Day 5: New Years Eve

Leeuwarden Travel Blog

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Riding my bike in the Netherlands. Life is complete.
Finally, New Years Eve.  For the first time, I got to see the city I'd been living in for 3 days now.  So after a lazy morning (and another full Dutch breakfast), the girls and I walked over many more canals and into town.  It was an absolutely miserable day, because the previous night's ice storm had turned the roads into nothing but giant slush pits that soaked your shoes through within seconds.  But we made the most of it.  I had lots of questions that needed answers, so I used my time with Eva wisely.  What percentage of The Netherlands is actually canals?  How many bicycle accidents happen on an average day?  Have you ever tried to walk into one of those 'hooker in a window' shops in Amsterdam? ....

We first stopped into the shop where Eva's sister, Sara, worked.
The Leaning Tower of Leeuwarden
  It was a cosmetics type of shop; sold mostly perfumes and stuff.  So we played the embarrassing "family", and Sara made us all free sample vials of various scents to take home.  Something by Armani, and Chanel and Hugo Boss... heck if I know anything about that stuff.

Eva then took us to this really cute place around the corner.  It was an old time candy shop place (so cute!), but they also had a seating area where they served tea and pastries and stuff.  The place was so desserted that the little old ladies who run the shop didn't even see us come in and sit down.  But when they eventually did find us, Eva treated us to a kind of "very traditionally Dutch" specialty cake.  (Don't remember what it was called)  Usually, it's a food reserved for special occasions though.  Like the Queen's birthday.
  But it was yummy, whatever it was.

We then took a stroll outside the city centre to go visit the old house where Jena used to live.  It was a decent hike, especially in those conditions.  We did pass this along the way though:

Eventually though, all our feet were so numb that we weren't even sure they actually existed anymore.  So we made back for the house about mid-afternoon.

The rest of New Years Eve was quite interesting.  I can certainly say it was unlike any other New Years I've had.  Apparently no one really celebrates the lead up to the New Year.  Rather, all the celebrations start at midnight.  So we spent the evening in like it was any other night.  Well... almost any other night.
Poetry in the sidewalk
  Mr. Annema was making an endless supply of Oliebollen, and there was tons of food, and grandparents were over visitng and everything.... but we played Monopoloy, so that makes it typical, right?

Anyway, at midnight the real fun started.  We all got champagne, watched some countdown thing with bad music on tv, I quickly tried to learn the Dutch for "Happy New Year" (it wasn't happening), and then right outside for (drumroll please)... The Fireworks.

Now, I'd been waiting for The Fireworks for a while now.  I had heard so much about them, that they had been built up as this magical mythological event in my head.  I didn't know what to expect.  But clearly the Dutch take their fireworks more seriously than possibly anyone else in the world, save for maybe the Chinese (credit for invention).
haha. My EuroTrip moment.

It's not the quality of the display for the Dutch though.  Far from it.  For the Dutch it is 100% purely about the Quantity.  Everyone who's anyone sets off their own fireworks display right from their front porch.  We opened the door at midnight and nothing but a giant wall of smoke and flashes of blinding light met us from every direction.  From every square inch of Leeuwarden crackers were being shot into the air... heck, we had at least 9 displays going off from the middle of our road alone (Mr Annema and Friso contributing, naturally).  It was the craziest thing I had ever seen.  I felt like I was in a war zone.
.. like a blitz was taking place over the whole city.  You had to watch every step you took, 'cause one foot off the sidewalk and bam! No more hand.

And everybody was outside.  Every single person from every single household comes out of their houses and into the roads.  Half of them choose to be "standers" and the other half choose to be "greeters", but eventually you do meet up with every last one of your neighbors.  It's almost like a race to see who can get around the whole block wishing everyone a Happy New Year first.  And I think I did more of that Euro-cheek-kissing stuff on that night than I have in my entire life thus far.  Just Random strangers.  And no one questions the random American girl wishing them a "Happy New Year" among all the "gelukkige nieuwjaar"s.

Then it was off to a huge neighborhood gathering around the corner... a nice warm outdoor fire and gluwein (a drink oddly similar to Mulled Wine) for all!!  Funnery, drunkeness, and embarrassing moments ensued.
It was just such a fun, random experience.

Anyway.... that was the craziness of that night in a nutshell.
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Riding my bike in the Netherlands.…
Riding my bike in the Netherlands…
The Leaning Tower of Leeuwarden
The Leaning Tower of Leeuwarden
Poetry in the sidewalk
Poetry in the sidewalk
haha.  My EuroTrip moment.
haha. My EuroTrip moment.
photo by: metsbwd