As usual the condition of the road from Aarhus to Hengelo was excellent. In these parts of the world a pot hole on the road is not something they are familiar with. Besides, for the speeds permitted will not permit the road to be badly maintained. Therefore, the construction and maintenance of the infrastructure has to be given due importance; deviations from top quality specs should not be permitted. The speed with which infrastructure is created in Europe and even in many parts of Asia is also amazing. Speed does not, however, compromise quality. Just after we left Aarhus at 8 am it started raining. It rained almost right through the drive. But the heaviest was till we reached Bremen. The downpour was heavy and visibility was greatly impacted. However, the condition of the road and lane discipline made sure that traffic kept going at speeds above 110 kmph. Once the rains eased up the road congestion in Germany slowed down traffic to a crawl in many places. Obviously it was on account of holiday makers returning home after a fun weekend; schools and universities were scheduled to open in a few days. Considering the condition of the road I should have covered the 650 kms in 5 hours and some according to the Navigator. It took me 8 hours with stoppages for fuelling, snacks, lunch and the traffic snarls. In the time we traversed from Denmark to Germany and then to The Netherlands – the 23rd country in our journey.
One of the stand out features in Denmark is the windmills which leverage the extremely windy conditions in the country. I was given to understand that Denmark generates 28% of its energy requirements from wind power and there is a major ongoing programme to increase its share to 50% by 2020. This makes Denmark the World’s Wind Power Hub. The vision is to make Denmark free of fossil fuel dependent energy generation by 2050! The vision is based on availability, sustainability and economics. The clean energy is also an export earner for Denmark.
I came to know Kamalamma Chechi and Bernie Chettan, both Doctors, when I was at the London School of Economics in 1995-96. Chechi is a senior cousin and my mother had given me the contact when I was leaving India for London. The family ties are so strong that from the first call to them I felt as if I had known them all my life. Later I met them in Cambridge, where Chettan’s nephew was studying, and came to know them better. Chettan sent me a muffler for 1995 Christmas that remained an inalienable companion till a good friend lost it in Germany a few years later. When I was deputed by Container Corporation of India in 1999 for a training course to Nijmegan, The Netherlands my wife and I stayed for a day with Chettan and Chechi in their lovely home in Hengelo. It was to this home we were going to spend the night. Hengelo is a small town in the east of Holland within 30 kms of the German border in Bad Bentheim. The city acquired importance after the establishment of the railways in the early 1900s and became a centre of the Industrial Revolution. The important railway junction and its contribution to the armaments industry saw the city centre almost completely destroyed in the bombings during WWII. The railway line runs just behind the home of Bernie Chettan and the station is not far away.
Through a light drizzle Bernie Chettan took us to the Basilica of Saint Lambert in the city centre. The neo-Gothic structure is impressive from the outside. We were not hopeful of the Church being open, but it was. A lovely Pieta welcomed us as we got into the Church. There was no one else in the Church. We were fortunate to be there at the time for in a short while the Sacristan arrived to close it down for the day. The Church of Our Lady had a tribute to abused children at the entrance of the Church. One of the greatest gifts in the journey has been the innumerable churches we have been to and the opportunity to offer prayers in them.
Then we went to the Twente University which was established in 1961. It is the youngest among the three technical Universities in The Netherlands, the others being Delft and Eindhoven. The University has a large campus with tutorial, research, residential and recreational facilities spread over 140 hectares in Enschede. It offers graduate and research programs in 6 departments of social and behavioural sciences and Engineering.
Chettan is a connoisseur of wine and Lal decided to sample some of the collection, with Chettan providing technical inputs about them. Anil, their younger son, is an orthopaedic surgeon in Hengelo. He joined us for a chat before dinner, which was a rich fare of Kerala food. Chappatis and rice were polished off with excellent preparations of beef and fish. Green salad, spinach, thoran, beans, etc filled the table and in due course our stomachs too. Discussion about Kerala, society, films and plans for the morrow kept us at the dining table for a long time. The Calicut halwa was an excellent after dinner accompaniment.