Our first stop in the Netherlands was the small village of Maasbree, near Venlo, by the German border. Here we were staying with Mitch’s mothers cousin Jori and her husband, Arjen. Their son, Tim, was having his leaving party in his workshop attached to the main building. Tim is going to work in Australia. Mitch’s brother Cam had been staying there the previous week and had also spent time there when he had broken his arm last year.
On our first day we managed to bike some distance. The bikes here are more of the “sit-up” variety. It’s not uncommon to see a horde of bikes strung in a town centre or train station, some abandoned for long periods of time. We biked a few kilometres into Maasbree to see the local market, buildings and to get some supplies. The staple diet is very rich and made up of cheeses, breads, sliced meats and eggs with very sweet pastries and waffles for dessert. Beer is very cheap and very good. A crate costs about €7 and a cheap vino is €3. We found a frozen canal, one which Tam thought she might try her hand at ice skating. Mitch’s “brick-test” proved it probably a bit thin in the middle… Later, following a confusing game of Dutch Monopoly we made another journey to the larger town, Heeren.
That night Tim’s first workmates party went well, finishing a whole keg among 10 guests. The following morning was a bit more subdued. We went with Cam and another relative, Tasha, to visit to the local city, Venlo, to see the German markets and some of the German driving (they are much better on the open road). Tasha was quite keen on getting us to try some herring. Tam found a few stores with some bargains. The Carnival festival is about to begin, with vibrant flags and colours of green, yellow, blue and red in houses, shops and the street.
That night the second party, for the friends went ahead and raged further into the night. The group polished off a keg, but struggled on the second. Tam was introduced to Oud Bruin – Heineken “brown beer” for mixing 50/50. The green bottled Heineken is called Maas water (“Maas-va-ter”) over here, a bit like Waikato Draught back at home. They laugh a bit at the prices paid for the export variety. The hosts laid on some deep fried bitterballs and frikendals, layered in mayonnaise.
The train trip back the following day to Amsterdam was a speedy one on a double-decker train, perfect for a hangover. Our last night was to be in the capital city and it turned out to be quite an eventful one, exploring some of the seedier sights.