visiting my favourite country – the netherlands

I’m finally back in Holland after years of Covid and cancelled trips. I just love Holland. I first came here for Christmas when I was 17 years old, to visit my friend Inge who I’d met on Paros that summer.

After that she would visit me on Paros each summer and I would visit her in Utrecht each winter.

Those were the days… Student clubs, cafe crawls on bike in freezing weather, meeting people, learning to ice skate, having fun. I’ve always felt at home in Holland, like I belonged here… maybe in a previous life…

There was the time I considered applying to art school in Amsterdam instead of going back to Australia. And the time I applied for a job with Greenpeace. I got an interview, but by then I’d decided to return to Aus. How different would my life had been had I taken that fork in the road. Its something I think about now and then, the path not taken.

After I moved back to Australia I only visited when I could make the trip to Europe. Every trip to Greece included a stop-over in Holland. It was something I always did.

Having visited here so many times over the years my trips here are more to see Inge and spend time with her and her family than it is to sightsee. This trip however, I wanted to revisit some places I haven’t been in years. Meanwhile a trip to the supermarket is always fun for me. I love seeing the different things on shelves in different countries.

For instance, the licorice section in dutch supermarkets is always huge. There are so many variations on the ‘drop’ – which is what they call licorice candy here. It comes in sweet or salty and everything in between.

Then there’s the hagelslag section… I’ve never seen anything like this anywhere else. Chocolate and candy sprinkles to put on your bread! I mean, I grew up in Australia where a staple of children’s parties was fairy bread (for those that don’t know it, its Hundreds and Thousands on buttered white bread, back when it was ok to feed children candy, white bread and butter!), but here it seems not only children eat chocolate shavings or sprinkles on their bread. First time I had it was when visiting a friend in Amsterdam when we were 20yrs old or so…

But this time I saw something I’d never seen before, though apparently its always been available and much loved by dutch children:

Are you familiar with the dutch spiced cookies called speculaas?

So, these bread topppings are basically tiny speculaas bits…

Odd? For sure. So I had to try them…

My opinion: I prefer to get a handful and nibble on them that way. Its interesting to have the crunchy texture on your bread, but cookies on bread? Nah… and I have a sweet tooth the size of Australia. I will eat almost anything sweet. Just not this.

However, having tried it, I am now officially a dutch child.

Only a few decades too late.

z

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