Yellow Buses and White Ladies

Unexpected
We’ve been having beautiful weather here the past few days, with temperatures getting up around 18C (around 68/70F) and lots of sunshine. Determined to make the most of it today, we headed out for a walk over to the Streekmarkt today, a monthly market featuring local, mostly bio, foods. It’s up toward the northern end of town, so it meant a pretty walk, as well. I’ll probably save some of those photos for another post or two.

Once we got to the market and did a tour of the offerings on hand, we decided to have a lunch of meat pies and beer. As we were waiting for the pies to be reheated, we did a bit of people watching and just took in the scenery. It was then that I realized that the big yellow bus in front of me was a bit more unusual than I was thinking. I’m so used to these buses, having ridden a few on occasion, that it took me a moment to realize that this is not a sight you see here in the Netherlands!
Grote Gele Bus

In this case, the bus was being used as a children’s book store; a cute idea! Children aren’t bussed to school here, though. They either ride their bike, are dropped off by their parents, or if they do take a bus, it’s a normal bus that everyone else takes. As a result, no school buses, and certainly not the big yellow buses I’m so familiar with from the U.S. Despite not having seen one in a few years now, it’s just such a normal sight to me that it honestly took me a moment to realize that it’s not a normal sight here. It reminds me of when I saw a (NYC) Metrocard lying discarded on the ground in the park near us. It was such a common sight for me once, that it took a moment to realize that while the sight might be normal, the location certainly wasn’t!

Soon our food arrived and we tucked in to our lamb and steak pies. We took turns passing them back and forth, enjoying each one. They were certainly enjoyable, but didn’t taste like the traditional English meat pies they were described as. Maybe it was just the absence of the HP sauce! They went well with the local beer we tried. We’d seen a poster for Witte Vrouwen beer yesterday in the grocery store and were curious, since we live near Wittevrouwenstraat. De Leckere is a local brewery and they have a variety of beers, some with Utrecht-related names, including a Willibrord amber beer I wouldn’t mind trying. Witte Vrouwen, not surprisingly, is a witbeir, and a very nice one, indeed! I see more of them in my future. De Leckere is the first 100% organic special brewery in the Netherlands, and if the Witte Vrouwen is anything to go by, they’re doing an excellent job!

Witte Vrouwen Bier

Religion in Unexpected Places

Oud Kath Kerk
For better or for worse, a lot of people think of prostitution and drugs when they think of the Netherlands. Or they think about the more positive fact that the Netherlands was the first country to recognize gay marriage. What they probably don’t think about is a Dutch Bible Belt, yet it does exist. In a nation so liberal in so many ways, there are still (very small) pockets of religious enthusiasts, to put a polite spin on it.

A few weeks ago, before the World Cup final — which took place on a Sunday — some of the more fanatical religious leaders called for their flocks to avoid this “sinful” match, because they objected to television being watched on Sundays. The ire was raised when three cafés dared to show the match in the village of Urk, one of the notches in the Dutch Bible Belt. The horror! One wonders how much hypocrisy was being practiced that day in the privacy of the homes of some of the faithful. On the other hand, those who didn’t watch at least avoided the pain of the outcome of the match.

The Christian Right are also in the government, making up various political parties, including the CU (Christenunie). The Christian-controlled lower house of the Dutch government seems to have pushed through an interesting bit of legislation recently. They’ve decided to grant immediate asylum to any Iranian Muslim refugee … who converts to Christianity. It’s only for those who convert to Christianity, though. Any other religion — or those who declare themselves atheist — are out of luck and will have to go through the normal channels to try to obtain asylum. Ironically, it’s thought that those who convert to Christianity will face a much more dangerous situation if they were to go back to Iran. I’m not sure why other religions (or lack thereof) would be any less risky. I’m also not sure why it’s only Iranian refugees.

I’m an atheist from the Bible Belt in the United States. That’s pretty risky living! Surely, I should qualify for some sort of special asylum. 😉