In past weeks and months I have worked on moving to the U.S. We have worked out the paperwork, obtained a visa, and found me a job: May 17th will be Moving Day. That means that this weekend would really be my last one in the Netherlands. Unconsciously, I ended up doing a few overly nostalgic things.
Running has become one of my favourite pastimes in the last 2 years. I can confirm that it is positively addictive. Whenever I have a bit more time, I go out to the beach. Dutch beaches are actually quite awesome for many things as they are really wide and sandy (no rocks). The problem is just that they are, indeed, Dutch – so there is not much opportunity for sunbathing. And if it happens to be one of those 3 days in a year that it is actually nice enough to enjoy the sun, you’ll have to fight off an invading army of Germans.
Anyhow – I drove to the beach near Zandvoort. From there, I ran all the way to IJmuiden, made a U-turn, and (quite literally) retraced my steps. It was really exhausting because of the loose sand, but definitely after having spent a month in smoggy China (perhaps more on that later), the fresh sea breeze whipping foam in my hair felt amazing.
Cheese and bread!
Having showered and feeling good about my seaside run, I ventured onto the market on the Grote Markt. I sauntered a bit back and forth, making up my mind on what to have for lunch. I remembered asking colleagues that had lived for a prolonged time in the U.S. about what they missed most. One of the things they mentioned was: proper, fresh bread – not the sweetened kind that lasts for weeks. I thus got a massive dark baguette and settled on a big chunk of local, soft cheese. Yummy!
Visiting the Teylers Museum
It is a shame, but after living in Haarlem for over 2 years I had never managed to visit the Teylers Museum – an art, natural history, and science museum that is also the oldest museum of the Netherlands. The museum’s origins lie with Pieter Teyler, whose collection and fortune, as he died childless, were bequeathed for the advancement of religion, art, and science. It somehow seems to be a mix of a museum of natural history and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. It is small enough to visit in an hour or two, but it has marvelous selections of fossils, minerals, scientific instruments, medals, coins, and paintings. It seems that they looked at the collections of 10 huge museums and picked out those separate things that I would be interested in – and stuck them together in a few stunning, dark wood paneled rooms.
I visited the museum at 2pm at Sunday, at which time a volunteer starts with a (free!) tour. No tour guide spitting out dry facts one could have easily found online, but a retired archaeologist and historian passionately sharing some of the museum’s rich history. Among other things, he vividly described:
- How the first Mosasaurus skeleton was discovered;
- How a huge fossil was nearly cut in half as a result of a fight between two scientists that had claimed it (the archaeologists’ version of the Judgment of Solomon);
- How fake fossils were once used to trick on one of the most famous archaeologists of the time;
- How a huge machine that creates lightning (that still works!) once pissed off Napoleon.
Walking around Haarlem
On my way back from the Teylers Museum I decided to walk around the city a bit more. Haarlem was beautiful as ever. Typical ‘Dutch skies’ that inspired Golden Age painters centuries ago, made me feel all the more nostalgic. A few hastily taken pictures probably best convey what and how I felt: