Wednesday, 7 May 1986
Dear Mom & Dad,
We got back from a wonderful trip just yesterday afternoon. I have almost forgotten how to use my computer in such a long time (10 days). Perhaps everyone is tired of hearing about all our trips around Europe. It was an interesting trip for us and hopefully others will enjoy parts of the following.
Originally, we planned to leave Naples on Friday, 25 April. However, Angelique came down with the chicken pox on Monday that week. Actually, she had the beginnings of it on Sunday. We changed our plans at the last minute. The only bad thing about it was that we would not be able to attend the Sunday service at church with our friends in Holland.
We did get to fly out of Naples on Monday, 28 April (my birthday). We flew on a (medevac) military flight. There were just enough seats for us to fly "space available." This only cost us $10 per seat for a flight to Germany. We were all happy that we didn't have to fly on another cargo plane. This plane was similar to a regular airline, except that the seats face to the rear of the aircraft.
This is the fifth time in a row I have been in a different country on my birthday. Beginning in 1982 with the U.S., I then spent at least part of my birthday in the following countries: Italy, Greece, France, and Germany. Hopefully, my next 50 birthdays will be in the good ol' U.S.A.
The plane left Naples late, but who can complain about such a cheap flight? We got to Frankfurt, West Germany, about 8 PM. After taking a taxi and a train we arrived at a hotel near the main train station over an hour later. We stayed near the station for two reasons: to leave early the next morning and to go to McDonald's for supper.
We thought every hotel we stayed in on the trip was too expensive. But we were picky about where they were located. The rooms were very nice, however.
On Tuesday morning at 7:26 we left Frankfurt on the train. The train went along the Rhine river. We saw at least 19 castles even though it was quite hazy. We had to change trains in Utrecht, Holland. We got to Rotterdam at 1:35 PM. We were met by the Krumreis.
Phil and Susan Krumrei are friends of ours since college. Jeannie was in their wedding. They have been missionaries in Holland since about four years ago. Phil grew up in Holland. His parents have been missionaries in Holland for 23 years. Phil and Susan started a congregation in Schiedam, a suburb of Rotterdam.
On the day we arrived we went quickly through a Dutch market. Then we settled at the Krumrei's house to visit. Their house is quite small compared to ours. There are two rooms on each of three floors. The stairs are steep like ladders. The place was very "homey" in spite of the cramped spaces. I have always been amazed at what a missionary will tolerate. Actually, there is a law in Holland that places a limit on the amount of space in your house based on the size of your family. The Krumreis found a loophole that permitted them to buy a townhouse larger than the usual limit. Most of the other people in their neighborhood had only half as much space in their houses. The Netherlands is the most densely populated country in the world.
We spent much of four days in Holland. The weather was magnificent the whole time. It was mostly sunny with temperatures around 70 degrees, which is quite unusual for Holland in May. It was nearly 10:30 at night before it got dark there. Beautiful flowers were in bloom everywhere.
Wednesday was Holland's queen's birthday. James (almost 6) and Elizabeth (age 4) Krumrei were out of school for the rest of the week. On Wednesday morning we went to Kinderdijk. This is an area where about 15 or 20 windmills still stand. Most of them are over 200 years old. We went to the top of one of them. People lived in some of them.
It was very interesting to learn about the windmills. We never quite understood the system of dikes and land reclamation in Holland before seeing it for ourselves. It was fascinating to see different levels of water and know that the water runs uphill to the sea, so to speak. Most of the windmills have been replaced by electrical pumping stations. I never did figure out how the pumps could work fast enough when it rains.
On Wednesday afternoon we went to a typical community carnival that celebrates the queen's birthday. This was about 2 blocks from the church building in Schiedam. There was a performance by a clown which Jeannie participated in. When she said she didn't speak Dutch, the clown started speaking English. She had to help the clown "wash" a sock.
This event was at a community center where Phil often volunteers on Wednesday afternoons to work with the kids. Children don't go to school in Holland on Wednesday afternoons. Usually on Wednesday about 3:15, around 50 kids then go to the church building in Schiedam where they are taught about the Bible. This is a very time-consuming work that Phil and Susan have started, but they feel it will pay off in the future. It has really made a big impact on the community. Susan commented that she often hears some of the kids walking and singing songs they learned at church. On the day we were there, the queen's birthday provided enough competition to keep all but one or two kids away from the church building. And they only stopped by to see if anyone else was there.
