So finally the day came after four best days of my life spent in Holland, please do forgive me for calling the Netherlands so but I like the former name for it has childhood associations attached to it.
Groningen, Holland was our first destination of our almost ten days long tour of three Schengen countries; Holland, Belgium and France. Why I had chosen Groningen, an otherwise unknown city to the tourists, as my first destination in Holland?
I (left) with Tariq Hashmi (right) in front of his house
Well I went there to meet my school days friend Tariq Hashmi at Groningen to meet him after 43 years. We enjoyed his hospitality for the next three days. He and his family looked after us immensely well – they even vacated three of their bedrooms for us and tucked their entire family in one room for as long we stayed in Groningen.
My wife (left) with Mrs Tariq (right) in Groningen city center market
Everyday dawned with a hearty breakfast with a variety of breads, peanut butter, Nutella (I hear is going to be no more by the end of this year) beside eggs and kebabs, coffee and fresh juices. The lunch and dinner tables were equally elaborate – which spoke their love for us. His wife remained busy in the kitchen throughout the day to make mouthwatering dishes for us – I never felt more at home in someone else’s home ever in my life as I did in Tariq Hashmi’s house.
My son (left), Tariq Hashmi, I and Tariq's elder son (right) in front of Groningen city's mayor office
Although Tariq’s eye was to be operated upon in a few days’ time and was forbidden to drive, but for us he dared and took us around Groningen, its market places and the city center to show the little city – clean and lively.
At Dolfinarium, Harderwijk
It was from here that we went to see Amsterdam by road one day and then to the Dolfinarium in the city of Harderwijk. It was at Harderwijk that I saw a real and working original Dutch windmill besides the dolphins and walrus performing just a few feet from us.
Posing with Obama's wax statue at Madame Tussaud's museum, Amsterdam
And in Amsterdam, beside a ride in the boat around Amsterdam and a visit to the Dam - the city center, Madame Tussaud’s museum was something that was a surprise as I thought it was only in London.
My family with Tariq Hashmi and his wife - just before we bid them farewell on our last day in Groningen
Tariq’s hospitality continued for full three days till we finally bade goodbye to him and his family and left for The Hague and later Rotterdam to be guest of Shahid Latif, another fine gentleman from Lahore and his Moroccan wife.
We left Groningen for The Hague on the fourth day in search of the Panorama Mesdag - but due the road repair work and detours, our car navigation system took long to lead us to our final destination.
My son posing in front of the closed Panorama Mesdag museum
But when we finally reached there, it was already well past five in the evening and museum had closed and except for a few snaps outside the museum, we had to return to the city centre to walk through streets markets, pose in front of the Noordeinde Palace, the King’s place of work and Binnenhof - complex of buildings in the city centre of The Hague, next to the Hofvijver lake.
Standing in front of the Noordeinde Palace, the King’s place of work
My family in front of the Binnenhof - complex of buildings in the city centre of The Hague, and Hofvijver lake
And then we left for Rotterdam to meet another good man from Lahore, Shahid Latif and his Moroccan wife. We were received by Shahid Latif who took us around the city of Rotterdam while his wife prepared a special dinner for us with a Moroccan delicacy.
After a long ride through Rotterdam - known as the vertical city for its sleek and high rising buildings, we returned to Shahid Latif flat where his wife waited for us with a big smile and a hearty dinner she had prepared.
The Moroccan specialty Shahid Latif's wife had cooked for us beside a wide variety of dishes
Like bidding goodbye to Tariq Hashmi and his family in Groningen, the goodbye to Shahid Latif and his wife was something that we shall also never forget. We had a special breakfast and a photo session with the couple.
View from Shahid Latif's flat
I (left) and Shahid Latif (right)
We with Shahid Latif and his wife
As we were about to leave, Shahid’s wife presented us clay made decoration pieces, as seen the photo above, which decorate my TV room today, reminding me of the nostalgia of being with some of the best people I had met in my life and of their hospitality.
We bade farewell to the couple and of course Holland - may be for that time. May be I am lucky enough to re-run the tape once more and go to Holland once more to meet all the good people I had met. But for now it was time to leave Holland and leave for France through Belgium. from now on it will be another journey - another country, but nothing will be like Holland and its good people.
You may read detailed account of my visit to Holland in my following posts: