TourMagination’s European Heritage tour with John Ruth is in full swing. Yesterday we arrived at Amsterdam Schiphol International Airport which is situated 30 feet below sea level. We were not surprised to see clouds and rain. We were told that since we are close to the North Sea, the Dutch weather changes quickly. You often have rain and sunshine in one day.
During our canal boat tour we were glad for the enclosed boat since we could enjoy the sights and commentary in the dry. Joel Kulp was fascinated by the different gables with the hooks at the top of the gables. Since the stairwells are so steep and narrow all furniture needs to be moved in and out of the buildings by rope and tackle through the window.
After lunch on the Kalverstraat we walked to the Singelkerk, the large hidden church with two balconies which holds 3,000 worshippers. This church is often considered the mother church for the Mennonite Church. We enjoyed singing “Praise God from whom all blessings flow”. This church with its wooden floor has wonderful acoustics.
We enjoyed sunshine and the beautiful scenery as we traveled to Alphen aan den Rijn to our hotel. John Ruth shared many stories relating the Dutch influence economically and globally. He said that Mennonites owe a lot to the Dutch for their leadership, not only of Menno Simons, but also the global church across the centuries has been influenced by their thinking and leadership.
This morning we left the hotel early in order to see the Aalsmeer Flower Auction. Jean-Paul (JP) Weber, our driver, told us the buildings cover the area of 68 soccer fields. Hannah Kenagy commented on the beautiful fresh air as we walked the boardwalk watching the activity of selling and distributing the flowers from all over the world. The maps showed the countries where the flowers were bought and shipped. How can a rose grown in Kenya be cut, shipped, sold in Aalsmeer, shipped and sold in Philadelphia, be affordable? Marilyn Rush said, “Think of all the hands that have handled the flower on your dining room table.”
On our walk through Zaanse Schans to tour the working windmill we were surrounded by tourists from all over the world. After climbing the windmill we were delighted to taste the dynamite Gouda cheese. Many purchases were made so our families back home can anticipate a taste in the future.
The wooden shoes are for safety as well as waterproof. Our guide showed us how wooden shoes are made. They are worn by thousands of Dutch people today.
We crossed the 22-mile Afsluitdijk to Friesland. Onijdes Sijtsma who welcomed us said this is a first, the group was 10 minutes early. We waited on him at the Hidden Church at Pingjum. We listened to the bell toll at the church in Witmarsum where Menno Simons was priest. It touches your soul to think that this bell called people to worship centuries ago when Menno led the Mass.
We look forward to our home stays tonight. Our hosts are waiting for us at the Berlikum church.
— Wilmer Martin, tour leader