Belgium is a bilingual country, the two official languages being French, spoken in the part of the country next to France, and Flemish, a low German dialect like Dutch, in the rest near Holland and the North Sea. I went directly to the capital, Brussels (Bruxelles in French) where everybody I talked to spoke French. The last day I was there, before leaving for Amsterdam in Holland, I found a store selling violins and other stringed instruments and made up my mind to buy myself a cello. It was entirely by accident that I picked out an instrument made by one of Belgium's most famous instrument makers, a man by the name of Bourguignon. His brother was first violinist in the Brussels Symphony. Besides the cello, I bought an antique bow and a carrying case of alligator leather. The next day, when I got on the train for Holland, I thought I might have to put my instrument in the baggage car. When the conductor looked at it he said, "zu grot," but he relented and let me keep it with me.
Riding in a train going into Amsterdam is an interesting experience, as much of the time you are below sea level. You don't realize it tho until you see a ship sailing across the country at a higher level than you are. It is sailing on one of the canals which drain the land and carry the water out to sea. The windmills which formerly provided the power to pump the water up into them were nearly all gone and high voltage power lines ran everywhere to supply the electrical power which replaced them. At that time, I believe, the energy was supplied by the coal mines of Belgium and Germany.
Besides tramping around town, where many of the streets were canals, I took a trip with a lot of other tourists to a small down on the Zuider Zee (Ijsselmeer, [as] it's marked in our present atlas) called Vollendam and a small island just offshore, Marken Island, where sixteenth century customs and dress were preserved, at least while the tourists were in sight. I doubt that many of the inhabitants wore their quaint Dutch costumes and wooden shoes when they visited Amsterdam. I had, however, seen workmen wearing wooden shoes repairing the cobbled streets in Paris.
I left Amsterdam late in the afternoon for the Hoek van Holland where I boarded an overnight boat for Harwich on the east coast of England. I remember that it was cold and the channel was rough and I didn't get much sleep because of being tossed around in my bunk. Otherwise the crossing and the subsequent ride in to London on the train are a blank in my memory. When I went thru customs in Harwich, the customs official wanted to charge me duty on my cello but after some argument he "sealed" it, that is, he fastened a wire around the middle and connected the ends with a lead seal. The seal didn't keep me from slipping the cello out of its case however to show it to Raymond and Leeta.
Lulu "Penurious" and Ruth "Exemplary" turned up on schedule and Leeta invited them out to dinner. I went in to get them at their hotel and took them on the same trip, to Windsor Castle and Stoke Poges, that I had taken with the Barnes boys. Leeta warned me again not to be late or I would spoil her dinner but, of course, I was. It didn't spoil the dinner, however. Besides the two southern girls, Leeta had invited a young English friend of theirs, making three different accents at the same table. There was some argument as to which accent was the correct one.
Last modified on 27 November 2017 @ 19:31