Hunting for Antiques in the Netherlands (1963 - 65)
Hunt : 1 - 2 - 3 - Stories - Reference map of the Netherlands
Antiques hunt 1
We moved in straight away and soon became good friends with the couple next door and the one across the road. We used to have small parties on weekend evenings, often ending up with a midnight expedition to one of the hunnebedden scattered through North Drenthe's country side around villages like Rolde, Anlo and Gieten. Hunnebedden are thought to be at least 2000 years old. They are ancient graves constructed from huge stones probably transported into the area by glaciers from the last Ice Age. We would sit on top of the stones in animated discussion and song and celebrate these ancient wonders with a glass of wine or two before finally returning home, feeling very much in tune with those ancient ancestors.
Across the canal from us and next to the Army base grounds was Cafe van
Houten (Dutch pub). It was easily accessible from our home via a narrow
footbridge across the canal conveniently located exactly opposite the
Antien and I had started collecting antiques and odd curiosa back in Den
Haag, roaming the flea markets every weekend. Our greatest trophy so far was
a zinc sit bath, which I painted black and Antien filled with
pillows, transforming it into a comfortable lounge chair.
One evening I was sitting at the bar together with another young antique enthusiast who managed a hotel in town. We were egging Jan on a little.
Jan was by now so agitated he hardly could speak a word. "You guys know nothing ! Nothing at all !!" he finally
blurted out. "Come back in three days, and I'll have a
whole bunch of them right here around my bloody fire place!"
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Antiques hunt 2
The next day I return to his Pub and he proudly leads me to his shed. There on his work bench, would you believe, lie not one but two genuine milk yokes. The one he had thought of the day before has a pair of the most beautiful hand beaten metal chains, but the wooden yoke itself is badly damaged and eaten away by wood worm. He therefore scouted further around until he found the second yoke, its chains not as good, but its wooden yoke in excellent condition. We take the chains from the damaged yoke and fix them onto the other one, and after an exchange of a mere 5 Guilders the yoke is mine. As is tradition with Jan we proceed to the bar and convert the handed over money into beers, a much more agreeable commodity.
Back home I work on the yoke all evening. I clean the rust and dirt off the chains with a steel brush until they are smooth, silvery and shiny. I sand paper the surface of the wooden yoke, fill a few wood worm holes with candle wax, then stain the yoke dark brown and polish it with furniture wax until its shine matches the chains. It is absolutely beautiful. A year or so later it arrives with our other belongings in Australia, and travels with us wherever we go. Right now it is on Kangaroo Island, where Antien is the custodian looking after it until eventually it will pass on to one of our children.
I have asked my son Jeroen who was with his mother this weekend to
take photos of both the milk yoke and the sit bath. (The yoke is shown above. The sit bath needs some TLC and fresh paint before it will be shown here.)
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Antiques hunt 3 (Final)
So one Saturday morning we set of in our beetle Volkswagen on the road to Groningen, then West towards Leeuwarden. Just after the border with Friesland we turn right into farm country. We travel all around the place, visiting several farm houses along the way. I can't remember whether it is near Hallum or Kollum that we eventually strike gold. We enter a small farm and in the kitchen right above the kitchen table hangs this gorgeous brass oil lamp. There are other items of interest but we can not keep our eyes from the lamp. To our great surprise and delight the farmer (can't remember his wife being there, which may have something to do with our success) is happy to part with the lamp as soon as he spots the 50 guilder bill I am holding in my hand. Both sides feel they are striking an absolute bargain, so we part amicably and return home in high spirits.
We gave the lamp as a Christmas present to my parents. It
hang for many years in their lounge above a cows' drinking trough, hand
carved from a solid sandstone rock, which van der Mei, our farmer
neighbour across the road from Martinshof (Gorssel), had let me take
from his meadow. I filled the rectangular 4 ft by 1 ft trough with water and
gold fish and also
installed a small fountain pump in it. It made a lovely arrangement in the
© 2010-2011 Michael Furstner