Sunday, June 9, 2013

Might As Well JUMP!

I got tired of the traditional posed trip pictures in front of beautiful scenery or historic sites; so I decided to start a series of jumping pictures.  You can see a few of mine (and other jumpers) on a travel site called barrelhopping.com.  I created a group on that site called JUMP Around the World; plus a few others EAT Around the World and WINGS Around the World.

I've got plenty of jumping pics from all over Europe and will eventually get around to doing something with them.  But in the meantime, here are some of my new favorite jumpers.  Taken at Gornergrat, Switzerland.  Enjoy.

What kind of crazy pictures do you take/make when traveling?

Might as well...


That's the actual Matterhorn, not the Disney ride.



Saturday, June 8, 2013

DannyZ Travels: Lake Como, Italy

In an effort to put up posts with details and pictures of our last few EuroTrips I decided to do short posts called "DannyZ Travels:"  That way I can get things up a little faster.  Here's my first entry; enjoy Lake Como.


Our Visual Memories from Lake Como, Italy

From May 9-12, Vicki and I visited beautiful Lake Como.  We stayed in a little town on the lake called, Tremezzo.  Centrally located on the lake, Tremezzo offered beautiful scenery, nice hotels (Villa Marie) and some very nice restaurants.    












Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Remembering Ireland

Sorry, I know this has nothing to do with the overall theme of this blog but I was feeling all "reminiscing like" this morning.  One year ago to the date, Vicki and I embarked on our first expat adventure in Ireland.

Never got around to completing an entire blog of our adventures there. #BiggestRegret But I tried;  see my tumblr: Polish Clover.  One day I might get around to documenting it.  In the meantime, here's a pic of the Guinness that launched my infamous "Guinness Count." I attempted to tally all the Guinness that I consumed during our time in Ireland.  I'd also write notes about where we were and who we were with that type of thing.  It became a pretty cool remembrance of our time there.

Final Guinness Count: 304 (+ or - a few).

Friday, May 31, 2013

Things We Liked/Didn't Like: An Expat Reflection

Living abroad for close to a year, first in Ireland then the Netherlands, gave us a new perspective on how freggin' big the world really is.  It also gave us time to appreciate the different cultural aspects of life in Europe.  Some we loved, some we found a bit off, and some just confused the hell out of us.  Our Dutch expat days concluded on 19 May 2013.  But I thought I'd do some reflecting with this post and write about "Things We Liked/Didn't Like" about our time in the Netherlands.

Things We Liked:

1.) Leaving Oss.  Just kidding, it's a fine town.  It was first referred to us as a "sleepy little village."  Well the "sleepy" part is accurate (especially during the week in the winter months), but by no means is this place a village. Oss had tons to offer: restaurants, cafes, shopping and more. Well, it's got all that to offer, when things are OPEN (see #1 of "Things We Didn't Like")  In addition, there was always some type of huge party organized in the town square with bands and karaoke at least once a month (check out my videos for Klunen, Carnaval, & Koninginnedag).

My Video Tribute to Oss here.

2.) Train Access.  We were just a short 10 minute walk to the Oss train station from our apartment.  This station was our starting point for amazing trips to Belgium, Germany, Czech Republic and Switzerland.

3.) Cafes/Restaurants in Oss.  Here were some of our favorites:
-Koozie: loved their bread plate & shared menu special, AYCE!
-Monterosso: of the three Italian Restaurants that we found in town (I think there's a fourth) this was our favorite for pizza
-Da Antonio: Italian, great platters, friendly owner
-Brasserie De Spieghel: great draft & bottle selection; owner/manager not the friendliest
-Deli France: nice people, great sandwiches
-Tweede Herr: very chill; leather couches, chairs, fireplace.  Great beer selection
-LaColline: great beer menu; nice outdoor seating; fell in love with the Kasteel Cuvee
-Brasserie De Serre: restaurant at the City Hotel, great service.  Try the steak on a stone.

4.) Carnaval. One word: Incredible. The parades and the parties were simply amazing.  Favorite part was the burning of the Ox in Oss to close the festivities.  If you have the opportunity definitely experience Carnaval in the Netherlands.


