Landing in AmsterdamAMSTERDAM April 18, 2008

I lifted the curtain on the small aircraft window and noticed that the pitch black outside changed to the beautiful scenery of the fluffy white clouds sparkling in an array of golden rays from above.

People started to stir in their seats stretching their unused limbs and few have been waiting impatiently between the rows for their turn in a pair of tiny toilets.

I noticed a confused airhostess standing next to the seats in front of us reaching for something in a front seat pocket. Finally she smiled and pulled out the unfinished bottle of Russian Vodka.

“ Hey, gave us back our Vodka, it’s from our country, it’s just a souvenir we take to someone.” Three middle aged men in front of us shouted and one of them managed to snatch the bottle back.

The serious airhostess called someone on wireless and soon a heavy built steward approached the men and they finally gave him the bottle grudgingly.

“ Once I will buy this airplane, I buy everything, even whole airport like our friend Nikita, the biggest oligarch in Russia, you will see..” I heard one of the man saying in Russian.

The man turned to me in a surprise: “ Ruski?”

I turned my eyes to my daughter who started to wake up: “ Do you still love reading Pushkin?”

“ I just wonder what happened to Russian history and literature I studied,” I watched the three intoxicated men in front of me laughing loudly: “ Is there still a place for it in today’s ‘money hungry’ Russia?”

The smell of freshly grounded coffee filled the aircraft and soon the breakfast trays have been handed around. I closed my eyes and thought about my Grand mum sitting every afternoon in her tiny kitchen in one of the endless block of flats sipping her favorite coffee and reading her religious newspaper: ‘Catholic News’.

The red light fleshed in front of my eyes and soon we started landing. I looked again through the window and picturesque scenery of gentle green meadows caught my eyes. Rows of immaculately ordered gardens glistened in the sun. Like a never ending, turning snake, the river flew between them creating a myriad of channels and little islands

with white old building and red bridges. Before I could look more everything was lost in thick fog and drizzling rain welcomed us on the airport.

I am back in my old Europe, I said to myself when I entered the old buildings full of souvenirs shops with clogs and cheese, cafes and casinos. Suddenly I panicked when I saw the ancient clock on the wall fitted in the Rembrandt reprint. We rushed through the X shaped web of narrow corridors to find. We reached the empty domestic lines and a quizzical look from the airport staff confirmed our misfortune.

“ We missed a flight,” Basha shook her head: “ Welcome to your old continent.”

I visited every toilets decorated with big reprints of Van Gogh and wandered through the Airport Art Museum. Checking the early painting of Dutch exploration from 17th century I dialed the number home:

“ Hi, Mat,” I laughed happy to hear his bubbling voice: “ Do you remember the treasures from the sank Dutch Ship Duyfken in our Maritime museum?”

“ I am in the Amsterdam,” I continued: “ the city where she sailed from.”

“ I know, we have about ten Dutch shipwrecks around our coast,” Mat suddenly understood: “ They’ve been in WA first but they never settled here, have they?”

“ No, because they thought our coastline is too dry and desolate.” I added.

Mat laughed: “ I bet now they changed their mind and anyway how is there?”

“ I don’t really know, I am just in airport, but it is much better at home I can tell you.”

Mat laughed again: ” I bet and when will you be back?”

The Dutch house where we lived on our holiday in the Stirling Range

The Dutch house where we lived on our holiday in the Stirling Range. Pleun came in many afternoons and played a beautiful, moody music for us on his tenor saxophone. My Father fell in love with the Pleun's music. Pleun has been invloved in music since he was nine years of age and has played in a variety of bands in the Netherlands before coming to Australia. He created the beautiful album solo 'TILL THERE WAS YOU' at the Lily. I bought the CD for my Father on our last day and he played it at home constantly after returning from our holiday.

FEW MONTHS AFTER VISITING AMSTERDAM I SPENT A HOLIDAY WITH MY FATHER IN A DUTCH MILL ACCOMODATION IN STIRLING RANGE. IT WAS OUR LAST HOLIDAY WITH MY FATHER. HE DIED THE FOLLOWING YEAR LISTENING TO THE

' TILL THERE WAS YOU' was played on my Father's funeral

' TILL THERE WAS YOU' was played on my Father's funeral. The Pleun's music and the majestic Dutch Mill of the Stirling Range Western Australia haunts me ever since. It reminds me of my Father more than anything else. My Dutch connection was sealed in a very surprising twist. I learnt that connections with places does not necessarily I made just because of heritage value or family ties. Some places just talk to you in a very personal way.

MOODY DUTCH MUSIC FROM ‘THE LILY’. I LEARNT THAT MY STOP OVER IN AMSTERDAM AND MY BRUSH WITH A DUTCH CULTURE WAS GOING TO BE MORE INFLUENTIAL THAN I EVER IMAGINED. THAT IS THE BEAUTY OF THE LIFE AND THE MYSTERY OF ‘ THE LILY’.

Two years later in Stirling Range with my Father and my son

Two years later in Stirling Range with my Father and my son

Dutch born Pleun Hitzert migrated to Australia in 1980. Since 1988 he has been working towards the creation of  “The Lily”, at the foot of the Stirling Ranges in Western Australia. The centre piece of The Lily is a full size Dutch windmill. He built the five storey 16th Century replica Dutch windmill by himself over the period of ten years.  My Father admired Pleun and talked a lot with him about hardworking and innovative nature of Dutch people. Somehow there was a connection between Slovak and Dutch cultures, the first one in the middle of the Europe surrounded by many power hungry nations and the second one surrounded and constantly flooded by mighty ocean.

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