Easter Vacations at the North Sea

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„Come on, dad“, says Felix, „let’s fly a kite!“  Those are the moments that make Mike realize that the world is still in best order.  For Felix is 15, and with 15 you normally speak in a totally different way with your parents.  But in Holland at the North Sea things are far from normal, in Holland at the North Sea it’s vacation time and the world is in best order.

So Katharina, Felix, and Mike – for Franziska stayed back home in Rheinbach to study for her high school graduation exams, and Mecki claims to be too old to let fly a kite – put on warm clothes and head down to the beach.  Katharina and Felix take turns with the kite, which in Felix’s case also means giving Mike continuously instructions about how to take photos of him.  Because being photographed is important.  His Instagram page needs to be up-dated with useful photos, and who knows, maybe some spectacular kite flying helps him become real famous.  In the States, for example, the most famous of stars often start their careers right out of the blue, e.g. in Los Angeles at the beach, while working as a carpenter or in a bar – like Johnny Depp, Harrison Ford, or Ashton Kutcher.  Why shouldn’t Felix become famous by letting a kite fly in Holland at the beach?  But unfortunately Holland is not Los Angeles, and becoming famous turns out to be a difficult job, all the more so as Felix is not the only one to seek the attention of the people walking along the beach.  Two kitesurfers dash with full speed through the waves, as does the zodiac-type life boat of the Royal Netherlands Sea Rescue Institution.

But flying a kite is not the only option to get some workout in the fresh air.  Hiking through the dunes is another one.  Mecki and Mike could hike there for hours, they simply like the dunes.  The kids, however, don’t, and they don’t fail to point this out after a few minutes of their first dune hike.

Longboarding and inline skating is something the kids like better.  And Mike likes inline skating, too, so the three of them – Felix on one of his longboards, Katharina and Mike on inline skates – head out to Bergen aan Zee, and by doing so discover a very scenic route.  Their ride leads them along tulip and daffodil fields, then through dunes and sunlit woods, until they return to the North Sea in Bergen after roughly an hour of riding.

As always, there’s the question of culture and vacations.  Mecki and Mike don’t want to be regarded as lowbrows, and decide that spending a day or two in one of those scenic Dutch towns with their canals, historic brick buildings and beautifully decorated house gables would be a good idea.  In the vicinity of Egmond, Alkmaar and Hoorn are said to be worthwhile destinations.  Alkmaar, with a population of a little over 100.000 the biggest town in the area, boasts a beautiful historic city centre with a number of canals leading all the way into the heart of the city, a handful of windmills along the former city walls, and a beautiful pedestrian-only downtown area.  And what’s more, Alkmaar is a mere 10 kilometers from Egmond, which means that Felix and Mike can easily get there by longboard and inline skates.

Hoorn, like Alkmaar, does not need to hide its face either.  Having been a major base of the Dutch East India Company, Hoorn’s sailors sailed the seven seas during the city’s golden age in the 16th and 17th century.  The name of South America’s southernmost tip, Cape Hoorn, still bears ample evidence of this glorious past.  Today, these good old days are history, but it’s not a distant history, it’s a type of history that is present at almost every corner in the city.  There’s the Hoofdtoren, a mighty tower from the early 1600s to guard the harbour entrance, or the Staatencollege, the former seat of the West Frisian estates assembly, or the lovely little shops downtown.  Almost every building in Hoorn is very historic, well maintained and an inviting place for sightseeing or shopping.

Katharina discovers her highlight of the day in the harbour, right between the bow and the anchor chain of the Anna van Nieuwkoop, a cargo sailing ship built in 1897 that used to haul sand and rocks along the Dutch coast.  “There’s a bird’s nest in the water.  Look, dad, a great crested grebe.  Why don’t we sit down on the quay wall for a while and watch.”  Katharina and Mike agree they shouldn’t let this occasion pass by.  They both prefer bird watching over spending the afternoon strolling from one shop to the next one.  So they send Felix and Mecki, whose affinities are exactly the opposite with a strong preference of shopping over sitting on moist quay walls and waiting for some crazy birds to feed their young, into the local shops and make themselves comfortable on the quay wall.

And it pays.  Katharina and Mike are rewarded by a truly entertaining show of the grebe family.  Because it is not only the breeding adult bird that is regularly fed by its mate but also two freshly hatched nestlings that are carefully hidden in the breeding adult’s plumage.

The final vacation experience, and a very Dutch one too, is reserved for the trip back home.  “That tulip patch over there has funny mixed colours” is Mike’s sleepy comment, who, apart from this one comment does what he likes best on long road trips, and that’s dozing in the passenger seat.  Mecki is perplexed for a moment or two – Since when is her husband interested in flowers? – then she brakes abruptly.  “That’s a pick-your-own-tulips patch.  You can pick your favourite tulips and pay at the shack at the far end of the patch.  Let’s do just that now.”  So the trip ends with a huge bouquet of colourful tulips.  As a souvenir from Holland and the North Sea, where the world is still in best order.

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