Friday, October 26, 2007

Three Countries in One Day? That's Europe, Baby!

Yesterday's journey began on the winding streets of Franconia, navigating past familiar treasures, such as the town of Effeltrich (a town whose name means "town of many apple trees"), with its magnificent fortified church and the neighboring "1000-year-old tree", and culture-rich Heroldsbach, on the Western rim of the "Fränkische Schweiz" (or Franconian Switzerland), with its winding river and neighboring forests, now a deep shade of orange.

Nearing Frankfurt, recently harvested fields rose up before us like a great, striped wall, their slopes descending thirstily into the meandering Main.

Still further North along Germany's A3 arterial highway, on the banks of the river Lahn in the Hessen region, lies the town of Limburg. Driving past the spell-binding Limburger Dom is no easy feat, and there are many other "swear-I'm-going-to-stop-here-one-day" landmarks along way (and on most German Autobahns for that matter).

Once you enter The Netherlands (our drive takes us through Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, and then The Netherlands again), it's apparent. Sheep and cattle graze on seemingly endless fields of green, interspersed with the occasional village and pockets of industry (thanks to nearby harbours and ports, and the abundance of water). Passing Brussels and Antwerp, you don't see much from the highway. But if you should take a wrong turn (as we did), you'll quickly experience Antwerp's horrendous traffic first-hand.

And Zeeland, sweet Zeeland. It's peaceful and neat, and the farm houses and villages are choc-full of character. Beyond the highway, there's a vast network of paved bicycle paths, only some of which allow cars, but the bicyclist is king here - automobile drivers beware!

Back in tranquil Oudelande, the rooster crowed at dusk, as if to welcome us home. Today, I started the day admiring the horses (in our real-life barn) with my in-laws and Lukas. One pair groomed each other, while nearby, a filly nursed her baby. The foal, at first wary of me, became super curious, and eventually let me scratch her neck. For breakfast we had fresh eggs from our overly-fertile chicken, afterwards bringing scraps out to Knorre, the pot-belly pig, as a treat.

If only you could see me now. I'm sitting in my most-favorite room of this old farm-house, which I've incidentally adopted as my new writing studio. A huge old wooden farm-house table serves as a desk, and the room is full of antiques. To my right hangs an old oil painting of a farmer, in the fields with his horse-drawn plow and his faithful dog. A massive book shelf stand behind me, with some of the original Dutch tiles from the house, and a neat old chess board.

From my fancy new desk, I also updated Lukas' website today, writing about parenting news and our latest developments as a family. After all, I try to keep this page travel-focused. Hope you've enjoyed the journey!

My in-laws love it here, and I don't blame them. But enough about how incredible it is. If I'm not careful, I might just convince the owners to move back in! :-)

No comments: