Some years ago I organised a Dutch nodermeet. It was meant for Dutch noders only, and as there are not too many of those to begin with, and some of them prefer to stay anonymous, there were only four of us at the meet and one of them was actually a Brit living in Belgium. It wasn't really a great success, you know?

Since then, I've come to see that my first vision was much too limited, and that's why I'm trying again! This time the meet will be open to any noder, no matter where they're from, as long as they're willing to travel to the Netherlands. So if you need an excuse to come to Europe, you Americans, or to cross the Channel, you britnoders, or to find out how flat a country can really be, you people from anywhere else: here it is! You are all invited, I would love to meet you and show you around.

So where and when will it be?

The date will be the weekend of 14-16 September 2007, which gives you all more than half a year to prepare.

To simplify matters for myself, the meet will be in Delft, where I live. Apart from being convenient, Delft is also a very nice place to visit (it's much like a smaller cuter Amsterdam) and it can be reached easily by train. Delft lies halfway between The Hague and Rotterdam, about an hour by train from Amsterdam and Schiphol airport.

From Rotterdam, The Hague or Amsterdam, you can take the train to almost anywhere else in Europe. From Rotterdam to Antwerp is an hour, Brussels two hours, Paris takes about three hours with the Thalys, Frankfurt can be reached in three and a half hours, to give a few examples. So you might even use the meet as a starting or end point of a longer holiday...

How will I get there?

The cheapest option is to come by bus. Eurolines buses go to Rotterdam or Amsterdam from many destinations in Europe (including Britain), several times a week. From there you can take a train.

For travellers from Europe another option is the international train, which can take longer than flying but at least you get to walk around and you can bring along as many fluids as you like. Train travel can be more expensive than a cheap flight, though.

And finally you can take a plane to Amsterdam (Schiphol) or to Rotterdam. Rotterdam airport is small and doesn't have its own train station like Schiphol, so you'd need to go to Rotterdam Central station first, but from there Delft is only 15 minutes by train.

And where can I stay?

Unfortunately, finding a cheap place to sleep in Delft is not all that easy. The cheapest option would be to go local and stay with your hostess. I have a guest room with one bed and some room on the floor, so I can house three people, or four if two of them like each other enough to not mind sharing the bed (it's about 1.20 m wide, so rather large for one and rather small for two). First come is first served. My housemate Yoben has kindly offered his sleeping room as well. One or two more places are available! All places at my house occupied now. For those as don't fit into the guest room anymore, there are a few other choices.

Delft has plenty of hotels. The cheapest option will cost you about 50 Euros a night (that's 60 dollars of 30 pounds, abouts). If you want to stay in a hotel, /msg me for tips, because some hotels are nicer than others. There are a few bed and breakfast places that will cost a bit less than a hotel, but not by much.

Then, there is the camping site. It is situated just outside Delft and can be reached by bus in about twenty minutes. You could bring a tent (this might not be advisable depending on the weather), or alternatively, hire one of the chalets or hiker's huts there. Or the ecological bungalow! If more people want to do this, you could perhaps share and split the costs. The camping site can be found online at http://www.delftsehout.nl/uk/index.html

Finally, in Rotterdam and The Hague there are a few hostels. Rotterdam has one right next to the central station and two or three in the city centre. Both Rotterdam and The Hague are a 15 minutes' train journey from Delft and during the weekend trains go throughout the night.

But I don't speak Dutch!

Well, that shouldn't be too much of a problem. Most of the Dutch speak at least a few words of English, many of them more than a few, and they will be only too happy to show them off. You'll be fine.

But aren't the Netherlands really scary, with all them drugs and prostitution and so on?

