Sunday, January 01, 2006

Amsterdam - New Year's Eve

“What are they doing?” As we sat in the window of an Italian restaurant, four men were opening a box that was about thirty inches square and eight inches deep. They removed a round object and began unrolling it down the narrow street that was about twenty feet wide. The object extended about forty feet and terminated with a large cylinder affixed to the end. Then I understood. “It’s a string of hundreds -- 2,000 or more? -- firecrackers with a huge on one the end.” Two of the men lit the fuse and moved back and we were entertained by fireworks. They had two more boxes and on each succeeding box they left part of the roll on the end which made for a shorter string but a much larger ending explosion. The street was filled with paper litter, smoke and laughing young people.

As we walked the streets, we passed hundreds of people celebrating new year’s eve. Periodically, the sky was filled with fireworks and the echo of exploding firecrackers rarely died away. About 8:00 PM we decided to return to Shawn and Abby’s and boarded a standing-room-only tram. At midnight the entire city erupted. Thousands upon thousands of non-stop explosions continued for forty-five minutes before the rolling thunder began to lessen. We went outside, watched the fireworks above, listened to the noise and breathed the distinctive smoke.

Periodically, we had heard fireworks for a few days but I didn’t associate the sounds with the approaching new years. About 1:30 AM, night before last, a large firecracker was dropped from the apartment above us and exploded outside our bedroom window. No problem. However, yesterday afternoon I did feel a distinct irritation when some student waited until we walked below his window and dropped one behind us. I had a two euro coin in my hand – the heaviest coin – and wanted to discard good international relations and try to nail the young man between the eyes. You know, just to teach him some manners. Julie, being frugal as usual, refused to permit this moment of satisfaction. “Don’t throw money away!” I saw it not as throwing money away but as a good investment.

Yesterday morning we got up early and walked through an ecolint which is an ecological route for animals living in or near the water. The ecolint led to the Amstel River and a traditional windmill that has been converted to a house.The area is permanent or winter home to swans, parrots, ducks, magpies, and other birds. Curiously, I saw one rabbit -- probably a hare -- that looked much like a jackrabbit at home. A few people were walking dogs and one man was feeding birds. A man was leading a horse along a path when a small motorcycle passed and the driver blew his horn. The man calmed the startled horse and shouted something after the motorcycle. Julie watched the incident and calmly said “Now we know how to say asshole in Dutch.”

(Photo Gallery)


Blogger Gaye said...

Looks like ya'll are really learning the Dutch!! Sounds like a wonderful time...I think I would've encouraged you to throw the coin at the young man (hanging my head in shame...) Happy New Year!

1/01/2006 07:54:00 AM  
Blogger Dale said...

Happy New Year, Paul. Much of today's Holland has been reclaimed from the sea by the use of dikes and pumps. My understanding is that most windmills were built to pump water back to the sea, although I'm sure some were used as grist mills. I had a high school teacher once who said,
"God made Heaven and Earth ... and the Dutch made the Netherlands."
Parrots??!! I thought they lived in warmer climates.

1/01/2006 10:23:00 AM  
Blogger Alex Pendragon said...

This is absolutely wonderful! So that's what Dutch road rage is like, huh? lol!

Go get you a life sized model of an RPG launcher, throw a pebble at the guy's window, and aim it at him when he comes out........hehe.....see what he thinks about YANKEE humor....grin.

1/01/2006 03:26:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew May said...

Wow, sounds like you guys are having a great time! I need a vacation! :)

1/01/2006 10:35:00 PM  

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