United States, Michigan, Holland
Holland is a pretty little town on the white sand shores of Lake Michigan, the millions of tulips that bloom around May are not to be missed.
Cultural experiences set up just for the tourist trade can be found a plenty.
At Nelis' Dutch Village I learned how to Klompen dance in wooden shoes, watched them carved, and purchased an extra large pair to bid Welkom bij one to my guests.
I took this trip with my mother, who enjoyed video-taping by dancing efforts significantly more than I enjoyed the dancing.
I was able to score a couple boxes of Droste Dutch Cocoa - famous for the repeating image in the artwork known as the Droste effect.
Since shipping costs for a box of cocoa to Alaska is often more than is charged for the cocoa itself - this was a key acquisition.
I spent the better part of three weeks perfecting a double Dutch double chocolate chip cookie recipe that I'm now obsessed with.
Spoiler Alert: using Alaska Flour Company barley flour makes the cookie chewy perfection. Barley fed by ice cold glacier water, grown under near 24-hour daylight, in grounds shaken by the prehistoric wood bison herds that roam nearby, craft a memorable taste that blends well with the dark-colored, mellow-flavored Dutch-process cocoa.
The Museum is filled with exhibits that run from early farming tools to recently produced art by local artists, but it was the old Dutch exhibits that caught my interest.
Having not thought it through, I wasn't expecting to find a treasure trove of beautifully crafted furniture and art from centuries ago.
Frankly, the digital collection “highlights” on the museum website is so underwhelming that is rather encourages you not to go.
The Dutch collections are worth walking up the staircase in the historical post office. The lovely hand sewn traditional costumes, classic woodcuts, and paintings reflect the lifestyle of early Dutch settlers.
Cornelis Engelsz’s oil “A Haarlem Civic Guard” circa 1609 rather caught my eye. Engels also painted the St. George Civic Guard of 1612 (in Strasbourg), and the 1618 Banquet of the Officers of the Haarlem Cluvenirs (in Haarlem).
These men protected their cities as an armed civil militia and were celebrating the beginning of a twelve-year truce with Spain.
The facial expressions on such an important occasion is a great study of human nature. How this painting ended up in Holland, Michigan is a story I would love to hear.
With demonstrations and homeless filling the downtowns of most the cities I have visited recently, the peace and beauty of Centennial Park across the street from the museum was appreciated.
Nearly six quiet, litter-free acres hosted birds, squirrels and a handful of families - small children running in the grass playing tag.
The flower beds were well maintained and respectable for a community of this size, a lot of love went into this park’s creation and maintenance. Most of the features were donated, starting in 1876 when the land was set aside for public use.
I have to say it did my heart good to see an American town where the residents who are cast in bronze are still honored and respected, where public spaces are a joy to visit, and nature’s beauty coexists brilliantly with the orderly landscaping of the community.
Holland, Michigan was an unexpected stop on my itinerary but a welcome one. The peace I found there is easy to return to.