Flat as far as the eye can see
The photo below is one of the last shots of the Dutch landscape I took before our departure from the Netherlands. I snapped it on my phone out the window of an intercity train from Leiden, eindbestemming Den Haag Centraal (please excuse the graininess caused by the window). It captures well the feature of the landscape in the Netherlands that makes it so completely different to what we are used to in New Zealand (and particularly in Wellington): it is flat as far as the eye can see, not a hill – or even a hint of undulation – apparent. Fences are unnecessary on farms, as the small canals act as demarcating lines, mostly straightened through human intervention. On clear days, you can see to the next – or the next after the next – city or town, its skyline popping up in the distance. That always seemed quite amazing to me. As our time living in the Netherlands passed, we became accustomed to this flatness, but it never seemed normal or natural to either PJD or me. PJD recently chatted with an Aucklander who had spent time in the Netherlands on vacation, and who found the flat nature of the land, devoid of hills or mountains, made him feel distinctly unsettled, irritable. Neither of us had such a strong reaction, but as we travelled in Europe, we always found ourselves strangely excited to land in a place where we had to climb up slight (London, for example), or even extreme inclines (Barcelona, Luxembourg). We reacted excitedly to anecdotes of being able to find hills in the Netherlands as if they had some mythical quality (yes, they do exist, but you have to travel to Limburg to find them!).
Now that we are back in Wellington, hills are on the horizon in every direction that they eye can see. In contrast to where we have been, they are a novelty; at the same time though, they are comforting and familiar (not sure if the comfort factor will remain once we start climbing them again!). They bring a drama and variation to the land which I have missed. Soon enough, I’ll get some pictures up to show you what I mean. For now though, a part of me certainly does miss the serene flat fields of the Netherlands.
Photo by CIA between Leiden and Den Haag, the Netherlands, 19 September 2012.