Visiting Family, Friends and Roots

Jane and I made use of her second week in Holland to travel southward and visit family outside Friesland, and then seek out some friends and explore the neighborhood of our roots in Friesland.


6063   After the sailing wrapped up around lunch-time on the friday, we took off south towards Lochem where cousin Jan and wife Leni live. We had arranged to meet them the next day. So we got stuck in "Friday Afternoon Traffic" as folks headed out for the weekend.

While traffic pile-ups slowed us down a bit, we nevertheless arrived in time to be able stroll downtown in daylight still. I was in search of a a particular restaurant where I had had a particular traditional Dutch meal some three years before and I was looking forward to the same thing again.



6067   America's great contribtion to "Haute Cuisine" is the Big Mac. Expatriates deprived of this delicacy for an extended period of time may suffer from a form of anxiety known as "A Big Mac Attack".

In Holland, this role is fulfilled by a dish known as "Kroketten met frites".

I had been looking forward to getting a fix for a long time, and three years earlier I had enjoyed a very good one at this restaurant just off the central market-place in Lochem - and I found it again. Here Jane is indulging in the secret vice.


The Dutch variant of Kroket may contain cheese, beef, veal or goulash, often in a filling based on bchamel sauce. A special miniature version of little balls, "bitterballen", is also available in bars and cafs as an accompaniment for that other Dutch tradition, the "borrel".

Notice that while mustard is supplied with the Kroket, mayonnaise accompanies the frites (French Fries). The latter is a peculiar habit enjoyed by the Dutch, the Belgians, and sometimes the French, but strikes Anglo-Saxons as fairly disgusting. You have to be brought up with that quirck to enjoy it.



6080   Just off the central market square of Lochem, still stands the old city hall from 1634.



6082   The next morning we had some time to explore the shopping streets round the center.



6087   Like any decent town, they have a shop dedicated to cheese. Jane checks it out...



6088   We had arrangedf to meet Jan and Leni after they had picked up their daughter Anne-Marie from the station who came down by train for the day. This gave Jane and Anne-Marie (children of cousins - I think that makes then "second cousins") the opportunity to go off shopping by bike. So Jane got to experience bike riding in downtown traffic where bikes are the norm rather than the eccentric exception.



6092   Meanwhile I got to spend time with Jan and Leni



6094   The cousins.



6096   That evening the five of us (I'm taking the picture) went out for a celebratory re-union dinner in a local Indonesian Restaurant.

Jan and Leni are pretty much the only people I am still in contact with who "saw and knew" Africa the way I did.



6103   The next day we drove on down to Ruurlo to meet another cousin, Hieke, and her husband Roel.



6102   While we were there, Hieke's daughter Afke and grandchild Ivo dropped by, so Jane could meet another second-cousin (if that's what children of cousins are called).

Ivo astounded us by speaking perfect English - not just OK English like most Dutch people - but fluent and accent-free enough to be able to pass off as his native language. By choice, his schooling is almost all conducted in English.



6121   The next day we had arranged to meet a distant relative in Leeuwarden, so we set out with some trepidation to our rendezvous near the central underground parking garage in downtown Leeuwarden.

This meant navigating complicated narrow busy city streets, but when I saw the roundabout with the statue of "s Mem" (Our Mother) I knew we where almost there.



6125   Here was our landmark, the Oldehove, iconic symbol for Leeuwarden, (capital of Friesland) which leans even more than the tower of Pisa.

Construction of this "Late Gothic" tower was started in 1529, when the local citizens demanded a tower taller than the one in the city of Groningen, the Martinitoren. During construction, the tower began to sag, which the builders tried to compensate for by inserting several "kinks", but the project was eventually stopped in 1532.



6110   Here we met up with Marco, another member of the Couperus tribe but fairly distantly related. We had met some years previously courtesy of the internet and now finally got to meet in person for the first time.

Here we are in the central square next to a statue of a Frisian horse, I though this might be "s Heit" to match "s Mem" elsewhere, but that is not so.



6113   After "koffie op terass" we walked around town



6116   ... and into the Prinsentuin, a park right next to downtown.

One of my earliest memories is of being pulled on a sled here over snow and ice in the strong winter of 1947 when (I am told) the top of one of my ears got frost-bitten.



