Holland By Fog

14 Feb

The plane began its descent and the co-pilot assured us in halting, nervous German that we would be now reaching Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. But as we squinted out of the oval windows, all we saw was white. No land, no sky, no light. A great white blankness had swallowed us and now the plane was trying desperately to cut through it and reach the land beneath. We must have taken a wrong turn somewhere, entered the wrong cloud, because this descent was endless. There was nothing around us but the emptiness of white.

I wondered if we could get a refund if the plane landed us in a blank country.

We eventually hit a runway and the White dissolved reluctantly into swirls. But for twenty minutes, the endless Nothing had held us captive in an oval flying tin. For twenty minutes, we had belonged to it. And it would invent ingenious ways of keeping us prisoner:

The swirls melted into droplets of waters, and the water heated rose and dove – and we inhaled the fog that had enclosed Holland. The fog swam quietly in our veins as it was distributed to our hands, to our feet. To our sense of touch, to our sense of sight.

It’s been three days and I still can’t see Holland.

I’ve come to think that a flat country is best at keeping its secrets. Contrary to the thick lips of an African woman, who smack loudly at the pleasure of life. Or the Himalayas where flamboyant cultures sing their songs and spice their food in ways that make the clouds take on the flavours of the dishes.

Holland’s flatness is deceiving, as though it were saying, “What else do you want, baby? This is it, this is everything right here. Just where would I be hiding secrets?”

The majority of the people who come here never see past the fog. They think the Dutch culture revolves around cheese, marijuana, legal prostitution, Anne Frank’s hiding place and the Van Gogh Museum. They’ll buy clogs, hang them up on their walls at home and sigh proudly: “I saw Holland.”

The restaurants in Eindhoven Centraal offer Greek, Spanish, German, Italian and Morroccan specialities. We were greeted by a Dutch waiter in Spanish, handed an English menu and served tapas. As we left, he bad us fare well in Dutch: “Fine weekend!”

This is Holland’s unique form of expression. Other cultures will challenge you with their spices, make you giddy with its language and corner you with its songs. But Holland will swim quietly beside you and not bother you at all.

It’s time to take a spade and start digging. It’s time to take to the rivers and start boating – and explore Holland beyond the fog.

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3 Responses to “Holland By Fog”

  1. ThatOneMan February 17, 2011 at 11:40 pm #

    Charming as usual, my dearest! Many a laugh was had at the mental apparition of an African women, clad in traditional garb, slapping her substantial, luscious, inviting lips in the midst of wise exhortation. I do declare, I was quite smitten by your lovely imagery! Much luck and success flowing of cheese and clogs!

  2. Brian February 21, 2011 at 1:56 pm #

    >”Other cultures will challenge you with their spices”
    Quite frankly, the only typical spice we have is “speculaas”, and that’s only used in biscuits. Our national dish is mashed potatoes with cabbage and sausage. Our other dishes consist of, don’t be surprised, mashed potatoes with pea’s, mashed potatoes with carrots, mashed potatoes with… well, just about any vegetable. Our lunch and breakfast consists of bread with just about anything. That sausage you eat for dinner? It place it between two slices of bread. The speculaas biscuits? Slap them between two slices of bread and you’ll have a happy Dutchman. Tomatoes? Sure, slice them them up, slice of bread on top, and on the bottom and you’re done.

    For dinner we mash whatever we can find with potatoes, for lunch we slap whatever we can find between slices of bread.

    It’s not so much that we want to ‘quietly swim along’ with the tourist. It’s just that we have nothing to offer!

    • rittisoncco February 24, 2011 at 1:26 am #

      Thank you so much for your reply! I didn’t know about speculaas but I know I’m addicted to the Spekulatius biscuits! I’m glad I finally know about the cabbage and sausages, and your comment got me chuckling, but I’m going to be stubborn and say I’m SURE there’s more going on down there somewhere! We’re thinking of renting a boat during some glorious summer and taking to the rivers, because that might give us a better feel of Holland than the suburbs. Any thoughts on the boating??

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