Friday, April 20, 2007

15: Lazy Days in Apeldoorn

Liberation Day, Oranjepark, Apeldoorn
April 3-7, Leerdam-Buren
April 7-11, Buren-Ochten
April 11-15, Ochten-Wyler

Apeldoorn, April 20--

We get up about eight, breakfast with Hans and Anneke (bread, cheese, a soft-boiled egg, coffee), do a little housekeeping on the laptop or the notebooks, and then walk into town for a cappuccino and an appelgebak -- and, of course, to check up on the e-mail. We scan the news: Washington Post, Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

The news isn't good. We're glad not to be at home for the media blitz from Virginia -- it's bad enough in the Dutch press. Here in Apeldoorn, pop. about 180,000, the daily paper tells us about someone set upon in a park Sunday afternoon, a woman found dead in her home yesterday, a couple of guys caught in a traffic-control with some drugs, a baseball bat, a kitchen knife, and an imitation pistol.

There's a drought here -- it hasn't rained this month -- and 25 hectares (60 acres or so) of heath burned yesterday out between Hoog Soeren and Assel. The cappuccino at the Café Martin is excellent, and the wireless internet connection is free. And the appelgebak -- it doesn't come much better.

In the States appelgebak is known as Dutch Apple Pie, and it can be pretty bad. It can be unpleasant here, too, filled out with colorless sweet gelatinous stuff, or overloaded with cinnamon, or drowned under chemical slagroom, "whipped cream." But it's delicious at Martin, and I think I'll have another, and stop reading the news.

This daily routine puts another four or five kilometers on our shoes each day. Tuesday we walked considerably further, for we took the train into Amsterdam with Hans and Anneke, and went to the Tropenmuseum, originally built to educate the Dutch about their possessions in the East Indies, enlarged since to accommodate a collection of non-European culture -- Africa, Latin America, the North American Indians, as well as Asia.

We went primarily for a temporary exhibition: beads throughout history -- and the history of beads is long indeed, for beads themselves form all there is of human cultural history, apparently, for its first hundred thousand years or so. This was an intriguing and exhaustive show, from the earliest bone beads from Asia Minor down to Mick Jagger's sequined underwear, and if you're interested in beads, as I tend not to be, it was absolutely fascinating.

Upstairs, a photo exhibit of the celebrated photograph of Che Guevara as it has been used (and much more often misused) in the forty years in which it's become, said the wall label, the most widely reproduced single image of all time. I wouldn't doubt it. Most fascinating, the entire filmstrip of which it is only one image was displayed, enlarged: it was a lucky shot, but the photographer clearly knew what he was doing. I could have spent more time in the show.

Then we visited the Botanical Garden, a favorite place of ours, with its butterfly house, and beds of hyacinth and ground cover, and two enormous kassen or conservatories, and a delicious appelgebak.

In the evening, dinner at Marius again. I know: I still haven't described our restaurant meals. It's a task requires a certain amount of concentration, and that's not what we're here for, here in the Netherlands I mean; it's certainly what we're here on earth for, that was drilled into me sixty years ago.

We're here for rest and recreation, and yesterday, after the noon constitutional into town, we got on bikes and rode to the neighboring village, Vassen -- oh, eight kilometers there, I'd say, and ten back, for we took a circuitous route in order to see the newest vineyard in the Netherlands, planted about six years ago to Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. A sign boasted that the first vintage was bottled last year, and that it was pretty damn good (I paraphrase). If global warming can make a Burgundy of Gelderland it'll prove it's an ill wind indeed that blows no good: but I've yet to taste any of these Dutch wines -- the bars and restaurants don't serve them. Someone isn't doing the marketing right.

Vassen is home to a particularly elegant kasteel or palace, I guess you'd call it; a manor house surrounded by a moat but not otherwise fortified. I think the moats are there primarily for drainage and decoration. Brick, of course, with stone and plaster relief work, and interestingly asymmetrical -- but you'll have to take my word for it, as I forgot to take the camera along.

We like Apeldoorn, and not only because two dear friends live here. It's a nice balance of commerce, leisure, and residence; the homes are attractive, the commercial architecture pleasant; there's lots of pedestrianized streets; and above all the town's full of trees. Today perhaps we'll stroll into Het Loo, the former summer palace now a museum and a magnificent garden.

Or perhaps we'll simply take it easy.

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