01.06.2013 - 01.06.2013 9 °C
[Note that the title only makes sense if you pronounce Gouda in the Dutch way (Howda) instead of the Canadian way (Gooda). And even then, my kids say I'm really stretching it...]
Today was yet another opportunity to combine a visit with extended family together with sightseeing. In Victoria, we can overlook deserving local sites until guests come to town, proving to be just the impetus to get us out to the avoided tourist places. And so it was with Ben’s cousin, Jan, who works in Gouda but has never seen the tourist attractions there. We met Jan at his place in Alphen aan den Rijn (on the Rhine), receiving a boisterous hello from his golden retriever (Bob).
Just an aside here...if we’re allowing for canine descendents, then you will recognize Bob as Igor’s cousin. I was saddened to realize that Bob was not yet included on Tante Rina’s calendar but when I meant to remedy this quietly, my family members chastised me, indicating writing on someone else’s Dutch birthday calendar is crossing the line (I’d be interested in knowing from the Dutchies out there if they share this opinion on calendar etiquette, especially since Theo Kwantes surreptitiously added his name to my calendar a few years back. But, then, perhaps I shouldn’t be using Theo as my yardstick...)
But back to the tales of the day. Jan first drove us to his place of work, a large crane operation. The four brothers who own it have built it up over the years to now see their business encompassing fifty large cranes. Jan is the logistics expert there. We saw these massive cranes, each looking almost new they were so well taken care of and cleaned. That’s one thing we have noticed here, that company trucks and equipment for typically dirty jobs are still kept in very good repair and painted/cleaned regularly. Everything in Holland seems tidy and just so (except my girls’ bedrooms, of course). The personal tour at the business was followed by a visit to Gouda’s historical city hall. Replaced just two years ago by a more modern building, the fifteenth century Gothic stadhuis is still used for functions, and of course, marriage ceremonies, city halls being a favourite location for Dutch weddings. Jan then took us to the longest church in the Netherlands, Sint Janskerk, famous even as a tourist destination four centuries ago due to its amazing collection of stained glass windows. Even for a hardened sight seer like me, I was only able to review about two thirds of the over thirty that are there.
Gouda being the place it is, we expected to see quite a bit of cheese and we were not disappointed. Although the summer cheese markets have not yet started (where the farmers trade, weigh and sell their large yellow cheese rounds), we did duck into one of the many local cheese stores, happily tried the samples of various standard and unusual combinations and settled on a red pesto cheese. And since Gouda is known as having the best stroopwaffels, Jan bestowed a large supply of them on us. We’ll need to leave it to our two teenage stroopwaffel connoisseurs to tell us if Gouda’s outstrip those in the rest of the country. We happened across a games marketer and allowed ourselves to dawdle a bit while looking through his offereings. We were surprised to find our favourite game there (Settlers of Catan) and while I was tempted to buy the four-person travel version, sensibility prevailed; instead, we bought two very small sized games, both of which can fit in one hand. The compromises that come with limited baggage.
The weather was quite cold and we looked for a place to eat that was out of the wind. However, many had the same idea in the market area so a stand up place caught our eye. We had been advised by a relative to ensure we tried a ‘frikandel speciaal.’ We didn’t even know what exactly it was but seeing it listed on the snack bar’s sign board, we knew we should seize the moment. It is the most popular Dutch fast food snack, with frikandel eating contests and even societies promoting its particular graces. It even tops the croquette, which I can’t quite understand -- we love the croquettes here, having even succumbed and bought a few McKrokets when time or money didn’t allow us to search for the more authentic variety. The frikandel is a sausage-shaped minced meat snack, largely comprised of chicken and pork but, apparently, also potentially horse, depending on the maker. Combined with thickener, bread crumbs, herbs and spices, it’s no wonder it’s a winner. If you want to get really serious and add the ‘speciaal’ part, you need to have it served with raw onions, curry sauce and mayonnaise. We added frites to the mix, with me not being able to turn down a chance to try the fries with pinda sauce (peanut satay sauce). The frikandel is not to my taste but the fries and peanut sauce actually tastes good, believe it or not! While the whole heart attack special just about did me in, it provided much needed warmth and sustenance and put a smile on my face.
Jan offered to take us to the cheese museum but we elected to visit on our next trip, possibly another 21 years from now -- we'll all be seventy-ish then. We returned to Alphen, had a brief visit with Jan and Alma, Jan's girlfriend, and went on our way, stroopwafels tucked safely under our arms.