Tag Archives: Europe

The secrets of Amersfoort

I’m standing inside a room, if you can even call it that. It measures maybe two by three metres. My shoulders are hunched, my head lowered, and I’m listening to the house owner tell me how an entire, extended family used to live in this room.

In geographical context: the historic, medieval city of Amersfoort

In geographical context: the historic, medieval city of Amersfoort

Just a few days earlier I was gliding along the canals of Amersfoort, onboard a boat, huddled on wooden benches with my aunt, uncle and a handful of strangers. A burst of budding leaves and flowering trees lined the waterways as the sun shone down on cobbled walkways and historic buildings.

I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day to explore this ancient Dutch city.

Listening to the tour guide, I tried to pick out words but often referred to the English cheat sheet, noting dates that aged Amersfoort back to the late 1200s.

Seeing Amersfoort, Netherlands from the water

Setting off by boat

The western boat route took us by houses built into the first city walls and provided glimpses of Onze Lieve Vrouwetoren, a 98m high tower that not only provides a visual reference point within the city but houses the middle point of the Dutch grid reference system. We slipped under bridges and floated alongside water gates and the birthplace of the famous Dutch painter, Piet Mondrian.

Houses that make up the city walls, Amersfoort, Netherlands

Houses that make up the city walls

Sturdy water gate entrances, Amersfoort, Netherlands

Sturdy water gate entrances

Onze Lieve Vrouwetoren,  Amersfoort, Netherlands

Onze Lieve Vrouwetoren

Drinking in the age of this little city, it was apparent that she had been well looked after. Despite her years, she was neatly presented, breathing out secrets of a long, knowing life.

Now, some days later I find myself as a guest inside the tall windowed grandeur of one of Amersfoort’s oldest houses, peeking in through secret doors and into the more recent history of the Second World War. A Jewish family hid away inside this little, little room.

It’s this kind of history, the human component, which really resonates with me. I stay for a short while, hunched and imagining how one lives a confined life, and a life full of fear.

And then the owner pulls away some wood to reveal a tiny window with views directly over to the synagogue. There, within those views, I realise, must have lain some comfort.

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Filed under cities, culture, europe, history, holland, travel

And just when I started to feel settled…

…I decided to pack my bags and head home.

Home to Europe.

Only this time I would be a tourist in my own country. Countries.

It had been nearly two years since I’d set off from the UK to solo travel South America. How might things have changed? Would I recognise my old life? Would my friends be strangers? Would I feel displaced, neither at home in Britain nor Australia?

I felt the travel excitement bubble up in my belly, and each day the longing to hold my friends and family in tight cuddles grew stronger. In the last year Skype had brought me news:  friends  married and  fell pregnant. My sister gave birth to her first child, my first nephew. My Oma battled a heart attack and fought for her life. My other grandmother gave up the fight to finally reach a place of calm.

And I, like many a travelling expat, felt so far away from those closest to me. Time to return and see and experience the changes for real.

But life, ever playful, gave me something else to ponder.  The sun reappeared and dried out a good few months of damp, and each day closer to my departure date brought me closer to people in my Aussie life. And then I saw it clearly: I was part of a new community. Things and people were starting to become familiar. I was starting to belong. Anticipating that a glimpse of what I’d left behind in the UK would make me too drunk dizzy to get back on a plane to Oz, they made me promise I’d return.

But, really, I didn’t know the outcome, how I’d feel reimmersed in my native culture. I had heard  that a growing number of  Europe to Australia emigrants  return to their home country within a year, so I kept my mind and options open and boarded that first flight to Singapore looking forward to little else but a mama hug some 27 hours away.

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Filed under australia, europe, expat life, oceania