5.) Market Day. Every Tuesday & Saturday in Oss.  (Saturdays in Den Bosch) Vendors with cheeses, vegetables, breads, fish, & meats descended on the town to sell their wares.  Much different shopping experience than what we were used to in the States say at your local Wegmans, Acme, Walmart, etc.  Great prices and fun atmosphere.

Free Coffee Machine at AH
6.) Albert Heijn (AH).  Not unique to Oss, it's a Netherlands grocery store chain. I spent A LOT of time here. Nice variety of food, decent prices and FREE COFFEE.  But most of my time there I was glued to my phone translating the produce aisle. By the way, a "wortel" is a carrot; you're welcome.  I also enjoyed causing scenes in the checkout lane and chatting it up with the Afghan fella that ran the Mediterranean Bar.

7.) The Fries. (aka frites and or chips).  They were just dam good everywhere; by themselves or with the sauces, including mayo.  And whether you wanted them or not, they were usually a side order that came with every meal you ordered.

8.) The City Hotel Staff.  The owners/operators of our apartment. Great folks, friendly and very accommodating. Go like them on facebook.

9.) Statie Fles. It's fun to recycle and you get a refund! The "statie fles" that you may see on your receipt is a surcharge or tax placed on certain glass and plastic bottles.  For more information on recycling in the Netherlands go here.

I'll miss you the most
10.) The Beer.  Just like they say the Guinness tastes better in Ireland (I can personally attest that it does) the Heineken tastes amazing in the Netherlands. Especially on draft and most especially at outdoor festivals under a tent in the town square.

Our time in Oss also gave me a whole new appreciation for the world of Trappist beers.  My favorite new find was the La Trappe Quadrupel, available for just €1.39 a bottle (including statie fles) at our local Albert Heijn.  I learned two things about this beer: 1.) Only Trappist label brewed in the Netherlands; 2.) It demands respect, especially at 10%ABV.  Didn't think I'd see her again once we got home but I was able to procure a bottle at Wegman's in Collegeville, PA the other day to help ease the repatriation process.

Our Bike.  Lots of trunk space.
11.) Biking.  Even though this is listed as #11 it was by far one of my favorite things to do.  The nice folks at the City Hotel allowed us to borrow a bike. However, I was hesitant to ride at first because of the snow and ice. I was also a little intimidated to ride because I couldn't figure out how to make a left hand turn.  After the ground thawed, and countless hours watching and studying how bikers turn left; I got over my fears and started cruising all over Oss, in all types of weather.



Things We Didn't Like:

1.) Business Hours- This was one of the hardest adjustment for us.  On one hand it's great, businesses shut down around 5pm, allowing employees to be home with their families, awesome.  On the other hand, what are two expats to do after dinner when everything is closed?

2.) Credit Card Acceptance-I've written numerous rants about this in prior posts.  I also get it; the Dutch aren't into credit cards. Judging by the way most Americans abuse this privledge I can see.  BUT, there are a small amount of us that do pay off our cards and those that look forward to earning points on their cards for flights, hotels, etc.  There is nothing worse than that feeling of helplessness when a server tries tirelessly to read your card, and I'm not even talking the typical American swipe card, we have a "chip" & sign VISA card through Hyatt, and that still didn't work at times. And not just in our small town, this happened in Den Bosch and even a pub in Amsterdam.  Word of advice, always be sure to have some Euros in your pocket just in case the credit card machine doesn't work.

3.) Location.  Oss is a little off the beaten path so we usually had to transfer in bigger train stations like Den Bosch to get anywhere.  But that's okay, the Den Bosch station had a Smullers.  Watch this.

Don't need all this, just some
4.) Customer Service- Okay, I'm not expecting over the top TGI Friday's flair covered service in restaurants, but a warm smile and a hello would be nice.  Hell, I'd just settle for a head nod and acknowledgement of my basic presence at your otherwise empty restaurant.  There have been times where I've said to myself: "No it's cool, I don't need another beverage, I can wait while you set up tables and clean glassware for an empty restaurant." (true story).  Now, there were exceptions to this lack of service, but most of the time our presence in some restaurants seemed to be an inconvenience for the staff. We get it, you're not working for tips, and we don't speak Dutch, but we like to drink beer, how about a refill?

