I bought two books in Amsterdam. I spent quite a long time in a bookstore perusing this:
The Dutch and their Delta: Living below sea level by Jacob Vossestein was full of photos showing how the Netherlands reclaimed land from the sea. Fascinating aerial shots of the polder system and the Zuiderzee kept my eyes glued to the pages. I knew I had to buy it when it was all I could think about while browsing.
Mark and I stayed at a hotel that overlooked a canal lined on both sides with houseboats:
All canals had houseboats, and we would often stop on our way across bridges to take a look at them. Some of them looked palatial with enormous party decks, while some looked in such dilapidated condition I feared the residents might wake up the next morning underwater. I bought this book:
Boat People of Amsterdam by Jowi Schmitz and Friso Spoelstra (translated by Jonathan Ellis) as a souvenir of these charming residences.
One of the highlights of my trip to Europe was a visit to Baarle-Nassau/Baarle-Hertog, a region just north of the Dutch-Belgian border. This area is notorious for its extremely complicated international boundary, which comprises 24 enclaves and exclaves of each nation’s neighbour. Look at the map of this administrative mess:
I plan to write an entire blog entry on Mark’s and my rainy day trip to Baarle. Since Mark took so many pictures of me with his camera, I am waiting to get my hands on his memory card before I post any photos. I will however post a few that were taken with my camera, yet since it was such a miserable day we kept our cameras to ourselves:
Mark is standing in Belgium just a step away from the border with the Netherlands. This building is split by the border:
Den Engel restaurant is in the Netherlands. Just.
I bought a book while in the Dutch part of Baarle (thus Baarle-Nassau):
The title Typisch Baarle: de puzzel (uit)gelegd by Jos Jansen and Antoon van Tuijl cannot be translated with its double entendre intact. Uitgelegd in Dutch means “explained”, thus one translation of the title could be Typical Baarle: the puzzle explained. However the parentheses around uit, or “out” puts emphasis on the past participle of leggen, (gelegd) which means “laid, placed or put”. Thus the second meaning draws attention to the jigsaw nature of the region and taking pieces of the puzzle out. This small book of 128 pages is full of black and white photos and is a charm to leaf through, but the best book on Baarle without question is “En Territoire Belge et à Quarante Centimètres de la Frontière”: An historical and documentary study of the Belgian and Dutch enclaves of Baarle-Hertog and Baarle-Nassau by Brendan R. Whyte. This is a research paper (in English, in spite of the French words at the beginning of the title) of 251 pages, full of maps and photos. Whyte has written the most extensive, as well as the most interesting story behind Baarle’s origins and its situation today. I am very happy to count Brendan as one of my friends, and we are faithful postcard writers. I sent him a postcard mailed from the Belgian post office in Baarle-Hertog (but postmarked in Antwerp! For shame!) as well as a card from Tristan da Cunha. Mark and I also visited the Dutch post office in Baarle-Nassau so I can’t help but wonder if my postcard to Brendan, as well as the card I mailed to myself, would have received a Baarle postmark if mailed from there. Brendan recently sent me a card from Angle Inlet, Minnesota.