we waved down our server and politely asked for English menus, it was as if the icy outer layer melted away and she jumped with a smile to serve us. That was how I first learned that there still exist hard feelings between some nations of Europe because of World War II. I guess coming from a place so far where the only contact with this world is via history books makes it difficult to imagine the real life effects of such horrific events.
The next day belonged to the amazing city of Amsterdam, where I have to admit, I was surprised by the simple and innocent beauty of the place. I suppose when all you know of a place is that there you can legally get high and purchase sex, it's easy to overlook the possibility that it might actually have some history and beauty.
The quote across the building:
"To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee,
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few."
- Emily Diskinson
My favorite museum in the city, and quite possibly the world so far, is the Anne Frank House. If I'm being honest, I'm not crazy about history and I tend to become quickly saturated in even the most amazing art or history museums, but this House held my attention all the way through. Maybe it was because I walked the same floors that helped to hide this famous journaler's family not too many years ago, climbing the same steps of the hidden staircase that took them to their refuge. Maybe it was because it was the first time I was experiencing such a personal piece of history about which I'd learned in school, standing, breathing and being in the very place where Ann stood, breathed, and was. I've since visited the Louvre, the Prado, and the Vatican museums, to name a few, but the Anne Frank House remains the one that touched me the deepest, reducing me to silence and the need for solitude as I walked between its walls.
Of course we also visited the Van Gogh museum, the Red Light District and the Hard Rock Cafe, against Chris and my better judgement. What we did not understand just a month into living abroad, but would come to appreciate after a more suitable amount of time passed, was that after living in such a place as Italy for a while, a place where the people are very proud, and rightly so, of their exquisite cuisine, one starts to miss the variety other places in the world offer. Italian food is some of the very best I've ever had, and boasts a rich respect and love of wholesome food, but sometimes you just want sushi, or Mexican, or even a big, juicy, hamburger. Enter Hard Rock and its all-American menu and drinks - with ice! Our travel companions would not have us lunching anywhere else, and as Chris and I were the newbies, we were in no position to argue. So we slightly begrudgingly ate our burgers and fries and tried not to feel cheated out of a chance to experience something of the Dutch palette.
PS - We get it now.
The following day we drove to the Keukenhof Gardens. On the way we kept an eye out for the tulip fields for which Holland is known, and in an attempt to capture one such field from the moving car I accidentally captured this instead:
There's some perfect timing.
Upon arrival to the Gardens, we paid our entrance fee and did not emerge until nearly the end of the day. They were expansive and they were immaculate, the colors seeming too bright and rich to be real. These are among my favorite photos from that day.
Red and White, the colors of our wedding a few months earlier.
This one makes me feel tiny.
Dear Spring, please come to Germany and bring with you days and days in a row of sunshine. We've missed you.