In addition, don't expect much personal customer service from your bank or cell phone provider unless you are prepared to pay.  Most service companies charge a fee of a few euro cents per minute just to talk with a human. They'll even charge you to tell you via automated message that their office is closed when you call for help on a Sunday; true story.  My advice, get a twitter account, most companies have them and are responsive to questions, and that's free, well kind of, just costs you a home internet provider and or a smartphone data plan.

Super convenient online purchases, not.
5.) Banking. "Wait, how much to cash a check? and how long would it take?" That was me after learning it would have taken 4-6 weeks to cash a check, AND it would cost about 16% of the check's value in fees. Hats off to the Dutch banking system for going paperless, but what's an expat to do with a refund check from their Irish Gas company?

In addition, the process for making online payments is a bit different. You are given a card reader (pictured right) that spits out a pin number for internet transactions.  It's supposed to be for added security. It's a bit of an added hassle because it's one more step you need to go through for purchases.  But once you get used to it, it's not all bad and as a victim of identity theft I can appreciate the security.

Lastly, our bank didn't make their policies regarding fees very clear for English speaking expats.  After setting up our account we specifically asked about ATM fees and were told "There were none." What they failed to mention was if we used our bank card abroad we would be slapped with a fee.  Oh, and if you want to find information on the fees associated with your account you have to go to their website.  Our bank did offer an English version of the website, however if you want to read about fees on the website you have to "check the overview of banking rates for private clients (in Dutch)."   Yeah, I still haven't found the link to this information on the site.  Bottom, line when setting up your Dutch bank account, ask questions and try to read the fine print regarding fees.  Perhaps I should have followed my own advice and tweeted them my questions.

ov-chipkaart with Dal "What a Deal Subscription"
6.) NS Rail Discounts/NS RailPlus Card.  We knew we'd be riding a lot of trains both domestic and international, but the trains weren't cheap. A roundtrip fare from Oss to Amsterdam cost €33.00 roundtrip per person.  That could certainly add up so we looked into the discount subscriptions offered by NS Rail (domestic trains) and NSHispeed (international trains) .  But figuring out how to apply for these discounts was a real pain.  It took countless hours of research, translations and tweets to finally figure out the best deal for the local trains.

Applying for the international train discount card, called the RailPlus Card, was equally frustrating.  I could not find how to apply for this discount program anywhere online.  The best info I could get at the time was from a Belgian rail site. Trying to avoid a per minute calling fee, I took to twitter to get some answers and it paid off.  The NSHispeed Twitter person got me the website, albeit the site was all in Dutch, but Google Chrome helped me through it.


Definitely follow @NS_online & @NSHispeed on twitter if you have any rail related questions. Both were extremely responsive and very helpful.  Oh, and you don't really need to tweet in Dutch, their English is great.

Also, special thanks to amsterdamtips.com for their help in my research. They provide great tips on  on all things Amsterdam on their site and via email; great site for visitors and expats.

The final kick in the ass was right before we are ready to leave the Netherlands I saw that the cost for the subscription for the NS Dal Advantage, the subscription we bought, was slashed from €50 to €29.  However, I think at the time of writing (May 31, 2013), the price went back to €50.

[Blogger's Note: I'm hoping to have an entire post dedicated to Dutch Rail Discounts soon.]

7.) Smoking- Totally forgot how gross you feel after being in a bar/restaurant with smoking.  Should have invested in some EuroFabreeze.

8.) Techno Drive-bys- It was brought to my attention prior to our arrival that the Dutch had an affiinity towards the genere of music referred to as "techno."  They especially liked to rock out to this genere while driving (yes, some do drive).  Luckily for us we were living there during the winter and our windows weren't open much.  But there were times when our collection of beer bottles for recycling would begin to rattle because of the bass and the sweet beats.

-----

As you can see, the "Things We Liked" about the Netherlands did out number the "Things We Didn't Like." And perhaps, some of the later were just due to cultural/societal adjustments. Perhaps if we had stayed longer some of the dislikes would have disappeared from the list. We have been very fortunate this past year and are extremely grateful for these all these experiences.  The little differences made our time abroad enriching and allowed us to see that there was a big world outside the windows of our Pennsylvania home.

