I was in the Netherlands for a week on business: a few days at a NATO “semantic interoperability” workshop and then a day meeting with some of our new Dutch research partners—more about that (and them) in the near future.
Thoughts and observations, more personal than professional:
- Nearly everyone I spoke with for more than a few minutes referred to the financial shockwaves in the US, often with more than a little schadenfreude. But I can’t blame them.
- The Dutch, like the Danes, are courteous and helpful as a rule. I seem to meet more Dutch who speak English than Danes, though, so that biases my perceptions of the two a bit. I’ve also spent more time in NL than DK (6 weeks versus 2). Neither are as effusively friendly and, well, warm as the Spanish or Italians in my experience.
- Heineken in public, casually, on trains, walking down the street—that’s cool and very Dutch, but not my thing. I don’t think I could ever live anywhere, including the Netherlands, long enough to drink a beer on a train.
- My wife, a graphic designer, is quite well-traveled, speaks Spanish and Italian, and is worldly-wise; but she’s still never been to the Netherlands and is envious of my trips largely because of the Rijksmuseum and Dutch design generally.
- Related: I claim the Netherlands is the most typographically correct culture on earth. It’s a small thing, I suppose, but it makes me happy. I suppose the Swiss or perhaps the Danes would object.
- From Den Haag to Delft via taxi: 50 euros. Public transit: 5 euros.
- The fashion trends today in Europe for young women replay the preppy fashion of the late 80s, when I was in high school. This makes me feel incredibly old, in a way few things do.
- If an adjacent table of self-styled “liberal Republicans” talks so loudly as to make it impossible not to listen, my failure to ignore their conversations, by virtue of eating alone myself, is not eavesdropping, it’s self-defense.
- That I don’t repeat their names here—public figures, both of them—and some of their more shockingly tasteless dinner conversation (“oh, it’s one of those Jewish names” and other tidbits) is an undeserved mercy.
- If you ever need a good dinner in Den Haag, Spijs is lovely.
- My server—new: her third night—at Spijs insisted that a “gamboa” was not a “shrimp”, in English, since it wasn’t very small. I, a native English speaker, tried three times to assure her that “shrimp” was correct, but she knew better.
- She did accept my claim that “rack of deer” was better replaced with “rack of venison”, however.
- Monkfish—which she described as “the one so ugly they cut off its head”—grilled in a tandoor like kebab is surprisingly good.
- The beach in Den Haag—in Scheveningen, precisely—is stunning this time of year, if you’re lucky enough to get clear weather, as I was for three days.
- I’m now officially too old for the ritual walk through Amsterdam’s red light district: boring and pointless. Give me a stroll through Leiden, a bami goreng (or even just a kroket), and an afternoon with van Rijn, and I’m a pig in mud.