A different scenery …

In the days leading up to this week we have been inundated with bad news, and I, for one, was in need of a different outlook, even if the bad news won’t go away, just because we are looking in a different direction. All the same, the drive across the border and through the Netherlands was fortunately uneventful, and we arrived without delay in Bergan aan Zee in bright sunshine. Despite the temperature around 14°C and a cool wind, we had a pleasant walk through the small village and a stretch of the beach, where treading in dry sand was a bit of a struggle. Stopping off in a busy beach restaurant for a Hamburger and Coke, it occurred to me that, whereas in other countries, people have expressed concerns about loss of cultural heritage due to immigration, in the Netherlands, people were talking in various languages, and the waitress reacted with a familiar multilinguistic ability. It wasn’t just the tourists, like us, but those speaking Dutch were visibly from diverse cultural heritages.

This reminded me of an encounter many years ago when I visited the Netherlands and ordered a drink in German. I was immediately reprimanded sternly, though not in an unfriendly way, and told that the waiter knew I was not German, so why was I speaking German in the Netherlands. I corrected myself and said in English that I unfortunately did not speak his language, and was politely served by the waiter, who told me that it did not matter, few visitors did. In his words resonated a certain pride that his language is rarely mastered by foreigners and that he was able to serve the guests in their language. I think that this is an example of a justifiable pride, perhaps it has a certain national aspect, but I experienced a similar encounter in Belgium, where I also found the people there just as multilingual. Obviously, this example has limits, and neither the Dutch, nor the Belgians are so multilingual and culturally multi-facetted that they can compensate for everybody, but they don’t need to. It is already impressive.

Our evening walk was eventful, and we found many attractions, especially for children, hidden in the green area behind the house where we were staying. The houses here are interesting, with unusual shapes that made it clear that we were in a different country. Between the normal houses you see everywhere in the Netherlands, there are many round roofs and buildings that vaguely look like ships on end. Some things also remind me of the coast in southern England, like Devon, where I grew up – especially the dunes and the long sandy beaches.

The whole village is very relaxed and if the temperature had not dropped, we could have sat outside for a while. When you listen to the melody of people talking, you also notice the difference from people speaking in German, and it is more like English. I often listened more to that melody than to the words people spoke when I walked in foreign countries, the hum of the crowds, but also breathing in the smell of the land, which is different even in various parts of a country. The night was pleasant, and we have often slept in worse beds. After watching a few episodes of the Amazon series “Starling” and listening to some sounds around us in the house, we finally slept soundly.

Unfortunately, the temperature drop will remain until we leave, which is something we have experienced on other holidays and led to us leaving earlier. We’ll wait and see how this develops. There are plenty of things to see, and we have sunshine at home, so we’re not looking for a tan.

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