In September of 2002, my husband and I flew to Amsterdam for a eighteen-day trip that included parts of Germany and the Netherlands. We traveled in part to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. Throughout this trip, my husband kept a journal of our activities, while I took pictures.
Since that trip, many things have changed in the way I travel, but I still have fond memories of this trip. I am sharing the highlights of the trip over a few consecutive posts, trying to follow my husband’s journal, adding comments as I go. Over the past couple weeks, I wrote about our time in Germany. There were two posts, creatively named, My Second Trip to Europe – Part One and My Second Trip to Europe – Part Two.
When I left off, we had just arrived at the home of distant relatives in Leeuwarden, Netherlands. We stayed with them for a two nights, before moving on to a different set of relatives. My husband and I both came from Dutch bloodlines and with my interest in genealogy, I was able to connect with relatives from both of our families.
Day Eight (9/16)
We had stayed up late the night we arrived, so were a little tired in the morning. My husband had loved listening to J- talk about his involvement in the Dutch resistance during World War II.
After breakfast served by our host, we set out for the day. We drove to the Afsluitdijk – the huge dike separating the North Sea and the Ijsselmeer. We went up into the observation tower, where could see both bodies of water. My husband enjoyed watching the eel fishermen along the shore.
We continued on to Bolsward to try to see the Us Heit (Our Father) Brewery, but it was closed. Instead we went to Harlingen, a nice harbor town. After exploring a bit, we found a place for lunch.
When we finished lunch, we drove to Zweins and Kingmatille. My husband commented that the towns were all really close – only a few minutes until we were in the next one. It’s true – in the Netherlands and in most of Europe, there are many more people per square mile than in the States. We saw the church that some of my ancestors attended. It was built in the 1500s. We saw where the family estate was hundreds of years ago. My family seemed to be rich then – I’m not sure what happened to the money.
As we headed back to Bolswaard, we passed through Dronrijp and saw a house bearing the family name of some of my husband’s ancestors. We tried to find out more about the house, but didn’t come up with anything.
Back at the small Us Heit brewery in Bolsward, we watched a video about the brewery and sampled a little beer. I’m not a big beer drinker, but my husband was intrigued by the process and enjoyed sampling different types of beer.
Our next stop was Joure. Here we saw the Penninga Molen – a windmill owned at one time by distant relatives of my husband. It was closed, but we would try to return. With so much information available on the internet, we now check opening times before visiting even a small site. As we drove out of town, we began to smell coffee. Soon we were driving past the Douwe Egbert’s coffee factory. It smelled so good!
We returned to the home of our relatives. After a short rest we left for dinner. Our relatives brought us to a traditional Frisian restaurant where we had a delicious meal. After dinner, they took us on a walking tour of Leeuwarden. Our relatives live in the old part of town – some buildings were from the 1400s. Originally, there were canals throughout the town. Deliveries to restaurants and business would come by boat to the basements or cellars of the buildings. Most of the canals have been filled in and roads now traverse the city. Our relative’s house is one of the newer ones – it was built in the 1700s.
Day Nine (9/17)
We had breakfast and then walked to the Archives in Leeuwarden, where I looked for genealogy records. Most of our ancestors are from the provinces of Friesland and Groningen. Although this was not a genealogy trip, I did spend a little time looking for family history.
At noon, we walked back to our relatives house, packed up our luggage, and said goodbye. We brought our stuff to the car and walked to Visser’s fish stand for lunch. We bought salt pickled herring, smoked whitefish, and fried fish nuggets. Our lunch with drinks only cost €7 (total) and tasted great. We ate at a table overlooking the canal bridge.
After lunch, we drove to Nes, Birdaard, Wanswerd, and Dokkum. All through northern Friesland we looked at old churches for gravestones, finding several with our family names. We saw the area where my great-grandpa lived as a child.
After a full afternoon, we drove to our next host’s home. In the Netherlands, tradition says that if relatives – even distant ones – visit, your home is open to them. All the places were that we stayed in the Netherlands were homes of relatives or friends. One relative insisted she would be offended if we stayed in a hotel rather than her home.
We had dinner with the host and then visited for the rest of the evening. The home they live in is an old farm house. They are restoring the house and farm – they had a wonderful garden.
Day Ten (9/18)
We were served a delicious breakfast by our host before we set out for the day. We left and drove around Bierum and Losdorp in the province of Groningen. We were looking for evidence of more ancestors. Years later (on a different trip), we received more information and were able to find the home and bakery of another set of great-grandparents.
We went to the city of Groningen where I did more genealogy research. My husband walked around the downtown area, exploring churches and catching up with writing in his journal. We met for a quick lunch – our host had packed us a lunch for the day. We continued our activities for a while in the early afternoon.
Later, we drove to Ten Post to meet more distant relatives. We had tea with them while we shared family stories, both past and present.
We went back to our host relative’s home and then, with them to the town of Drachen for pizza. We met more relatives there. We found our first experience of European pizza interesting. “Personal” pizzas are much larger than we were used to, although with a thin crust we didn’t have much trouble finishing what we were served. We also found it interesting that there were over fifty pizzas on the menu – each different combination of ingredients was listed as a separate pizza.
Day Eleven (9/19)
We said goodbye to our relatives and drove back to Friesland. Heading south, we crossed the Afsluitdijk. We drove to Marken and Volendam – both touristy towns with souvenir shopping possibilities. We stopped at the Henri Willig Cheese shop where we took a tour and bought some cheese. Even though it is aimed at tourists, I still like Henri Willig cheese.
We ate lunch in Volendam – Dutch pancakes with apples. While I shopped for gift for our girls, my husband walked around the harbor and sampled seafood from the food stands. He ate fried mussels and some smoked eel.
We stopped in Edam for more shopping and “touristing” on our way to our next hosts for the evening. These hosts were not relatives, but friends we met when their choir group came to America for a tour. When they sang at our church, my parents hosted them, so they were glad to return the favor.
We enjoyed these last few days, driving through the area where so many of our ancestors emigrated from. The land here in Northwest Indiana looks much like what we saw in the northern part of the Netherlands. I understand why our ancestors and their neighbors were drawn to settle here.
In the final post about this trip next week, we visit Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and the southern Netherlands before returning to Schipphol Airport for our flight home.