The Netherlands, Part II

This is the sequel to my first post on our trip to the Netherlands.

First on the list of places we went is the zoo! Actually, we went to the city, Best and to their zoo. We went to the Best Zoo. In hindsight, it was nearly the best zoo ever. It had all the adorable cuddly animals I love and a few very cool ones. It also had a bomb children’s playground.

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On our way to the zoo we stopped to see chickens and a deer living together

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First to greet us at the Best Zoo were the Pelicans

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Monstrous, enormous, splendid birds

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OTTERS! My favorites

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Olivia seemed to care more about the dirt than anything else

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I like to move it, move it

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Bye, bye!

Next up we saw the iconic symbol of the Netherlands: the windmills. The few we saw were not working or running anymore so they were just historic monuments. It’s amazing how immense they are when you get up next to it. The blades are as wide as I am tall.

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I don’t know what any of those words mean, but it looks cool

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If you want to see every historic windmill in the Netherlands, this is the map

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These are the symbols and their meanings

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We also went to the DAF Museum. It’s a truck company that makes massive vehicles. This was the highlight of Olivia’s trip. For 2 hours she ran around shouting, “AUTO! AUTO!” It was the perfect place for kids, though. Big open spaces and nothing they can damage.

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This truck sleeps two people in the cabin and also has a mini fridge and everything else you could think of

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Sitting in the cockpit of an armored vehicle

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This was the Royals’ car while they were on holiday

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Olivia loved this one

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Of course, we had some good food too.

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This place was the coolest

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Two burger and beer places in the same day? Okay, twist my arm

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Goat cheese and avocado

We also went to a park. Olivia wanted to make friends with the loud, intimidating, and unnaturally large geese. She didn’t seem to be at all concerned about them shouting at her. I was trying to play it cool.

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Of course, she fell in the mud and geese feces, but at least she still had a sense of humor about it

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Terrorists

And this brings me to the most difficult, intense, beautiful day of our trip: Easter. You may have seen my Facebook video on how the first part of the day was going. It was crazy. Easter is the most important holiday to me, as a Christian. I also really value spending time with family and other believers on this holiday in particular. However, on Easter Luka had to be at his gig at 7:30am, which left Olivia and I all alone in Eindhoven. Even though I had her, I still felt quite alone. I decided to go to a coffee shop, found out it was called Lucifer (weird for Easter, right?), got there and it was closed. On the way to this coffee shop I came up on the massive, beautiful cathedral with multiple towers. I didn’t see a way to get to it and decided to think about it later. After leaving the closed coffee shop, I drove around looking for signs of life, but it seemed that there were no church services before 10:30am and it was only 9:00am. We first went to St. Joseph’s cathedral, but there was no one there so we took a selfie and left. Mind you, I’m trusting GPS to lead me around a foreign city, with signs and roads I am not familiar with, and signs that are all in a language I don’t understand. It was… challenging. I made many, many circles around many, many blocks.

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Then we went back to the coffee shop, which was now open and had a coffee. While we were there I asked the girl behind the counter if she knew which cathedral was just around the corner. She said it was St. Catherine’s and that it should have a service that day. Looking online, I found that the service started at 10:30am and it was 10:23am. So I drank the rest of my coffee and hurried Olivia into the rental car and went around and around looking for parking. One way streets and unfamiliar signs seemed to be everywhere. I finally parked at a meter only to realize that I didn’t have enough change to pay (and yes, you must pay even on Easter Sunday). I gave it as much change as I had and it totaled to 28 minutes. 28 minutes of Easter service it is!  I grabbed Olivia and rushed to the church. There is no one on the streets. As I reach the cathedral it is every bit as beautiful as it was from a distance. Towering, stunning, perfect brickwork.

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Hot and out of breath, I walked up the steps to the front and there on the door it reads that Sunday Service starts at 9:30am.

“What?! That means we’ve already missed almost all of it!” I said, partly to myself and partly to Olivia.

However, I consciously decided that whatever little bit I got to be a part of I would be grateful for. As we walked inside, the high arches and the vast sanctuary were nearly empty. A few, maybe 20 or 30 people, were scattered among the pews. Most were kneeling in worship and prayer. Olivia and I were the youngest there by about 30 years. We slid into a row just as the priest was breaking the bread. A choir, that may have outnumbered the congregation, broke out in song with the most enormous pipe organ I have ever seen in my life. Their voices carried throughout the sanctuary in harmony. Not understanding a word, since everything was in Dutch, didn’t matter. I wanted to record how wonderful it sounded, but as soon as I took out my phone, Olivia tried to grab it so I put it away. Feeling a little bit frazzled, I let Olivia stand on the bend and I knelt down.

“Thank you, God. Thank you for bringing me here. Thank you for the peace and love in my life. Thank you for your Son.”

After everyone was back in their seats the choir began their concluding song. As they sang the first few notes I realized I knew this song! It was All Creatures of Our God and King. Then the choir let out in glorious rounds of “Alleluia!” At once, Olivia began to sing alleluia, I was singing alleluia, along with every other person there. At this moment, I felt an overwhelming amount of love. Here I was, an American, from Slovenia, in the Netherlands, in a church service conducted in Dutch, with other people who were singing in Dutch, and yet we were all singing alleluia together. I wasn’t alone at all. These were my brothers and sisters. We were all one family, praising our God and Savior. God was there, with us, in love. It was such a sense of love and unity that I haven’t felt before. Even writing this now, tears come to my eyes as the memories of those feelings swell in my heart.

After the service was over, many people came and introduced themselves and invited Olivia and I into the adjoining room for coffee and tea. They were kind and welcoming. In this way, on this day, the Dutch people were the very embodiment of the spirit of Easter.

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After church, Olivia and I spent the afternoon going to lunch at a great spot. The rest of the day wasn’t perfect, but I felt blessed.

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Salmon and spinach and scrambled eggs

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And as I wrap up our trip, I leave you with a few photos of our return home. Olivia was a little angel on the way home. We enjoyed the Netherlands so much. I would love to return any time.

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