6119   A canal flows next to the park, so you get to experience all kinds of boats, from working freight barges to pleasure yachts sailing right downtown and causing the bridge to have to be raised right on the main road entrance into the capital city of Friesland.



6123   Also in this park is the sculpture "Fietsend meisje in laatste hongerwinter" or "Biking Girl in the Last Winter of the War"

The last winter of the war is also known in Holland as "the hunger winter" when severe malnutrition and even starvation was the norm. This statue is also known as "The Courier" (De Koerierster)

The inscription below the statue reads in translation:

With thanks to all the women and girls who took care of suppliying food to those in hiding during the war

(Uit dankbaarheid voor alle vrouwen en meisjes die in de oorlog voor de voedselvoorziening van de onderduikers zorgden.)



6127   After Leeuwarden we went off in search of our roots - in the little village of Eestrum (or "Jistrum" in Friesian)

In the center of the little village is this old church, built on a "terp". This is a manmade slight elevation above surrounding fields, built somewhere between the bronze age and 1200 and designed to stay dry in case of water inundation. There are about 1000 of these terps in Friesland).



6128   At the front door of the church - the inscribed tablet is enlarged in bottom right-hand corner.

From this we learn that the church brick-work dates from the 14th century, the pulpit is from the 17th century, and the organ is apparently from 1710.



6130   Round the side of the church in the cemetery, we find the graves of my grandparents (Jane's Great Grandparents).

To see the full text of the two headstones and a table of their children and grand children, click here or if that fails because your browser does not allow popup screens, you can click here and then use the back key to return to this screen.



6140   Next we left Eestrum via a little back road for the neighboring village of Oostermeer (Eastermar in Frisian). This is a village where I spent two holidays as a young lad, learning to sail a small "jol" single-handed and take the canoe to fetch groceries. I pedalled down this road many times to the village.



6139   By googling "couperus" on the internet, I discovered there is a Couperus who lives somewhere on this road and who breeds Frisian horses - could this be where he lives? Note the decorations on the wall between the windows on either side of the front door, and right opposite the house there are some Frisian horses in a paddock.



5800   The paddock with those horses was kind of muddy and the horses were covered in mud, so here are some pictures of some other Frisian Horses (Fryske Hynder) seen alongside the road during out travels.



5584   Mother with newborn foal



5799   Yes - you can see herds of them on larger farms.



6142   We reach Oostermeer which is a typical Frisian village with a small waterway running alonside the old main street. One side of the main street had shops, the other side was the waterway and on the other side of the waterway were dwellings.

The waterway ends after a few hundred feet, the path alongside the front of the houses there is called "It Wltsje" (the sign next to Jane). This is where the friends that I played with lived when I lived here for a month when I was about eight years old.



6143   A view of the central waterway and the pathway "It Wltsje" alongside. This is where I would park my canoe when I went into the village to do shopping on a subsequent stay when I was twelve.



6147   The waterway and "It Wltsje" seen from the other end - where the waterway joins the main canal access to the lakes.

Where that modern house now stands used to be an old decrepit shed (schuur) in which lived a bearded smelly and frightening old man called Popke. We were living in a houseboat moored just round the corner opposite the tree in what is now the front garden of this house.

The owner of the houseboat (Meneer Harterink) had a very cute and very blond daughter with whom I fell in love (we were both eight years old) and she could skip flat stones across the water almost as well as I could. The the house the other side of Popke's schuur lived a boy of the same age who was baffled that I did not speak Frisian like he did, but we got along famously - fishing for eels which he took home for his parents to fix for dinner. (Ugh!). I can't help wondering whatever became of Minke and Douwe and where they are today.



6148   On the main street that traverses the heart of the old village, lies this building originally constructed in 1768 according to the decoration over the door. Some time subsequently, it was heightened by about another 1/2 meter - notice the top few layers of bricks and the iron reinforcing stanchions spaced along the wall at that level. Houses here were built much lower than they are today, but as nutrition improved, so people have grown taller and ceilings had to be raised.

