Thursday, 10 July 2014

Dutch Summertime

"Dutch Summertime" seems to have been officially declared this week (even though actual summer began June 21st). I am not entirely sure this is a thing, but it certainly feels like it. Suddenly, there are loads of posters with, "Our last event before summer! See you again in September...". Schools and classes let out last Friday, on July 4th, ushering in summer vacation. My first summer vacation in nearly four years! I wasn't quite sure what to do with myself at first, but if I thought I was going to be lost for something to do, I was wrong. Because, it seems, with the arrival of Dutch summer vacation, the spontaneous comes out in people. I've been having lots of coffee meet ups, rushing off to have barbeques, and enjoying cold lager or ice cream with others without having to plan weeks in advance! (That famous Dutch daily agenda being thrown right out the window...) Very freeing, I must say.

Additionally, with this ushering in of summer, last weekend was absolutely scorching. I haven't been this hot since Mexico, and I was flaking out about the place in a rather pathetic fashion. I don't 'do' heat... It was also a weekend of sport: some cracking tennis at Wimbledon and of course, the football. For one who doesn't play sport, I found I have watched more in the last few weeks than ever before. I'll be honest, my idea of a marathon is watching an entire television series box set or reading a book trilogy over a weekend...

Grote Markt big screen
We watched the match between the Netherlands and Costa Rica in a place called De Drie Gezusters (The Three Sisters) - an infamous pub here in Groningen. I'd never been in before as it is usually packed with undergraduates, but was pleasantly surprised.  It's decked out with potted plants and booths, with a long table down the middle where patrons can read magazines with their coffee. The booths look like something out of a 1930s film, and at the back, just off the bar, it's been made to look like an old fashioned railway carriage. But enough about all that: the match!

Well, we were there until the wee hours, tense and anticipating each try towards the goal. The Netherlands made it through on penalty kicks, which is always slightly miraculous, since there is nothing worse than penalty kicks when it comes to football. The atmosphere was great, everyone wore lots of orange, and from the Grote Markt came the cacophony of revellers for most of the night. There were police everywhere, even on horseback. Not entirely sure what they were expecting...

The semi-final match last night...not so great. Again we were in the pub, watching with mounting tension as the Netherlands took on old rivals, Argentina. I wonder if the Royal household was divided, with Queen Maxima being from Argentina? It went to penalty kicks again, and this time, we weren't so lucky. No revelling in the streets last night. (A bit of sleep at last!)

Arjen Robben (Dutch football player) is Groningen's golden boy
So, with sport aside, I've had a bit more time on my hands for doing...well, nothing. Isn't that what summer is meant to be about? I'm not actually doing nothing of course; writing, playing music at pubs in the evenings, reading, and travel planning have filled most of my days here in the sweltering attic room.

Today, I'd had just about enough of perspiring with every movement, so I took myself to my local bookshop (and when I say local, I mean like a 6 minute walk!) where they have air-con. The second hand section seems to have grown twofold and there was a sale on (a most dangerous mix). Upstairs they have a little café, and its layout reminds me of old American diners with its high counter tops. I was able to have a slice of appeltaart and buy two books, all for less than 6euros, which, lets be honest, is nothing short of a miracle in this day and age. So, feeling very chuffed indeed.

If this is what Dutch summertime is like, bring it on! More ice creams, lagers, music, festivals, and long, lazy afternoons on sun-bleached terraces, please.