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Report 121: Three Months in Holland

By Marta (Moderator) from Washington State, Spring 1996

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Page 3 of 8: Our Apartment

April 22, 1996 We've been here for just over a week and we are pretty much settled in. It has been very easy to get a routine since much is familiar from our previous stay.

The apartment has two floors. The first floor is mostly a large room with 3 windows that are from ceiling to floor. . The first floor or living room of our apartment also has a lovely wood floor. It overlooks a canal that is actually part of the Rhine or Rijn in Dutch. The houses that line the opposite side of the canal are typical Dutch, tall (3-4 stories), brick, very narrow with a small alcove in the attic. In addition to the narrow houses are several local taverns and a large church. The church is a large rotunda with a clock, bell tower and an orange gold top that looks like a pineapple, a weather vane of two keys (a symbol of Leiden) and an angel with a trumpet. The clock chimes frequently but without any pattern. Sometimes the hour, sometimes the half, but you quickly get used to the chimes along with the noise from the street. Street noise is usually cars, bikes on bricks (noisy bike fender sounds), motor scooters and people.

Along with the living room is a small but adequate kitchen. Everything is small here. Europe doesn't have the luxuries of the single-family house that is found in the US especially in the west. Everything is expensive, so you make do with small apartments. The whole kitchen fits about the width of the wall of a small US kitchen. But it has a sink, a cabinet, a 1/2 refrigerator and a gas range top above the refrigerator, a fan & hood and that's it. Its a single sink about the size of a bathroom sink but deeper. The opposite side is a cadenza for dishes & pans. There's not much room to store stuff, maybe a shelf.

Everything in the grocery store is designed to fit in the small refrigerator. The milk is rectangular carton rather than a square to fit on the door. Everything comes in sizes for 2 not a family of 4.

There are lots of small stores that sell just one thing. There's the bread store, the cheese store, the butcher, and the flower store. There are more and more supermarkets but even those are small. We've been shopping in an open outdoors market. The fruit and vegetables are very good - similar to US. Lots of stuff grown in greenhouses such as peppers, cucumbers and lettuce.

I also love the bread. It is so much better than bread in the US. There are lots of interesting wheat breads. There are also great raisin rolls and some of the raisin rolls have an almond filling.

The two bedrooms are upstairs. The stairs are very steep, narrow and slightly curved. They are so steep - it is like climbing a ladder. Some of the steps are so narrow that my feet are wider (longer) than the step. Going up is no problem - but going down is definitely a challenge especially when you are sleepy and stiff in the morning.

The two bedrooms open out to a small balcony. There are no built-in closets. Instead there are two freestanding wardrobes. The bed is a platform bed.

The shower/laundry room is also on the second floor - but there's no second toilet. You have to go back down to the WC. The room is tiled on floor and wall. The shower is like a gym. No door just a stall.

It takes me about 45 minutes to get to work. I walk about 10 minutes to the train. The walk is challenging because of the car, bike & motor scooter traffic. It seems to be coming from all directions. You have to pay attention at all times. The train takes about 15 min to get from Leiden to The Hague. I then have about another 15-minute walk to the office. I leave at 8:15am and get home about 7-7:30pm.

Speaking of weather. It was sunny but cold when we arrived with a cold wind. The trees were bare with no sign of life. Very little was in bloom. But it has turned warm. Spring has erupted! The trees are starting to leaf out and everything is turning green. The daffodils are in full bloom and the tulips should start soon. There is actually a drought going on. They have only gotten 50% of normal rain. But it is like Seattle - it can change tomorrow.

Well it is 10pm and just about time for bed. I'll write more next time on life and travels in Holland. Tot ziens.

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