For more of my ramblings and tips check out one of my early posts: "One Month, Ten Lessons: Netherlands."

Can any other expats relate? or I'm I just nuts?

Thanks for reading.




Thursday, May 30, 2013

Two Different Scenes

Arriving to the Netherlands 15 January 2013                                   Departing the Netherlands 19 May 2013

Our departure from Amsterdam airport was a  somewhat different scene from our arrival; that is except for the gray dark clouds.  I always find it easier to leave a place when the weather is crappy; you don't feel as bad departing.

Monday, May 27, 2013

"Oss: Our Town. Our Memories." A Video Tribute.

How can you put down in words the experience of living in Oss?  I couldn't, so I made a video instead.  Enjoy and thanks for watching.


Sunday, May 26, 2013

Swiss Happened

Only on rare occasions will we ever purchase those quirky souvenir attraction photos.  You know what I'm talking about right?  Those photos some "professional" photographer snaps as you enter a theme park or baseball stadium.

Well, there was a guy when you got off the train at Gornergrat, Switzerland that had a St. Bernard.  Long story short, we bought the pictures. Can you see why?

What's a matta horn?
Photogenic dog.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Our First (and only) Visitor

Funny.  When we lived in Ireland last summer we had 14 visitors.  During our stay in the Netherlands we had 1.  And technically he was primarily there for a work assignment but I'm still counting it as a visit.

As his reward for hanging out with us I'm committed to making Mr. John Fay an interwebs star.  Enjoy his breakout role.

WARNING: After watching you'll regret not visiting us to experience the majesty of the pocket sandwich.

Dear PA Dutch Readers...

Dear Pennsylvania Dutch Readers:

I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to everyone for visiting Pennsylvania Dutch over the past few months.  I hope you enjoyed reading my ramblings as much as I enjoyed creating and documenting my embarrassing situations in the Netherlands.

On May 19, 2013 my wife, Vicki and I returned home to the USA ending a very fortunate year long expatriate experience. Looking back, we experienced an amazing "Irish Summer" in Malahide, Ireland with a beautiful beach, a castle, and a Jack Russell Terrier. We then moved on to marvel at the beauty and splendor of a "Dutch Winter" in Oss, The Netherlands. Where we had no beach, no castle, and no Jack Russell.  But we did have a bike; that was cool.  Both experiences were incredible but very different and I'm sure it's obvious which one we preferred; God I miss that bike.  

My only regret during our expat days was that I didn't start blogging sooner.  MY GOD! The stories I could have written in Ireland. I did start recounting some of those tales on my tumblr, Polish Clover but really never finished. Well, at least I was able to bring you our daily Dutch living adventures, like our multi-lingual washer and dryer, our Dutch-Polish Deli, and of course my grocery store experiences with Eftling coupons and an Afgan Olive Man.

Blogging allowed me to feel and stay connected with family and friends back home.  It also allowed me to join a worldwide community  by listing "PA Dutch" on various expat blog directories. Oh, and check this out one post even won a writing contest! Thanks for voting.

8,000 pageviews (and counting) later, I remain humbled that folks are still stopping by and reading and watching.  Thanks again to all.  But my repatriation does NOT mean PA Dutch is shutting down. I still have a few more posts and videos in the pipeline so keep checking back.  And who knows, I may start up a new blog documenting my zany misadventures in Norristown, PA.  You'd read that too wouldn't you?

Love,
DannyZ
xoxoxo













Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Who is "Statie Fles" & Why is She Stealing My Beer Money?

"A La Trappe Quadrupel for €1.29!  A Chimay Blue for €1.47!  HOT DAM, I LOVE THE NETHERLANDS.  Wait, hold up, what's this extra €0,10 all about on my reciept? And what/who the hell is 'Statie Fles'?  Sounds like the name one of those flapper actresses from the roaring 20s." 


The above "blog-amatization" was my reaction upon one of my first beer runs at the Albert Heijn grocery store in Oss, The Netherlands.  But I bet your first reaction was, "Who the hell ever looks at their receipt after a beer run?"  Well my friends DannyZ does; he's all about value.

