The Hitchhiking Version of Hansel and Gretel
So I was in the car of the grandpa. We were chatting happily and even the weather started to clear up.
Seriously, when I was living in the Netherlands, I actually felt that the Dutch people were too rigid and conservative. They were difficult to make friends with. Now after experiencing different parts of the world, I finally started to appreciate how open-minded and at the same time organized the Dutch are. It is probably the best country to live in. Compared to countries in Southern Europe, such as Italy and Spain, the Netherlands has a solid economy developing steadily. Compared to other countries in the north of Europe, such as Germany and Norway, the Netherlands has a more tolerant and cheerful culture.
Grandpa: So, do you want chocolates?
I: What? You have chocolates?
Grandpa: Yes! Even better, they are Belgian chocolates!
I: How can I ever say no to Belgian chocolates!
Grandpa: Yes! Belgian chocolates and Belgian beers, best in the world!
I: So you like chocolates?
Grandpa: Nope! I have diabetes so I don’t eat sweets at all.
Then he pulled out a bag of chocolates from under his seat and said: ‘If you want more, I have eight bags of them behind your seat!’
I turned around and saw this pile of sweets! There were two possibilities. First, he was buying sweets for somebody else, like grandchildren. Second, I just stepped in a trap like in the story of Hansel & Gretel. Later the grandpa would capture me and eventually eat me up.
I: So, you are getting all those chocolates for your grandchildren?
Grandpa: Nope! I have only one grandchild and he lives in Belgium.
I: Then you are accumulating them for your friends’ or neighbors’kids?
A gash of chilling air ascended my spine and my heart started pounding hard.
He suddenly shut the car windows and stopped talking.
My body immediately froze.
Days later, the Dutch police found my bones dumped in a canal with many chocolate wrappings around.
Just kidding. 😀 😀
I was rather shocked and struggling to say something but could not utter a word until he turned to me and said calmly: ‘I brought those chocolates for Peter and Mohammad.’
I: Who are they? They are real people who are still alive right?
He laughed: Haha! Of course! They are the two homeless guys in my neighborhood. They do not abuse drugs and they are very nice people. Every time I see them I want to give them something. However, as a solo retiree, I also do not have much money. So when I went to Belgium to visit family, I did dumpster diving. That was right. I rummaged garbage bins to find useful stuff and guess what? I found so many chocolates!
Then I realized that the house made of cakes in the story of Hansel and Gretel was not his car, it was those garbage bins in Belgium!
Damn! Why did I leave Belgium!
Grandpa: So, we are near Maastricht now, do you want to take some chocolates with you?
I: No, thanks! I think Peter and Mohammad deserve them more than I do.
Thus I arrived in Maastricht without any chocolates and it was not even 10 AM yet.
This Is Europe
I walked around the city and found Vicky’s house. Since it was summer holiday, the house was empty. All the other students were gone and she was the only one left. They even had a garden! It was such a big place for student housing. After a brief conversation I could see that she was not a serial killer. 😀 😀
That was good enough. So it was decided we would hitchhike together to Berlin.
Just kidding. 😀 She studied Art History and he appeared to be an understanding, intelligent and open-minded girl. She even had glasses. YES! Glasses which made her totally look like a friendly college girl, big plus for hitchhiking!
As she had to move her stuff from the current house to another one, which would take a couple of hours. I went exploring the city. This was my second time in Maastricht. I know, for those of you who do not live in this part of Europe, perhaps you have never heard of this city. Well, get this. It is the 21st biggest city in the whooooole Netherlands by population! WOWO! I know, you are impressed. Yes, it has a population of 122 000! WOWO! Unbelievable!
OK, yes it is small, even by Dutch standard. However, there is a bookstore which is housed inside a church, Dominicanen Bookstore. Right! It is remodeled from a 13th century St. Dominic church.
That is Europe.
It is a fascinating phenomenon to see how churches have evolved. Since Europe has been becoming more and more secular, many churches are not used anymore. In my city Leiden, one church has been turned into an exhibition center. Another one is now a gym. Yes, with young fellows in shorts and tights going in and out all day, doing sports. Even more peculiarly, the St. Peter’s cathedral of Leiden became a property of the university and I even had one exam there…… In Salamanca, Spain many churches were turned into pubs and bars.
This is Europe.
When I was wondering around, I met a German girl with dark hair who was wandering in the city alone with her camera.
I: So you came here today from Cologne just for a day trip?
She: Yes, I don’t have classes in weekends.
I: What do you study there? Wait wait, don’t tell me. I will try to guess. Give me a hint, is it science or arts?
She: Eh…… Some say it should be considered a science but many do not agree.
I: OK. It’s psychology!
Her eyes brightened up: Yes! It is!
We walked around. The city center was busy, as busy as a market.
When I came back to Vicky’s place, we cooked and ate. When it was almost 3 PM, we finally set our feet on the road.
According to hitchwiki, there was a good spot not far from her place. We went there and saw massive construction going on on the road, so there was very little traffic. We walked and walked. It started to rain but soon stopped, then rained again and stopped again, and rained again ……
I had a clear feeling: ‘with this weather, I am now really back in the Netherlands!’
We finally arrived on a piece of motorway. It was really not a good spot but we had to make do. After half an hour, we were wet and desolate.
‘Are we standing on the right side?’ I thought.
You see, when a guy hitchhikes with a girl, there are many tricks in disposal. We could take turns and the guy can also hide in the grass and let the girl catch a ride. When I was just thinking about this possibility a police car with blinking alarm drove towards us and stopped……
To be continued