(I don't know, does anybody really think this?) If you've led a really sheltered life, some things in the Netherlands might shock you. Like the coffee shops, that actually sell marijuana, and the red light districts (Amsterdam has the largest, but something similar can be found in many cities. Utrecht has a red light houseboat district!). If you keep your wits about you, the Netherlands are very safe. The largest dangers are being robbed by pickpockets and being run over by a bicycle. So as long as you don't count your money in the middle of the street in Amsterdam and you keep an eye out for the bikes that can come from any direction at any moment (I'm kidding only slightly here), you won't run into trouble. Oh, and DON'T try to take any of the stuff you bought in one of those coffee shops home. Bad idea.

What will we do?

I've come up with a blueprint for a program, that can be changed at will if people express preference for other stuff to do. But so far, my idea is this:
Friday 14 september: Arrival of noders. Welcome dinner in Delft, followed by drinks somewhere.
Saturday 15 september: sightseeing tour of Delft. Perhaps partly on a canal boat? Possibilities include: climbing the tower of the Nieuwe Kerk, visiting the graves of William of Orange and Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, visiting a Delftware factory, the technical museum, renting of bicycles and doing a tour of the countryside, shopping for cheese and wooden shoes... In the evening: dinner at sloebertje's, including a tour of the communal living project she lives in. After that, discover Delft's night life.
Sunday 16 september: visit to either Amsterdam, Rotterdam, the Hague, depending on what people prefer.

Amsterdam is most famous, of course. Everybody knows about Amsterdam, right? Capital of the Netherlands, city of Rembrandt. Amsterdam is a beautiful city with lots to do. We can visit the red light district, take a walk along the old center with its canals and small streets, go shopping, take a historic tour, take a ride on a canal boat, visit the Rijksmuseum or van Gogh museum or Anne Frank huis.

Rotterdam is the Dutch city most like an American city. It was bombed in WWII and thus lacks an old center. (If you sport a German accent, DO NOT ask a local where the old city center is! Really, bad idea.) It makes up for this lack with lots of modern architecture, the world's oldest car-less shopping area and some very cool museums. We could also take a boat from Rotterdam to Kinderdijk where you will find a large collection of typical Dutch windmills.

The Hague is home to the Dutch government and the International Criminal Court. It's somewhat posher than Amsterdam, but with fewer canals. The Hague has the government buildings, a cool old prison you can visit, the Mauritshuis museum with paintings by Vermeer, a seaside boulevard, an Escher museum and an underground tram stop! Fascinating, no?

Let me know where you would like to go. Also on Sunday: farewell dinner, tearful goodbyes.

Sound good? Wanna come?

Please come!

If you're thinking of coming, but you have questions (about how to get here, places to stay, or anything else), please do not hesitate to /msg me.

Yes, I'll be there!

Well, maybe...

What? Are you out of your mind? No way I'm coming to that weird country to meet some crazy strangers!

I am forever surprised the distance that noders travel for noder meets, not meets that they are guests of honour at but have travelled to for the heck of it. Sloebertje travelled to London to join britnoders for TheLady’s birthday high jinxes and Dimview flew in for the amble around Avebury and StrawberryFrog and I went to Dublin for general drunkenness and mummies. Although most of these are foreign country jaunts they are only an hour or so with a budget airline. So when Americans pop over the pond to hang out in The Netherlands it flabbergasts me.

When sloebertje proposed Living it up in the Lowlands - an international Dutch nodermeet we were a little hesitant, we are doing crazy things around Christmas and we have spent the GNP of a small country to do this but sloebertje offered crash space we were in. And apparently in with a great mix of noders.

Before we get down to what happened, I think you need to ponder the interesting nine noders (plus the host's dashing partner) who turned up.

There were following:

  • Noders from two hemispheres.
  • Ninjagirls.
  • Only two people from the host country.
  • Britnoders.
  • Noders living in seven different countries.
  • Outies.
  • Three noders who only spoke English.
  • A couple of vegetarians.
  • Eight different accented English.
  • Two native Dutch speakers.
  • A couple of noders with a grasp of Dutch.
  • At least a dozen languages other than English spoken.
  • English and E2 at the very least in common.

