So I have finally arrived and found a place in the ‘Dam. Culmination of over a year of travel, my life now shifts to a slightly different beat – locating a fun-filled source of Euro notes to pay for the hedonistic lifestyle I intend to commence.

The Netherlands. The Netherlands is a place generally thought of by foreigners with minds ripe with the tang of preconception. Over the next wee while I shall regale you with my experiences. Daffodils and tulips are blooming with wild abandon, or perhaps not such wildness, as the bulbs are purposefully planted by gardeners all over Benelux. In Rotterdam an old family friend, Teau tried to explain Dutch soccer hooliganism as a release of aggression. She noted in all seriousness that New Zealanders on the other hand have lots of ways to release aggression, like kangaroo shooting. In Amersfoort I came across a nine-piece brass band singing Dutch oom-pah-pah music. Saccharine stuff by the name of smartlappen which I think is something like Dutch beer drinking music.

As I have been traveling back and forth to Belgium, I have noticed old WW II block houses dotted around like rooks on a chess board. Slivers of water here and there occasionally spotted with small sailboats, ponderous barges, stolid dikes and above all the sense of intense cultivation. The fields are edged with arrow straight tree lines to protect crops  from the wind, distant high voltage power lines march, raked fields deep brown with alluvial goodness, small cute brick villages, sparrow flocks, wind mills alongside modern power turbines and high-speed train lines dashing through tying everything together with superb (but expensive) public transport. Spring is in the air and Holland looks great!

Kamp Amersfoort. Last week I visited Kamp Amersfoort, one of three WW II concentration camps located in The Netherlands. I was wholly unaware of the existence of this camp, not 5 minutes drive from where I have been living for two weeks. This camp was primarily used as a transit camp for prisoners (~35,000) destined for camps further afield. Despite this, over 1,000 victims were executed on the shooting range. I walked down this range, bracketed on either side by 5 m heaps of earth topped with barbed wire.  This arrow-straight path leads 100m to a monument, the Stone Man, who silently stares back at us mendicants come to pay our respects. The forests around this range still hold unmarked and undiscovered graves. We made our way to the foundation of the mortuary building. It was covered in small heaps of stones brought there by Jewish visitors. The custom represents permanence and a remembering of the dead, in other words ‘perpetuating the existence of the site.’

Amsterdam. I am finally in Amsterdam with a place to my name. It’s located in the Jordaan and to give you some perspective is about 3 min walk from the Anne Frank House. Sweet! I am now looking for work and also attempting to do justice to the plethora of national holidays in May starting with Koninginnedag (aka Queens Birthday). Epic day with everyone wearing orange in an orgy of patriotism, lager and music. If you’re lucky (like me) you manage to secure a place on a vessel of some description which then takes you on a tour of the canals whilst consuming beverages, waving at naked people in windows, gaily dressed revelers and drunken sots pissing, well, everywhere.

Yesterday was the 65th anniversary of Dutch liberation which still resonates very strongly. In fact many Dutch have strong anti-German feelings this long after the war which I found sad in a way especially since it appears to be stronger amongst those who never experienced it. A remembrance service in Dam Square the day before in the middle of Amsterdam (attended by the Dutch Queen) descended into panic as a homeless man broke the 2 minute silence with shouting, causing a stampede. Several people I know were caught up in it and it looked, when I watched video, fairly frightening. Last year on Queen’s Day, a failed assassination attempt on the Queen resulted in eight deaths. That event no doubt contributed towards the panicked reaction in Dam Square coupled with today’s greater sensitivity towards crowds and potential terrorist incidents.