About a century ago, one of the front rooms in this house served as the village school - educating half-a-dozen to 10 kids or so - ranging in age between 6 years old and 13 or 14. Around 1919, on reaching the school-leaving age of 14, one of those kids set out for "The Big City" of Den Haag to seek his fortune. From there to London and from there to exploring central Africa and various career moves culminating as the Dutch Consul in Uganda - and eventually retiring back in Holland.

The building is still there, and next to it the old "pakhuis" (warehouse) where he used to play and sometimes earn pocket money killing rats.



6164   The next day we went to Heerde in Gelderland to see if we could find the house where my parents lived after they retired back to Holland.

And there it was, I could find it easily again - The Burgemeester Schade van Westrumlaan. We parked the car discreetly round the corner and walked nonchalantly into the street to see the old house, trying hard not to look like stalkers or burglars.

The street was deserted, but just then an older lady on a bicycle came into the end of the street and pulled up in front of her house where we just happened to be standing. For some unknown reason I said "Hallo" and asked her if she knew who used to live in the house across the street some fifty years ago.

"Of course" she replied. "That was Family Couperus..."



6166   A truly astounding coincidence! It turned out this was "Mevrouw Wolf" about whom my Mother had spoken many times and of whom my parents were very fond. She used to come over once a week or so to help my mother around the house, and it was she who helped my father in his final days.

I was flabbergasted at this chance-in-a-million that we should meet after all this time, I was so gratefull to her for having been there for my parents all those years ago. It was an emotional meeting.

She invited us right in for a cup of coffee and we were joined by her daughter Fennie. What had been planned as a quick look at the old house turned into a highlight of the trip.



6167   And right across the street was the old house at Number 6. It hadn't changed much at all.

It is two floors (and a storage attic) with two dwellings under a shared roof in a single building (twee onder een dak) with the the front door opening onto the driveway at left.



6170   After that, Jane and I strolled into the village of Heerde. Near the entrance into the High Street is this statue of a shepherd and his dog. Heerde is in the "Veluwe", an area of sandy ground with heather and woods rather than arable land suitable for dairy cows. So this is more sheep country as recognised by this statue.



6173   Downtown Heerde with the church just off the central square.



6176   The road leading out of town toward the village of Epe which was our next destination.



6177   One of the most striking buildings in Heerde is this patrician villa which once served as home and office of the local notary, an important figure in olden days who fulfilled all legal documentation to go with land ownership, wills, and so forth. The building now houses the local museum.



6179   The village of Epe has changed completely from a sleepy High Street with a few cross-roads to a tourist destination. The downtown portion of the high street is now a pedestrian mall with limited vehicle access for deliveries only.

Just about the only landmarks I recognized were the large church in the middle of town and this old restaurant/cafe/bar on the corner of the crossroads where my Uncle Harry used to go drinking with his friends every now and then.

I don't think they knew I was in town, so the red carpet at the entrance could not have been for me.



6180   This building had changed completely. This used to be the "Drogisterij" (drugstore) of my Uncle Harry. It is now subdivided between a coffee/tea merchant and a franchised clothing chain-store. All the stores around it have changed and disappeared as well, there used to be a car-repair garage on one side and a toy store on the other.



6181   The Hoofdstraat (Main Street) has almost no old buildings, everything is modern/contemporary and the street is lined with espaliered trees. Just the church in the background and the Cafe Posthoorn tell me that this is indeed the place I was looking for.



6195   Jane and I went and found a coffee shop in nearby Nunspeet (where our hotel was) where I spotted this on the wall

How are you
Good to see you
Do come inside
Everything alright?
You're looking good
Good to see you
It's been a while
I like your hair-do
I'm just brewing some coffie
Come on in and take a seat

This was our last really free day of vacation. The next day we had the stress of returning the car to Schiphol (again bumper-to-bumper traffic for a lot of the way, and then finding our way like rats through the maze of roads round the airport to find where to return the car) and (no longer having a car) spending our last afternoon walking around central Amsterdam amidst hordes of tourists with the same idea.



6229   And then crack-of-dawn next morning at Schiphol. After checking our bags, had a quick breakfast at MacDonalds where this was our view.

A clock that is stopped is at least accurate twice a day. One with its face covered doesn't do even that well - but it least it doesn't give you wrong information.

And so I got on to the big bird back to San Francisco, and Jane an hour or two later to Boston. End of a lovely few weeks...


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