The bottom of that list being the reason we were there.

The weekend included:

  • Losing a noder.
  • A pile of pancakes.
  • Much beer.
  • A Canal Ride.
  • Lost luggage.
  • Jetlag.
  • Confusing the local restaurant staff.
  • A sore bottom.

Now, I have to pause to explain the interesting way that the host couple live. It is communal living in a grown up twenty-second century style, called a communal living project, of which there are a number of these projects in Delft. The section of the complex they live in has four other people living in it. These poor people had noders descending them on them and they were nice enough to give up rooms and produce extra mattresses. We took over the communal kitchen a number of times and they were cool about that too.

So back to what happened in this jam-packed week-end.

The Friday that was not so freaky.

The noders started arriving early on Friday at sloebertje and guest user’s home. When StrawberryFrog and I arrived from Amsterdam, after riding over most of the city risking life and limb on bicycles. Dimview and Wntrmute had already arrived and settled in. Frog and I rested a bit, and then we headed into town lead by out hosts: sloebertje and guest user to learn the secret of the strippenkaart to collect Panamaus and montecarlo. The strippenkaart is literal strip card travel ticket with 15 journeys on it. Of course with the name caused much mirth. We met a very tired looking Panamaus and distinguished montecarlo and headed off to a café for dinner.

When we arrived we had to wait for a table, so we were forced to have a drink. Once seated we all started chatting whist waiting for the arrival of kohlcass who was travelling from Germany by train. The food was lovely and the poor waiter a little perturbed, it was his first day working and a table full of various accented English and wild beer drinking was not really what he expected. The look of relief on his face when he moved down the table to Guest User, a native Dutchman was plainly evident especially as he was confused with StrawberryFrog’s half Dutch/Afrikaans and English ordering. Once we were full of good food we went in search of real Dutch beer.

We ended up in an old Market Square. Where once cattle were exchanged there were people sipping wine under large umbrellas, mood lighting and brass band music pouring madly out of one pub. The brass band appeared, clothed in bright orange jumpers, the interesting national colour of The Netherlands, they were intent on drinking a lot and playing wild and crazy music loudly moving from drinking establishment to pub in order to do so.

We stopped for a drink under a slightly dripping umbrella before decamping back to sloebertje and guest user's digs to make sure izubachi was not left sitting on the doorstep. We arrived about 10 minutes before a little tired izubachi arrived reporting lost luggage from his flight back from deepest, darkest Macedonia. Thankfully the lost item was not needed for the weekend and was found the next morning.

Saturday Night that had no dancing but pancakes.

The chatting late into the night meant we were a little slow in the morning and almost all were up when a more than slightly sleepy La petite mort arrived down stairs to watch sloebertje eat toast covered in chocolate curls. It was here sitting down I realised the riding of bikes the day before had given me a sore bottom. I felt the urge to share, possibly over share, but any way. This sharing was cut short by the announcement that we were to leave in half an hour. This caused a flurry by yours truly and a rush up the four flights of stairs to get dressed.

Once assembled, we were off to catch a tram as we were too late to catch a bus. It should be noted that at this point herding noders is very similar to herding cats and sloebertje deserves a medal for attempting it and succeeding.

We arrived in the centre of Delft with the never ending bike racks to meet Panamaus and montecarlo and then take a canal ride around historic Delft. Delft is pretty and historic we learnt the name comes from delving for the clay that the famous delftware is made. We also saw William of Orange's escape hatch and the building he was shot in. The canals are no longer used for commerce but still form part of the complicated system of dykes and ditches that stop the Netherlands from disappearing into marshlands and the sea. Also they provide a very good defence of the country, in the event of invasion they can flood the country. This tactic was last used in WW2.