The Dutch language was much easier to listen to than Italian. They talk much slower. Many of the words we could understand. It sounds like a mixture of German and Scottish Gaelic. We learned only a few words while we were there. We didn't even learn how to order in a restaurant in Dutch. Having an interpreter along all the time has advantages and disadvantages. All four of the Krumreis speak Dutch fluently.
On Thursday, we went to Madurodam, a miniature city. It sounds really dippy, but it was a very pleasant place to see. This was started in the 1950's and contains scaled-down models of many buildings around Holland. It is located outside on about an acre or two. One feels like Gulliver in Lilliput.
We spent half the afternoon at the train station trying to get tickets. Then we saw the church where the pilgrims worshipped before sailing to America on the Mayflower.
Susan fixed us a typical Dutch supper. The most unique dish was mashed potatoes and carrots. It was much better than I anticipated. I had never heard of mixing mashed carrots and mashed potatoes. It was orange of course. It would make a good food for Halloween. The Dutch mix other vegetables with potatoes and mash them together, also.
That evening several members of the Dutch congregation came to the Krumrei's to visit with us. A couple spoke a little English. Also, Phil's parents dropped by for a little while.
On Friday morning we went to Keukenhof, the world's largest flower garden. It was very similar to a botanical garden. There are over 6 million bulbs planted there. There were only a few varieties of tulips that were not blooming yet. They had a rather late spring in Holland this year, so we were there at the perfect time. It is impossible to describe the beauty of this place. There are also big fields of flowers near the park. This was not a place to escape from the crowds for a little peace and quiet. It was about as crowded as Disney World.
I took several pictures of the Angelique tulips, with and without Angelique. Everyone walking by would stop, while we were there, to figure out why these tulips were so great. We never let on that it was because they have the same name as our daughter.
We bought two kinds of tulip bulbs there. They are to be shipped to Jeannie's folks in October. I hope they remember they are ours. We are getting 80 bulbs, four times what we wanted, but that was the minimum order. One type is Angelique tulips and the other is a gigantic red tulip that we had never seen before. I forgot the name. I hope we can store the bulbs for at least a year since we will have no place to plant them.
This park is close to Haarlem where Phil's parents live. We stopped by for an hour. There is a dike just behind their house. James wanted to go fishing. The kids took turns for 15 minutes. Angelique actually caught a big fish but it got away. It was so big it broke the line and the pole. Everyone was shocked there was such a big fish in the canal there. Angelique really enjoys telling about catching this fish the first time she ever went fishing. It was about a foot long and quite wide and tall, too.
Phil's sister, Karla, age 21, works in Holland and lives at home. That morning she had poured out all the milk and yogurt she could find in the house. They get the box milk that keeps on the shelf for months like we get. She poured out nearly a whole case of it. Her parents were ready to kill her. We just laughed a lot about it. She had heard that the radiation from the nuclear power plant accident in Russia would concentrate in milk. She figured this meant the milk would attract the radioactivity. She was trying to protect her family. Instead, she poured out good milk.
While on this subject, we cannot get milk right now on base. Even though they rationed it to two half-gallon cartons per customer, there is no longer any available. Also, there is little fresh produce to choose from. Italy has put a ban on all fresh produce for 15 days to be sure it is safe. Apparently, the Italian authorities are interfering with the commissary shipments from Germany even though they are checked thoroughly by the Army in Germany before being shipped. Personally, I think everyone is over-reacting to the accident in Russia. Indeed it was a serious problem for people closer to the Chernobyl reactor, but I feel perfectly safe here.
Friday afternoon (2 May) we returned to Phil and Susan's house. Then we went to McDonald's for supper. We caught a train at 7:10 PM which arrived in Utrecht at 7:47. We caught a train there that left at 8:24 PM. We had couchettes and slept till the train arrived in Basel, Switzerland, at 6:35 AM. The couchettes are formed from the usual appearing second class seats. The top bunk folds down from above. The middle one folds up from the seat backs. The bottom bed is simply what you normally sit on. There are six beds in a compartment.
At 7 AM we caught a train that arrived in Lucerne, Switzerland, at 8:16 AM. We found a hotel run by the same management of another hotel where we had stayed the year before. When we were in Lucerne last year, we both commented that it would be fun to stay a week there. We were happy to get a chance to return.