I highlighted to draw your attention to the prices
Like everything initially in the Netherlands, this €0,10 charge confused me. I later learned it's a type of surcharge or tax placed on your glass and or plastic bottle purchases.  However, don't try it with wine bottles; only works with beer bottles and plastic soda/juice bottles.  I was ticked at first about the surcharge; another nickel and dime scheme. However, I soon discovered these magical machines (below) that give you your money back, well, sort of.

Look for these machines; these were near the FREE coffee machine.

One Friday night, after amounting a fine collection of empty brews, my wife and I set out on a hot date to so some recycling down at the AH.  Here's the video:




Your prize for caring about the environment.

I learned that once you get the slip (pictured above) all you have to do is hand it to the cashier at check out and the money comes off your purchase. This particular day I was €0,65 closer to another delicious La Trappe Quadrupel.

Hats off to the Dutch for their recycling methods...I wonder if Wegmans will ever adopt this practice?

Nederlanders, do you carry all your bottles back to the AH?  Westerners, would you?



Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Orange You Glad the Dutch Have a New King?

Watching karaoke performed on a stage in a town square.

Singing and swaying to "Brabant"  with a group of Dutch fellas. 

Seeing an ocean of orange in Amsterdam

Sipping Jenever.

Witnessing History.

April 30th.  The Last Queen's Day or Koninginnedag AND the investiture of a new King of The Netherlands. And we were there, in Amsterdam, for both.  Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands announced her abdication on January 28th. [You can read about my reaction to the abdication here] She transfered her royal duties to her son Willem-Alexander on Queen's Day, April 30, 2013.  Making Willem the first Dutch King since 1890.  I'm not going to pretend I know much more than that, but trust me, it's a big deal.

There are plenty of other news outlets and bloggers that have reported on this historic event so I won't repeat it all here.  Fellow Dutch expat @Momofthreeunder provides some great insights and questions on the royals at her blog: Take a read, good stuff.

I'll let the pictures, videos and my ramblings tell the story of what transpired for us from April 29th-May 1st.  Enjoy.

As seen on TV: The Royal Family.  The King is on the left.

Queen's Day Preparations in Oss
Rolling out the orange carpet in Oss. Can you sense my excitement & fear?

Mobile Heineken bars
Seriously, this town loves to set up tents and stages for parties
If you think I'm kidding about Oss loving to party; watch this video.  



The Main Event: Queen's Day in Amsterdam



Since it was our first (and probably only) Queen's Day, I was a little nervous for a few reasons: 1.) They were expecting massive crowds in Amsterdam for the day. 2.) We had no idea what to expect.  So, I figured our best strategy was structure.

I found a party targeted to "international visitors" at the beautiful Zuiderkerk.  This old church was transformed into what was called "The Royal Cafe." I figured having an organized event to attend (with bathrooms) was clutch.  However, I grew hesitant of my decision when I discovered a party targeted to international guests would not accept our US based credit card for payment.  

AmsterDAN & Vicki
Technical difficulties aside, the party was a blast.  We met a very nice Dutch couple who interpretted all the events around the coronation/inaguration of the new King.  Plus I discovered that I love Jenever.  A traditional Dutch liquor.

Hello Jenever.  This bottle may or may not have ended up coming home with us.
Royal Blanket
I blame the Jenever for giving me the idea that the orange blanket behind me with a picture of the royal family was complimentary.  I would LOVE to see the security camera footage of me "stealthily" trying to wrap up that bright orange blanket under my arm.  The best part; once I triumphantly had my stolen article outside we felt the need to further conceal it.  Where should we perform this maneuver? Why not right in front of the security for the party.  A burly bald Dutch man saw the hijinks that we were conducting and swooped in and with a very polite "Thank You," in perfect English he reclaimed this commemorative trophy that I was attempting to liberate.


DannyZ: International Man of Orange
Thievery aside, "Partying with the Dutch" at the Royal Cafe was a great time.  One of the highlights of the event was trying to set the world record for the biggest portrait of former Queen Beatrix made entirely from bitterballen.  Dutch, you crazy.




