Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Middelburg on an Easter Weekend

Middelburg on a Saturday

I was down south last Saturday to meet up with a friend, specifically in Middelburg, a charming city and the capital of the south western province of Zeeland.

See that black square down left of the map? That is where Middelburg is, near the Belgium border.

The Dutchman told me (with a huge sarcastic grin flashed fleetingly on his face) that Zeeland is already --- buiten het land, means its outside of the country. Hmm, must be an inside Dutch joke?

Since the trip was personal in nature, I didn’t get to take a lot of city pictures and most importantly, I won’t be boring people with my Middelburg-Zeeland history class in this blog. The weather wasn’t also that exciting as it was typically Dutch - dreary. I believe the sun was having the dreaded PMS attack and have made the sourly decision of hiding its glory from the face of Middelburg.

And did you know that in Zeeland, they speak another dialect called Zeeuws? The Zeeuwen (how the locals there are called) have a distinct culture of their own, or so they thought[?]. I have read an article in the past that the Zeeuws language council of some sort lobbied for their dialect to be recognized in the parliament as the third official language of the Netherlands. Helaas, a painful experience as it was turned down.

The Netherlands have two official languages: Nederlands [Dutch] and Fries.

Here are some photos of Middelburg that I took...

The Stadhuis [City Hall] by the Damplein [Dam square] in Gothic architecture representation.

Tourist signs in Middelburg and posing with the horse carriage.

Two things I bitterly realized with this picture, (a) The frustrating diet has not worked, my face has become horribly round = apple shaped. May day 2x! Employ drastic measures ASAP! (b) Bad hair day: with my terrible flat pony hair I can join with the tourist carriage as their third missing horse in between. Uh, I badly need a haircut.

Café terraces by the Damplein [Dam square]

Backyard of the Nieuw Kerk [New Church] where the Adbij Toren de Lange Jan is. In English, it should be the Tower of Long John in Adbij? (ha-ha, I know, I have a kinky mind)

Adbij is supposed to be a monastery for monks which are often times used as beer breweries too.

A busy intersection in the Centrum and more café terraces

More of my wild pony hair extravaganza… and this sculpture set is supposedly a joke.

The joke is this --- you the unsuspecting tourist is invited to peek into the Middelburg city sewer system beneath. There are two holes on each side of this massive iron thing in the middle, but when you sit down on the chair to position yourself, out comes water underneath. It will look like you just made a public pissing spectacle, ha-ha. Can you see my pee? ;-)

This is a beautiful building across the river and we had no clue what it is for? There was no signage outside too. The next photo are cafes in typical Dutch architecture.

Another interesting fact: A few months ago, a Dutch integration quiz (a lift from the required integration program for foreigners in the Netherlands), was aired on TV and participated by different social groups in the country, locals and foreigners alike.

The results were amazing. The Afhaalchinezen [Chinese take-out] group, as they are popularly known because of their cuisine and restaurants, scored the highest and well, the epitome of Dutchheid (yeah, dressed in their traditional garb complete with props, i.e., dangling mirror head dresses and all!) Zeeuwen scored the lowest!

In short, the locals, the Dutch --- the Zeeuwen, failed the Dutch integration exam! Uh-Huh?! Now, what does that say?

I was also similarly surprised that many of the Dutch have no idea who Abel Tasman is? Wasn’t he the navigator who discovered Tasmania and New Zealand? And wasn’t he a Dutch man?

We never know these days eh? Such a scary thought indeed that I would know more about the Netherlands than the Dutchman would or should.

Easter Sunday

We spent Easter Sunday with the Dutch family in IJsselstein and had the usual lekker [yummy] coffee and tart rounds.

The chocolate bunnies and mother hens…

A typical Easter goody given to kids here is the chocolate bunnies and mother hens. They are sold all over in the Netherlands in supermarkets and candy shops. The kids had to search for their bunnies and hens and within seconds they found them!

After the coffee and tart, the first program on the Easter Sunday list was Egg Painting. The Dutch sisters in law are very creative in the entertainment and logistical departments for the kids, a domestic subject that I surely will fail.

The hollow egg shells and voila… the finished products!

I made that lone egg on the left side of the egg tray, the one with the face and huge red lips. I obliged after they pestered me to join. The kids did the rest of the eggs.

Next was the Easter Egg Hunt. When Dutch sister in law was done hiding the eggs, the children quickly went to work searching for them. They scoured the whole backyard garden and found these:

Chocolate eggs! And there’s one left hiding but a different kind of egg?

In the Netherlands, and in most countries in Europe, religious holidays are observed twice. Thus Sunday was the 1st day of Easter and Monday, the 2nd day of Easter. That also means no work on the 2nd day of Easter. No work on a Monday.

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