Our homeland is very new; it is now widely accepted that no human set foot onto it until 1250. On our travels, we’ve seen many buildings older than that.
European settlement of the country we call Aotearoa dates back to the 1840’s,
but the Homestead kiwi connection predominantly dates back to the late 1950’s and the Free and Assisted Passages Scheme. This was a plan cooked up to beef up the national workforce and we’ve never been ones for turning down a cheap trip; it’s in the DNA.
This by way of explaining the deep connection The Bean Counter and I, and the vast number of our first generation kiwi peers, feel to particular landmarks situated in towns and villages on the other side of the globe. Things like the 18 arched Lesbury Viaduct, the feature of a great many of The Bean Counter Geordie Dad’s tall tales. Something permanent and lasting that says: home. For me, it’s a couple of churches and a windmill located in the gorgeous (yes, I am biased) Dutch province of Groningen. That we still have family keen to meet and show off their part of the world to us is a super added bonus.
Initially we had planned to hire a car and drive the 180ish kilometres north but the traffic in Amsterdam made us turn green (it’s the whole other-side-of-the-road, merging lanes, and wrong-way-roundabouts thing); besides, we managed to get an amazing group deal (with a little help from our friends at Hotel Alexander) on the rail tickets – so it wasn’t really chickening out…much. Anyway, had we driven we would have missed this:
We had planned to meet Annie and Janet at four and so, with a couple of hours up our sleeves, we decided to venture out to the fabled village of Eenrum; the place my Grandparents decided to leave.
Eenrum is a very quiet village nowadays and I think it is fair to surmise they don’t get a lot of visitors. As we stood eating our sandwiches and chatting amongst ourselves we saw not a soul. Time to check out the windmill.
With the help of an app on The Farmer’s phone (which struggled a little with the dialect) the Molen de Lelie (Lily Windmill) is now used as a bakery which utilises volunteer labour. What I know of it is the stories of the massive storm in 1954 turning the sails so fast as to risk fire and resulting in the millstones being thrown through the walls; it was a story I never tired of hearing, particularly as there were knowing looks and whispered asides amongst the adults as to where the miller was at the time (I still don’t know).
We timidly opened the door and crept in. Upstairs we could hear people chatting and the warm, delicious, homely smell of speculaas cookies baking was heavy in the air. Clump clump clump came the sound of someone descending and I ran through a variety of scenarios. Maybe we could buy some cookies from them; maybe we would get into conversation and I could mention my link to the village; maybe… The woman made the final staircase turn and I stepped forward, “Hi,” I smiled widely, “I was wondering…” That was as far as I got before the poor lady turned tail and fled back up the stairs. We did wait around for a while, thinking she was perhaps getting someone more comfortable with English, but the heavy silence from the top of the stairs grew embarrassing so we went nextdoor to Abrahams Restaurant and Mustard Museum for a coffee. The people there were lovely, friendly, and the coffees and hot chocolates were great, but they were either uninterested or not wanting to impose. Sometimes during this trip we have all felt we’ve got things a bit wrong, I said as much to my lovely family who all assured me not to feel bad.
“I mean, it is a bit…” the Princess searched for the right word, “Radiator Springs (Cars is a great movie favourite of ours). They’re probably all scurrying around shining up the roadsigns and putting up fairy lights. You wait, we’ll walk out there and it’ll be packed with people, the churchbells will be ringing, windmill turning,..”
And it was!
We caught the same bus back to Groningen we had arrived on and after a bit of a false start located our hotel with a little time to spare before my second cousins (I think – we did try to work it out but it all got lost in the ramble of getting-to-know-you/always-have-known-of-you conversation) turned up. They provided us with a fantastic walking tour of Central Groningen which took in the other church
and of which I am embarrassed to say no photos save the above exist. We did talk an awful lot though – that’s my excuse anyway.
Our tour ended at a pub selling the stuff that was standard fare at my Oma and Opa’s: bitteballen, stompot, hutspot…mmmm.
We ate, we talked,
and we had a wonderful time. I’m sorry we didn’t record our time very well but we did make some special memories with a couple of ladies I’m very proud to be related to.
Thanks Janet and Annie; next time I’m staying way longer…and I’ll get you to show me around Eenrum 🙂