Coevorden

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We arrive in Coevorden just in time to walk from my godparents’ house to my cousin’s house for the start of the New Year’s Eve party. My cousin’s wife is cranking out the fresh home made ollie bollen like a champion. They taste as delicious as I remember from last year. My cousin’s kids and their friends are lighting fire crackers in the street. They are young but the fire crackers are less insane than those we will fire off at midnight. The kids are loving it. It’s our second New Year with them in a row and the kids are now talking about “Paul and Andrew who come every year”. It’s adorable.

We head back to my godparents’ home for dinner. My cousin, his wife and their kids come too. We sit in front of the open fire chatting. There’s a year to catch up on. The kids gently correct my Dutch when I use the incorrect words or grammar. I appreciate the help. The kids go to bed and we play a present game. It’s odd to have gifts on New Year but in Holland gifts aren’t usually exchanged at Christmas so it makes sense. The game is a laugh. We have dice and cards that dictate what we can do with the gifts we select. Everyone has bought three gifts valued at about three Euros each. We select and unwrap gifts according to the cards and dice. We also swap and steal gifts according to the same cards and dice. Three hours pass and we end up with a selection of gifts each. It’s all random fun and we’ve laughed our guts out.

And then it’s time. The clock strikes 12 and it’s hugs all round. Outside the fire works have begun. Last year we stood in the street where there were lots of young people but this year we’re in my godparents’ backyard. The difference is that it’s less scary and more enjoyable. There’s little risk tonight of fire works hitting us if they go wrong. And we can duck inside when it gets too cold. It’s a blast (no pun intended). We stay out in the cold as long as we can keep our eyes open and then we climb the stairs to bed.

We wake late. Breakfast is a typical Dutch feast of sandwiches topped with sliced cold meats, cheeses and chocolate sprinkles. It’s all quite delicious. The bread in The Netherlands is way better than at home. It’s fresh and there’s tens of varieties to select from the bakery. I am glad this isn’t our breakfast at home or I’d be as big as a house.

Around 1pm we walk through the village to the Ganzenduik (literally translated to Goose Dive). There’s lots of people at the pond where we will be taking our icy cold plunge. The air temperature is 1.5’C and the water temperature is about 3.7’C. My is a hat and bow tie that happen to match my swimming shorts. The water is COLD!!!! But I feel alive and am glad I went for the swim. It’s fantastic fun.

In the evening my godparents take us to dinner at the Coevorden Castle. I am castle-crazy so to have dinner in a castle is pretty amazing. The food tastes great and the company (my godparents and Paul) is even better. After dinner the staff let us explore the castle unguided. It’s mostly set up with various banquet and dining areas. But it’s still very much a castle.

And then we step outside to discover it has started to snow. The only thing I’m crazy about more than castles is snow. We rug up and walk home in the snow. It’s perfect. The village is gorgeous. And it’s quite romantic … especially watching Paul speak with animation to my family. What a way to start 2017!

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