Before you go Clockwork Orange on me, answer this, do you have an urban/rural balance?
I grew up in a town of 2329 people. In my town, the cheerleader, jock, stoner, overachiever, redneck clichés were the extent of local color. It really wasn’t for me. I became a perfectly happy urbanite at 18. But, I’ve always tried to find a balance of urban and rural in my life without romanticizing either.
Yes, I missed our lush vegetable garden, but not the pile of manure that hatched hoards of flies in our driveway every spring. And eating fresh honey while your father centrifuges it from the honeycomb isn’t priceless–you pay for it with regular bee-stings and very memorable massive swarms around your house.
(For my fellow urbanites–a swarm happens when the beehives become too small to house the growing bee community. The queen leaves to find a new hive and all the female bees follow. If the queen happens to land on the side of your house, consider it karmic payback for eating their winter food-stores.)
When me moved to our new apartment in Amsterdam, my urban-0-meter went haywire. Within a two block radius I have coffee shops (where no one drinks coffee), burka stores (with full length mirrors), every ethnic grocer imaginable (except Mexican), day-cares, bars, carpet vendors, a movie theater, flower stands, braiding salons and a few bakeries.
While this is all pretty cool once you invest in an extensive reach baby phone (done!), I wondered where I would get my rural fix. Wasn’t the Netherlands supposed to be filled with windmills and cows?
Last week, when I ventured north over our neighborhood bridge,
I found the rural bike paths I’ve been lusting after since I moved to the Netherlands.
Prose and I headed towards a village named Broek in Waterland–home to my favorite thrift store thus far. Cows and quaint villages dotted the countryside.
On the way, I found the dream of every lactose tolerant, Wisconsinite gone urban.
I originally stopped in for the homemade ice cream “from the farm’s own milk,” but never got around to it when I discovered the inner workings of the melktap– a coin operated raw milk dispenser.
Your drop any coin of 5 cents or more in, and the melktap pours a hit of fresh, raw cow milk into your receptacle of choice. With 80 cents, you’ve got a liter of milk, great for making Dutch style custard (they sell fresh eggs too!) or, for fully cognizant adults, drinking fresh.
As I took a few minutes to allow my urban/rural meter to re-balance itself, I couldn’t help but admire the milk against the typical Dutch sky. Netherlands–you rock.