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Archive for the ‘The Netherlands’ Category

Adios Holland

The weather is getting colder and it’s pretty depressing.

Holland is flat, flat, flat.  It’s kind of trashy looking too, at least parts of it.  After coming from the stunning Highlands, this land is utterly uninspiring.  I miss Scotland.  But since I can’t go back, I’m going forward.

Tomorrow morning I say goodbye to The Netherlands and say hello to Belgium.  I am spending the weekend in Brugge, probably Europe’s best preserved medieval city.  At least that’s what the internet tells me.  And since I’ve really been slacking on the touristy stuff recently, I’m planning on doing a canal tour and a bike tour and possibly rent a bike for the day.  I never did any of those things in the Netherlands.  I just didn’t feel like it, I guess.

Anyways, in the morning I get to leave this flat flat flat land behind and…ok, move on to more flat land.  But it’s only for the weekend, and I’m moving on to Germany on Monday, as far as I know.  This flatness makes me depressed.  I like hills and landscapes.  What’s even worse, the farms and small towns all look the same and a lot of them have kind of a trashy feel to them.  I’m not really a fan.

I tried to make it to Drachten today, but once i got to Groningen was foiled by the fact that there didn’t seem to be any kind of public transportation heading in that direction.  After a three hour train ride I had to admit defeat.

The upside to the trip was that I got to walk around Groningen, not a bad city, but with the sameness that many Netherlandish cities display.  There was an excellent farmer’s market where I bought fresh fried fish (which you eat with a tiny fork, just like your fries.)  I also got a chocolate croissant, which for some reason in Dutch is a schokolade roombotor.  Roombotor?  It sounds like a robot vacuum cleaner, not a delicious croissant.

Getting back was a bit interesting as apparently there is very infrequent train service from Rotterdam-groningen and vice versa.  I either had to wait an hour or take an unknown number of trains to get home.  So I hopped on the first train that was leaving Groningen, which was supposed to be going to Amsterdam but three hours later when it still hadn’t found its goal I hopped off in Amsterfoort or soemthing like that, got another train to Amsterdam Centraal, and then another train to Rotterdam.  In the end it may have been quicker to just wait the hour for the straight-through, but not as interesting.  So whatever.

I’ve started missing weird things from home.  At the moment I would give anything to be able to sit in a living room, by myself, and watch a movie.  Any movie I choose.  I don’t know why I really, really miss that because I never even watch movies at home.

I also miss Scotland and Ireland.  I think I feel more homesick for them than I do for home.  I just don’t like the Netherlands as much.  Hopefully this does not continue, or I’ll jsut have to fly my ass back to the Highlands and stay there for the rest of my trip.  No, no, that would be giving up.  But I really do miss the awesomeness of those two gorgeous little Celtic countries.  And the people, most of all.  I really miss the friendliness of Irish people.

Although Australians are growing on me, I suddenly stopped seeing them around.  I haven’t really met anyoen new in a long time, and I don’t know if it’s the way the hostels are run or if I’m just missing something here.  I did talk to one Australian last night who was traveling around the Netherlands visiting a bunch of family that she’d never seen.

Alright, I’ve been on the computer way long enough.  I’ll be back when I’m in Brugge (after doing all my touristy things.)

PS Guess what!  I got into the Rotterdam newspaper!  A half-page picture of me and some other people from the hostel (but me in the center) while I was on the computer yesterday a guy doing a feature on the hostel came in and I was available so I got in the photo shoot.  Woohoo.

http://www.readmetro.com/editions.php?lang=en

Then go to the Rotterdam edition and find page 15.  Oh yeah I am so there.

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See, I’m learning Dutch already.

Actually, Dutch sounds like some garbled version of English.  Today I heard a conversation on the train that sounded like, “Is thy pantaloons most partying?”

“Indeed.  Verily we have stags in the garden again.  Success.”

“Shut it and thy underbraken is most clinging.”

It’s a kind of crazy thing to be in a country that speaks some other language.  Of course the Netherlands are kind of cheating because just about everyone speaks English anyways, but going to the supermarket is quite interesting. Appelsap, broodjes and kip?  Apple juice, bread and turkey.  It took me until today when I finally bought a “kip and pesto” sandwich to figure out what kip was.  It’s pretty popular, apparently.

Actually, speaking of the Dutch and food: it’s wonderful.  When I finally tracked down a supermarket after three days in Amsterdam, I realized why they hide them.  These places are like wonderlands of food.  The entire building is permeated with the scent of fresh-baked bread and croissants.  Abotu half of the store is devoted to wine, the other half stocked with enormous wheels of cheese that the aproned man cuts slices from.  A huge corner is stocked with fresh baked goods, and the remaining area is crammed with chocolate.  One corner is devoted, somewhat sadly, to wilty greens, mushy apples, and scary packaged salads.  I don’t know how everyone in this country stays so skinny and attractive.  Their strong point in cuisine is not in the vegetable department.

Speaking of chocolate–it’s super cheap and delicious.  Less than two hours away from Belgium and Germany, and close to France, the Netherlands knows how to do chocolate and pastries and cheese.  Even their sandwiches-in-a-box are palatable!  The food in Scotland was definitely nothing to write home about.  Dry, rubbery sandwiches you could have played hockey with and terribly flavorless food.

