With just over two months on our move-clock, I’ve been trying to come up with a bucket list. Can we fit in a weekend getaway? Is there something we’ve been meaning to do for four years? Why is the calendar for the next eight weeks already speckled with land mines of appointments and commitments?
The bucket list might be better envisioned as an espresso-cup list, because time is flying and things are busy. For one thing there’s all the schaatsen. I don’t think that overall the Olympics are as household-popular here as they are in the US, but the skating is serious. I was in a copy shop mailing a letter the other day while one of the Dutch races was on, and the whole place came to a standstill until the results were in. (Oranje!)
I love Dutch Olympic coverage. It’s been one of my platform issues since Vancouver 2010. They just stream everything (NOS.nl), online, free, from start to finish, mostly without commentary. There are no outtakes; no one selects which athletes you “want” to see; there are no commercials (except on Nederland 1, which also has commentary). I watched the Opening Ceremonies in a Delft sports pub with some friends and a group of Russian students, who were deservedly excited and truly helpful in explaining some of the symbolism and story I would otherwise have missed.
Last week my mom told me she’d seen something in the paper about an exhibit in Rotterdam showing Anne Frank’s childhood marbles. This turned out to be the Kunsthal (art hall)’s “The Second World War in 100 Objects,” and today I took a break from reading The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich to go and check it out.
I’ve never really gotten into Rotterdam. It’s about the same distance from Delft as the Hague (about 15 minutes by train), but whenever I go there, I think I must be missing the action. The city center feels kind of bleak (perhaps owing to the blitz in 1940 that leveled much of historic Rotterdam), and usually I don’t wind up lingering.
The Kunsthal is a warehouse-ish building with five or six “halls,” each offering a different exhibition. The big draw currently, advertised in all the train stations, is an exhibit on shoes. (The juxtaposition with the WWII objects upstairs was just a little jarring.)
I found the 100 Objects exhibit interesting, but not as compelling as I had thought it would be from the concept. The objects are displayed in one large (crowded) room, numbered and with a paragraph explaining each. The paragraphs are only in Dutch, even though material advertising the exhibit and the “big text” on the walls of the exhibit had English translation. My Dutch is good enough to read the text (if missing a word here and there, usually getting it by context) — but wow, is it tiring. I’m so proud when I can read in another language, but it is mentally exhausting, and I do things like speaking out loud without realizing it. For about the first fifteen objects, I stood there until I had read every paragraph. After that, I went for the headlines.
Item #8 was a pair of pigeon’s feet, with the explanation that during the bezetting (the occupation), large quantities of pigeons had to be killed so they wouldn’t be used to transport information or supplies. The feet had to be turned in. Item #40 was a train board, identifying the route Westerbork-Auschwitz (Westerbork being a Nazi detention camp in the Netherlands). And amidst these grim items were bicycles: a Dutch exhibit wouldn’t be complete without them. One was an illegal news-press from Amsterdam, powered by pedaling; the other was a bicycle with a wooden wheel, its paragraph explaining how when tires became scarce in wartime, people had to improvise.
If you’re an expat in the Netherlands, or even a tourist who intends to visit a handful of museums, the Museumkaart is a fantastic investment. It’s €55 for a year and good at most of the major (and minor) museums in the country. I had one for two years, and it easily paid itself off. I was kicking myself today for not renewing it when I paid the Kunsthal’s €11 fee, for a visit that lasted about an hour and a half.
I said that the bucket list should be like an espresso cup, but I’ve been writing it like it’s a wheelbarrow. I’ve been taking stock of all the wonderful travel and things we’ve been able to do since 2010, and trying to admit that not much more is possible given the time constraints at hand. Europe will be there, people keep telling me—people I want to spend time with, before our journeys all lead us on from this place.
Moving, seriously, is a headache. It’s crazy how fast it just becomes about your “stuff.” How will you get your precious stuff from point A to point B? How much will it cost? Will you be able to find a new place to house all your stuff? Which stuff will you get rid of, before you move? A friend advised us a couple weeks back to cast off as much as we can on this side. I’m trying to take his advice. There’s no literal wheelbarrow, after all.