Sunday, October 11, 2009

Nestling in the Netherlands...


Shall I tell you a story?

How about from a far away place?


Good. Here we go.

Bruges was very very nice again. It was a bit of a rest. Kind of. I knew things, and felt a bit more at home, but we still lived far from the city center, and the walk was always just as obnoxious. So I took advantage of the things that I knew, and some things that were new. There was a shopping festival in the city, and Bruges actually came alive. When we were first there, the city was quiet… and old. And I’m not talking about the buildings. We seemed to be the only people under 45 in the whole city. But this weekend was different. There were tons of people, the city actually felt crowded, and we were the perfect age. The festival brought a whole new element to Bruges, it made it so enjoyable. It also brought roadside stands. These stands brought Christmas gifts for my family, and the best bratwursts you’ve ever had. Mmmm… my mouth is watering right now, in a totally different country…

We left Bruges after four days. Our bus headed North-East. Destination: Amersfoort, the Netherlands. Now, you’re thinking Ok, thanks to that movie, I have at least heard of Bruges (Maybe). But Amersfoort? Why Amersfoort? For a wonderful, wonderful reason.

The bus was buzzing, even after a full travel day. Everyone was excited, and quite nervous. We were about to hear who had drafted us. Amersfoort is our homestay town. We were being adopted for four days, and we were just about to hear who had selected us. It really felt like the draft too. Kristin (former Westmonster, and trip money/lodging coordinator) was on the microphone at the front of the bus. She would read two names, then those two people would head on down the bus aisle. I swear she would say And with the Number One pick in the 2009 NHL Draft, the New York Islanders pick… and then the names. She went through about 14 people, all in pairs. Those of us who were left got more and more antsy. Then out come these words:

And our first single! This person is going to be on their own!

Welp…guess who that was? J Soon as I heard those words, I knew it was me. First impression: nerves. Then: excitement. I thought Well this will be a nice way to get some alone time. Now, I just have to meet my adoptees…

I trekked the Aisle Walk (now I know how Matt Duchene feels – yeah, I’m a hockey fan. You should be too. It’s more fun to watch then [insert the sport you like to watch here].)

I walked down the bus stairs into the cold Dutch rain and saw a taller man with a big smile on his face. From that moment, I knew I’d be good. We split a car back to the flat, and I was introduced to his wife, and her bright, spunky smile.

This is them: Arjen and Jacobien Karssenberg. They are incredibly nice. Call them up for your trip to Amersfoort, they’ll take good care of you.

We spent a lovely evening sipping coffee (the Dutch love coffee as much as me! Hooray! No more small French espresso shot-glasses. These people drink coffee like it’s water. Perfect.) and introducing ourselves. The Karssenbergs are very into gardening, reading, and board games. After talking, they showed me one of their board games, called Regenwormen (translation: Ringworms). It’s more pleasant than it sounds. A short little dice game, it was a perfect nightcap. Then I got to hop into an actual bed in an actual house.

The next day was spent almost entirely in Amsterdam. I had to depart from the Karssenbergs, and met up with the rest of the group. We took a coach into the city and hit the pavement at the speed of Usian Bolt. Two quick museums and two quick meals in 4 hours. Yikes. Then, back on the coach back towards Amersfoort. It is here that I will place a significant shoutout: Eric the coach-driver, you’re the man. He would grab the mic during drives and tell good stories about things we were seeing or even better, he’d drop jokes (my favorite: he gets on the mic and says: The red light district is exactly behind us now. I was there a few weeks ago, and I was looking around, when I saw a woman in a window. I went up to hear and asked ‘how much?’ She said ’50 Euro’ I looked at her and said ‘Hey, that’s pretty good for a double-paned window!’ Cue Rimshot). Then, as we came into the Parking Lot that would be our pickup/drop off point, Eric slams on the gas and starts pulling doughnuts. That’s right, full, 360 degree turns. In a tourist coach. I was in the back, and I swear I was at a 45 degree angle. Three times around, and then he cranked the wheel the other way, and we spun opposite. Sheesh… Eric rules.

I spent the evening at the flat with more great Karssenberg-conversations-and-coffee. Then another great night in a real bed.

Another Amster-day. Quick toured a semi-closed Red Light district. I was a bit underwhelmed. I think that I had got myself ready for something that it is not. Spent the rest of the day just around the town. It’s actually rather pleasant. Don’t let stereotypes fool you, Amsterdam can be beautiful and classy.

Returned to the flat on my own. The Karssenbergs were in the north of the Netherlands at a good friends wedding. That’s right. I had a European flat to myself. So what did I do? Only the things that any 20 year old would do.

Called home and then went to sleep.

Wow… Maybe I need to be more adventurous…

The weekend was spent completely with host families. So I was treated to an awesome driving tour of the Netherlands. Arjen is a great tour guide, and he showed me medieval Netherlands and the new land that was created less than 100 years ago. Now that's weird. The Dutch actually create land. Weird...but awesome.

The tour ended with a typical Dutch meal back at the flat and then me getting my butt kicked at Ticket to Ride. Thought I was at least kinda good at that game. Not so much.

Sunday was a slow day. A ten minute bike ride to church. I didn't realize how much I missed bike riding until hopping on one here. The service was excellent too. The sermon was well thought out and smartly delievered. Course it was in Dutch, so....

We then rode home, had lunch, and I took a wonderful two hour nap. Then, dinner, and more losing at board games. Hey, they were a ton of fun though. And they taught me how to play Settlers of Catan... or Kolonistas (I think that's spelled right).

Now... a quick last night in the heavenly bed, and off to Germany in the morning...


  1. Kurt...I (as usual) loved this. I love getting to read about your experiences in Europe, and not just because it allows me to relive me own. You bring such incredible insight and perspective to the things you are seeing and experiencing.

    What a gift to stay with a family!! Sounds like it has been a great experience for you. I'll look forward to hearing more about it once you're back here in the good old Colorado.


    PS - Broncos & Rockies. So happy to be a Colorado sports fan...

  2. we're playing settlers when you get back.
    and eating gelato
    and getting freebirds
    yes yes yes. it's going to be grand.
    keep the updates coming :)

  3. You....losing at a game? Just playin. I can't believe you have never played Settler's though. Sounds like a sweet part of the trip. See ya lata brotha (in a Desmond accent)

  4. Nice blog!
    It's rainworms, not ringworms ;-)