Back from the border

The Nuclear Security Summit is going on here this week so there’s police presence everywhere and many routes are being changed or closed off entirely. Of course, this is the weekend that I chose to go Bad Nieuweschans, right on the border with Germany. It was utterly uneventful for me since I am generally pretty law abiding. It was unusual though to see so many police. Living here, I rarely notice the police. I guess that is a good thing.

I left Friday afternoon around 2pm and stopped in Marum on the way up north. Marum sits right over the border between the provinces of Friesland and Groningen. Groningen is a province. And there is Groningen, the large city in the north. There’s a university there as well. It is generally a city of really smart people doing cool things with alternative power, ethics, etc. It was peaceful as always in Marum in the church yard. I stopped there for a long time to talk to mom and to deadhead the flowers from last time. Every time I have made the journey to Marum, before Mom passed, we were always in rental car or someone else’s car. This time it was Astrid parked between the trees along side the road. The car that my mom and I spent so many miles in was now what takes me to visit her.

Outside the graveyard itself, the municipality has built a rose garden overlooking the graveyard. Right now it looks very precisely aligned but as things start to grow and bloom, it will surely be a lovely spot. I took a picture from the top of the garden since it is higher than the graveyard. In the Netherlands, it might just qualify as a mountain!

Bad Nieuweschans is a small town. And I mean small like one store, one regular bar or krug, one more upscale bar and houses. The two claims to fame are the mineral springs and the fact during the 80 years war, it was one of the five bastions that held the northern provinces out of Spain’s hands. You can still see a fraction of the original wall and the deep canals that were dug to keep the North safe. I am paraphrasing Dutch history but originally the Netherlands was double the size. During the war with Spain, the lower seven provinces (what is now Belgium) sided with the Spanish instead of fighting for their independence with the upper provinces.

I very much enjoyed soaking myself in the mineral waters. It made me think of mom and I had some really good chuckles when the naked German bathers came walking through the sauna areas and out into what is called Bathrobe Park (meaning that you are supposed to wear a bathrobe there). Despite the signs that indicate the necessity of bathrobes, the Germans bathers remain defiantly anti-bathrobe. Ironic because one of the big differences between the Dutch and the Germans is that Germans have a big belief in hierarchy and following the rules. The Dutch don’t spend any time on hierarchy and believe the rules are generally good but as an individual they don’t need them. I think this captures my mom’s mindset pretty well.

After exploring the town, I found myself on the terrace of the small bar. I sat down for a cup of tea and to read the local paper. That was at approximately noon. I didn’t leave until ten hours later. I was swept up into the crowd of regulars and proceeded to spend ten hours trying to understand the Groningen accent, catching up on all the local history and generally being given a hard time. It was great! I really enjoyed myself. The people were so much fun. Groningers have a reputation for being very stern and standoffish, kind of cold. They are much more reserved than people from this end of the Netherlands. But that only lasts until they get to know you. I learned a lot about farming. For example, there are lots of ponies here. Ponies don’t seem to have a very practical purpose and there are more ponies than kids’ birthday parties that want to hire them, I am sure. Well, I learned the reason why – not to eat them (though they do in Belgium) but because they keep the fields manageable. You can either mow them with big combines or you can keep ponies. And ponies are seen as a much nicer option.

In turn, they offered me a place to play my first concert. I promised that I will come back when I can play at least four songs on my banjo. The owner told me that they would let me go on stage late, when everyone was pretty drunk so the audience wouldn’t notice the same four songs. We all exchanged contact information and the next time I am north of Marum, I will certainly stop in. The best part is that it was such a mix of people and everyone was just accepted for who they are. From the guy with no teeth to the local tycoon and everyone in between. And they made me feel welcome. I wouldn’t trade living in Amsterdam for Bad Nieuweschans but I would definitely visit there again.

Sunday I spent the last day of my mini break soaking again in the springs. Before I left to head south, I stopped back in the krug to say good bye which resulted in two more coffees and then two hours later, I was finally on the road. It stopped raining long enough for me to stop at Marum again and bring the new plants and pot them. And I didn’t stage them first πŸ™‚

The boys are doing fine. I don’t think they missed me at all. George had have a bath yesterday because apparently he rolled in something unbelievably disgusting in the park with Renee. He smells deliciously like dog shampoo and that’s all I really want to know about that experience!

The next couple of days I will be working from home since the NSS is still going on. While the office is technically open, they recommend not coming in since getting there can be problematic. Okay by me since I have good coffee and in the afternoons, I can work from the yard.

I learned some new patterns for my banjo at my lesson last week. At one point, I was playing and my teacher was playing the guitar and I kind of yelled “Oh my god, we are making music”. Which was kind of funny. I was clearly overwhelmed by the possibility πŸ˜‰

Anyway, time to make dinner for the dynamic duo.

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