It was a stop for lunch which was great fun as there were no English menus and we all tried out our basic Dutch and many questions to our hosts. In the end the flustered waitress managed to cope and we got a very nice lunch. Then we wandered around Delft, exploring flea markets, tourist tat shops, churches and seeing historic places. Most of this was completed wending our way through cobbled streets, along side canals and trying to not get hit by the thousands bikes that whiz around the city quite alarmingly.

After a very giggly group shot we made our way back to the hotel to drop off monte and the Maus and to rest our tired feet. There StrawberryFrog ordered his drink and his accent managed to fool the waiter who responded in Dutch, which caused the rest of the noders to laugh loudly. It was a proud moment for the South African Frog.

Then it was back to home base this time with Panamaus in tow leaving Monte to rest up for the Saturday night carry on. After lolling around, it was all action stations. Sloebertje was faced with a challenge, feeding ten noders and taking into account there were vegetarians and other interesting food considerations. She was a braver woman than I. That became very apparent as she roped kohlcass, Panamaus, izubachi and me to cut up fruit for fruit salad. Considering we were slightly lubricated with Rose wine and beer it was amazing no one removed a finger but we were a little slow for the super cook, sloebertje.

Once the cutting was finished, the pancake batter had rested and we had worked out whether it was cooking or baking pancakes, we settled on making, it was time to start.

Now, mere mortals would use one frypan to make pancakes, or possibly two, but our host is a super cook and had FOUR frypans on the go. Using a couple of pots with water in them and plates on top she kept the pancakes warm and with the helpful Yoben, the friendly, bemused housemate it was a cooking whirlwind. Within ten minutes she had produced enough bacon, apple, cheese and plain pancakes to feed a small nodermeet.

It was lovely; we sat in the communal kitchen, around the huge table. Wntrmute and Kohlcass giggling, Dimview explaining sumo, StrawberryFrog taking photos of the fruit salad, Yoben looking slightly stunned, Panamaus delivering dry little moments of humour, izubachi explaining the Albanians and Macedonians, Guest User opening bottles of wine from all over the world and sloebertje making sure we were fed. (Unfortunately Monte did not join us.) By the end I suspect we had all eaten so much that we were fit to burst, it was fantastic, our hosts very obliging, letting us drink all their wine and it was a great night. We talked late in the night and generally chatted, shot the breeze.

Sunday, on which we over slept and missed mass.

It was a lazy start in the morning, but one that involved packing from most of the present noders and yet again heading into the city to meet with Monte and Maus.

The plan was to head to The Hague and visit museum De Gevangenpoort that was going to give us a tour in English. This was all going to plan except for being a little late, we were a little trundling trail of noders laden down with backpacks and suit cases. On the train, stopping to grab some quick sandwiches at the station and heading off to a park to eat our sandwiches. Then it was through the modern part of The Hague and into the older section and through security in the parliament buildings. It was at this time sloebertje noted we were down a noder. We had managed to leave Dimview at the station! We were so intent on filling our tummies we had not noted her missing smiling face! Sloebertje headed back to the station to collect Dimview and Guest User lead us into the inner court yard to get to the museum. Here we hit some sort of celebration that involved military brass band music and men in uniforms on horses. Apparently it was a practice Princes Day. We arrived the museum De Gevangenpoort it become clear that there was not to be a tour in English, this was a little disappointing as sloebertje had telephoned especially to organise it.

Unfortunately StrawberryFrog and I had to leave part way through the tour to catch our train to catch our flight back to the UK. There was, I am reliably informed, a birthday call was made to AncientSnow after we left. The only spoiler for us was more lost luggage, the bag of dirty clothes disappeared in Amsterdam airport for 24 hours.

So long and thanks for all the fish.

At this point I would like to say a big thank you to sloebertje and Guest User for opening up their home to noders descending on them for four days, it was brave of them and all those who attended are very thankful. It was great to see noders we have not seen for years and to meet new faces. And gentle noders, you have the chance to travel to a foreign county for a nodermeet, do it!

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