Participating in the events to celebrate Queen's Day was fun and a bit confusing all at the same time.  No, the Jenever was not the root cause of this confusion.  We could totally feel (and see) that the Dutch had a great sense of national pride, but as outsiders, it felt very strange.  I guess it's similar to visitors to the United States on the Fourth of July.  Whatever their view of the royal family was, it seemed the entire country (or at least all of Amsterdam) rallyed around their monarchy for this day to celebrate; Dutch Style.

The People of Amsterdam on Queen's Day 2013

Even the Irish Pub was closed to celebrate Queen's Day and the New King.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Do Americans Hate Americans in Europe?

Picture yourself for a moment, in a outdoor cafe in Europe, sipping a cappuccino, watching the world go by..then you hear it.  You recognize it immediately but at the same time you try to close your ears to it because it's like nails on a chalk board.  It's English, and no, not the Queen's English (and definitely not Irish English)...it's American English.  Whether it's in that cafe, on public transport, or in a restaurant, hearing "American English" in Europe has made me ponder this question:

Do Americans hate other Americans while traveling through Europe? 


Okay, let me first say that having the very fortunate opportunity to live and travel through Europe for the past year has NOT made me anti-American.  I love the red, white & blue through and through but this past year has really opened my eyes to how freggin' big this world is and why Americans are sometimes negatively perceived by Europeans.  But wait, am I allowed to negatively perceive Americans while I'm in Europe?

It also seems, other Americans don't want to be bothered with Americans while they are in Europe?  There have been multiple times where Vicki and I have been talking in our non broken American English in ear shot of other Americans and not even so much of a hello, head nod or fist bump?  What gives? But then, I'm guilty of the same.  Instead of striking up a conversation, I've found myself eyerolling and shaking my head when I hear the boisterous almost obnoxious tones of my fellow Americans.

Before you begin to think, great, Dan's gone all European on us, let's not let him back in the country.  I'll have you know, I stayed true to my "American roots" by sporting running pants, a t-shirt and bright white Adidas sneakers; all while rolling a refrigerator sized suitcase through the town of Como.  I did want to punch myself for my American tourist ensemble, but I figured, so what I am and always will be 'Merican.

I'm hoping this is my most controversial post yet.  I've been blogging for almost 5 months and am yet to see any "hater" comments after a post.  I'm counting on you "US Americans" and non "US Americans" to let me hear it.

What are your perceptions of Americans traveling in Europe?  




Thursday, May 2, 2013

Cutting the Cheese

Going to miss this...

Dutch Lesson Learned: The Stroopwafel

Preparing my Dutch breakfast
Can't believe I've gone 3 months without talking about stroopwafels.  At first glance they look like a regular waffle but they are much thinner.  They are made from two thin layers of baked batter with a carmel syrup filling.  To read about the full history of the stroopwafel see wikipedia's entry on them here.

Sounds delicious doesn't it?  The good news, there is no shortage of stroopwafels in the Netherlands.  You can even buy prepackaged ones from the train station vending machines for €1.  The bad news, the first bites are delicious, but then there is this indescribable taste that holds your mouth hostage immediately, then sticks around on for hours more.  Best solution, wash that taste away with coffee.

Actually, placing a stroopwafel on top of your coffee is a preferred method for eating.  The carmel filling melts in the center then proceeds out to the outer rim.  After you let it sit for a bit you have a gooey carmel treat.

I tried it this way this morning and I'll admit the aftertaste wasn't as severe as eating them dry right out of the package.  Lesson Learned.

Let the stroopwafel sit for a bit to warm and melt, then enjoy.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Trespassing Through the Tulips. A Visit to Keukenhof.

Word association game time.  When I say "Holland" what's the first thing that comes to your mind.  I'm assuming 99% of you thought of tulips, maybe the other 1% of you thought of clogs.  Well this post is about the 99%. If you want to read about our clog experiences click here.

Keukenhof Collage
Main Entrance
With our Netherlands days windmilling down, we knew it was now or never time if we wanted to try to see some tulips.  So on Saturday, April 27th we embarked on a journey from Oss to Keukenhof, THE PLACE to see tulips in the Netherlands.  The park is "32 hectares" big? wide? long? (what the heck is a hectare?)  Anyway, it's big, and you can totally get lost if you don't have a map.  Speaking of maps!

