Lynden: Washington’s Dutch Show

/ New Delhi
Lynden: Washington’s Dutch Show

Lynden is a small city in Washington that is known for its quintessential Dutch charm (Photos: Rameshinder Singh Sandhu)

Nestled on the border between United States and Canada, Lynden, a small town in Washington state is truly a ‘slice of Holland’ where locals have paid homage to their heritage wherever you go, wherever you look in the town.
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Sometimes, destinations from which we least expect any surprise, end up surprising us the most. For me, it was Lynden, a small city in Washington, known for its quintessential Dutch charm, where I was, not so long ago.

Nestled just minutes away from the US– Canada border and the Pacific Ocean, with a population of about 14,300, I had put it on my itinerary only for a day, mainly to meet my uncle and his family, who reside there. Despite reaching quite late in the night, I was up for an early morning walk, absolutely oblivious that every turn will remind me of the Netherlands.

Lynden also wins hearts through its colourful murals which are also all about life in Holland

Arriving on the Front Street, the main street, where every building stands dressed in Dutch architecture, some with replicas of windmills at the top, for a moment, I couldn’t figure out if it was real or my sleepy brain had been playing tricks with me. Flanked by restaurants, cafes, offices and much more, all still shuttered, I took hardly any time to decide that I would lengthen my stay, making it at least three days and I wondered to myself, ‘‘Holland is not just where it is, in Europe, it is also across the Atlantic.

As the street was only a couple blocks away from my uncle’s home and located in a neighbourhood with amazing boulevards, I had soon enough become a regular here. At the visitor centre, I learnt that a majority of locals here has its roots in various pockets of Holland. Accordingly as a homage to their heritage, the town folks are also known for wearing traditional dresses on special days and occasions.

“Phobe Judson and her husband Holden were the first Dutch immigrants, who founded Lynden, beginning its story in the early 1870s. Soon, many others followed them, mostly taking up farming, not forgetting their tulips and later starting dairies also. Lynden was officially incorporated as a city in March of 1891,” says an elderly official, adding USA had a large number of similar towns founded by people migrating from other countries, notably Europe, and where they have tried hard to retain at least some elements of their ancestral lands.

Interestingly, just outside this visitor centre is also a stunning sculpture of Judson, labelled as the ‘Mother of Lynden’. Judson’s culture has the same status for residents of Lynden as what Statue of Liberty has for New York and hence one can find both locals and visitors posing for getting photographed as they would in front of an iconic monument.

A Dutch touch

Admiration for their roots is so strong amongst the denizens of Lynden that most business here posses a Dutch name and after every few steps dining options advertise Dutch cuisine. I couldn’t resist the traditional ‘Lynden Dutch Bakery’, which opened its doors in 1907. Inside, a rich collection of Oliebollen and Poffertjes, and many other pastries and pies, with a nice cup of hot chocolate, excited my tongue.

The Lynden Dutch Bakery opened its doors in 1907

Sometimes I would sit inside, sometimes outside –not forgetting to keep my flâneur spirit alive as observing the world around is utterly intriguing for me, just like Parisians. What inspired me the most is that I rarely came across anyone in a rush and everyone seemed ready for a leisurely conversation, something not very common today in most parts of the world.

On the same street, I was captivated upon entering the Dutch Village Mall, clearly inspired by Amsterdam and the Amstel River. As one enters the Mall, a small canal with boats greets the visitors and to go through the mall, one has to cross several small bridges, just as it is in Amsterdam. Not just the river or the bridges, over here the doors of every shop displayed stickers of tulips, windmills and the traditional Dutch wooden shoes worn while farming.

I was captivated upon entering the Dutch Village Mall, clearly inspired by Amsterdam and the Amstel River

Back to the city, Lynden also wins hearts through its colourful murals which are also all about life in Holland, mostly presenting the everyday life scenes there, many from the old days, farmers working in the fields, women working in the kitchen, wind mills in the country side, the bakeries and so much more.

I found them not only on the busy streets but also in parking lots and hidden squares, which successfully make you part of the art scenes. “Some are made by local artists, some also came from far off places to make these murals and they painted what could have excited us the most and even the visitors like you,” Linda Smith, a local artist, told me.

Graveyard tours

Passion for dairy was palpable, considering many local dairies. Like my uncle, several locals too kept recommending me to try the ice-cream at Edaleen Dairy, which attracts not just locals but also visitors from across the border from Canada. Visiting the dairy, I loved pictures of cows with their names on the wall and every flavour here tasted better and fresher than many famous names in the world of ice-creams. It certainly lives up to its marketing line, ‘From happy cows to happy customers.’

Being an aviation geek, on my second evening, I walked with my uncle to the town’s small airport –a quick walk from his home, where many small planes stunned me. “Flying is one of the favourite pastimes for many locals,” my uncle told me.

Having read about the free graveyard tours on Saturdays – on my very first day outside the large graveyard here, I knew I had to attend for the unique experience it could have given me and it did. I arrived 10 minutes prior to the tour’s time, waiting outside the cemetery’s small office, surrounded by graves. Soon enough, came other participants, a group of women and of course the guide, dressed in a black suit, driving an old black car.

Following a brief orientation sitting around a large oval table, he took us all around, introducing us to graves of first immigrants, including of Phobe Judson, the first police officer, the librarian and many more, commenting along on their Dutch roots. Later, we took note of various trends of grave designs, and some mysterious ones too.

Lynden Pioneer Museum

I effortlessly mingled with one of the ladies, who had worked in India for several years at the US Embassy and here she was welcoming to her town, and we laughed about the welcome taking place in the final resting place.

As it was also my last evening at Lynden, I was fortunate to catch the ongoing annual festival, Northwest Washington Fair, where besides rides and cattle show, many Dutch treats came my way. I also came across Janet Honcoop there, my uncle’s octogenarian neighbour, who suggested that I visit Lynden Pioneer Museum on Front Street, recounting the town’s history but as I was leaving the next morning, I could not visit it. But during the course of my short stay here, I had a feeling that the entire town had been like a museum to me.

Next morning as I headed to my next stop, Vancouver across the border, I felt I was not coming from America, but from somewhere in the Netherlands.

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