Monday, October 19, 2009

Thank God for the Greeks!

This is a long post.* A lot has happened and it'll take some time to get it all down. And the title of this post will only make sense later.

Maybe.

Not promising anything.

So, lets see, where did I leave you all?

No idea. Typingup a new post on the website so can't read what I last wrote. I should do something about that. Nah, that smacks of planning and organization and here at Archaeogoddess Inc. Corp. Ltd. we don't play that game.

Lets start with Thursday. Stuff started happening then and hasn't really let up since.

THURSDAY

So the Dane and I go sight-seeing. The Netherlands incorporates the Rhine river, that is, the Rhine bisects the country. Along the Rhine are the Limes. The Limes is/are the defensive boundary the Romans created along the perimeter of the Empire. North of the Limes is barbarian land, south is the Roman Empire. I love boundaries! Cultures colliding that stuff. And as a Roman archeologist I am particularly intersted in the Roman frontier. Of course I'd like to see it. Good ol' Google gives me a web-page for the Limes in the Netherlands that tells me all I have to do is going into the tourist office in Nijmegen and get some good guide leaflets that will direct me to fantastic walking tours of the Limes. I'm so excited I can't stop bouncing and I neglect to really read my guide book. And I really should have.

Because Nijmegen is directly south of Arnhem and north of Eindhoven. For a person who knows her "Band of Brothers" by heart, I should really have figured out what was going to happen.

There are no Roman ruins. In fact, very little in the area predates 1945. The whole area was pretty much flattened by WWII and Operation Market Garden. Reading the little booklet (by the way, the Netherlands? Not prepared for tourists. The tourist office had one booklet in English. We got a few others in Dutch but alas, our Dutch was not good enough to realize "what," as my husband would say "it was all about.") we discover that Nijmegen has been flattened by just about every invading force in Europe. Charlemagne, Napoleon, Hitler, various Williams from various countries, the Spanish several times... you name it, they've flattened it. I wouldn't be surprised if Genghis Khan and Attila the Hun were involved. Forget Meggido (the site of Armageddon) or Jerusalem, this tiny town is constantly rebuilding themselves.

Makes you think "perhaps they should STOP rebuilding it and MOVE!"

It has a very nice museum, however. Lots of Roman remains from various excavations in the area and a fantastic display of illuminated manuscripts. No explanation on how they were made or how wicked awesome they are, for that you need to have an enthusiastic Archaeogoddess guide, but ever so lovely to look at!

Right, so having been rather disappointed in Nijmegen, we headed to Elst, where I had a Dutch guide book with a 3.2 km guided walk called "In de schaduw van de tempel" (In the shadow of the temple - Dutch is so easy!).

Uh, yeah. So there is a reason Elst is not in the guide book. There is NOTHING in Elst. Elst falls between Nijmegen and Arnhem and is so damn boring that it "is famous for its Roman temples, which are situated under the Saint Werenfried church". (Wikipedia for Elst) Did you get that "under the church"? I thought I had taken a picture of it. But I hadn't. Basically it looked like this:
Where the magic red shoes are the foundations of the temple peaking out from under a large church. Overwhelming, I know.

From there the tour went downhill. Seriously, you ask, it could go downhill? Oh you betcha!

We trecked to "Huis met klassieke elementen" (House with classical elements) and saw this amazing structure:
See the "classical elements"? That would be the tacky urns and cement columns by the pond (light green patch) and this fantastic house if for sale! You can own a house so famous it's in a tourist guide!!

I guess the owners had enough of tourists taking pictures of their famous house and now just want to be left alone.

Then (then? oh yes, it goes on) we came to this:


What is it? Why it's either Dutch track housing or the site of an ancient Roman temple to pagan gods. Actually it's the site for the upcoming Dutch director Stevijn Speilenburger's "Poltergijst" movie. Because WE KNOW WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU BUILD TRACK HOUSES ON NON-CHRISTIAN HOLY SITES!!

For the record: my husband who is culturally deprived totally did not get the humor of the situation and still cannot figure out what I'm talking about.

Thoroughly put out, we went home.

FRIDAY

Last day of classes for the Dane before Fall Break. A misnomer since every teacher assigned huge projects that the students will TOTALLY have time to do since they are on vacation from all their other classes.

We meet up with everyone in the bar and drown our sorrows until 7:30 pm. Not much drowning. Heineken is a wussy beer.

The Dane is now hungry and I'll do anything to keep from having to slave away over dinner when I have to pee every 5 minutes (damn you Heineken!) so we go into downtown Utrecht for dinner. We park in a parking structure.

As we step out to admire my Danes lousy parking job (parking spaces are not designed for Volvo station wagons sporting bike racks) we notice a car rolling downhill towards our car. We frantically try to signal the driver and then we discover THERE IS NO DRIVER!!

See, Poltergijst!

Stupid f*cking asshat Dutch drivers! Do they not know that when you park on a slope you put the car in GEAR as well as use the HAND BRAKE!? The answer to this, having looking in all the other Dutch cars as we wait for the police, is NO.

That, by the way, is what it looks like when an Alfa Romeo of DOOM rolls backwards into the hitch of a Volvo. Our hitch saved the VW Golf next to us from Total Annihilation.

We were fine. The car... well, I'll get to the damage the car sustained later. It's quite a strain for an old car to hold a downhill drifting Alfa sedan with nothing more than a hitch and a racing bike. Oh yeah, the racing bike....


