Een Wandeling in Groningen
It hasn’t been more than a degree or so above zero (Celcius) for a couple of weeks now. We’ve had a bizarre combination of snow, rain, hail, ice rain, fog, sleet, very wet snow, and generally Arctic temperatures which has left the neighborhood a treacherous slick of ice and small patches of frozen snow or clear sidewalks. But before all that got well underway, we went for a walk. It was cold out, though, for sure…but pretty!
There were ice-flowers on the glass wall of a bus stop. In a way it is too bad we are back to the iPhone, because they deserved a much better camera, but there you go.
Lack of Nikon or not, I got two photos I am very pleased with. The iPhone camera continues to impress me, it really does. The graffiti shot makes me happy every time I look at it. It’s what I *saw*.
We walked …somewhere. I’m starting to get a mental map of Groningen, but we had struck off in a direction I was entirely unfamiliar with. We came across a couple of buildings that struck me. The sunset-gilded spirals of the staircase on this one…
I realize I’ve been a little slack on the cultural perspectives front, and haven’t been providing many nuggets of delightfully quirky Dutchness, so here’s one for you. It seems they are thoughtful enough to provide an area for hitch-hikers to stand while hitching. This area is marked by a sign “liftplaats”.
Yes, really. As we walked on toward a canal lock he wanted to show me I came across the second shot of the evening that I was particularly pleased with.
After a while I started to realize where we were, which provided me with a nice warm feeling of accomplishment. We had wound our way over to the area in which I had found the kitchen supply store that finally was able to sell me a cookie sheet. One of the lovely things about this area are the old ships moored along the sides of the canals. If you squint a little, you can see what it could have looked like hundreds of years ago, no problem.
Groningen is getting into the holiday spirit. Lights are up all over the place, some of them remarkably lovely. The photos of those did not come out, though.
A few hundred meters and around the back of a cathedral and we found ourselves in what I think of as the High Street, just down from the market plaza. Some enterprising soul with really good gloves had carved an Eskimo and an Icebear for us! Very cool!
Not long ago was Sinterklaas (Dec 5). Carel and I went to his parents place to spend the evening of the 4th with them in celebration of this – from my American perspective – rather bizarre holiday. It’s not Christmas, yet gifts are given. It’s the celebration of the birthday of St Nicholas, it seems, and they tell me with perfect seriousness that Sinterklaas is quite real, that he is the retired Bishop of Turkey, and that he lives in Spain except toward the end of the year when he goes to the Netherlands (why? why would the Bishop of Turkey who lives in Spain want to have anything to do with a damp frigid place like this?) to celebrate his birthday.
About three weeks before the fact he turns up on a steamboat from Spain, with his white horse and a bevy of 6 to 8 black…helpers. (If you haven’t listened to David Sedaris’s take on this, drop everything and go listen.) After spending some time creepily lurking about (did I mention he is skeletally thin?) he and his horse and his 6 to 8 black men go around on the eve of his birthday leaving gifts for the nice kids who left their shoes out by the hob, along with some water and a carrot for the horse. Lord help the bad kids, though. They’d not get candy, they’d get kicked and beaten, stuffed in a sack and taken back to Spain, their eventual whereabouts unknown.
Happily for me, Sinterklaas did not beat me and stuff me in a burlap sack. We had a lovely evening with his family, and Sinterklaas even came for the dog in the form of a prettily wrapped tasty bone. There seriously never has been such a lucky dog – Grandma even gave her a whole serving of an almond paste log!
For such luxuries she must suffer the price, though, which is being smooched by me…in public. Poor dog. VERY sad.
She defended us ferociously from the attacking ninja!
Sinterklaas brought me a number of great things, but one of the most wonderful was a scarf I found that Carel’s mother had made for me. It’s a gorgeous thing, made from a soft nubbly wool that I know is a pain to work with.
The colors are simply stunning. I love it, and I love that she made it for me. I am all verklempt. It will go beautifully with just about everything I own for winter, and it’s just so awesome.
Yay! Dank u wel, Grietje!
I’ve been simply re-building my wardrobe. There’s not much point in walking around with a neon sign that says I’M AMERICAN. I like the style that’s in fashion here right now and we’ve been having fun dressing me. In the process, however, we came across a Hugo Boss store, so we went in to see if there was anything Carel could not live without. I stopped dead in my tracks just as we walked in the front door, confronted with a absolutely huge Venetian glass chandelier, glittering, sparking, pouring warm light and fractured rainbows over an oblivious crowd of shoppers.
It was several stories high, unimaginably heavy. The child in me flashed on having to clean the crystals from our (infinitely smaller!) chandelier, and wondered how long it would take to clean ! The mastery of the work on it left me just agape; it is truly a thing of beauty and I wish my camera could even remotely do it justice.
The jacket I found Carel is also a thing of beauty, but that will have to wait until Christmas, as will the ham he bought me.
Yes. An entire Serrano ham. The haunch of a pig, smoked and cured lovingly in Spain. Have I mentioned I love this guy?
…HE BOUGHT ME A HAM.