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The Great Pannekoeken Hunt

October 28, 2011

A few weeks ago, Katrina and I boarded a train to Haarlem, a village 20 minutes west of Amsterdam.  I traveled there about 6 years ago with my sister and grandparents on our grand tour of the “mother country.”  I had the best memories of the town.  I remembered it being perfect weather, a beautiful town square right near the water, and a historical windmill my sister and I took silly pictures in front of.  The best memory I had of Haarlem, though, was the pannekoeken restaurant we ate at while we were there.  Their menu was like a short novel, full of sweet and savory fillings and toppings.  That restaurant was possibly the best memory I have of the whole trip.  So when Katrina and I got off the train at Haarlem station, I immidetly set my sights on finding that square by the water with the delicious pannekoeken house.

Haarlem Station, in the arts and crafts style.

Walking out of the station, nothing looked familiar to me.  But I told myself it had been more than half a decade, my memories couldn’t be entirely trusted. We wandered the city a bit, took pictures of the changing colors and beautiful homes.  We finally rounded a corner to a fairly large town square that looked absolutely nothing like the one I enjoyed so much 6 years ago.  The disorienting feeling that I may not actually be in the village I thought I was began to grow stronger and stronger.

Then I saw a windmill.  Surely it was the windmill I had written about in my travel journal all those years ago- the one by the water and the square and the pannekoeken!  As we headed towards the spinning blades of the mill, hope filled my heart that I would soon be eating warm, delicious Dutch pancakes in mere minutes.

Bad news: It was not the same windmill.
Good news: It was still an awesome windmill.

We took a tour and learned all about mills and what the directions of the blades mean and how they got the grain and other materials up and down easily through a complex system of pulleys (the Dutch are so innovative).  We even got a rare demonstration of how the miller puts the sails up and down.

I could keep dragging this story out, but I won’t.  I think you know where it’s going.  I was pretty well resigned to the fact that Haarlem was not the town I thought it was, but after the tour, I dragged Katrina back to the main square.  Perhaps if we went back one more time, it would magically transform into the square of my memory and we could promptly sit down and eat pannekoeken.  This did not happen.  But I got some nice pictures!

In one last ditch effort to find my pannekoeken house, I asked a kind gentleman about the square by the water and the windmill with the delicious pancakes and happy memories.  He had no idea what I was talking about.  I officially gave up.

Despite the lack of pannekoeken, it was a really wonderful day.  It was beautiful, sunny, and full of that crisp fall air I love so much.  A day spent with a good friend in a beautiful village, I have absolutely no complaints. And it’s a good example of what I’ve been learning here- that whenever an expectation comes up wanting, there’s always something else to fill it’s place.  If you can keep yourself open to new things, even if they’re less than perfect on the surface, something brighter and better may just land across your lap.  And you might just learn a thing or two about windmills.

PS- we ended the day, as any good day ends- on the beach with ice cream.


3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 28, 2011 3:42 pm

    Could this be a more lovely post? I don’t think so. Blossoming. That’s your word this year, isn’t it? How do you say that in Dutch?

  2. Jennifer permalink
    October 29, 2011 2:17 pm

    Wow! Contented embracement; I’m very happy for you Sarah!! Hugs, smiles and more hugs. Love, Jennifer

  3. Jan Nyenhuis permalink
    October 31, 2011 7:23 pm

    My new mantra is: Life is what happens to you while you are planning something else. Loved your adventures and description of Haarlem. Did you see their big catherdral? It is supposed to have one of the world’s best/biggest organs in it. Keep up the great writing!

    Jan Nyenhuis

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