I have a confession to make: this year hasn’t been the “easiest” year so far. I’ve already had to deal with a few hurdles that could potentially break anyone down. Having said that, I’m grateful for the experiences. I’ve seen myself grow in a short amount of time, because of all the difficulties I’ve had to face. Despite the challenges of this year thus far, I still managed to make a three-week stint in Europe happen. I recently returned from this trip, with a few keen observations.
While I had been to the Netherlands before – both Amsterdam for a few days, and Groningen for New Year’s celebrations – I recently got to revisit Amsterdam and see The Hague for the first time. And as always, I enjoyed my trip. Here are a few reasons why I always enjoy my visits to The Netherlands:
1. It’s familiar, but not too familiar.
This may surprise some people, but my hometown sort of reminds me of The Netherlands. I grew up in Ottawa, which is in Canada. However, Ottawa has a long-standing connection with The Netherlands. In my hometown, we have canals, mini-bridges, a cycling culture, and a love for tulips (which are not-so-coincidentally linked to Dutch). We have streets named “Den Haag”, too. Maybe I’m grasping at straws, but out of all the places I’ve travelled to, Dutch cities seem the most reminiscent of where I grew up.
There are a lot of things to discover all over The Netherlands, but I still can’t shake the feeling that I’m somewhere that reminds me a lot of “home”. So, it’s excitingly different, yet still sort of comforting.
2. It’s so easy to travel to other Dutch cities.
While I was in The Netherlands this time, my friend and I went to The Hague for a day trip. From Amsterdam to The Hague was a short 45-minute train ride. Unlike a lot of other places, we didn’t deal with any traffic, and our train was incredibly calm. The train ride did cost me about 30 euro for a roundtrip ticket, but it was still really convenient. Being able to travel within a country and not worry about driving – even though that is also very manageable over there – is a nice bonus!
3. There’s enough variation between the major cities.
I have yet to visit Rotterdam, but I’ve now been to Amsterdam, The Hague, and Groningen. I don’t know if Groningen classifies as a “major city”, but it’s definitely a hub for students. Between those three places, there’s a clear difference. Amsterdam is famously charming, “busy” (by Dutch standards), and artsy-looking. The Hague is a political center, which reflects in its architecture and style. It also surprised me the most by having a beautiful beach that made me feel like I was in California. Groningen is small, lively, and pretty. Although these three places are obviously not only defined by these characteristics, the point is: they’re all different yet still definitively Dutch.
Dutch people bike a lot. That “stereotype” isn’t a myth – it’s simply true. Although I’m not sure how it is in rural areas of The Netherlands, I would often see more bikes than people in Amsterdam. It’s a beautiful thing, especially considering how prevalent obesity is in the Western world. Dutch people, however, stay healthy – and trim – by opting to bike over other means of transportation.
This is one thing I wish would be more heavily implemented in North America. Although my hometown has a biking culture embedded into it, Toronto most definitely does not. And it’s a shame.
5. Café culture.
Like a great deal of Western Europe, The Netherlands has a “café culture”. By this, I mean that it’s normal to go out and get a coffee, sit and “people watch” or simply chat with a friend. Dutch coffee isn’t the best coffee I’ve had (though it’s tough to compete with Cuban, Italian, and Turkish coffee), but it’s still good enough to enjoy. It’s also normal to have another drink of choice, and simply socialize on weekdays. Dutch living isn’t the most fast-paced; in Amsterdam, it’s not too slow, either. There’s a nice “in-between” that can be found. So, why not enjoy it?
Although there are a few things I dislike about The Netherlands (the Red Light District, how there are so many stairs everywhere, and how it’s not extremely common to see sunny skies), it’s still a place I like to stop by and visit when I can! This time, I got lucky with the weather, too, which was a major perk. Who knows, maybe you’ll get just as lucky?