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Thursday, May 10, 2012

'Welkom in Nederland' ............Pt I




The Netherlands, in it's entirety, is often referred to (and inaccurately so) as Holland, whereas North and South Holland are actually only two of it's twelve provinces. 
In English the country is called 'the Netherlands', while the people are called Dutch. 
In Dutch the official terms for these are 'Nederland' for the country, 'Nederlanders' for the people and 'Nederlands' for the language. 


The Netherlands is a geographically low-lying country, with about 25% of it's area below sea level and about 50% of it's land lying less than one metre above sea level.
'Netherlands' literally means 'Low Countries' or 'Low Lands'.


One of the scenic country roads a few kilometers outside of Elsendorp.

It's flat here, very flat, many of the country roads here in the Elsendorp area where I'm staying give the visitor and the resident alike some stunning scenery to enjoy as they walk, bike or stroll through the countryside.
No hiking or climbing trails for me here to go play or train on for my Matterhorn climb,but the beauty is in the many symmetrically laid out tree lined roads that seem at times to be never ending.


I arrived at Dusseldorf airport last Monday, May 1st, on a flight from LAX, and British Airways decided that I didn't really need my luggage until Thursday afternoon, 3 days later.
My motorcycle sidecarist friend Richard offered to pick me up at the airport upon my arrival, he just didn't bank on me being 2 hours late . My flight was due to arrive at 9:30 pm, but I didn't get in until 10:45 pm, with an hour + drive to LBS where I was staying.
Still, he drove me the 110 kms to LBS Sidecars in Elsendorp, and after coffee and sitting with Ad and myself and chatting about politics and sidecars he left at 1am to drive the 80km home and then had to be up for work at 5 am. Thank you again Richard.


One of the reasons I timed my arrival here in the Netherlands to be on May 1st was that as a veteran of both Lebanon and Afghanistan, Richard was being honored with a Purple Heart on May 3rd, so I asked if he could arrange for me to be there to be able to photograph the ceremony. It was just something I wanted to be able to do for him and I know he appreciated me being there also.
A special honor for Richard and for me also. Congratulations my friend.





View Larger Map

So as we drove from the airport in Dusseldorf toward Elsendorp at 10 pm that evening, one of the first things I noticed was how orderly the driving is, no one hangs in the outside or 'Passing Lane' here in Germany or the Netherlands for that matter, and within a few minutes of having that thought the reason became very apparent. A car, I think a BMW, it passed by so fast I couldn't be sure, shot by us in the outside lane at approximately  double our speed. We were cruising along at 150kph (about 93mph) and this car just shot by us like we were still in second gear, it had to be traveling at about 240kph, about 150+mph I would guess.
Welcome to the Autobahn in Germany. 


I always maintained that it's not speed that kills, it's the idiot drivers that have no clue how to drive that do, the high speed limits in Germany and a lot of Europe are a testament to the fact that high speed limits are not, in and of themselves, dangerous. They also have very strict traffic enforcement here, much of it electronic, with speed and traffic cameras on most roads, and that, coupled with a 'real' and expensive Driver License test has the end result of putting drivers on the road that actually know how to drive and know the 'Rules Of The Road'. It makes for an incredibly refreshing and safe driving experience over here.


To get a Drivers License here in the Netherlands will cost you about 1500-2000 EUR, $2000-2600, depending on how many lessons you need. The Netherlands is know for excessive bureaucracy, so unless you are exchanging a European Drivers License, be prepared to do battle.
While talking with someone here in the Netherlands who had visited the US and drove there, a comment they made was how everyone drives/hangs in the outside or passing lanes, its just 2 or three lanes of solid traffic, you can't pass them if you want to go faster. 'Don't they police this' they asked?. How can you get anywhere with all lanes a solid traffic jam?...............exactly.
Oh, and if you decide to come here and drive, better make sure you brush up on your 'Turn Signal' etiquette, they use them here, it's the law.


Meanwhile, back in Elsendorp at LBS Sidecars there are 3 sidecar outfits ahead of me before we can start on my one, so it gives me a chance to do a little exploring.





Plus I get this outfit to drive while I'm here, another BMW GS similar to my motorcycle with an EZS Kompact sidecar.

Ad's H-D Boxer V-Rod in the shop for some maintenance.

Awaiting sidecars, a KTM on the right and a nearly finished BMW 1200 GL.


The Netherlands has nearly 1200 working windmills today, there are more windmills in the Netherlands, but the Dutch only count the ones that are actually work. There are over 4,000  incomplete or vanished windmills.
The largest number of mills in good condition is in Kinderdijk near Rotterdam, and I think I may have to go on a road trip there in the next few weeks and photograph them.












Some little know facts about the Netherlands and the Dutch people.
Did you know that:


The Dutch are the tallest people in Europe, with an average height of 1.81 meters (5ft 11in) for men and 1.67 meters (5ft 6in) for women).


Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe.


Almost every Dutch person has a bicycle, and there are twice as many bicycles as cars.


The Netherlands has at least 15,000 km (9,300+ miles) of cycle tracks.


Since 1901, sixteen Dutch have been awarded the Nobel Prize.


The Netherlands has over 1,200 working windmills.


The Netherlands has over 1,000 museums, with 42 in Amsterdam alone.


You can see 22 paintings by Rembrandt and 206 by Van Gogh in Amsterdam.








So until I get to Amsterdam, Van Gogh, Rembrandt and the windmills of Kinderdijk will have to wait, so I hope you enjoy these images for now.






Murph.

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