Fifteen Rotary-connected Wisconsinites from District 6250 had a great experience recently, doing 3-day Rotary Friendship Exchange with the Het Hoogeland Rotary Club in the northern part of the Netherlands.  Edwin Bos was our intrepid leader, as his parents and grandparents were all from that area, and he still has cousins there. Actually, most of the people looked like Edwin’s cousins—they are a long legged group, those Netherlanders! 
The unofficial start of the trip began in Amsterdam, when most of the group met for dinner with Edwin’s oldest son Harry, who lives there. Edwin was joined by Dean Ryerson, Ben Nelson, Janine & Brendan O’Rourke (Madison clubs); Nathan Crowder, Shari Laffredi, Bob & Shirley Newberry, and Keli & Drew Frigo (LaCrosse clubs); as well as Mary and Rick Merdan (WI Rapids).  My travelling companion, Sally Koehler and I are both from Fort Atkinson. Most of us came to Europe early, and/or stayed over to extend our trip.  
We all met at Central Station in Amsterdam on Friday April 26th.  We took 3 trains to get us to Warfum, where our hosts Francie and Martin met us, and welcomed us into their lovely, historic home with coffee, tea, and a delicious catered lunch that their son prepared for us. After lunch, we heard an excellent presentation by Babs, a colleague of Martin’s, who is assisting the Massai tribe in Tanzania, Africa to  better establish a local school for their families. She was so passionate about her work, and risks her safety every time she travels there.
After the presentation, we all took a short walk through the utterly charming village of Warfum, to visit an open-air museum; sort of like Old World Wisconsin, on a smaller scale. Following this, we returned to Francie’s to meet the rest of our hosts for the weekend.
Sally’s and my host was Pieter Schouten, a dairy farmer that patented a rotary milking operation that he and his brother use at their farms.  Pieter’s brother Jan and his sister in law, Nathalie had us for a delicious home-cooked dinner, along with Pieter’s two older kids, Mathilde, and Ewoud. They and their younger brother Adam all help with the operation of the farm.  They were all very kind and welcoming.
Saturday was King’s Day in the Netherlands, a national holiday. Konigsdag is celebrated with festivals and parties, and wearing the color orange. The royal family bears the name “House of Orange”, and dates back to 1544 when William of Orange inherited the dynasty. Our group celebrated by participating in a walk or bike ride through the local tulip fields, which was a Rotary fundraiser for local women and girls. Many of us walked almost 10 miles! Thankfully, we had a lunch stop, games and live church organ music along the way.
Unfortunately, most of the tulips (which are grown for bulbs to export) had been chopped off before we arrived! Luckily they could be seen in other gardens throughout the country, like Keukenhoff. Another group of Rotarians from Poland drove up to join us for the bike ride and dinner with the local club.  Kasha, Alijca, Nikolai and Pavel were at our table, and were all delightful!
On Sunday, Pieter our host took us to a local castle, called Mekama Borg. Hank, one of the local Rotarians is the head landscaper at their formal gardens.  The castle even had its own moat! We also saw the dyke along the North Sea coast, the milking operation, a few other towns and villages, and the college town of Gronigen, which is a beautiful town. They have the most well-designed, cleanest parking structure I’ve ever seen.
Most of us returned to Amsterdam on Monday, taking the 3 trains in reverse, with a bus thrown in for good measure!  Sally and I adopted Ben Nelson for the afternoon, and the three of us saw Oude Kerk (the Old Church), their café (Shockmans!), a canal boat ride, and an Italian dinner. Waffles and frites seem to be the local favorite food/snack, but we sampled Thai, Chinese, and Middle East cuisines.
Sally and I managed to use Amsterdam’s tram and train systems, and saw several other museums, churches, cities, and the wonderful Hieronymus Bosch Art Center, in the city of Hertogen Bosch, his namesake.  Bosch was an early Surrealist Renaissance painter from the region of Brabant. He was a highly skilled, fantastical painter. Bosch’s work can often be overlooked by followers of more accessible Dutch painters, like Rembrandt and Van Gogh, or seen as too dark or disturbing.
Author: Jill Kessenich, Fort Atkinson Club President.
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