A Travellerspoint blog

Deventer

soaking up the Christmas atmosphere at the Charles Dickens Festival

Deventer is a seemingly normal city in the Netherlands, but once a year for one weekend long it is transformed into something special. During the winter months the Lower Countries such as Belgium and also The Netherlands, are under the spell of that one phenomenon we simply call “Christmas”.

I must admit that I guess this is a “global” problem once the month December has arrived, but the inhabitants of Deventer make sure this period in time is even more special and that it doesn’t go bye unnoticed!

Once a year, the weekend before Christmas, the city or to be more precise a few streets in the centre of the city are transformed into the era of the 19th Century and people get a glimpse of the magical world of the writer Charles Dickens!

Ever since I was a child I was hooked on his stories of Oliver Twist and even growing up, The Pickwick Papers were interesting as well, but the story I liked the most was “ A Christmas Carol” and I guess till this day this is one of my favourite books coz after all … don’t we all know an Ebenezer Scrooge who in the end isn’t all that bad, or even a tiny Tim in this case!

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A few years back, working in a bus company, I started getting familiar with this event but because most of the time I was on holiday, there was never a chance to visit it … that is till now!

Me and my best friend Tania couldn’t go on a long trip because of work and as soon as I got back at the end of November I started looking for a trip to Deventer.

Looking for various booking sites I soon figured out that spending a night into the city was out of the question, so instead I wanted to drive by car for just one day. When the day came closer and closer, I heard left and right from a few drivers in our company that even finding parking space was near to impossible, just thinking that they were pulling my leg, I called the tourist office in Deventer myself and they advised me the cheapest and easiest way was to go on a day trip with a coach company … yeah right!

I immediately thought they had some kind of joint profit going on but since my mum was joining me, she thought that this was maybe the best option … after all, spending some time on the Christmas market it was also possible to drink some hot mulled wine (which I love!) and I didn’t had to drive the long way back late in the evening.

In search for some tour companies coz we don’t do that kind of stuff in our own office, I soon found one close to my hometown for the ridiculous fare of 20 euro per person. Yep, that was indeed a good price coz I guess parking fees are rocketing sky high on such days and I immediately bought myself 2 tickets while counting the days.

When the day arrived, it was early in the morning and I soon figured out that the 2 of us were not alone, together with about 60 other persons we drove off to our neighboring country only to arrive in Deventer at 9 o’clock in the morning and boy, were we lucky to be so early.

Although there was already a waiting line to enter the streets, after half an hour of waiting we could enjoy the Christmas spirit ourselves and really, if you like this time of the year, than you should really visit it once in your lifetime. It was so fun to see all the people in the town get dressed up in those old cloths interacting with the people (read tourists) and there was also the opportunity to see a little of the city, try some delicious food of the region and also get into the vibe of Charles Dickens.

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After seeing about a dozen Olivers and tiny Tims all looking so adorable, we still got a smile on our face and before we knew it, it was already time to go home again. Mind you, maybe that was not such a bad thing coz the hot mulled wine was getting to me … lucky it was a cold day, so I had a good enough excuse to drink it.

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By the time it was 8 PM we returned back to our meeting place only to find a gigantic mayhem. During the day it got busier and busier, there was no doubt about that, but when thousands of people want to go home at the same time, that is just looking for disaster.

When we finally caught up with our driver and the rest of the group was counted for, it was almost 9 PM … driving home was not such a bad thing, but when the both of us were finally home it was already way after 11 PM.

I must admit that I had a more than fun time in the city and I loved every minute of it, but yep, there was chaos as well … I guess popularity also has it’s disadvantages, but really … the people of Deventer will always have a special place in my heart!

Merry Christmas everyone!!!!

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Posted by Ils1976 09:58 Archived in Netherlands Comments (1)

Amsterdam

attending a TB meetup can be quite a challenge!

5 AM in the morning and especially on a Saturday morning sounds ridiculously early, but for one time I didn’t mind all that much coz I was just too excited to meet up with Nolan, his wife and some other TB’s in Amsterdam.

