There is nothing more delightfully Dutch than bicycles, windmills, and wooden shoes. It’s possible, even living in the city, to encounter these things on a weekly, if not daily, basis. It’s not unusual to pass a windmill while exploring areas outside the city centre of Den Haag by bicycle, and while cycling to work I’m often overtaken by a man whistling and wearing bright yellow wooden shoes. Admittedly, wooden shoes aren’t such a common sight in Den Haag, but a glimpse of this pair, together with the sound of a familiar tune, will always put a smile on my face.
Much more common, of course, are bicycles, and the best way to enjoy them is to take a short trip outside of the city. There’s a beautiful route from Den Haag, through Leidschendam, which passes by Molen de Salamander, a timber windmill built in 1777 and in operation until 1953. In 1996, thanks to the help of volunteers, the mill was restored to its former glory; rotten wood was replaced and original parts found their way back into place. De Salamander is again fully operational as a timber mill and welcomes visitors with free guided tours on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons.
Continuing along the cycling route, you’ll pass through the Vlietland recreation area, a series of small lakes used for bird watching and a variety of water sports. On sunny days the water sparkles, sailboats slice across the lakes, and the ice cream man does brisk business. It’s the perfect time to pack a small picnic lunch in the saddlebags of your bicycle, claim a spot on the grass, and soak up the sunshine. On your return journey, it’s a relaxing ride to go around the lakes of Vlietland on the north side and follow the bicycle path along the Vliet, a large canal, back to Den Haag.
On a recent trip outside of the Netherlands, I expected to shake off these things which are typical Dutch; bicycles, windmills, and wooden shoes, but on my departing flight, I realised it’s never that far away.
Her husband, the farmer, was sitting astride a flying windmill.
It started with the ‘delicious art’ decorating the plastic wrap of my cheese salad and chicken sandwiches. On close inspection, I noticed flying cows; some wearing space helmets and others wearing superhero capes and masks. A Dutch woman was also pictured, wearing a traditional-style orange dress with a white apron, wooden shoes, and a white bonnet over her two blonde braids. Her husband, the farmer, was sitting astride a flying windmill. Never have I seen such attention given to the wrapping of airline sandwiches, and in this case, it caused me to reflect on and to savour the ‘Dutchness’ of each bite.
The clear plastic beverage cup holding my apple juice was decorated with a relief of bicycles, tulips, and wooden shoes, and when I later had a tea, I was not at all surprised to see the paper cup wrapped in the image of a KLM airplane fuselage. The real treat though was a stroopkoekje; a caramel filling sandwiched between two thin, crisp cookies, and a close cousin of the stroopwafel.
It seems, even when one thinks you’re leaving them behind, Dutch delights can be found in the most unexpected places.