Once every year or two hubby and I take a vacation out of the country. In 2010 we chose
as a celebration of our 20 years of marriage and a place we had both longed to
see since childhood. This year, we decided to go to Denmark
and Holland. Why? Because we hadn’t
been there. And because we both have ancestors from those areas.
Being west coasters, hubby and I don’t have a lot of cold tolerance, so we bundled up in three layers of clothing to brave the 30-50 degree temperatures and off we went.
is a proud, green city with an efficient public transportation system, electric
cars, renewable power, and lots and lots of bicycles. The city is planning to
be carbon-neutral by 2025 and is well on the way to meeting that goal. I love
that about the Danish people.
As someone with Scandinavian ancestors and a high probability of Viking roots, I had to visit the
Ship Museum Roskilde. Fifty years ago, archaeologists
recovered five Skuldulev boats that were
deliberately sunk with stones to create a border that kept enemy ships out of
the harbor. The preserved remains of these ships are on display in the museum,
and it’s amazing to see the expertise it took to build such ships long before
the modern age. This July, the recreated Sea Stallion ship, will sail from Denmark
to Ireland in
commemoration of Vikings who sailed that route so long ago.
Next, we flew to
Holland. This place is special
because hubby and I both have ancestors from this great city. No trip to Amsterdam
would be complete without a visit to VanGogh’s museum, which just happened to
be a short walk from our hotel, thanks to hubby’s great travel-planning skills.
The painting of Van Gogh’s bedroom and his famous self-portrait is here, but
they didn’t have Sunflowers or Starry Night, my favorites, so I was a bit
We ventured into
where one of my prominent ancestors once lived but had no luck finding records
here. And you can forget finding your ancestors in the cemeteries if they died
more than 50 years ago. The Dutch rent out graves for a period of several years
then the bodies are dug up and cremated, making room for another family to bury
their loved ones in the same spaces. Land is scarce here, so this makes sense,
but it can make genealogy cemetery research a headache sometimes. Still, it was
a treat to see the city where my ancestors lived and worked nearly four
we had better luck, at least on my side of the family tree. I got a printout of
a marriage record, thanks to the wonderful people at the Amsterdam
archives. They even took the time to translate the Old Dutch language for me.
Afterward, we got to visit the Oude Kerk ( ) where my ancestors listed
on that printout married back in 1638, just before they left for Old
Amsterdam ( New York City)
and a better life. Oude Kerk was built in the 14th century so it’s
seen a lot of history. When I showed the marriage record to the church
personnel, we were escorted into the restricted area where my ancestors signed
their marriage announcement, just four years before Rembrandt signed his. I
walked and stood exactly where my ancestors and the famous Rembrandt had been
375 years earlier. I can’t tell you how amazing that felt. I was saddened we
didn’t locate any of hubby’s ancestors on this trip, but I’ll keep digging in
the online records. And who knows, maybe one of the photos we took will connect
with his side of the family tree.
While the excitement of finding ancestors is on the top of our list, tulips come in at a close second. The whole reason we decided to visit
in April was so we could go to the Keukenhof. The cold snap didn’t deter the
flowers from blooming and we saw thousands of vibrant colors. Needless to say,
I went a bit photo crazy here. And we certainly wouldn’t go to Holland
without visiting the famous windmills. I think these iconic structures typify Holland
as much as wooden shoes and tulips. Seeing them from the inside is a treat, as
well. Especially when you realize they run solely on wind power and were built
long before electricity was discovered.
Our vacation to
and Holland is just a memory and a
giant photo file now, but these countries will always have a special place in
my heart because our ancestors once lived and worked there before coming to the
New World. Without them, hubby and I wouldn’t be here