Since I didn’t feel like driving all the way up towards the Netherlands, I just opted for the easy way out and bought myself a train ticket, after all, once I reached Antwerp, it was a good 2 hours train ride towards Amsterdam and since weather forecasts predicted some snow, I knew that driving on the road would be a disaster. At least when taking the train, I would reach the Dutch capital a lot quicker or so I thought!!!!

Reaching Antwerp was no problem at all, but once I arrived at the train station, I had to wait for more than half an hour to catch my direct international train to Amsterdam. This should have been easy, but while I was carefree sipping from my Starbucks coffee, suddenly I got the announcement that all international trains were cancelled due to heavy snowfall !!!

What the heck … here I was, a little after 6 AM in the morning standing outside in the cold with my cup of coffee looking for some snow? It seemed that our neighbors in the Netherlands got all the “luck", coz here in Belgium it was just freezing cold but that’s about it.

Just like all the other stranded passengers, I went to look for someone who could give me some more answers, but that’s Belgium for you, if something happens, they just turn their heads and nod that everything will be fine … just wait and be patient!!!

After being patient and waiting already more than an hour, a train suddenly arrived who could take us no further than Rotterdam. It seemed that all the trains towards Amsterdam were cancelled but there was a possibility to take a bus from Rotterdam to Amsterdam. Okay, since I still wanted to make it to the meet-up, I went for it and jumped on the cozy and warm feeling train … Amsterdam here I come!

Or so I thought!?!

As soon as we reached the border between Belgium and the Netherlands, it started to snow and while I was looking at all that beauty falling from the sky, a few minutes later at the train station of Roosendaal we had another stop. According to the Dutch train staff, a freight train got derailed and they didn’t know how long we had to wait … what was going on here ????

It seemed for one reason or another this was going to be a train ride from hell and more than once I asked myself, should I continue or not???

After waiting about half an hour, the conductor gave us all a chance to turn back to Belgium with a local bus, but being the stubborn person that I am ???, I just ignored it and put on some great music hoping that we could move on as soon as possible and indeed, 15 minutes later the train started to move again!

Halleluja … Praise the Lord!!!

From then on it was smooth sailing or should I say riding all the way towards Rotterdam and although I expected loads of people being stranded on the train station, nothing prepared me for the chaos I was about to see.

People were running from one platform to another, kids were screaming, people shouted from one platform to another that there was no room anymore, train staff were handing out warm drinks and helped people where ever they could and for a split second I was thinking of giving up … no way, I was ever going to reach Amsterdam, when all of a sudden someone told me to take a train to Leiden. They couldn’t tell me if it was going or not, but as soon as I reached the platform, miraculously the train arrived and instead of taking a hot cup of coffee from the train staff, I grabbed my bags and jumped on the train together with loads of other people, after all, it wasn’t Amsterdam, but as far as my geography goes, it still is one step closer towards Amsterdam!

Arriving in Leiden, I just saw the same chaos as I did in Rotterdam but for some reason people got their hopes back coz things started to clear up in the sky and as soon as I saw that sign with Amsterdam and the train following a few minutes later, I was the happiest person on earth … it seemed I was going to make it after all!

During my trip from hell, I tried to contact Keiko a few times, but failed to reach her … Ineke on the other hand, was able to reach me, but because of the heavy snowfall in her city, she wasn’t able to join the meet-up. Such a pity, but I am sure that we both meet up again one day or another!

As soon as I stepped outside the train station of Amsterdam, I tried to reach Keiko again and this time I was in luck. It turned out that she was in the same train like me and after waiting a few minutes I could finally give my first hug to a TB friend. It felt so good to see her smiley face after all the troubles of the past few hours and since loads of TB’s cancelled, the two of us walked to my hotel where I could drop off my luggage, when all of a sudden Keiko got a phone call from Mikiko saying that she was waiting for her at the train station.

