Our intrepid group spent just over three days in Holland. We arrived mid-day in Den Haag after deciding to bail out on our journey to Amsterdam, as the place we were to stay was in the capital and it was included in the trains scheduled stops. The first thing that I noticed out of the station was the incredible amount of pedal bikes. There was an entire parking lot full of them!
After eating a quick meal and weathering a boisterous thunder-shower, we wandered around the quaint city. First things to say about the Dutch is that they are extremely friendly and that they speak excellent English. Once we had finished our brief tour, we retreated to an excellent coffee shop and waited for Elma (the person who we stayed with) to finish work. That evening we met up with our gracious host, had a bite to eat and took it easy.
The next day we went into Amsterdam. Whereas the rest of Holland that I visited was friendly and warm, Amsterdam was not. The city and its populace seemed hard and weathered. I imagine this is because of the typical Amsterdam tourist. The city itself is beautiful and full of contrasts. From the exquisite canals and buildings to the red light district and the constant smell of pot.
The first place we visited was the Anne Frank House. The tour is interesting (but very commercial) and it was good to walk through the area where Anne lived during the war.
Next on the itinerary was the Van Gogh gallery. I am a big fan of the artist and this collection is impressive! They have works from all of the artist’s phases including one of the sunflowers paintings, a brilliant self portrait and “the potato eaters.” If you like the artist, or the period you will enjoy the gallery.
Next up was a walk through the red light district. While it was quite an eyeful, I was expecting something a little more shocking, although my indifference could have been caused by the fact that I was accompanied by my sister and her fiancé. If you go to Amsterdam, this is something that you have to do and you’ll probably not see anything like it in the UK or North America.
After the Red lights, we found a coffee shop and killed an hour or so before our return to Den Haag. Upon our return, Elma, Nicole and I went to an Irish pub and Eli crashed for the night.
The following day we journeyed to Elma’s home town of Tholen. Her mother kindly fed us and I did my best to empty her coffers. We walked around, saw a windmill and enjoyed the town. The afternoon found us back in Den Haag and wandering around. We walked through the Dutch parliament square and around the town. We also travelled to the beach and enjoyed the mediocre day. Den Haag is a beautiful city and is worth a day trip to see if you end up in Amsterdam.
A quick summary of Holland is that Amsterdam is overrated and the rest of the province is under-appreciated. The people are friendly and the Netherlands is a beautiful country.