The Hartogs are my Dutch host family. One of the first things they told me on my arrival was that anything goes in Holland. This was a pretty scary statement as I’d never been to Holland and my beginner’s knowledge really didn’t go past Clogs, Windmills, Canals, Dykes, Fries with Mayonnaise and Amsterdam and the red light district!!! With all of those great things plus a bizarre host family to boot I really should have figured it would be a great country to live in. For a while anyway!
The Hartogs are extremely upbeat and it’s more than slightly possible that the father, Theo suffers a little from ADD. Either that or perhaps he just drinks a little too much coffee…. In the morning I would wake to a house filled with the aroma of coffee brewing and Theo would bound up to you, throw a few punches and roar `goede morgen’ (good morning) at the top of his lungs. I had now officially woken up for the day and would sit down at the table and contemplate the 50 loaves of bread that would be eaten by the family in the next few days. Bread is an absolute staple in this household and around 5 loaves are brought out for every meal.
Breakfast is coffee and loaves with spreads and the odd bit of cheese and ham, which more than likely had been dropped on the floor prior to being served. There are three cats running around the house and no sign of a vacuum cleaner but as my real Dad would say ‘you gotta challenge the immune system every now and then..!!!’ Hmm rather not thanks! For breakfast we also enjoy Special K berry cereal, which was a sample cereal acquired free by one of the family members through a supermarket where he works. I think there are around 20 000 packets of the stuff in the cellar and no doubt it will be enjoyed for many years to come. I don’t know if its standard of Dutch family practice, but this one has an amazing ability and tolerance to eat the same food for nearly every meal. I don’t know how many years they’ve been doing it for but it had me cracked after the first couple of days.
After that great start to the day I would roll out the door for a ride and usually head for the hills! If you’ve ever been to Holland you would understand that this statement is ridiculously tongue in cheek, as Holland is the flattest country you’ve ever seen. For almost two weeks I did not see a hill and after training in the flat I truly questioned my ability to ever climb successfully again.
Another amazing aspect of riding in Holland is the 7k phenomenon I seem to experience on every ride. This phenomenon occurs just after a ride starts or even after what feels like 3 hours of riding time. However long I may have been riding for though, I will look down at my computer and there it is, I’ve only ridden 7k’s…..it’s extremely cracking and I think it has something to do with the flatness and the monotony of the flat landscape.
Actually I am being rather sarcastic there as Holland is very beautiful. My first impression of Holland was ‘gee this is like the ‘it’s a small world after all’ ride at Disneyland’…. things appear small and cute and you really feel as though you are in a fairy tale type country where everything is perfect. When cycling around Holland you see beautiful cottages surrounded by colourful flowers, green forests, perfectly kept farms and paddocks filled with animals. There are also lots of old style windmills, millions of people on town bikes, and canals with boats sailing up and down. One of my favourite memories of Holland will be when Natalie Bates, Susan de Goede and I stopped for lunch in Leiden (my favourite city in Holland) at a café on one of the canals. It was a beautiful warm, sunny day and there was lots of green grass around with willow trees hanging over the canal and lots of boats slowly sailing by with tanned, happy looking people on them. It was really peaceful and I had a great lunch with good company.
After such great company it’s always a little overwhelming returning to the Hartogs. I go home to a chain, (rollies) smoking mother who nearly solely survives on smokes, coffee and red wine. Mmm, good balanced diet there! There are also three boys, Urim the eldest, loves his cycling, Eva the middle son, and Tamoor the youngest who is otherwise known as ‘the player’ (luckily for us girls he nicknamed himself!!) Also we have Imka the only daughter who has to put up with a house full of boys, god bless her!!
As crazy as the Hartogs are they are definitely a great family who would do anything for you. Their door is always open to anyone and their hearts are definitely in the right place. They have helped to make my stay in Holland a fun and memorable experience by taking me to races and making my day to day life in Holland fun with their ability to laugh easily and not take life too seriously. I have had loads of fun living with them and it’s always good to see how the other half live…
Bad Hair Day in Amersfoort.
Home of the Hartogs
Cycling in Holland