Friends had invited us to dinner…to a very “unusual restaurant”. They thought it would be a nice Dutch night on the town for this American who had just moved to the Netherlands. It turned out the night on the town was a night in the country also known as the Dutch outback. The place was called “Island in the Polder” (Eiland in het Weiland).

In order for you to appreciate my adventure, you have to have a brief introduction to the Dutch waterways.

Polder—one or more bodies of land (man made) that is surrounded by water

Dike—another man made piece of land that is created to be higher than the water. In theory, water cannot go over the dike.

Sloot—this is pronounced slote and it is the water around the land. It is not a river, a canal or the ocean. It is a sloot and it is generally a narrow strip of water and it looks like a dinkie canal, but it is NOT. Also, man or woman made.

We were told that in order to get to the restaurant we would have to walk about 320 yards from the car. Why? Because the restaurant is located on an island or polder. Just imagine farms everywhere where sheep and cows graze. And then there is some water and in the middle of this is an small island with a home on it.

The reservations were made 5 weeks ago, and this was the first night we could get a table. We all assumed that it must have terrific food to be so popular. Unfortunately for us, it was a rainy night and it made the trip a little more challenging.

Once we parked the car, we began our trek. We zipped up our jackets, popped open our umbrellas and off we went single file. We followed a dirt path and were hit with very strong winds. My umbrella was in front of my face instead of above my head. All I saw was the space in front of my feet. “Tell me when we are there! If not, I will just keep on going!” I yelled this out hoping I would be heard above the wind and the flapping of my now broken umbrella. Soon, I smelled and heard one or more cows. There could have been two cows or fifty for all I knew, but I did think it was a good sign. Where there are cows, there are farms, right?

A voice behind me told me that we had arrived. I could see a farmhouse. And then I saw the water, the sloot. There were three wooden steps to go down and there was the water and a bridge. This was not like any bridge I had ever been on. This was a bridge from the movies. This was the bridge that Indiana Jones had to fight off the bad guys and almost fall into a raging river and plunge to his death.

I watched people cross this bridge as it swayed back and forth. In my neck of the woods, bridges are not supposed to move, bridges are not supposed to dance. This one looked like it was doing the rumba in the rain. I imagined myself falling into the water, holding my bent and crooked purple umbrella like a demented Mary Poppins. “American spotted floating in a sloot” would be the headlines across the world.

But I crossed the bridge. I admit it is not an easy thing to hear a grown woman whimper and whine while crossing a bridge, but my friends were very supportive and tried not to laugh too loudly. When I stepped off the bridge and onto the polder or island, I breathed again. We followed a path of stepping stones past the farm house, past three colorful roosters and two small buildings that turned out to be bathrooms (with plumbing). The restaurant was one room with eight tables, it was cozy and comfortable. I got an English menu which thrilled me to no end and I am happy to say that the food was excellent.

By the time my coffee arrived, I was already thinking about the bridge. If I wanted to get home that night, I had to get off this island and cross the bridge again. If Indiana Jones was being chased, then he would cross the bridge with no hesitation. I knew that I had to buck up and face the music and step on that bridge. It was raining harder when we left, but that didn’t deter me from getting on that bridge. I was silently freaking out, but I got across. Correction: I wasn’t too silent.

When we almost reached the car I was told that I had been walking on a dike. “This was a dike? This was my first dike,” I yelled this out as I was so surprised and happy. On this night, I had hiked to a fabulous dinner. I had walked on a Dutch dike. I crossed a sloot to get to a polder on this crazy bridge. I did this in the rain. I am now the American/Dutch Indiana Jones. Give me a whip and a hat and I am so going back.

Recommended reading: In the heart of the canyon by Elisabeth Hyde

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  • Stan  On August 3, 2011 at 1:20 am

    This episode was nothing less than harrowing! Jane, you are so brave. I would do a lot for the perfect hamburger, but you have upped the food/risk continuum to a whole new level. I am so in awe.

  • aledysver  On August 3, 2011 at 8:09 pm

    In true Dutch spirit, it’s just fitting that you should *suffer* a bit first, to then *deserve* to be fed 😀
    To look on the positive side, at least you were not expected to get there by bike, which would’ve been a classic Dutch thing to do!
    Now, next time you have to hike up a dike and dance the rumba on the Ricky Martin bridge – will you be expecting to be fed when you reach the other side of the “sloot”? 😀 I would, if I were you!

  • Jane Moore Houghton  On August 5, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    My favorite thing about reading your entries is how clearly I can still hear your voice in my head when I read your words 🙂 . You kill me and I miss you!!! xo

  • Judy Savage  On August 7, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    Congratulations on navigating your first dinky ropes course! And, you got dinner… You go, girl! You’ve earned take-out the next time!

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