It’s summertime, and if you’re not a tourist yourself, you could be bumping into one.
Unlikely in Oegstgeest though.
Countryside walks in and around this village are one way to take in the tourist experience without feeling hemmed in by thousands more. This is what I offer friends and family who visit.
While I am giving a running commentary of what I think might interest them, the visitors sometimes say and do things that make me stop in my tracks.
“Now we’ll see ducks, and the windmill will come into view”, I say. “Here it is – built in 1789 to pump water out of this land. Today it’s not turning, but it does sometimes”.
“But there aren’t any sails” says my friend Angela.
“What sails?” I ask, and think to myself ….windmills and sails??? What exactly is she talking about.
Yes windmills do have sails. I saw them the next day on another one that did happen to be turning. True I don’t exactly have the head of an engineer, but to think of it, it’s not rocket science. It’s as simple as Angela put it:
“The sails catch the wind and help the blades to turn.”
Of course. Yes of course. I’d just never noticed them before.
And Angela’s gaze was not just upwards. She bent down to pluck a leaf. “Mint”, she said, crushing it. “Mmmm I love the smell.”
Indeed – mint. Lots and lots and lots of it along this path I have tread a thousand times.
Later that evening, in a quiet and private moment, Angela’s eyes fall upon a picture on the birthday calendar hanging on the door of the toilet at home. She shows me later. ‘Water munt’ (water mint) says the caption under the picture of the plant. It was what we’d just seen on our walk. The month on the calendar is, of course, August.
Every now and then, I get a message via Facebook, email or App from a friend or acquaintance – sometimes from a classmate of so long ago that I can barely remember anything about them. They tell me that they plan to visit the Netherlands (Amsterdam is sort of synonymous with the Netherlands for some), and they ask me what they can do in the four or five days that they plan to visit. And each time, I ask the same question:
“What is that you like to do, see, experience when you travel?”
So far nobody has replied that they want to go on a countryside walk in and around Oegstgeest.
If they manage to tear themselves away from the myriad things to do, see and experience in Amsterdam, I take them on a countryside walk, a bicycle ride to the beach or a boat ride on quiet waters near home.
And it happens that the traveler, who meets every day with a welcoming spirit, whose senses are open; who lets the experience of being out of home overcome her, brings another perspective to the ones for whom the everydayness of trodden paths has taken over.