Goodnight, Alkmaar!

8 Sep

Well it is Thursday evening and I just returned from a bicycle ride into town.  Marijke’s home is in what we might consider the suburbs of Alkmaar.  But in truth it is not far from the center of town.  Just a short bicycle ride away.  The weather outside is cool and accepting.  It was a good night for a ride.

My time in Alkmaar in nearing an end.  I have been here, in truth, longer than I realized as time sneaks by me in my often timeless world.  Over four weeks.  But it has been good.  The time.  The connections.  And the generosity of Marijke of not only extending her home… but her consistent way of offering her hospitality and keeping me in mind as a part of her daily way.  To that I say, Dankjewel!  From the bottom of my heart!

As my final farewell and parting words to Alkmaar and for now the Netherlands, I off my appreciation in the form of the “ode to the bicycle”… Never before have I ever… ever seen such a place that pays homage to the bicycle the way the Netherlands does.  It may be normal life for the Dutch.  For me it is…well, out of the ordinary!  Just tonight I had my premier experience with the Dutch and bicycles.  It is essentially valet parking for bikes.  Okay, perhaps not that formal… but pretty good.  In town this evening we parked our bicycles in a free (gratis) underground parking garage for bicycles.  On the way down the stairs I prepared to struggle with my bicycle as is typical for me when escorting a bicycle down a flight of stairs.  But the Dutch are too smart for this.  First their premier levee system, now this.  Going down the stairs, on the outside, the perimeter of the stairs there is a… how would you describe it… a narrow, smooth track for your bicycle that allows you to easily roll it while you walk the stairs.  Incredible.  And then, when you arrive at the bottom in the garage, the friendly man gives you a numbered ticket… half on your bicycle, the other half with you.  And then you park!   Marijke’s tire was flat, so the nice man used the premier bicycle pump mounted to the wall to put a little air in her tire before she parked.  Outstanding.

I appreciate this the most about the Netherlands.  It’s persistent bicycle culture that has, indeed, put me to shame.  It wasn’t unusual to see someone almost twice my age passing me on their bicycle as I reluctantly asked Marijke, “how much longer now…”  A bicycle ride in the rain… just another day for the Dutch.  And then there’s Marijke’s neighbor… a grandpa who rides his bicycle over 20 km to work every day.

As I say farewell to the Netherlands, I prepare to return to Wettenbostel… leaving early Saturday morning. I am so grateful to have  a friendly welcoming place where I can return.  But for now I say Goodnight. Goodnight to the wind and the windmills.  The bicycle paths lined with cows and sheep.  The unexpected showers and expansive sky.  Goodnight!  Goodnight sweet Alkmaar!

3 Responses to “Goodnight, Alkmaar!”

  1. Jean Vegas 09/09/2011 at 03:54 #

    Thanks for your thoughts
    and feelings–so refreshing.

    • nancieteresa 11/09/2011 at 15:47 #

      Hi Jean! Always nice to get a note from you! Thanks for your comments!

  2. Elizabeth Ohmer Pellegrin 11/09/2011 at 14:42 #

    Oh! How sweet! What a nice completion w/this town that’s been home for you! The Dutch are so thoughtful! It sounds so delightful! I’m so grateful to Marijke for being such a sweet friend to you! Tell her she has a home in New Orleans when she wants to come for a visit! (I’d better complete those repairs pronto!)

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