May 13, 2012

The Netherlands, 2012

I think the Europeans aren't doing too badly in this crisis when there is standing room only in the first class train carriages.
The trains don't run on time in the Netherlands. A shocking revelation, really, and this after a year of one of the most rightwing governments in power. A full passenger train stuck at 80kph behind a freight train bound for Germany was a good reminder for the primacy of economics over people. A cancellation enabled us to have dinner in Holland (a fraught prospect as "Dutch cuisine" is regarded an oxymoronic concept). But I take it all back: dinner was delicious, the service flamboyant and the price reasonable. And this in dour presbyterian Dordrecht!
As Belgians we have been socialised not to touch Dutch piss but for the benefit of Kiwis, I tried Gulpener Korenwolf, a 5% wheat beer with a slightly sour fruity taste. It was excellent thirst-quenching stuff as it was the main brand served at the Floriade in Venlo, where walking long distances were the the order of the day. Ewen had a massive pint of H******n with dinner, even the restaurant waiter was impressed.
The Floriade was a rather flimsy commercial affair, corporate sponsorship abounded and there was very little about, say, organic farming or serious issues such as sustainability. Holland has been intensively farmed for centuries after been claimed from the sea and they have thrown everything at it to turn into a massive agri-business. There is hardly such a thing as a family farm. The landscapes are vast stretches of quasi-monocultural cropping. I wonder whether any of their land could ever conceivably be converted to organic farming. Terroir produce is unheard of (compare Dutch cheeses to, say, French ones - and quaint tourist performances like the Alkmaar cheesemarket don't count) and I suspect that, if consumer resistance can be overcome, genetic modification could be standard soon too.
The best display at Floriade was actually a photograph: a modern rendition of Vincent Van Gogh's "Potato Eaters" painting.

1 comment:

Peter said...

Hans, I know the trains are bad, in the newer ones you can't even go to a toilet.

I'm glad you had a good meal, and Gulpener Korenwolf is one of the few small beer brands left in the country. H owns most of the others.

We've been planning to see the Floriade in Venlo, but haven't decided yet.

Enjoy your time in Europe, I hope the weather picks up so you still have some sunny days.