I always make it a point to learn a few basic words from whatever language of the country I’m in. Words like hello, goodbye, thank you, sorry, ice cream, and Where can I find ice cream?…you know…the basics. Fortunately, English is the second language here in Holland and most of the people can speak and understand it. However, everything is written primarily in Dutch and I will come across things like this that will completely baffle me…
Thankfully I have my friends here to help translate everything I come across. Mieke and Hanneke have been great with that! In addition to them, there is a slew of other fellow travelers I met throughout the years that live right here in Holland. One of them is Thom. I met him while backpacking through Thailand with Viola last summer. He actually witnessed me eat a scorpion for the first time there! Thom lives north of Ede in a city called Nijmegen, which is the oldest city in Holland! I can’t navigate the trains on my own yet because everything is in Dutch, so Hanneke accompanied me as we trained it up to visit him.
Thom met us at a cafe in the middle of the city, where he rode through on his bike from work. By the way, everyone has a bike in Holland. Everyone. It’s one of the main sources of transportation in this country. Holland is so small and flat, I guess it makes sense.
Anyhow, once we met up with Thom, he showed us a bit around the city and took us to a couple of bars and restaurants. Afterwards, he showed us his student housing and we got to see a glimpse of his current lifestyle. Since Thailand, Thom has been working a lot and recently went on a trip to Scotland to visit other travelers he met previously. He’s getting ready for student week in Holland, where all the students prepare themselves for another year of schooling. Picture an American welcome-week and how nuts those can get. Later on, Hanneke and I headed back to the train station, back to Ede. Great seeing ya again Thom!
Mieke and Hanneke have pretty much been planning everything we do here and that is completely okay with me. I don’t know much about Holland at all except knowing how flat it is. Nay a mountain nor hill in sight. Seriously, it’s so flat, if I stood on top of the roof of the tallest building here, I could probably see Germany or Belgium on either side. But as far as planning, on Thursday, the girls wanted to take me to Efteling, which is an amusement park with a fairytale fantasy theme. Its the Dutch thing to do they said. My jet-lag was still in full force, so it was difficult to wake up early for the long drive there. But once I did, I popped a motion sick tablet, grabbed a pillow, and passed out instantly in the car. When I awoke, we were already there! I was still very tired but the peppy enthusiasm of the girls kept me awake, however my expectations for Efteling were almost non-existent. I had no clue what I was in for, but I was game for anything; even if it involved fantasy fairy tales.
What I walked into was a big nature park packed with gardens, gnomes, elves, dragons, wizards, fairys, and other mythical beings. “What does ‘Efteling’ mean?” I asked. “It doesn’t mean anything” exclaimed Mieke. “It just sounds magical!” I’ve never been to Disney World, but I imagine this is a Disney World on a much smaller scale. I wanted to immediately go on the biggest, tallest, fastest, roller coaster here! “We’re not known for any roller coasters. We do have a few but don’t expect much!” they said. Mieke wanted to start slow and instead took us inside an Arabian palace. We stood in line for…at the time I didn’t know. The girls didn’t tell me anything. But it was actually a controlled boat ride with mechanical puppets on dynamic stages, visualizing Arabian themes fairy tales.
I was impressed with the level detail put into the action displays, but I was still eagerly waiting for a roller coaster. We went to our first roller coaster of the day, which was on a bob-sled and then a roller coaster called the Python that lasted maybe 25 seconds. I’d say the best attractions were the ones where I stood in line for, but couldn’t understand what the attraction actually was. All the signs were in Dutch so I was clueless as to what exactly I was standing in line for. One ride, which started as a boat ride, unexpectedly transformed into a water roller coaster! Didn’t see that one coming. Another involved us sitting in a room where all of a sudden the room started spinning around creating the illusion we were defying gravity. I still can’t figure out exactly how that one worked. A lot of the attractions were novelty and were catered toward the more magical ensuing guests.
During our day in Elfeling, I ventured to try new Dutch food, such as broodje döner kabab, and broodje van ons grootmoeder. Both were meaty sandwiches that were completely messy but tasty!
I also tried a traditional dessert called an oliebol, which is a sweet doughy ball covered with powder. I underestimated the power of the powder.
We rode a few more thrills and attractions before calling it a day. I immediately passed out again on the way back to Dieren for the night. I’ve never heard of Efteling before this but it’s somewhere nearly everybody living in this country has been to at least once in their lives. So I was happy to have experienced it!
Mieke, Hanneke, and I had to prep ourselves and pack our bags because we had a trip to Paris, France in our sights over the weekend!