Last Christmas

“Is this your first warm Christmas?” a Guild member asked me. “Yes, it is”, I answered and thought of last year, when I was freezing to death in Vienna. What a contrast with my current situation where even jandals are unnecessary – barefooted is the way to roll. For one moment I thought I was back in Tonga but no, good old Auckland it is. You can feel your skin getting sunburned: putting your hand outside is enough. But that doesn’t mean it will be a bad Christmas. Despite the lack of Christmas songs I hear on the radio – mainly because I don’t have one – or the effort the 5 meter tall Santa tries to create which flaunts on the corner of Victoria and Queen Street: I cannot grasp this year’s jolly Christmas feeling. I pass this Santa everyday – and sometimes in the night. He looks down on the people in the streets, accompanied with his reindeer and presents. All this doesn’t work. Neither does the singing show window -really?- of a luxurious warehouse bring me in the right mood.

I’ve never been much of a Christmas person but that doesn’t mean I completely banish the feast. The evenings we spent as a family around the fireplace, reading books. The delicious bread my dad and I used to make around this time. It does bring up some warm feelings. Even the memory of our – REAL- Christmas tree of which the lights turn on/off whenever you make too much noise: it does make me feel a bit sentimental. We always tended to fight about how you are supposed to decorate it: lights-streamers-baubles vs. lights-baubles-streamers? I’m a proponent of the former one, since it decreases the change of breaking the baubles when you hang up the streamers. Unfortunately, my dad thinks differently.
What else are we usually doing for Christmas? Did I mention the annual fights during the Catan and the Top2000 in the background? That was so much fun – especially because I won most of time. Secretly I enjoyed the Christmas song we sang on the market square in Elburg on Christmas eve – although it was freezing cold.

But this year is different. Not in the sense that I’m not in Holland -again- but that I’ve a warm and humid Christmas, wearing a summer dress and jandels instead of winterboots and a scarf. I won’t be bothered with blue toes/noses/fingers. I won’t fall of my bike because of the icy roads. However, in return, I won’t experience the real Christmas feeling. I can’t go ice skating in the polder. Santa Claus wearing a woollen Santa hat and big black boots doesn’t make much sense when it is 25 degrees. On the other hand, I’m treated with sunshine, a light breeze and a gin-tonic. I missed out on Sinterklaas but this year’s Christmas is here to make it up. Well if you could excuse me, I’m off to decorate my palm tree.



City story

At the bottom of the Netherlands’ southernmost province, Limburg, Maastricht is gem of cobble streets studded at its corners with warm pubs and bakery’s. Read more

Winter Vrijthof

Breakup letter

Dear Winter,

With this letter, I am going to be really honest with you.

After (almost) 5 months, I have to say, I don’t think our relationship will work out. I have several reasons for that, which I’ll explain to you, one by one. I hope you won’t be too upset.

Read more


So guess most of you noticed it is getting chilly outside. The roads are covered in
pretty white snow (for all you smartasses, this pleonasm has to be made to make the
contradiction with the next part of the sentence more clear), rancid brown mushy snow
and ice. A lot of people start to reminisce about their childhood whenever they see the
snow. About the times they still could do whatever they want. Friends would try to see
who could build the best snow puppet. Grabbing your sled to go down the nearest hill
(or speedbumb in case you lived in the flat part of the Netherlands) you could find.
ice skating on barely frozen lakes or ponds. Eating ‘Stamppot’ together with the entire family. Good times.

However when they step outside they start yammering about all the disadvantages the
snow brings. How the cars won’t start that good, that the roads are too slippy and above
all that it’s too cold. It always strikes me that people fuss about the temperature so much.
Whenever it is summer people want it to become winter, because it’s too hot, too humid, has too much bugs or whatever douchebag reason they can think of. In the winter people
most people always desire the summer and start planning all of their vacations to exotic
places such as Lloret de Mar, Antalya or Chersonissos (all based on the rich diversity of culture in these places, of course).

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m just the same as most people. I will complain about the cold as well. But I do realize winter has some good things to offer. People tend to make their homes and streets more cosier when it gets cold. You can see lights everywhere and people tend to be more happy whenever they come home (in the warmth). On top of this there is a shitload of stuff to do whenever winter comes around.

Here in Maastricht we have Winter Wonderland. They turn the Vrijthof into a pretty small village where you can find a lot of good food and drinks. There is a big ferris wheel and an artificial  ice skating rink. It’s not completely my thing but guess a lot of people love it. On top of this there are Christmas markets everywhere, which kind of aren’t my thing either. You can go ice skating on several locations in Limburg, amongst which is my birth town Geleen. It has the only 400 mtr ice skate track  in the south of Limburg (as far as I’m aware of). So much for the promo of my birthtown, because ice skating isn’t my thing either.

Guess this starts to look like I don’t like a lot which involves winter activities. It might be true that I’m kind of indifferent about these things, but I do realize a lot of people like it. I’ve got no clue as to why these things don’t interest me that much. Whenever winter comes I just like to curl up in my bed and sleep (whenever I’ve the time for it) or watch a good movie with or without a significant other or friends. I guess this is not that peculiar though, but I am willing to at least try some real winter thingies. My goals for the upcoming winter are:

– Go ice skating at least once
– Visit Winter Wonderland at least once
– Don’t visit a Christmas market, because I really don’t care
– Drink gluhwein even though I really don’t like it
– Build a snow puppet, just to get in touch with the little Joep inside
– Visit the ‘Elf Stedentocht’ whenever this occurs.

For the not-Dutch readers this may require some explanation. Here in the Netherlands, we have one ice-skating event which dominates the thoughts of all serious ice skaters every winter. This event involves a race on natural ice between eleven cities (elf steden) somewhere in the North of the Netherlands. Because this trip is kind of extensive and therefore involves a lot of ponds, lakes and creeks, it doesn’t take place often, because it is very hard to reach optimal ice levels across the entire tour. The past years it appeared that the tour would take place. FAIL. This year they expect the tour to get a green light for sure and even selected the lucky few ice skaters who may participate in the Elf Steden Tocht. I keep my hopes up, because I want to witness this event at least once in my life.

However, I do look for some good exiting, fun, extreme or just lame things to do this winter in case the Elf Steden Tocht doesn’t go through. So, if you have any good suggestions, I’m all ears. If you have a good suggestion I will surely give it a try. I will record it for sure, so if it involves something which requires a level of expertise you can at least have a good laugh. Let me know.