Diggin’ in the Dirt #2

Grettings from a land of rain and frogs!

Since reporting that the weather last week was glorious, it has
all gone downhill. The first part of the week was perfect for
working – overcast and cool – but now it’s just downright cold
and rainy. Feels like October. But it can’t last the rest of the
summer, right…?

It’s been an exciting week, here in the Netherlands! Working was
much as usual – fantastically dirty and rather exhausting
(hooray hooray for hot showers!) – but the things going on
around work were neat. The marching part of the Four Days March
began on Tuesday. One of our co-workers (Wilburt) was doing the
50km march, so we took a few minutes off to go watch as he
walked past our dig. He was a bit slower than anticipated, so I
didn’t end up seeing him, but watching all the other people
march by was great. People get a bit whacky for this event –
dressing up in funny costumes and hats. One man was even
carrying around a sign asking so-and-so to marry him. šŸ™‚

The way I understand it, the Four Days March began in the late
1800s as a military exercise. Being that the Netherlands is so
tiny, there was no place for the military to march so they could
get into shape. Poor chubby military men. So they decided to
march around in circles – 40km carrying 10 kilo for four days in
a row. In 1916, the inhabitants of Nijmegen (where the march
began and ended every day) were getting jealous of all the fun
(and probably also chubby themselves), so they decided to throw
the march open to the public. It was theoretically an effort to
help people get exercise and get in shape, but of course, it
eventually just turned into a big-honkin’ party. For
non-military folks, the march is 50km each day, and the party
lasts all night every night for a week.

After going into town for the beginning of festivities last
week, Angela and I went back for the end of festivities on
Friday. It was pretty incredible. We went in around 2, meaning
to watch some of the marchers come home. Unfortunately, there
were wall to wall people through the whole length of town, and
without resorting to violence, we couldn’t get anywhere near
enough to see. The closest we got was the stands of people at
the very end which were topped by living statues of historical
people who would wave every now and then much to everyone’s
delight. (Apparently there is a famous mime school here? The
town was full of living statues, anyway. Some of them were
really impressive.)

We stayed in town until it got dark, which was a really long
time (8 hours? Nine?). We wandered around and around in circles
as the party wound up. There is live music at nearly every
corner and enough fried food to clog the arteries of the jolly
green giant. We sampled more than our fair share. We also did
some good beer sampling. Turns out I’m a weeny beer drinker –
interpret that as you will. I rather like the whitbeir, but my
favorite remains Kriek – the Belgian cherry beer.

Eventually we bumped into Wilbur, who was hobbling around
looking like he was in a great deal of pain. Regardless, he
tagged along with us for awhile, showing off his medal to prove
this is the eighth time he’s successfully marched. Eventually,
the crowds got too thick and our tolerance for beer and fried
things ran out, so we went home.

On the weekend, we took a field trip to Germany. One of the men
who works in the office – a man by the name of Jeroen who has
been stood up by his past two fiancees and now seems to be a bit
sweet on Angela – had offered to drive Angela to Xanten to see
the museum and digs down there. As a self-preservation maneuver,
Angela invited the rest of us (David, Marieka, and myself) to
come along as well. So it turned into a nice little daytrip.

Xanten is an Archeaologist’s wonderland. It is a Roman town that
was abandoned by medieval times and covered up with dirt and
rubble. Bit by bit, the property which contains the remains of
the site is being purchased (by the government? not sure…)
which means the archaeologists have all the time and leisure in
the world to do the excavations. Normally, excavations are
wildly rushed in order to make way for construction.

At Xanten, they only excavate when they have enough money to
preserve or reconstruct. This means that not a lot of it is
excavated, but what is excavated is really well done. There’s a
temple (to an unknown deity), an Inn (which serves “Roman”
cuisine to tourists now), the amphitheater (where they have live productions
throughout the summer), and the public bathhouses (not open to the public, thankfully). It was really
beautiful to see. My favorite bit was the bathhouses – even without patrons, they have
the bath water running! Fueled by wood-burning fires. Super
cool. I’ll be putting up pictures right soon.

On the way home, we toodled through Kleve and Kranenburg, where
we had big lovely steaks for dinner. Mmmm. I’ve been steak
deprived. All in all, it was a really nice trip.

So that’s about that. I continue to dig up really lovely
post-holes at work (I’ll put some pictures of those up too) and
that’s about that. So far, the frogs have resisted my attempts
at good portrait shots, but I’ll get some of those too
eventually.

In the meanwhile, much love to everyone!!

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