Blog Entry 2 - Pepernoten and Ontbijtkoek
If you haven't visited the Netherlands yet, you might wonder what Pepernoten and Ontbijtkoek are. So for those of you who have a sweet tooth: YOU HAVE REALLY MISSED SOMETHING, because the food culture, except for the fried dumplings like Frikandel or Kaassoufflé, is really amazingly good.
Slowly, the Christmas season is approaching and I think, also in Germany you can "finally" buy Santa Claus-shaped chocolate figures and speculoos again. Apart from that, you can buy the Ontbijtkoek (translated: breakfast cake) all the year round, which can cause some confusion, because this cake – rather shaped like a loaf of bread – tastes 100% like Christmas. Nevertheless, the Dutch eat it all the year round, preferably with a cup of coffee. Here, coffee is more of a staple food than a luxury food. :)
But now back to my stay in Groningen: It's been over two months since I arrived in Groningen, a city with about 230,000 inhabitants, and I immediately started to appreciate the likeable nature of the Dutch.
I don't want to cut out the crazy party nights and the tightly organized program of KEI Week, one of the biggest introductory (party) weeks in the Netherlands: Small festivals with picnics in the city park, city rallies, cooking and drinking evenings and the big final party in two huge areas. I definitely have to admit that the Dutch students are way ahead of us Germans when it comes to planning.
Although it’s a rather small country, they are trade minded and very proud of their history and traditions. This starts with the cheese, which leaves nothing to be desired in terms of taste. From exclusive truffle cheese to red or green colored pesto cheese, there really are plenty of different types. At the moment, the "oude kaas" with small pieces of salt is one of my favorites. Three times a week is market day and especially on Sunday, when the city is overcrowded with Germans who just drive to Holland to do some shopping (because yeah... in the Netherlands all shops are open on Sundays), all the students, who dozily stroll across the market to eat their way through all the tasting stands after a long party night and you have no idea where exactly you parked your bike... then I know that I have made the right decision to come to this country. :)
A few weeks ago I went to Amsterdam for the first time. As chance would have it, a good friend of mine is working there for a year as an au pair since September. Her host family welcomed me with open arms and gave me a place to sleep for three nights. I am always amazed at how open-minded and helpful the Dutch are. In most cases, this would be unthinkable in Germany.
Of course, you won’t get far in Amsterdam without a bike. That's why the first item on our agenda was a fietsenwinkel, where I could rent a bike. By the way, finding one was not difficult, because here there are countless fietsenwinkel.
It's still a strange feeling to walk through the streets of Amsterdam and smell weed almost everywhere. But you get used to it... Rolling a joint is here as normal as eating a bratwurst on the market in Germany. During the day we traipsed round all the sights and beautiful places. Of course, we couldn’t leave out all the cute little alleys with extraordinary little shops. I can't deny that the Dutch are apparently very creative! Every shop, every café, every vintage shop... everything has its very personal, individual charm with which one can attract the tourists extraordinarily well.
If you then change your view on the city a little, you will truly become aware of its beauty. With its countless small bridges that wouldn't be so beautiful without all the crazy cyclists (among whom I have to count myself!). It was an incredible weekend with many inspiring experiences. Next week I will go with my roommate on a bigger city trip from Groningen to Utrecht, on to The Hague and finally to Rotterdam. I am curious to see what I will say about it in my next report!
Fijne dag and tot straks!