We’re back in America now, a four-month journey throughout Europe nothing more than a fond memory now. Not much reverse culture shock although it was a little weird driving an automatic transmission car again.
The last six days of our trip passed without any further ill events. After we got our new tires we began the rather arduous seven-hour journey from Esslingen to Amsterdam, arriving around 5:30 in the evening.
The Dutch are a strange bunch. They’re sort of like Seattleites on steroids. They can’t drive worth anything; stopping or slowing down for no reason, taking too long at intersections and driving like they’re in their own little fantasy land. They hate cars. Parking is €45 a day. On the drive into town EVERY light was red (and not because we were victims of bad timing, they time them that way to keep cars moving as slow as possible), and bikes rule the roost. They also have a strange sense of morality. It’s, of course, well-known that pot and prostitution reign free in the center of town so that was no surprise but strangely incongruous was the fact that most of the stores close at 6pm on a Saturday and don’t open again until Monday morning. And they, of course, revel in paying one of the highest tax rates in the world and being tolerant to a fault, as long as they agree with you of course. They’re even one of the nations in Europe that has banned certain books. Yep, being in Amsterdam was a bit of a jolt to the system. This is not to say that we didn’t enjoy it but I certainly wouldn’t want to live there. We much preferred the easy-going lifestyles of the Italians and Greeks.
Last Saturday we visited the Anne Frank House, a great and moving museum. We especially liked the fact that, unlike most museums, it’s rather small so you can literally read and see everything they have and not feel like you’ve missed something. After having some crepes for lunch and visiting a very windy farmers’ market (one unfortunate vendor who was selling dishware had her table collapse when a large gust of wind came through, breaking several pieces) we toured the Van Gogh Museum. In the evening we toured the spectacle that is the Red Light District.
On Sunday we spent most of the day with a friend from high school, Krystof. Krystof is from Prague but is now working for the European Community just outside Amsterdam. We were blessed with a beautiful day and spent most of it at the beach in the nearby town of Bergen-am-Zee. We had a late lunch at a beachside restaurant and watched a stunning orange sun set into the North Sea.
On Monday, after another splendid breakfast from our Dutch-American host at Boogaard’s Bed & Breakfast, we set out on the final leg of our trip back to Saarbrucken, Germany. Our friends Muhammad and Zineb, once again, went out of their way to make us feel at home. We had dinner Monday night at a pretty decent Mexican restaurant and on our final day in Europe, successfully sold our BMW to Muhammad’s brother-in-law. Our final dinner in Europe was quite un-European, all you can eat sushi.
On Wednesday Muhammad again went above and beyond, waking up at 5:30 AM and driving us two hours to the Frankfurt Airport. Nearly 24 hours and a plane change later we arrived in Bellevue, Washington, USA.
We’re settling back in. I did battle with AT&T and got half their cancellation penalty waved. We got new phones from Verizon. Rosie got her first haircut in months and we’ve started searching for a new car and temporary housing while I search for a job somewhere in America. The dreary, cloudy, drizzle makes us miss the warmth of Nafplion but it is nice not to have to go to a café anytime we want to check email and it’s nice to see old friends once again.