There was a small park and a playground just across the street from our hotel. The kids were disappointed that they weren't permitted to spend the entire time playing there. Shortly after we checked in, we got to watch a parade from our room's balcony. It was mostly people dressed in typical Swiss costumes. We had a great view of it. It ended in the park across the street. It appeared they had a wine and cheese tasting party. I took lots of pictures.
We went to the Stadtkeller for lunch and enjoyed the Swiss folk show. I was coerced by my wife to go on the stage and blow an alp-horn. We had good food and a good time.
Kapellbrucke (wooden bridge) across the Reuss River at Lucerne, Switzerland
That afternoon Jeannie shopped while the kids and I slept. We found a fast food restaurant a little like McDonald's called McCheaper. It wasn't as good as the real thing, but the kids enjoyed it any way.
The next day we took a boat ride on Lake Lucerne to Vitznau. We rode to the top of the Rigi mountain by rack-railway. This (called Rigi Kulm) is 5,896 feet elevation. The view was spectacular even though it was a bit cloudy that day. There was a lot of snow at the top. We all nearly froze. We sipped hot tea and hot chocolate while we waited for the next train down.
At the top of the mountain Rigi Kulm, elevation 5,896 feet
We only rode part way down the mountain. There we ate lunch. We paid twice as much as we should have for lunch, but ate at a big restaurant with a fantastic view of the snow-topped alps. We ended up getting two boxes of chocolates free from the management because they goofed on our meals. That was an experience we will not soon forget. The chocolates were like trophies to me.
From there (i.e., Rigi Kaltbad) we rode a big cable car to the town of Weggis. The car was so high in the air it should have had wings. That was an exhilarating experience. In Weggis we ate crepes, then caught a boat back to Lucerne.
For supper we walked several blocks in the opposite direction from the tourist part of town. We found a wonderful restaurant that had reasonable prices. Before bedtime the kids fed the ducks and swans.
Our last day in Lucerne we went to the park to see the huge lion carved in a bluff. We also saw the Glacier Garden, but seeing a few holes in the ground was too expensive to be impressive.
We also shopped a lot that day. Or at least we walked a lot. We found and bought a soberingly expensive music box. We had seen it the year before and thought it was just too expensive. It is an excellent quality inlaid wood piano-shaped box that plays three exquisite melodies. We had looked for it for a year in Italy, but never found it anywhere. Of course it was more expensive this time in Lucerne. It was a hundred dollars cheaper at this shop than where Jeannie had found it a couple days before. Also, they had a big selection. We liked one inlaid pattern, but wanted the Beethoven music from another one. They said they could send it back to the Swiss factory and have the two interchanged for us. So we couldn't pass up our last chance to get it. It is of a quality that the company claims will last over 100 years even with lots of use. (We later found the same style music box at another shop for $200 more than we paid for it.) The music box will be shipped to Harrison when it is ready.
Jeannie bought a designer jacket that looked like it was tailor-made for her. Otherwise, we didn't spend much money for anything else. We just bought little things. We would have returned home penniless if not for credit cards. I took less money on this trip than any other European one because I thought we wouldn't spend much since we were flying cheap, staying with friends, and taking the trains. The hotels were more expensive than I anticipated. Lucerne must rank among the most expensive cities for tourists in Europe. It sure is fun there, though.
We caught an overnight train that left Milan at 10:30. This was the worst train we were on the whole trip. I was glad it was dark and we were asleep most of the trip so we didn't have to look at it. It looked almost like a converted cattle car from before World War II. This was such a switch from the nice German, Dutch, and Swiss trains we were on. We really enjoyed travelling by train. Jeannie and the kids had not travelled this way before. It was so nice not being real tired from driving all day and to arrive somewhere in the morning.
We got to Naples about 9:30 yesterday morning. How this part of the world can be so ugly compared to most of the rest of the world is a mystery.
We had left one of our cars at the NATO base near the train station and the other one at the base at the airport. So we had to drive to the airport to pick up the other car before going home. We ate lunch (and breakfast, too) before we left. We got home shortly after noon.
We are expecting the Krumreis to come visit us next month. Nothing else is much news here.
Tonight at supper Steven said in his prayer, "Please help us to eat this food after I am finished saying this prayer." We figured even God smiled at that.
Love you lots,
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