We agreed to split up and while Keiko went back to the train station, I walked all the way up towards Nolan’s hotel and met up with him, his wife and Vickie. It seemed that we were going to be with only a handful of TB’s but hey … at least the meet up could go through and as soon as we were all together, we had a lovely chat and walked up towards our lunch thingy, which was held in De Waag.

It really was nice meeting up with all those new and friendly faces and thanks to Tineke and Huib, who showed up a bit later, we had a lovely afternoon while they, together with Keiko guided us through many of the most important sights of the city.

Keiko also arranged for us to have a small explanation on how a diamant is cut in a small jewelry store and while we had another stroll towards our evening venue, as soon as we entered the place, it was nice to catch up with Eef as well.

Although the day started not in the best of ways, the evening ended with a blast! After dinner we decided to have a few drinks in a Cuban bar, but like me, most of the TB’s had an early start and once the clock turned after midnight, together with a bit of alcohol in our system, we were pretty tired.

In groups we said goodbye to each other, it was truly a remarkable day of which I am sure I am never going to forget and I can only hope I can meet up with everybody again one day or another in the future to come!

Thanks Keiko, Nolan, “Wifey”, Vickie, Mikiko, Tineke, Huib, Eef, Anna-Isabel and Marco for an incredible and more than interesting day!

Posted by Ils1976 06:45 Archived in Netherlands Comments (2)

Drenthe

TB meetup organized by Patricia to get to know the region a little bit more!


View Drenthe - 2012 on Ils1976's travel map.

20/07/12 roadtrip

I must say that I was really looking forward to this trip for days now, but unfortunately I couldn’t get a day off from work, neither did Tania, so we couldn’t leave for Drenthe until way after 5 PM.

From work I drove to Schelle, where Tania’s mum prepared a delicious meal, she spoiled us even with dessert. She really is the best!

When we checked to make sure we had everything, our road trip was a fact and as soon as my gps started speaking, we could hit the road.

Although we had a long drive ahead of us, about 3 - 3.5 hours to be precise, I must say that time flew by very quickly, maybe that’s because we did nothing else but chatting and dreaming about our trip of the year to the land of Oz. Before we knew it, we were already in Drenthe.

We arrived at the Hondelhoeve, our home for the next 2 days, just before dark which was great. We didn’t saw our fellow TB friends, so we decided to give Patricia a call and it turned out that even Jos and Petra were at her home. Within a few minutes they arrived on foot at the Hondelhoeve and we all could say hi!

Patricia made us feel right at home. She already did some shopping in the morning and while we were putting our bags in the bungalow next to the one of Jos and Petra, she organised some snacks and drinks for all of us.

We started chatting about everything and a little after midnight Patricia had to go home and the 4 of us also called it a night. After all, I guess it has been a long day for everyone.

21/07/12 searching for dolmens

I woke up early in the morning because of the sun shining through the window and I wasn’t the only one, even Tania was quite awake. Because it was just too early to get dressed we tried to close our eyes for the second time around and soon enough it was time to take a shower and get dressed cuz we had breakfast at our neighbours bungalow at about 9 AM.

Even Patricia had arrived for breakfast, she brought lots of things the day before and together with the eggs Petra boiled for us, we had more than enough things to start the day.

After the washing up, Patricia had to go home for a few minutes, so the 4 of us explored the neighbourhood some more. Jos and Petra already visited one the dolmens in de region and because it was a novelty for me and Tania we decided to walk to the nearest one situated down the road of the Hondelhoeve.

Going back to our bungalow we met Patricia again and we all decided to go and see the largest dolmen in the area. Jos was kind enough to drive us four women all the way to Borger (and back of course), where the "hunebedcentrum" (dolmen museum) was located.

Just outside the parking area we could see the rocks lying all over the place, this time it were just small ones, but it looked just like a garden of rocks, quite interesting to say the least.

Inside the museum we first saw a movie explaining were the rocks came from, it was interesting but sadly enough the sound was very loud and not only to us, because in the front row there was one family with lots of small children who were so scared, the youngest one did nothing else but screaming and crying. To me very understandable, it shows it’s not suitable for everyone! Sound wise that is.

