The Netherlands is known for windmills, wooden shoes and tulips. But as pointed out by our guides, none of these actually comes from there. Windmills originated in southern Europe around the Mediterranean Sea (although the Dutch claim to have improved them by giving them the ability to change direction, in order to point into the wind). Wooden shoes came from France, in the vicinity of Bordeaux. Tulips are from western and central Asia, finding their way westward via the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires. According to one guide's story, if I remember it correctly, the Austro-Hungarian royals had a gardener who just happened to come from the Netherlands.
Belgium, on the other hand, claims to be the source of something attributed to a different country. During WWI, as another tour guide explained, American soldiers saw some of their European allies cutting potatoes into wedges and frying them. These European troops used French to communicate their orders, so the Yanks incorrectly thought that they were from France. In reality, they were Belgian. Soon afterwards, America was introduced to the wrongly named (as far as Belgians are concerned) food item known as French fries.
The worst part of my trip was dealing with Amsterdam's Schiphol airport. The name may be pronounced "ship-hole", although a slight variation quickly comes to mind. The flight from the United States landed a minute or two early, but our gate was occupied by a plane that was supposed to leave, but was having some sort of technical difficulties. The idea of giving us a different gate was somehow above the pay grade of the airport's controllers, so we sat in some holding area for over 20 minutes before finally being allowed to arrive. After that, I walked from the gate to the passport control area, only to find a line of people that started a flight of stairs up from that place, and eventually found exactly two officers reviewing passports. As I waited, a third one showed up. About a week later, leaving was not without its downside. There were some more long lines in various places, but nothing out of the ordinary. Going through their security was relatively painless. But the plane had to taxi for about 30 minutes before taking off. I'm not talking about having to wait in place behind other planes to use an overcrowded runway. We were moving for all that time, from one area to another, until we finally got to the assigned runway.
I must now continue with unpacking and washing all my travelling clothes. There are dozens of pictures waiting to be transferred from my camera to my computer, and then to the Internet. Stay tuned for Bigfoot's travel reports.