Where They Live: S'Hertogenbosch, Holland
Unfastening her rusty garage latch, Buffi Duberman ’90 swings open the two doors, wheeling out the newest of six bicycles inside, a 21-speed whose lower gears see little use in Holland’s flatlands. Taking off down the narrow,cobblestone driveway—her 2-year-old daughter, Ruby, secured in the child seat—she turns onto a street lined with trees, row houses and old-fashioned street lamps. At 9:00 am it is still misty, the birds chirping, as she turns onto the bike path toward the market square. Crossing the street, she takes the bike path toward the market square of s’Hertogenbosch—“woods of the duke”—more commonly known as Den Bosch.
Den Bosch is an 800-year-old city of 100,000 that once was home to the painter Hieronymus Bosch; it’s an hour’s drive south of Amsterdam and a nine-hour flight from the Chicago suburbs where Buffi grew up. Happenstance wooed her here: While exploring Europe after graduating from SLC, she met and fell in love with Dutch architect Peter Japenga. Joining him in Holland, she spent the next twelve years in this movie set of a city, teaching English to Europe’s rich and famous at the prestigious Regina Coeli language institute before starting her own business as English coach to the Dutch music industry in 2002.
The church bells peal from the 15th-century cathedral in the town center, their chimes mingling with those from other churches scattered throughout town. As in all of Holland, Den Bosch’s streets are lined and crossed by canals; on her way to the market, Buffi must cross three of these. This morning, as she approaches the second bridge, she must stop and wait; the bridge is up, a barge coming through. No matter, she is in no hurry, and it’s an opportunity for daughter Ruby to enjoy the puzzling sight of a car atop a boat.
The barge passes, the bridge lowers, and they are on their way again, soon coming into the triangular-shaped market lined with ancient, spire-topped houses, each making its own bold color statement to the bustling crowds on the street.
Hand in hand, mother and daughter leave the overflowing bike racks and head toward the cheese vendors hollering their prices in friendly competition. One offers Buffi a thin piece of aged gouda and, winning her approval, cuts a wedge from an enormous wheel, wrapping it carefully in waxed paper. Next week, she’ll enjoy some edam or goat cheese with nettles and coriander. Her favorite part of the market is the expansive flower section, where locally grown treasures in every color fill four large tents. When in a hurry, she navigates the entire section in ten minutes, but today she’s taking it all in: After 15 minutes of gazing, Buffi pays seven euros for fifty orange tulips—later, they’ll fill her house.
As usual, the produce vendor offers Ruby an apple. Then it’s off to the bakery that just celebrated its 100th anniversary, where Buffi orders an unsliced 16-grain bread for husband Peter and a muesli roll and speculaas cookie for Ruby. They don’t sell bagels, her favorite since childhood—those she’ll make herself, or pick up next time she’s in Amsterdam on business. Before heading home, she buys a cup of strong coffee and, feeling indulgent, a slice of apple pie from one of the cafés lining the winding one-way streets near the market. She and Ruby sit on a stoop and enjoy their sweet treats as they take in the buzz of Den Bosch’s lively street life.
Soon, they are on their way back home, where Buffi will unpack the groceries—noticing they’ve lost an apple or crushed some strawberries along the way—set out her flowers, and enjoy reading the morning paper with Peter before enjoying the children’s play day in the street, one of six her neighborhood has reserved this summer. They will join their neighbors in sipping coffees and beers in front of their houses, watching their children play together, feeling blessed to live a small town existence in a big city that’s been a part of Dutch life for 800 years.
—Gillian Gilman Culff ’88