To be gainfully employed is more difficult than to work here in NL. I’ve been offered more work here than ever before, the vrijwillig (volunteer) variety, of which there is plenty and this, I believe, is what makes the Dutch society special: their sense of community.
National Monument Day comes about each year in mid September and it is when all national monuments are open to the public for free. Having a friend who lives in such an abode gave me the inside scoop on this event. Two consecutive days each year they are required to open their home/property to the general public in order to maintain a continuation of the history of the area and the culture of the society.
Willingly, and with great pride in their family tradition, they explain to all visitors the history of their building. In their case, their actual home is not invaded by the masses since they are able to do the telling of the history from one of the original outbuildings and from within their delightful courtyard garden though I’m certain that this is not the case with all monument dwellings.
Nationale Molendag is held over a weekend in the month of May. Once again it is at the delight of the enthusiasts of all things milling, wind and history that these Dutch icons are open to the public and manned by vrijwillig werkers who are more than happy to impart their knowledge to visitors.
We are fortunate to have a windmill in our backyard, so to speak, which has recently been renovated and repaired to running order after having the top and innards removed almost a year ago. Our mill was built in 1760 so it is truly a credit to these volunteers who strive to keep the traditions of the past alive in our modern culture.
Having had the privilege and pleasure of visiting three of the open air museums around the country, I have come to appreciate even more the concept of volunteer work and I can only imagine that the workers receive their rich reward, not from a monetary value but from the many awe inspired visitors who hang onto every word as they tell of the traditions of their history and culture.
The open air museums are truly a credit to the Dutch people as they are beautifully maintained and authentically run as places of historical significance.
My recommendations would be to make the time to visit the most popular Zaans se Schaanz outside Amsterdam which depicts the best of the more industrial windmills on the water. The location is what makes it the most popular with tourists so timing is key in order to avoid the masses.
The Openlucht museum in Arnhem is a tribute to the agricultural sector and its location makes it ideal for the events of the second world war to be told too.
Zuiderzee museum offers a fascinating and intriguing trip back in time to the days of the Zuiderzee, pre afsluitdijk which created the Isjelmeer as it is today, and the harsh lives of the fishermen and their families.
I too have been recruited to the ranks of the vrijwilligers. This recruitment came about not long after our arrival. Using google and the advice of our new friends who told us that a South African minister was the resident preacher, we found a small protestant church to attend not far from our apartment.
Obviously the service was conducted in Nederlands for the Dutch congregation and our smattering of the language, coupled with our history of Afrikaans, we were able to navigate through the order of worship and some familiar tunes to hymns. (Unfortunately we had missed the fellow South African by a few months.) After the service, we were talking to one another amidst the usual chatter over a cup of something hot when one of the congregants grabbed my arm and exclaimed: “You’re English! Do you know about Corrie Ten Boom? We need English tour guides at our museum.” The rest, as they say in the classics, is history!
Not only did I know about Corrie Ten Boom from my Grandmother’s telling as a child and again from my sister-in-law’s visit to the museum many years later, but I had also had the privilege of going on a tour of the museum myself the year before our arrival when we visited our au-pairing daughter in Amsterdam and took a day trip to Haarlem.
Through this vrijwillig work I have been blessed beyond my wildest imagining, not least in the finding of a kindred spirit in my special friend Ka. She is the smallest in stature but the largest in following as the best english tour guide that the museum has ever had – she has her museum guests eating out of her hands from the moment that she greets them at the door with her trademark sunny smile and bubbling personality!
So whilst I’ve hardly earned a euro for the hours of work, I’ve gained far more and am proud to have joined the ranks of the vrijwilligers that work tirelessly to maintain a culture and a community one can be proud of.