On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff
I’VE NOT OFTEN VISITED the Low Countries, as the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg are sometimes called. On the other hand, my infrequent visits have been enhanced by armchair travel provided by one of my Baedekers.
I assume things haven’t changed much since then, right?
On dynasties. Over the ages, France and Germany have swapped territory now identified as Belgium, the Netherlands or Luxembourg. Indeed, sometimes the word and applies.
Alliances often came from marriage, as noted in the Baedeker: “In 1477, the Netherlands came into possession of the House of Hapsburg by marriage of Mary of Burgundy, the daughter of Charles the Bold, the last Duke of Burgundy, with Maximilian, afterwards Emperor of Germany. The children of this marriage were Philip the Handsome (d. 1506), Duke of Burgundy and King of Castile (in right of his wife, Johanna the Mad), and Margaret of Austria, regent of the Netherlands from 1507 to her death in 1530.”
Do you suppose Johanna couldn’t handle Philip’s good looks?
On waiters. “The German word ‘Kellner’ is used everywhere for ‘waiter,’ though the Dutch usually summon him with the expression ‘Aannemen’ (i.e., ‘take,’ short for ‘take the order’) or address him as Jan. He expects a fee of 5 to 10 c. (15 – 25 c. from diners).”
This yelling “Aannemen!” reminds me of the Italian practice of summoning a waiter with “Senta!,” literally “Listen!” Or the Japanese word “Sumimasen,” which literally means “Excuse me,” but is typically shouted with rather more urgency than its meaning might suggest.
Baedeker also advises, “The arithmetic of the waiter is sometimes faulty.”
On signage. “The ‘gaper,’ a painted Turk’s or Moor’s head is a customary sign for druggists’ shops. A large crown, decorated with box-leaves and gilding, suspended beneath the Dutch flag, is an indication that fresh herrings have arrived in the shop thus adorned.”
On cleanliness. “The Dutch love of cleanliness sometimes amounts almost to a monomania. The scrubbing, washing, and polishing (schoonmaken) which most houses undergo once every week, externally as well as internally, are occasionally somewhat subversive of comfort.”
On Belgian characteristics. “Those indicated by the following monkish lines are said to exist to some extent even at the present day: Nobilibus Bruxella virus, Antwerpia nummis, Gandavum laqueis, formosis Bruga puellis, Lovantum doctis, gaudet Mechlimia stuttis.”
“Brussels rejoices in noble men, Antwerp in money, Ghent in halters, Bruges in pretty girls, Louvain in learned men, and Malines in fools.”
“Halters are mentioned in connection with Ghent in allusion to the frequent humiliations to which its turbulent citizens were subjected by their sovereigns. The unenviable reputation of the citizens of Malines originated in the story that they once mistook the moon shining through their cathedral-tower for a conflagration, and endeavoured to extinguish it by means of the fire-engines.”
Yes, that sort of thing would get around. ds
C Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2016