KEUKENHOF PROTIP:  Save yourself €4. Visit the Keukenhof website and print (or download to your phone) a park map before you go.  There are no free maps in the park.  

I broke down and shelled out the €4 for the 2013 Park Guide.  But not without having some fun and creating some quality footage for this DannyZ clip.


Sometimes you just need to stop and smell the small change.

Keukenhof map...for free

Photo Credit: John "Throat Puncher" Fay
Can you spot the trespassers?
You may be wondering what all those colored lines surround the park represented.  Well, my friends, they are the tulip fields. We noticed hords of people meandering through the fields from our windy perch on the windmill.  Our immediate reaction was obviously "We want to go to there."  But how?  We were looking for access when we found ourselves at the "Entrance Extra" gate and overheard a pair of tourists asking a park worker how to get to the fields.  Her response was something like it's not encouraged; people shouldn't go; it's disrespectful to the farmer; and people can damage the crop. So we did what any other upstanding tourist would do; we went to the fields.  

It was worth not heeding the advice of the park worker; the fields were amazing, and only parts were in full bloom.  We stayed and respectfully took pictures for about 15 minutes before the farmer appeared shouting in Dutch with a pitch fork, stabbing our friend.  Well, that's how I pictured it going down.  The farmer actually just appeared out of nowhere and quietly ushered us off his land.  
So freakin' Dutch #SFD.  See the windmill behind the trespassers?
Keepin' it classy
We left the fields and returned to the park's "Entrance Extra," and panicked for a moment   Did we need to get a hand stamp or something?  Rut Ro.  We played it cool and handed our ticket to the gate worker.  Confused, she says that our tickets were already scanned.  Not wanting to reveal our delinquent behavior, Vicki quickly responded "Oh, we just went out to look at the..... road?" This gem got us back in the park and hours of laughs. Feel free to use that line if you decide to trespass through the tulips and want to get back into the park.


KEUKENHOF PROTIP: Access the actual tulip fields from  LOOSTERWEG NOORD.  The access point is about a 5 minute walk from the "Entrance Extra" of Keukenhof.  It's technically trespassing on a farmers private land, so be respectful and DON'T TRAMPLE THE CROP.  

Trespassing with pram
Testing the farmer's fence for an electrical charge.
Speaking of tickets, here's a short confused rant.  We bought a "Combiticket" online.  Still questioning the benefit of this ticket.  It did allow us direct access into the park without having to queue to buy tickets.  However, the price included a roundtrip bus ride, the "Keukenhof Express" from Schiphol.  According to 9292.nl (a great journey planning site for the Netherlands BTW) A one way bus trip to Keukenhof from Schiphol costs €3.68 (€7.36 RT).  The price of the combiticket is €22.50 for adults (€12.50 kids 4-11).  A regular adult ticket without transport is €15. So if you do the math the "Keukenhof Express" costs €7.50.  They say the combiticket is the best "deal," but I'm not sure.  Maybe I'm missing something, or maybe I'm just a cheapskate.  

Whichever ticket you get, Keukenhof is totally worth it.  You could spend hours traversing the 15 kilometers of foothpaths snapping pictures. Be sure to have plenty of space on your camera's memory card too because every part of the park is like a postcard picture. You can also check in on facebook using the park's free WiFi.   

KEUKENHOF PROTIP: Don't rely on the park's WiFi to arrange a meeting place for your friend who is coming from Hoofddorp.  It's spotty.

We really enjoyed our day and would absolutely recommend a visit to Keukenhof.  Thanks for reading.

You're welcome.
Have you visited Keukenhof?  Did you trespass in the fields? Did you get pitchforked?

Have you heard about windmilling?

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Need a Lift?

Keeping up with my fascination for the public urinals of the Netherlands (click link & read #10); here are some pictures of a "URILIFT" van parked out front of our apartment the other day.  


What the EF is Efteling?

I began accumulating these "€10 Kortings Coupons" after a few trips to the Albert Heijn grocery store.  Of course, I had no idea what they were or how to use them.  But rather than asking in broken English like a normal expat, I would just nod my head at the cashier girl and she would hand me another coupon. After the fourth blank stare head nod, I worked up the courage to ask what exactly I was receiving.