Anyways, where I’ve been the past few days: I flew into Amsterdam on Saturday morning, stayed there until Tuesday, with a day trip on Monday to Delft (a super nice little town) then on Wednesday went to Den Haag.  I didn’t really like Den Haag that much.  The whole area felt kind of dead and lifeless to me.  It had the air of a big city, but none of the vitality of Amsterdam and none of the attractiveness of a small town like Delft.  I stayed one night and this morning visited the Maritshuis, a museum with a collection of Johannes Vermeer’s work that I wanted to see.  Half of the entire museum was closoed for renovations.  At least the other half had the artwork I came to see, but they only had two pieces by Vermeer.  The others were on loan.  The rest of their art collection wasn’t that great, with the exception of a few Remembrandts.  I’m not an art snob  but it seemed like they had about three really good pieces and everything else was just filler.  Good thing they didn’t make me pay the admission fee.  Hehehe.

After that, I hopped a train (oops, instead of getting on a nice high-speed IC, I got on a squeaky one that stopped about every five feet) to Rotterdam.  I’d considered staying in Den Haag one more night and giving it another chance, but I just really didn’t want to do that.

Rotterdam is a pretty cool city.  I like it a lot better than Den Haag so far and the hostel is a lot better.  There’s a nice park close to the hostel and a little harbor with some really nice old sailboats.  The entire city was bombed to the ground in WWII, and has rebuilt completely since then.  Even for that, it still has some classic-looking architecture.  It’s strange to think how much more immediate WWII was for Europeans than it was for us, protected from pretty much all offensive action.

Future plans: hmmm…well, I’d like to get a nice-paying job doing something that doesn’t suck the soul out of me immediately.  In the next day or two however, which is about as far as I am able to plan ever anymore,  I’m staying in Rotterdam for two nights.  Tomorrow I think I’m going to try and do a day trip to Drachten, the town that eliminated all traffic signs, street lights, road laws, pedestrian crossings, bike lanes, etc in a different approach to reducing traffic incidents.  However it’s way up in the north of Holland, it’s a small town apparently with nothing to

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This is only one of the many messages spraypainted on walls, campers, vehicles, trains and in fact every graffiti-able surface.  That’s one thing I’ve noticed about the Netherlands, and not just Amsterdam: they graffiti absolutely everything.  Not bad graffiti either, but some really fantastic arty stuff.  Still not sure how into it I am.

This is my third day in Amsterdam.  This is a crazy city.  It’s everything I could have hoped and dreamed of and more.  I ended up staying in Stayokay Vondelpark, a YHI hostel situated outside the city center.  It’s nice, but too expensive to stay here much longer.  At least their free breakfast is awesome.  Every morning I load up on three varieties of toast, raisin buns, banana bread, cereal, juice, tea/coffee/espresso, boiled eggs, cheese, and salami (ok, not the salami, the edges get all crinkly and it’s kind of weird) to justify what I’m spending to sleep in a twenty bed dorm that is,after all, a tram ride away from the city center.  Of course it is directly across the street from Vondelpark, an awesome park you could wander in for hours itself. 

Amsterdam is cleaner, prettier, bigger, and far less wholesome than I imagined.  The red light district is amusing although I have yet to get a signature from a hooker!  Sorry, Torre.  The coffeeshops are everywhere.  You’ll be on a cobbled lane lined with Yves Saint Laurent and D&G shops and you’ll round the corner and meet a rasta-themed coffeeshop.  Or a residential district.  Or a ferris wheel and a booming midway.  Or a pack of stray cats.  Or, more likely, a gang of ruthless bicyclers trying to mow you down.  Or a scenic canal lined with 16th century houses leaning prettily forward at different angles to their neighbors.

I vaidated my Eurail pass and took a day trip to Delft today, the home of 17th century painter Johannes Vermeer.  I paid 6 euro to do the Vermeer experience, which was worth it if you like the painter (I do.) 

Delft is like Amsterdam but tiny, older(feeling), and without the red light district and coffeeshops.  I take that back.  I did see one coffeeshop, and it looked pretty busy.  Most of Delft seemed to be either shoestores or stores selling Delftware, that blue-and-white porcelain the town is traditionally famous for.

Tomorrow I don’t know whether I’ll move to a different hostel and spend another night in Amsterdam, or move for a few nights out to Den Haag, only a few minutes away by train from Amsterdam and supposedly another great town, as well as the home of a large collection of Dutch Renaissance paintings and a bunch of Vermeer’s work.  There is so much to see in Amsterdam, I don’t want to leave,but I can’t afford to buy anything including food.  I haven’t found a bottle of water to be found for under 2 euro, and that for a tiny one.  A bowl of soup–at your cheaper establshment–runs 5.50, about 8 USD.  I did find a bakery “bakerij” that sells these enormous vegetarian pizza things for only 3.50, so I’ve been living off of them.  They’re actually pretty tasty.  I’m doing that because my hostel does not, of course, have a kitchen and I haven’t been able to find a supermarket to buy my own food anyways. 

Amsterdam is awesome.  They have a tram that goes right from where I’m staying into the city center.  It’s easy to use, I just bought a strippenkaart of fourteen rides when I got here and I’ve been using that.  Actually, it’s going to be hard to use up all my rides before I leave.  Hmmmm, perhaps I will just have to stay longer?

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