From here it was straight to the museum where we had a complete explanation of the dolmens, from where they came and the use of these rocks. Quite interesting to see! And like every museum it also has a small souvenir/gift shop where you can buy rocks and other goodies.

Now we know where the rocks came from, so it was time to go and see the largest one there is! And I must say, you won’t get disappointed. That thing is huge, so big in fact I couldn’t photograph it in one time … but that can also mean that it is time to buy another camera.

When we all had enough of staring at the dolmen, we decided to go and have ourselves a bite to eat and we all found something to our liking in the food section of the museum.

Once back at the “Hondelhoeve”, we had a few drinks and chatted some more till Patricia’s family arrived for dinner which she had organised in the buffet restaurant De Schaopwas.

In the early evening we walked towards the restaurant and I must admit it was a nice walk. Me and Petra were far behind the others because we wanted to soak in as much as possible, that and taking pictures of course!

The restaurant itself was nice and I like to fact that they have an area for kids where they can hangout while the “grownups” have dinner, because I can understand that it can be very frustrating for kids to sit for such a long time on the same place. Nice!
The food wasn’t all that bad either. There were so many choices, that it was just impossible to try it all … after all … you need some room for dessert! (Thumbs up Patricia, you made a great choice!)

After dinner we sat a while on the terrace of the restaurant, enjoying the last rays of sunshine and when it started to get dark and colder, we all went back to our bungalows and home because it was also bedtime for the girls.

Back in Jos and Petra’s bungalow, we relaxed on the sofa (read : Ils relaxed on the sofa)  and while Patricia provided drinks and nibbles we chatted some more about many things, all in all a great ending of the day.

22/07/12 Kamp Westerbork

Another early morning with sunshine, me like this very much! After getting showered and dressed, Tania and I made sure we put everything back in our bags because today was also sadly enough our last.

Once again we had breakfast in Jos and Petra’s bungalow and while we waited for Patricia to arrive, we all enjoyed the sun a bit on our small terrace.
After breakfast we said goodbye to Jos. He had other commitments and wasn’t going to join us women today. The three of us packed our stuff into our cars, even Petra was going home this afternoon.

We followed Patricia to her home because Reagan was going with us to Kamp Westerbork.

While Patricia made sure she was ready, Riekus showed us a book with the history of the town, as well as pictures of his relatives and fellow townsmen. It is amazing how much he knows about the history and architecture of the region. Quite impressive!

When everyone was ready, Patricia lead us to Kamp Westerbork, which is situated in Hooghalen and I am glad she was driving first, because it turned out to be quite a scenic drive between the woods.

It is almost noon when we arrive at the museum and we notice the bus which takes everyone to the campgrounds, so we hurry to the ticket booths and when everyone has his entry tickets, we make a run for it and luckily we could catch it in time.

Although it is a short drive, you can also walk from the museum to the campgrounds.

When we arrive at Kamp Westerbork, I am amazed of how little is left. All the barracks are gone, the only house left is at the entrance and belonged to the “camp commander”.

The guided tour begins at the entrance of the camp. Westerbork wasn’t a concentration camp, it was a transit camp. From here hundred thousands of people were transported to concentration and extermination camps in Germany, Poland and Russia. Sadly enough, not many of the people leaving this place survived.

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Our guide mainly tells about daily life inside the camp and although there’s not much left, you don’t need too much imagination to figure out how things were in those days.

After visiting the campgrounds, we head back to the museum with the bus, where we have lunch and afterwards we visit the small museum which gives you a better picture of the people who lived inside the camp and what they went through. It makes you go quiet for a while, that’s for sure!

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A bit shook up of what we just went through, we say our goodbyes and we all head to our homes.

I don’t know about the others, but I had a great time, so the only thing for me to say is : THANKS Patricia, job well done for letting us feel right at home and for organizing this wonderful weekend.

Posted by Ils1976 21:51 Archived in Netherlands Comments (2)

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