A few years ago (a little over 400 years) the Dutch embarked on a journey to America. They landed in what we know of as New York. There were new Dutch settlements and they put their stamp on this new land by naming areas after towns they left behind. Here are a few examples: Vlissingen became Flushing, Haarlem became Harlem and Breukelen became Brooklyn.

I recently went to Breukelen, a town just minutes from my home. It was a brief visit as we were on a mission to visit a specific shoe store. Once the shoes were purchased, we got out of town. But in that short visit, I noticed two things.

In the Netherlands you will rarely find billboards. In the United States, billboards decorate our towns and cities. It is hard to go one block without seeing a giant billboard. After being here a few days I noticed that the landscape was different from what I was used to. It took me awhile to figure out that I was seeing lots of grass, cows and homes. I was seeing many tall buildings, stores and people on bikes. Basically, my view was not blocked by billboards. There are outside signs here, but they are on street corners and only about 3 feet tall. But there is one exception concerning the Dutch billboards: there are very large signs announcing a new housing development. On the ground where the construction is happening, there are wooden billboards stating what is being built. Trust me when I tell you that houses are being built here. In this area alone, they are building 30,000 new homes for an estimated 80,000 new residents.

Okay, back to Breukelen. As we entered the town, I saw a large billboard stating the name of a new housing development and I then appreciated the New York/Netherlands connection. The name of the new development? Brooklyn Heights.

The second thing that stood out to me was the parking lot near the shoe store. It was a quite a good size lot, I would say about 150 spaces. Except for one row of spaces, you had to pay to park there. There was one parking space that not only was free, but was also only for hybrid cars. There was even an outlet so that you could charge your car while you shopped. Now I know that in some forward thinking American cities they already have this parking feature. And I know it is becoming more common in Europe to find this service. But it was the first time I had seen one and it was in Breukelen/Brooklyn! The Dutch recognize the need to build parking spaces for bicycles and they have done an impressive job of that. In Amsterdam I saw a multi story parking garage just for bicycles. Hopefully I will see many more of these parking spaces in the future. Less billboards and more greenery…it is a good thing.

Recommended reading:  Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

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  • Deb  On September 6, 2011 at 2:12 am

    I have found you! After reading this post, could not resist posting the following:

    Your blog leaves me wanting more


    Sent from my iPad

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