At the end of every trip me and Ray play a little game of three stars and a wish. Here we list our 3 favourite vacation experiences, and one thing we didn’t enjoy so much or would do differently next time. This year, we both agreed that our favourite experience of the trip (if we were to pick one singular day) was our day in Winterswijk with my Auntie Miep.
I hadn’t been to Winterswijk since I was 11, and didn’t remember much about it, but what I do remember, from various visits to Holland, and her to Canada, is how much I love my Opa’s sister, Miep. She lives in a smallish Dutch town on the German border, that may just be one of the prettiest places we have seen in Holland. When we decided on spending part of our trip in the Netherlands, I immediately emailed Auntie Miep to see if we could come and spend the day with her.
We took the train our at 9:00am on Saturday morning, switching overing in Arnhem, arriving us in Winterswijk at 10:40am. Auntie Miep picked us up from the train station and brought he back to her home. Her home may be the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. Littered with life, both in her gardens, the ponds and the barn, the moment we stepped foot in her backyard, we both wanted to set up camp there and never leave. It was filled with the richest shades of green, and littered with purples and pinks. The gardens around the home could only be matched by the gardens that have formed around the ponds. The dock with a picnic table is the most picturesque place to have lunch, the willow tree provides the perfect shade to read a book under, the lillypads are homes to beautiful pink and white flowers and green frogs. The wildflowers are teaming with bumblebees collecting their nectar and butterflies of various species floating around doing the same. We wandering around the property with our mouths wide open, in complete shock. It felt like heaven on earth. We both looked at each other and new instantly (and said at almost the same time) that this is exactly the kind of home that we would dream of having.
We sat down and enjoyed a cup of morning coffee and sweets, while watching the clouds move across the sky and the willow sway slowing in the breeze, and caught up. Auntie Miep told me about the amazing concert she had gone to the night before and shared stories of her previous trips to Italy and Turkey. We talked about our mutual experiences visiting Auschwitz, and we told her about our adventures thus far on this trip. My Auntie Miep is such a warm and hospitable person. Being around her just makes me smile and love talking to her. I am sad that I don’t get to see her more, and as I have said previously, feeling so blessed to have such wonderful family. After coffee, she went to make lunch while we wandered the property, soaking in all the beauty we were surrounded with. Our lunch of chicken soup (my favourite!) and buns was perfect companion to the perfect company and perfect setting. Everything about it was extraordinary, and it was only lunch!
After lunch Auntie Miep took us to the town square to go to the Saturday market. This wasn’t a tourist market – but a local market, complete with cheese, meat, fish, produce, breads and everything good. After seeing this market we are ready to go back next summer and rent a house for 2 weeks and just take in the country side and eat local Dutch food. We wandered around the town, with Miep as our own private tour guide. She took us into a tiny little church (that was hidden by other surrounding houses during the war). Church holds less than 50 people (and Mennonite – first we’d seen in Holland. Ray was at home). Then we went to the larger Christian Reformed Church in town. This church contains a very famous organ, and walls that have been stripped of their paintings during the reformation. Is it also the church that was frequently painted by famous artist Piet Mondriaan – back when he was growing up in Winterswijk, in a home with a view of the church. His early work reflected life in this town (much different from his more abstract work later on in his career). Information on the painter is posted around the church and in near the neighbouring houses – all of church are classing and beautiful.
After our time in town, we headed into the country side and stopped as a local English garden (though the lavender wasn’t as predominant as it is during the spring) and then to the grounds of a local bed and breakfast. This local property has a huge garden with tables and chairs and a honour pay system for ice cream, coffee and tea. You can show up, make your self a warm cup of tea and sit down and enjoy the view. Just leave your money in the bucket. She also has a honour system for paying for fresh eggs (just grab what you need and leave your change), and an old school outhouse out back. A rooster and chickens are running about – including a few afro chickens (they look like they stuck their fingers in a light socket). There were baby chicks as well – but in a small coop with their mama. The property also had horses, that Ray petted on his way up the drive way. We could imagine this being a wonderful place to curl up with a good book and relax the afternoon away.
Miep’s grandson Dick has a pet OWL! It may be the most beautiful animal I have ever seen. Being two feet away from an owl and watching it watch you, turn it’s head around, and cock it in curiosity is fascinating. When I ask Ray his favourite thing about the trip, the owl is usually the first thing that he says. I’m not going to try and describe Sky (the owl), you are just going to have to trust me when I say spending time observing an owl is never wasted.
After a wonderful dinner, and dessert (mmmmm vanilla vla with apricots and whipped cream), we sadly had to catch the train back to Ede. But before we left we had 30 minutes for Auntie Miep to go through the old family photo albums with me. This included photos of my great grandparents and great great grandparents, stories of where they grew up, pictures of my Opa as a child and an overview of our family history. Every time I get a family history lesson of any sort I feel the need to savour it. I worry about these stories of life in Holland being lost one day, and I want to find a way to preserve them so I can pass on my Dutch heritage to my children when the time comes.
Our day in Winterswijk was just so outstanding that it was hard to go. We will DEFINITLY be back. And soon. And possibly with a tent to pitch out back beside the pond. So thank you to Auntie Miep for a magnificent day and for sharing your little piece of paradise with us.