Smoosh.

The Dutch witnesses were very helpful and we made our way to the police station and then back again where we waited for two very very helpful police officers to show up. They found the owners of the car (a rental, but the driver had been involved in ANOTHER accident recently so he was on file) who came eventually (had to finish eating first, mind) and moved his car. Once again parking it without putting it in gear. Sigh. We moved our car to a better location far from other possible accidental ghost driven cars of DOOM.

Only now it's 10:30. Uh, where oh where are we going to find food? McD's? KFC? The husband threatened to throw himself in the canal rather than eat at these locations, so we wandered from restaurant to restaurant being greated by more and more confused wait staff ("what, you want to eat? Now? No, the kitchen has been closed for over an hour!"). Then one restaurant suggests this Greek restaurant just up the road. We wander in and Thank God for the Greeks, the kitchen is open and they'd be happy to feed us HUGE amounts of VERY GOOD food for a fair price. Meanwhile, the rest of the restaurant is full of Greeks enjoying the live music and dancing and shots of Ouzo. It was a FABULOUS night.

SATURDAY

We went to Oosterbeek to see the Air Museum dedicated to Operation Market Garden. It is a brilliant museum with everything in English, Dutch and German. The video even came with Polish subtitles. From there we went to the cemetery. I got very emotional.
"50 years ago British and Polish airborne soldiers fought here
against overwhelming odds to open the way into Germany
and bring the war to an early end. Instead we brought death
and destruction for which you have never blamed us.
This stone marks our admiration for your great courage
remembering especially the women who tended our wounded.
In the long winter that followed your families risked death
by hiding Allied soldiers and airmen while members of the
Resistance helped many to safety.

You took us then into your homes as fugitives and friends
we took you forever into our hearts.
This strong bond will continue
long after we are all gone."

Over 1,700 people are buried in this cemetery, mostly soldiers who fought and fell in Operation Market Garden in the area around Oosterbeek. There are many more cemeteries like this one spread out all over the Netherlands and indeed, Europe.

That these brave souls died in one of the Allies biggest blunders makes it all the more poignant.

We headed home where we promptly blew a fuse, resulting in a loss of electricity (fixed after a time by my Dane plugging us into the next campsite that is now free and available for use), and then we ran out of gas. On a Saturday night. Nice.

Hurredly gulping soup, we then headed off to see a German movie about the RAF. Which does not stand for the Royal Air Force, but the Red Army Faction. Watching a bunch of people blow things up and kill people because they think that this will some how bring about a brave new world of joy and plenty (oh and stop the Vietnam War in the bargain) and ending in more death, the spread of terrorism to new idealistic souls and eventually suicide by the main protagonists is not exactly light watching.

SUNDAY

Blessed be the people who sell propane on Sundays, for they shall inherit the earth. Went to Leiden and the archaeology museum. Another place they don't expect tourists of the non-Dutch variety. Got kicked out 10 minutes before closing because when the Dutch close up shop they CLOSE UP SHOP.

Went home and discovered we were leaking gasoline from the car. Our little incident a few days earlier had knocked the fuel line lose and it was dripping gas. Sigh.

So we cooked dinner. Blew the fuses AGAIN. We are now out of plugs for our electricity. Ate in the dark. Went to a birthday party, because we promised. Came home late and crawled into bed in the dark and the cold.

MONDAY

Boy the car is really leaking gas! Got the electricity turned back on and realized it is one particular heater that is throwing to fuses. Got the car to the shop. Our fuel line had dropped onto the drive shaft and it had burned a hole clear through it. We were gushing gas last night. Nice. Now we need to find a new fuel line for a car that hasn't been made in 20 years. I really hope someone junked one recently. We really need to get back to Denmark. I have an article to correct and a flight to catch.

So as of right now we have electricity and propane. We have no car and only a borrowed bike for transport. The temperature dropped and I have to pee every 10 minutes. But I can tell from the Peek a Poo toilets that my digestive track is working PERFECTLY.

The next Facebook quiz that tells me I need more excitement in my life gets shot.

*I am not going to go through this for typos and other errors. Because I have to PEE!

6 comments:

  1. Love it!

    1) Because of the general flatness of the area, Europeans have NOT learned to put cars in gear as well as pull the break. I suggested this to a friend once, as her car started to careen backwards into other cars (we were in it), and she looked at me like I was KER-AZY. U-huh, tell that to the cops.

    2) Have you been Hadrien's wall? I've sat on it. So there.

    3) Yay for Greeks.

    4) Boo for leaks.

    5) Come home soon, so we can wave goodbye.

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  2. Oh man oh man. I like how things just keep getting worse but you do not commit mass murder or anything.

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  3. @ Jennie: I have not been to Hadrian's Wall yet. Don't rub it in!! I like to think that I'm wending my way north through England.

    @ seasonticket: there *used* to be 9 million dutch in the netherlands... but i've said too much...

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  4. What? Isnt putting car in gear like a reflex action of parking? What kind of driving novice parks car in neutral? I learn new things everyday.

    If I was you, I would be tearing my hair out, banging my head against the non ruins and snorting the leaking gas. Hang in there!

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  5. I can understand why you got emotional at the cemetary. I'd be a total mess.

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  6. I gotta give it to you, you don't give up easy! If I were you, I would have abandoned the camping site and gone to a nice B&B.

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Keep it clean, don't be mean....