Eindhoven means something like “the last sections of approximately 14 hectares of land” and I swear by Wikipedia which is my favourite thing on the Internet. That’s economy of language…
Following the thread from the previous post, we were in a bus headed to Eindhoven, enjoying that unusual but pleasing feeling of having a blue sky over us, when we ticked off the first item on our to-do in the big city: The Evoluon. Which is a giant spaceship, former science museum, current conference centre, and possibly the first sample we had of the incredibly flexible architectural rules of the folks of the Netherlands..
We went to drop our luggage off at the hotel, a not too expensive but quite nice Premier Inn very close to the station, at least in absolute terms. Because this thing about the shortest distance between two points being the straight line is an idea that doesn’t seem to have gotten through to road designers. But there we were, a couple of tunnels and three or four pedestrian crossings later, ready to go and look for the most important part of any city: the food.
We decided to eat in a neighbourhood called Strijp-S or The strip. That whole area belonged to Philips, which we all know because they make light bulbs, batteries and shavers but none of us knew it was originally from Eindhoven. But they grew, became important and polluting and had to move away from the city leaving behind a neighbourhood / abandoned industrial plant that makes you think of scenes from Bioshock.
But the cool Eindhoverian youngsters arrived and opened cool shops and restaurants and vegan cafés and gluten free ice cream gelateries and skate parks, they planted plants between the metallic macro tubes and draw grafitti worthy of the MOMA, and so the old industrial plant became a hipster paradise with streampunk aesthetics that look really cool even if you’re not obsessed with a good shot for the ‘gram.
We refuelled a little with a seeded bread sandwich with poached eggs, avocado, pumpkin seeds and ricotta (7€) in Onder de Leidingstraat, black cones of ice cream in Intelligentia and coffee with a mini chocolate called Tony chocolonely that made me spent the rest of the trip singing Tony chocolony with the music of a certain Italian restaurant… As you can see, everything super cool like the neighbourhood itself.
From there we went back to the city centre to visit some museums but apparently they all closed early. We went to see the main church but it wasn’t much bigger than the one in my Edinburgh neighbourhood and of a similar style. We went to the river and it was a wee burn with delusions of greatness. So we resigned ourselves to simply walk around the city centre and enjoy the risks of being run over by a cyclist along with the architecture innovations (i.e. flights of fancy made into nice-looking buildings).
Being Eindhoven cute but tiny we had seen almost everything by 6 pm and we didn’t have anything left to see nearby and our legs were too destroyed to go further away. So what does a tourist do when he or she is tired? Go into a nice coffee shop and ask for coffee and cake and lay your poor feet to rest. Unless you’re in Netherlands, where you have the choice of coffee and a joint, or alternatively a Nestea… Sparkling! Who the hell adds bubbles to a Nestea?? Yep, I go in the middle of the afternoon to a coffee shop where you can smoke flowers and I freak out at a sparkling Nestea. Well, at that and the fact that they have an impressive weed menu where I didn’t understand anything. I’m still getting over the fact that in Málaga you can order a smurf and a cloud and get a breakfast so I’m definitely not ready to order things such as “chernobyl” or “aurora borealis”. A gassy Nestea might be adventure enough..
We sat there for a wee while observing the local fauna and I was in for a disappointment. Do you know how people from a certain age (always over mine) called joints the “laughing cigarettes”? (not sure if they do in English). Well, I’ve been at happier funerals than that café: a group of lonely men from 20 to 45 years old, sitting in silence, some reading, some staring at infinity, some listening to music, someone writing what might be the next big Dutch best-seller and two rebel guys shamelessly playing chess. Interacting. And occasionally even speaking to each other, how dare they!
And then us, chatting and laughing despite the ecclesiastical aura, and taking ideas for this anthropological essay I’m writing instead of a travel blog. By the way, another fun fact, I don’t know if it was due to the smoke bubble we were sitting in infiltrating my brain, but interestingly everyone entering the place was dressed either completely in black or in neon bright colours. Not a single rustic tone, a lady grey, a good girl pink… Nothing. If anyone is looking for a sociology PhD proposal I give this one kindly in the name of progress: the relationship between the colour of your clothes and the ability to afford drugs delivery (legal in this case). Did you think I meant the relationship between taking drugs and dressing classy? I’m not that naive…
After the coffee shop I think we went for dinner (and I say I think because this was some time ago and I didn’t have a wee notebook with me on this trip, don’t be evil-minded). We had dinner in a small bar halfway between a chippy and an Andalusian tapas bar. We entered and ordered confidently:
- We (pointing): a portion of this, of that, two of those and a beer.
- Bartender: To eat on the table?
- We: Yes, please.
- Bartender: So on the table instead of the plate?
- Alba (to me, aside): Did you understand? Did he asked if we wanted to eat on the table?
- Nieves (to Alba, aside, very confidently): yes yes, of course, it’s a joke, because we said that we will eat on the table he’s joking about us not wanting plates. (to the bartender): hehehehe haha…sure sure, with plate. (to myself): I am so smart and these people have such a strange sense of humour…
We sat down to wait for our paper cone filled with chips, truffle sauce, croquettes and the famous bitterballen, which are a ball and can be eaten with a bite (therefore the name). And during the wait something happened that explains why I have recorded the dialogue above: they served food to the people next to us ON the table. No, it wasn’t a joke and I wasn’t sharp as a tack, apparently these people are so super wonderful and super environmentally friendly that in order to reduce the use of disposables they serve the food directly on a piece of paper on the table while remaining unruffled.
Anyway, travelling is learning and soaking in the culture. And it’s undeniable than in the local culture of the Netherlands beer plays a crucial role, so we went to consume some culture guided by the beer professor (De Bierprofessor). Amongst other things, I learnt that 7% is a little too much alcohol for my beer but that in this part of the world they definitely know what they’re doing when they ferment their wheat…
I’m not sure if it was due to the professor’s influence but we ended up in a colourful place called Villa Fiesta dancing to electronic music and surrounded by students drinking caramel vodka straight from the bottle (not us, we’re classy ladies in our 30s). And that’s enough for today, this was just a Friday!