Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Travelblog 11: Blokker on Blokker's (no Relation)

When traveling through the Netherlands, I found several constants that seemed to follow me on my journeys. In the countryside, for example, to find a town or village you only have to scan the horizon until you see a church spire pointing up to heaven. That spire is usually the tallest point in the community. Even where high rise apartment buildings loom like a threat to beauty itself, church spires let you know where the older, more quaint and friendly city centrums are. It is reassuring and welcoming. In those centers you will find another mainstay or two. Certain businesses pop up everywhere. In train stations you might find Burger King and Starbuck’s sitting side by side trying to seduce commuters. But Corporate America’s invasion of Holland has not fully encroached on the centrums. Instead, there is a constant there, Dutch stores you can count upon to be in or near. The grocery chain Albert Hein provides beautiful food in precise packaging and reasonable portions. The all-in-one Hema provides commercial grade selection of everyday sundries, kitchen gadgets, china, pubware, linens and cosmetics, and often includes a coffee shop for weary shoppers. In direct competition with Hema is another general store called Blokker’s. Blokker’s is one of the oldest chain stores in Holland. I decided that it would be fun to take a photograph of every Blokker’s I encountered, but I made that decision too late to take more than two. I missed the Blokker in Amsterdam and Arnhem and den Haag, getting only Tiel and Culemborg. The Culemborg Blokker’s is a particularly fond memory for me. On our very first trip to Holland, in December 2001, we arrived on the 27th of December with a list of things to look for and purchase for friends back home. With surprising energy, we walked into the centrum from the Rutgers home after lunch. The very first store we entered was Blokker’s. The very first item we bought was a tea cozy for a friend back in Salinas. The very first transaction we made was still in guilders, as the Euro did not become common currency until January 1. So Blokker’s became an integral part of my travel experience from the very start. Earlier that very morning, when we entered the country through Schiphol, we had to check through passport control. When I presented my passport to the young officer, he said, “Blokker – any relation?” Diane said, “Sadly, no.” Rumor has it that we might, indeed, be related in some shirttail way, but I have no evidence either way and no way to discover any. Still, it would be cool to be one of those Blokkers, even as just a poor cousin three times removed, once by slow boat to America. Perhaps I could spearhead a counter-invasion: Blokker’s of Kalispell.

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