Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Going home

As I sit here I am recovering from quite a hectic week. 2 jobinterviews, a 16th birthday, travelling by flight, staying in a city, visiting places, restaurants and pubs, overall immersing ourselves in Dutch "everyday"-life.
Back in august I decided, quite spontaniously, that a trip "home" would be a good idea. A long weekend for me and the wife to visit our homeland and some friends and/or family. So I contacted our, still, best friends and we could stay at their place. I booked our flight, which would go the day after our oldest daughter turned 16. It also meant our kids staying home alone. They would have to fend for themselves, take care of the house and the animals. A good lesson for all of us, we figured.

Well, last weekend was THE weekend.
But things did not go smoothly. First of all there was our daughter's 16th birthday on the day before leaving and at that same day I also had a jobinterview. So it was a rather busy day for me, not taking into account the packing that had to be done at night, last instructions-round with the kids and getting up at 05:00 for the 2,5hr drive to Stockholm. We made it thought and with time to spare, but we could not find our flight?!? Checked with the informationdesk and the woman helping us had a hard time finding it too. But eventually it popped up and we were directed toward terminal 2, which was on the other side of the airport. Of course. There the same procedure ensued; flight could not be found. Again infodesk and after a few minutes the flight popped up. Yes, we were at the correct gate...... but on the wrong date! In august the flight specifics were changed and I made note of the changed time of departure, but somehow missed that the flight had been postponed by a day... So there we were, with 2 options; a hotel or drive home and do the same thing again the day after. We opted for the latter, mainly due to the costs involved with staying in a hotel in the airport/Stockholm-area for a day.
Damn I felt stupid..... and pissed off...... and even more stressed! An entire day lost and double the stress of travelling!!
The day after we once again got up at 05:00, did the whole good-bye-thing again and once more headed toward the airport. Now everything went smoothely and at lunchtime we touched down at Eindhoven airport. We were amazed at the landscape before landing; every field neatly divided into squares, marked off by roads and rows of trees. And the urban areas, seas of brickred tiles and grey ribbon streets. So very different from what we had become used to....
Our friends Vinca and Manfred were there to pick us up and I choked up when we met again, but as always that strange sensation of falling back into our old behaviour settled in very quickly. It always feels as if we had seen each other only yesterday or last week, despite it having been more then a year. We enjoyed a cup of coffee before heading further south; another hours drive over Dutch highways. Both my wife and I were real glad we did not have to do the driving! We are in no way prepared for or used to this kind of traffic!!
Manfred had prepared one of our favorite dishes and afterwards we spent a while digesting that, drinking coffee and talking before heading out to another place manfred had planned; a ice parlor, just across the German border. I still was to stuffed, but the rest indulged in huge sorbets or portions of icecream in all sorts of flavours and covered in chocolate or liquer. I settled for coffee, but ended up with all the cookies!

Day 1; Maastricht
The night had been a troublesome one. We had to reinflate the airmatrass every 2 hours due to a minute leak, we were not used to the sounds of the city and streetlight were shining into our window.

We had set 2 goals for our trip; a daytrip to Maastricht and spending a day in Heerlen, both the cities we called home once. We wanted to go to the traditional friday openair market and just look at all the changes the city had gone through during our absence. For me there was 1 other goal; visiting an old church, converted to bookstore!
The market was an overwhelming experience of people, smells, sounds and colours and after about an hour or so, I had had enough. I just had to get out and away from it. So we sought the tranquility of a church......
I really liked what they had done with the place, but apparently that had come at a cost. A cost that had to be taken in again through sales. I had hoped to find some bargains here, but the bookprices were high, exorbitant for the secondhand ones actually!
Yet I did not leave empty handed. Manfred let me pick one book, had that wrapped and gave it to me as a christmaspresent to be put under the tree and opened on christmas. We also did some shopping for the kids and it quickly became apparent that we needed to book a suitcase for the returntrip, just to get that stuff home.

And when in Maastricht, one can not leave without at least having had a break and something to drink on one of the many terraces, many of which serve excellent food as well. Given the time of year and the excellent weather I ordered something for us all. Hot chocolate. We had had plenty of coffee so far and it was still a bit early to endulge in.... stronger beverages. Despite it well being lunchtime, Manfred "forbade" us to have lunch. He had planned for that in another location.

He told us they had discovered a restaurant in Margraten, a village nearby and another place with a lot of history for the mrs. and me, since it was here that we became a couple in '88. On our way from maastricht to margraten we were treated with the glorious rolling, woodcovered hills of the area we once called home and yet I felt surprisingly little. The restaurant itself is called Loods 81 and it is an former potatostorage facility, now reworked as restaurant. The interior is very tastefull in every sense of the word! An interior full of old and antique everyday objects, typical for the region, alongside smoked sausages and hams, loafs of freshly baked bread, pies and a very well stocked buffet, alongside an equally well stocked counter!
However it was the dish I chose for lunch that made this place really stand out. I chose a traditional dish; baked bloodsausage with baked appleslices and darkbread with applesyrup as spread. It was this very dish that propelled me back to my early youth the moment I sank my teeth into it. In an instant I was back in my grandma's kitchen, seeing her bustling about the furnace, smelling the smells of those days; the food, the furnace as it heated up, the house in its pre-central heating time.... A very powerfull memory that brought tears to my eyes.

The dish I chose? 

And of course a visit to Limburg has to be celebrated by having an exquisite local beer... Chateau Neubourg by Gulpener.

Later that night we went out and visited our hosts' go-to bar, had a few beers, played cards, had long talks and ended the evening by devouring a few bites to eat.

Day 2; Heerlen

Today we stayed in our "hometown", the city of Heerlen. Part of the centre had been heavily altered by the construction of a whole new neighbourhood, where the old trainstation used to be. The new part is called "Maankwartier". We had to have a look at that. But first my wife went to the hairdresser. They are better and cheaper there. I (ab)used the opportunity to visit a local, secondhand bookshop.... and as usual I did not leave empty handed.
Our shoppingspree did not end there and we ended up with quite a few bags of stuff that needed to be shippied home. We got all sorts of good stuff like candy and pastries, flanel pyama's for our youngest one amongst other things. All in all we ended up with 23kg of extra luggage!!
That night we went out again and last night's "routine" repeated itself.

Sunday was the return home-day and that caused double feelings; sadness of leaving our friends again, but also because we had really enjoyed the leisures of old; wandering the old cities, shopping, having good coffee in cosy café's or on terrasses, the good food and the long talks and meaningfull discussions. On the other hand did we long for the silence and peacefullness of home, away from the constant presence of people, noise, bustle and lights.
Manfred drove us back to the airport and once more we were astounded by the amount of traffic. We had a cup of coffee there, before saying goodbye once more, trying to keep it short and as painless as possible. The rest of the journey was uneventfull untill we were almost home.
Upon arriving in our homeprovince of Dalarna we were greeted by a stunning display of the northern lights! Large bands of bright green light waved across the pitchblack skies, welcoming us home....

A familiar and much loved landscape...

And after being pissed and having ignored me the entire previous evening, she forgave me the next day....