Divine drivers – traffic in Holland

I felt like a portuguese last week. I was back in my home country. To visit family. My oldest son lives there for a year already. I was looking forward to seeing him again. What a strange country – the Netherlands!

Snowdog

It helped that it was snowing. The past 15 years I haven’t seen a snowflake.

That one time it hailed (for 3 minutes) was a hot topic for weeks. People still refer to that – and it’s eight years ago.

So, the first thing I did was: making a snowdog, and put it on Facebook. My portuguese friends find that very special. Actually, my dutch friends too. In the Netherlands, it is no longer common that it is snowing. Even in the depths of winter.

Not only that the weather’s different, the traffic as well. We live in rural areas, so yes, when do we see “traffic”? That single car or tractor passing now and then – you can hardly call that traffic.

Zippers

In and around the big cities – Coimbra, Lisbon, Porto – of course there is traffic, but in the Netherlands it is almost an art form. The infrastructure is complicated, like a drawing of M.C. Escher *. Highways over and under each other. Bridges, viaducts, ramps, exits, inserts, – you have to “go with the flow”. If there are 8 lanes in the same direction, which then proceed in three different directions, you have to zip. Also an art.

I’m very impressed by you, excellent drivers! Especially because there are a lot of trucks driving inbetween. That zips and overtakes, or takes over? like all the others. As if they don’t weigh a ton. Or two.

I have had guests who complain about the portuguese tailgaters. Last week I saw nothing else happening. There are a few meters between all those cars, and it zips, rips, retrieves and flashes – there must be an incredible amount of experienced drivers in the Netherlands!

Narrow escape

Occasionally they’re rude in my portuguese countryside eyes. At regular intervals I’m screaming for a pedestrian who lives through a narrow escape, a cyclist who is forced to make a graceful sweep or a car coming from the right.

It is a matter of seconds. In Portugal, especially in rural areas, you would stop, but here you drive through or you stop everything.

The mise-en-scene is very important.

Back in Porto I had to wait an hour before the train departed.

I went to the pastelaria opposite the station. A lot quieter here, the traffic! Striking detail: at all times all drivers stopped when I went near the zebra. They would wave and only went on when I was almost on the other sidewalk.

Com calma! I’m home again … and the sun shines.

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* Maybe too dutch? M.C. Escher is quite a famous artist … so I thought I can take the risk. If you don’t know him, have a look. Very interesting work!