Day one and two in the Netherlands: Mindfulness, excitement and some bad luck…

Crossing the Öresund bridge

On Tuesday morning, we packed the car to the brim and set out on the road from Hässleholm, Skåne. We crossed the Öresund bridge–it’s actually the very first time I’ve crossed it by car; back in the days when we drove the motor home, we always took the ferry from Gothenburg to Fredrikshavn.

The trip went smoothly, and the weather was actually mostly sunny, but rather cold, only a few degrees above the freezing point. It was pretty fascinating though, you could really see that the spring was progressing, and the trees actually got greener and greener by the hour!

Beautiful Bolsward, close to our first Air B&B accommodation.

By the evening, we arrived at our first Air B&B accommodation, a village called Bolsward, close to the town of Sneek. (Yes, you’ve got to love that name! :-)) The owner was a very hospitable man in his fifties, and his house was amazing. Very clean, and my room featured an amazing window in the ceiling which proved to be ideal for stargazing!

My room at the Bolsward Air B&B.

The surrounding area was stunningly beautiful, with lots of smaller canals crossing the landscape, and across some of them, there were some very neat wooden bridges, so narrow they could barely fit a car.

Mum and dad enjoying a delicious breakfast, courtesy of our Bolsward host.

Many of the house owners of Bolsward also had their boats parked by their homes.

Another amazing house in the Bolsward area.

After a good night’s sleep (I had a hard time giving up the stargazing and actually go to bed…) our host, (and his two lovely cats!), had prepared a really nice breakfast for us in the kitchen. We were almost reluctant to leave, but still, I was very excited as the next stop on the way would be Franeker, and the Eise Eisinga planetarium. (Linked to the Wiki page here, as it has more information than the official site–but the official site is linked from the Wiki).

Eise Eisinga, (pic courtesy of Willem Bartel van der Kooi)

I’ve actually visited the planetarium twice before–once in 1993, when we were traveling around in Europe with the motorhome for the first time. Back then, I actually heard of it thanks to a series of weird coincidences (yes, I’m quite prone to them…). We were in the area as I happened to find an issue of a Reader’s Digest magazine in a drawer.  And it basically opened up on itself on a page featuring a piece about a man named Eise Eisinga, who lived in the late 18th century, in a town called Franeker, in the Netherlands.

Eise Eisinga monument in Franeker, the Netherlands.

Eisinga was a self employed, (and even highly decorated) wool carder, but he was also a more or less self taught mathematician and astronomer, who wrote his first book on the subject at age 16. In 1774, a local reverend published a book in which he stated that within short, the planets of the solar system would collide, and the Earth was about to be thrown out of its orbit and burnt to a crisp by the sun.

Me outside Eise Eisinga’s old home in Franeker. Note the solar clock between the top windows!

Eisinga wanted to calm the people and prove that these theories were nonsense, and hence, he started building his own orrery in his living room! When finished, about seven years later, it featured the correct orbits of all the planets up to Saturn, which was the last planet to be discovered before he started the construction. It also showed the correct position of the moon, the sunrise, the signs of the zodiac… and so much more. And it still does, more than two centuries later!

Gazing at the amazing orrery.

Back then, in 1993, we happened to be very close to Franeker as I discovered the magazine, and we immediately set course for the planetarium. In the 90’s, and even in my second visit in 2000 something, it only featured Eisinga’s original house, but today, it’s more of a museum, as the two adjoining houses have been acquired by the founders, and it now also features various exhibitions of astrology and 18th century technology.

The orrery is still showing the correct date, time, positions of the stars and the signs of the zodiac…

The planetary clockwork in the attic of the house.

I was totally in awe of the planetarium even after my first visit… and I was even more fascinated by the second time… and now, this time around… I was hardly able to leave! They’ve really made use of the extra space, and the featured exhibitions are very fascinating in themselves, but describing the orrery is next to impossible; there are no words that can cover just how incredibly amazing it is.

One of the amazing clocks featured at the Eisinga museum.

I warmly recommend you to read the Wiki articles about Eisinga for more information about his background. But if time travel was possible, I would really go back and meet this incredible man in person… (well, and I’d definitely bring an interpreter as I don’t understand more than a handful words of Dutch…).  You have to wonder, what kind of a man was he, really? He was married twice, and had six children. Did he ever have time for his family? Was he really motivated by a big heart, or did his love for calculations suppress all else?

The musical clock tower of Franeker.

Franeker in itself is a very sweet little town, and you can actually stroll around there for hours, just looking at the architecture and listening to the chiming of the clock tower.

The botanical garden, which is surely even more impressive in the summer.

One of the many beautiful houses of Franeker. If you need a place to rent… 😉

We didn’t really plan to stay for as long as we did, however… but we got an unexpected problem just as we were about to leave–the car refused to start!

We have a portable refrigerator, and unfortunately, we forgot to unplug it before leaving the car (I guess we were all so excited about the planetarium!) and upon our return, the battery was drained! But a “local hero,” a guy who just happened to park beside us, first helped us try to push the car for a bit (it didn’t work) and then he let us hook up the jump start cables to his car. Success, finally!

Come on, come on, START, dangit!!!

Our hero! A local Franeker guy who let us hook up the jump start cables to his car. We’re eternally grateful!

Eventually, we made it back on the road again, and this time heading for Utrecht, or rather, the city of IJsselstein, about half an hour away from Utrecht, where we would be spending the night in another Air B&B provided cottage. The traffic was very heavy as we approached our destination–I’m sort of responsible for the GPS navigator, and I had a very hard time keeping track on which lane my mum should choose!

The cottage looked nice and cozy from the outside, but there was one problem–our host didn’t respond to our calls for about two hours! Eventually, we got hold of him via the nearby restaurant, who knew where his office was… and it turned out there was something wrong with his phone, so he had just been a few feet away from where we were, but didn’t know we where there!

At this point, we were tired and very, very hungry, so after leaving our bags in the cottage, we headed for the nearest grocery store. However, on our way there, bad luck struck again as the “check engine” light suddenly came on in the car!

Not a very welcome sight if you still have three days of driving coming up… “Check engine” warning…

There were no other signs of trouble, however, but still–with a non-specific engine related problem, you should not keep driving for long… and definitely not for another three days without seeing a mechanic!

I had been so excited to finally get to see the Museum Speelklok on the following day. Now, maybe we would have to postpone those plans and instead go looking for a mechanic, or even have the car towed, and the rest of the trip cancelled. How could such a perfect day end this badly?

Meh, I could have been totally over the moon now, but… (my bed in the cottage at IJsselstein).

I went to sleep with a heavy heart, and even though I actually got a top bunk with another great window for stargazing, I couldn’t really enjoy it as much as I did the night before. Now, all we could do was pray for a miracle…