I realise that I have a lot of ideas for ‘thematic’ posts about our TranSib trip. So many that I can’t wait with writing and publishing them only after I’ve done all the posts about the trip itself, chronologically. So I will have to ‘uncover’ photos of places I haven’t written about yet. Oh well, c’est la vie.
One thing that struck me during our trip is that I kept bumping into random Dutch stuff.
In Russia (1)
The Netherlands are not exactly reknowned for their fine cuisine. In Europe, you will therefore only find a Dutch restaurant…well, hardly even in The Netherlands itself, and also not in a 2000-mile radius around Holland.
However, just outside that 2000-mile sanitary zone lies Omsk, and people there have no clue about how Dutch ‘cuisine’ is viewed in Europe. So, they open a Dutch restaurant not just without batting an eye – they actually go overboard to advertise it and make it look as Dutch as they can.
Which, with not a single Dutch dish on the menu (…wait a minute, maybe they DO know how terrible Dutch food is!) and with waitresses dressed like Germans, is… not that much really. But they do have Delft blue tiles on the walls with windmills on them.
In Russia (2)
Not in Moscow or St P, not in a busy youth hostel, not in the touristic TranSib train, but in our chalet at Lake Bajkal in Listvyanka, we found two Dutch magazines, one I knew: Men’s Health, the summer special of some years back. Apparently the main articles were about getting your body into shape for the beach – and about how, if that paid off, you could make the best of your ‘summer overflowing with sex’.
The other magazine was called Jan, if I remember correctly, and seemed to be aimed at women. It also contained articles about sex, and dated from around the same time as the Men’s Health. It seemed to me that they were left at the same time by both sides of a frisky couple, who must have gotten inspired by the content. That night, I was glad I was not sleeping in the double bed.
In Russia (3)
Even more obscure was the finding in Ulan Ude, where, betwixt only Russian books in a cupboard, there was one foreign title – Amsterdam, by one ‘Paul C. Pet’. However, I could not be arsed to do more than taking a photo two photos, as it was quite buried.
This wasn’t so weird, because Ulaan Bataar is fairly cosmopolitan. Still, finding a Dutch cafe that serves apple cake and La Trappe beer (and full English breakfast – also the Mongolians do not trust Dutch food that much it seems), and having photos of Amsterdam on the wall, does make you wonder. After that, it being 8 AM and yourself being starving, you stop thinking. You order the espresso, the full English, and the apple cake, and you enjoy.
While in Beijing, we stopped one morning to have late breakfast, kinda brunch really. The large rice dumpling I had was to die for. Then I spotted a rather unexpected bottle on the drinks shelves – advocaat, a very Dutch… drink, I suppose you should call it, made with brandy and eggs. Normally you’d either pour it over ice cream, or spoon it, straight, from a small glass. I asked if I could get a glass of it, but it wasn’t on the menu. So why was it there?
The lady behind the counter showed me: one of their specialty coffees required, amongst other things, advocaat. So they kept an entire bottle of it, for no other reason than that someone might, once, ask for that specialty coffee. I did not. I also decided it would not be worth trying to explain her I wanted a small glass, and a spoon, and haggle for a price.
I just took a photo of the bottle, without thinking about how long that bottle must have been, or still would be, there.
(I have no idea how to end this blog entry, as it was not meant to have a story. So I’ll end on the advice of Herman Finkers, Dutch comedian, about writing poems: “The last line is the easiest. You just stop writing, and it’s there.”)