At first the cashier was a bit startled by my English; my regular checkout gal wasn't working that day.  She "explained me" that the coupons were for Efteling.  Oh, okay, that clears things up, of course Efteling.  WHAT THE EF WAS EFTELING?!?  She could see my look of befuddlement with her explanation, so she proceeded to ask her cashier colleague in the next lane over "Efteling in Engles?"  Her colleague couldn't translate so she proceeded to shout down to the next cashier.  I was slowly becoming part of an odd game of "Whisper Down the Supermarket Checkout Lanes."  I was mortified.  Everyone was looking at the goofy American wearing a Phillies hat.  I was thinking to myself:  "This Efteling thing better be ef-ing fantastic."   Now the entire row of checkout girls were all shouting in Dutch to each other.  I thought I overheard one of them say "roller coaster," but she was about five lanes down. As they continued chattering and laughing, a fellow shopper came to my aid with the following words: "Amusement Park."  A-HA!  Now I remembered.  Efteling is like the Dutch DisneyWorld and these were coupons for discount admission to the park.  Brilliant!  I thanked that kind Dutch man and the entire staff of the Albert Heijn for their translation assistance with a sincere "Dank u wel" and walked home.  

Voiceover:  "Dan Szostek, you were just in the most embarrassing/most awesome Albert Heijn checkout experience of your life.  What are you going to do now?"

Me:  "I'M GOING TO EFTELING!" 


EDITOR'S NOTE:  After reading a few TripAdvisor reviews we decided it wasn't for us.  It does seem to be a nice place for families, thrill ride seekers and people who like stage shows with pyrotechnics; but honestly this wizard guy creeped me out .  Decide for yourself at http://www.efteling.com/

Screenshot from efteling.com with creepy wizard.


#expatproblems: hulu

I had some time on the train last night, so I did what any other person without a data plan on their phone does while they are on a train; I played solitaire and looked through old pictures.

I stumbled upon a strange one.  It was a screen shot of hulu.com.  If you're unfamiliar with hulu, it's a streaming video service for television shows.  Vicki and I aren't huge television people, but there are some shows that we like to catch like: The Office, 30 Rock, Parks and Rec, ABC's The Bachelor (wait what?!?, I'll admit it, we watch ABC's The Bachelor, mostly to make fun and to get date ideas)  As we became familiar with our Dutch cable we learned that the main English comedy options were reruns of Seinfeld, Friends, Dharma & Greg, and The Ellen Show (we actual grew to like Ellen DeGeneres, she's kind of funny; who knew.) Now, don't get me wrong, this was all quality programming especially when your other options were a Dutch version of skating with the (washed up) stars; a group of Dutch people sitting around a table and and arguing in Dutch with each other; and of course the light night ladies helping you practice counting in Dutch by offering you their phone numbers.    

A commercial for Olive Garden on hulu
Then a light went off!  hulu.com could help!  It was wonderful, we were catching up on our comedies and judging the newest crop of wackos on ABC's The Bachelor. (Was there really a jumbotron operator this season?)  But then after two nights the party was over.  


You the reader: "Wait; Dan, you said it only worked for two night?  What happened?  Didn't you get to see who got the final rose and a proposal for a failed marriage?"

Me the writer:  "Nope."

While trying to begin an episode of 30 Rock we got the message below.  The gig was up or was it?  With a simple refresh of my screen about 3-4 times, the show would start playing.  This refresh strategy worked a few more times after that but then they caught on to my scheme and shut us down completely.  

I clicked "here", but it didn't help.  

Oh well.  We never saw the final rose but we still had Ellen Shows from October of 2012.   






Friday, April 26, 2013

What A Difference a Week Makes

Seriously, what a difference a week makes.  Last week I felt this:


Today I feel like THIS!
Um, yeah, this is the kind of stuff I walk out of the grocery store with.

I'm king of the world again!   Not only did I remember my debit card and not only did I walk out of the Albert Heijn grocery store with this little orange guy (you had to spend €15 or more) I scored a six pack of Heineken for 25% korting! That's .62 euro cents a can!

Three Fingers for Willem and a Sixer for Danny
Check out the video that's driving the Dutch crazy.  It also explains the 3 fingers for Willem thing.