I begin to suspect the train has crossed the border from Germany to Holland by the resemblance to landscapes and homes found in Flemish art: the pitch of the roofs; dirt road through an esplanade of poplars.
I knew that we would transition from my starting point in Frankfurt to the lowlands, although I do not know precisely when we arrived: was it the modern windmills dotted through the landscape, one per hectare; was it the throngs of bicycles at every RR crossing? Lots of z’s in the placenames? Double aa’s and plenty of j’s. Yes, we have arrived in Holland.
Clues keep racing by the window in our bullet train: the scale of the buildings: low and small, with economy. Neighborhoods and villages with a different look than Germany or France, in a language I do not understand yet: roof pitch and building materials.
Cows along rivers that meander across broad expanses of fields. What is that little decorative touch above windows called? The Dutch make the most of it. Around me, women who look like Debra Kinal: regal with voluptuous lips, blond hair and milk-and-roses skin.
Canals! Silver birch. Roofs that wrap around two sides of a house. Greenhouses. Heather wild and in bloom everywhere. Stand of a tall wildflower that look like small ladyslippers, several on a stem. Graffiti on every small public utility/structure. Bike paths well paved, going from village to village parallel to the train tracks.
Gardens/playgrounds glimpsed. Like Adventure Playground in Berkeley, structures that also serve to grow things on. Ducks. Fragmides, same exotics invasives as ours.
Knotweed, that invasive quasi-bamboo. Flocks of waterbirds. Clipped thatched roofs. I haven’t seen any storks yet; I hope I will.
Utrecht and the classic canal boats, wide and low to the canal water, a deck surface that looks like it’s oiled canvas and stretched across the top ribs of the boat, just like the old masters’ painted them, shining with rain.
Next stop: Amsterdam.