Friday, November 4, 2011

Spending time with friends & family in The Netherlands & Germany

The next phase of our travels once we wrapped up our tour of the Nordic and Scandinavian countries was spent visiting friends and family along with some sightseeing as we made our way to our European departure point of Rome. None of this part of our trip was planned before we left the United States. Matter of fact most of it was only put together a couple weeks before we finished up with the Scandinavian part of the trip. Our original plan had us finishing up in Copenhagen then either traveling down to the Balkans or to a city in Europe that we could fly back to the US on Delta airlines. More than likely it would have been Amsterdam or Brussels. Instead Alethea made contact with an old friend from high school living in the Netherlands and someone we met from Germany while traveling around the world in Vietnam of all places.

The next stop for us after visiting Denmark was the Netherlands. Alethea and I flew from Copenhagen to Amsterdam and spent one night there before meeting Alethea's mom and husband Ronnie the next morning. We didn't do any sightseeing in Amsterdam since we arrived late in the evening and we had both been to the city many times. Once we met Alethea's mom and Ronnie we trained up to the city of Emmen in the northern part of the Netherlands. It was about 2.5 hours away from the Amsterdam airport.

In Emmen we all stayed with Martine Neutel's family for four nights. Martine and Alethea have been friends for many years. They first met when Martine came to the US as an exchange student in high school. Martine had planned to stay with a different family in Nashville but that did not work out after a week. She came into the central office of the high school that we attended while Alethea was in there working. Alethea overheard a distraught Martine who no longer had a place to stay in the US. Alethea went home that evening and asked her mom and dad if Martine could stay with them for a year and they said yes. Instead of picking up a stray dog or cat, Alethea picked up a stray exchange student from the Netherlands for a year! Martine's family came to the US to visit her and drove across the country back in 1992. Her family had met Alethea's family nearly twenty years. Alethea also visited Martine and her family back in 2003.

Alethea & Martine at a restaurant in Emmen, Netherlands
Our time in Emmen was spent relaxing, catching up, and seeing a few local sights that we wouldn't have normally have seen. We spent time with Martine's parents visiting Giethorn and Blokzijl one day. We spent another day at the Emmen market, the zoo, and eating at a nice restaurant in town. On one day Ronnie, Martine's husband Jacco, and I even went fishing. Unfortunately we didn't catch anything except for Ronnie caught a chair at Martine's house but that is another story. In all we had a great 4 days of hospitality with the Martine and her family. I am glad I got to meet them and spend time with Diane and Ronnie. We look forward to returning the hospitality once we settled down.

Us eating fish at the market in Emmen
Next stop after the Netherlands was Germany. During our round the world trip we met a gentleman named Karl not once but twice in Vietnam. The first time we met was when we went trekking in the remote town or Sapa in Northern Vietnam. We then ran into Karl again nearly a month later while in Ho Chi Mihn, Vietnam. The second meeting wasn't planned either. We were eating dinner at a Texas BBQ joint on the main backpacker street when I spotted Karl walking down the road We shouted out to him and he joined us for a couple beers which he did.

Karl pointing things out to Alethea while walking on the promenade in Munster,  Germany
We spent two nights with Karl in Munster, Germany where he lives. Munster is about 90 minutes from Emmen. Karl was gracious enough to drive to Emmen to pick us up. We looked into taking a train but there isn't a good connection. It would have taken 4 or 5 transfers and probably 4-5 hours as well. Karl showed us the sights in Munster. We spent our full day there walking around town. Munster had more sights than I was expecting. It is a university town of around 275,000 with a student population of around 50,000. Karl was a very good host. We enjoyed spending time with him as well and hope he comes to visit us in the US some day too.

St. Lambert's Church in Munster, Germany
This concluded a busy but enjoyable week in the Netherlands and Germany. Next up is our journey down to Rome.

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