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The Netherlands is a small nation in Western Europe made up of 12 provinces, including North and South Holland. The Netherlands is commonly but incorrectly called Holland though it has become so popular that the dispute over its name is longer offensive. Allow me to expand on some key areas of dutch life: 1)Geography: The Netherlands is bordered by Germany to the East and Belgium to the South. The Belgian/Dutch border is located around an hour and forty minutes drive from Calais and the channel tunnel. The historic capital Amsterdam is easily accessible via ferry from England and ferries land at Velsen, roughly a half hour car journey from Amsterdam. The Netherlands is famously low lying and suffers from the threat of flooding. Its main river is the Rhine. 2)People: Having lived in the Netherlands as a child, I can say that the Dutch people are a welcoming and generally friendly nation. Most Dutch people are seemingly serious however the Dutch humour relies heavily around slap stick homour rather than the perhaps more British use of irony and sarcasm. The level of crime is very low in the Netherlands. Similar to Great Britain the Netherlands also has a constitutional monarchy. The Dutch people are also amongst the tallest nations in the world with an average height of 6 foot one inch for men! 3)Transport: The Dutch have two particularly famous and unique modes of transport, the tram and many miles of dedicated cycle paths. 4)Economy: The Netherlands has a prosperous and open economy and uses the Euro as its currency. It has the 16th largest economy in the world. Food processing, petroleum refining and electronic supplies make up its main industry output, whilst financial services also bring in large revenue. I hope you enjoyed the short taste of Holland! I'm new to Dooyoo, thank you for all your support:)
The Netherlands or Holland has to be one of my favourite countries that Ive visited so far. Its next to Belgium and Germany, with one side of it a great coastline with some lovely beach towns. They speak Dutch, which Im learning at Uni at the moment as an elective. Im on a first so far, though theres an exam tomorow! My partner is Dutch, so thats one reason why I have visited it twice. The first time was a bit overwhelming as I didnt speak any dutch, and although everyone can speak english, they dont always want to. The second time I went it was loads better as I could speak more dutch and understand a lot more than before. I could join in with conversations, and everyone I met was impressed! I have been to Amsterdam for a weekend, its a lovely town with some sinister sides like the large red light district and a huge amount of coffee shops. Coffee shops are legal places to smoke cannabis or get magic mushrooms. Its frowned upon to smoke cannabis walking around, you wouldnt want your kids smelling that if you lived there! I have also been to Rotterdam briefly, which I didnt like. Its like a scarier version of London, the buildings are all 70s concrete and theres a large number of gangsta looking people watching you menacingly. The town of Delft is very pretty and well worth a visit, its near the Hague and not that long a trip from Amsterdam airport. A place that I want to visit in the future is Scheivenigen which is a beach town near the Hague. It looks very pretty in photos and sort of like an up market Brighton. Theres a really low crime rate, I know that a lot of people in villages can leave their doors open over night and it doesnt matter. Obviously dont do this in the larger towns. Dutch people are always friendly and welcoming. However they dont do fashionably late, always be on time if invited round for dinner or anything. The trains and buses are always on time, and the people working on them are very friendly and helpful. Keep out of the ways of trams, bikes have right of way, but pedestrians have no chance. Learn to ride a bike, its a major form of transport, and as the land is so flat its a great way to keep fit and to get around. Most bikes dont have gears, and some dont even have brakes, just peddle backwards. Dutch people might seem like they are very rude but they are just direct and speak their mind, they dont really do subtlty! If you do go to Holland try and learn a few words of Dutch like thankyou - Dank u or dank je wel. Please - alstublieft. tasty - lekker. Can I have the bill - Mag ik de rekening. Good luck in your Dutch learning!
INTRODUCTION It was 14 years ago that I boarded a plane to Amsterdam for a weekend trip which would be the first time I'd been on a plane since I was 3. Having recently landed a job where I was asked if I minded international travel, I thought I'd better take a crash course in foreign travel, and accompanied by my sister here I was on my way. Having been half scared to death by the noise and momentum of the jet engines on take off, and equally nonplussed at the train announcements in a foreign language once I'd arrived, it was a crash course indeed. And I hadn't even been to the red light district yet. Fast forward to the present day, and about half my working life has been spent abroad in one way or another, so they weren't joking about the travel. And here I find myself again in the Netherlands, but this time way off the beaten track, to the South in a small town called Breda. These days I find myself idly amused by plane take offs and equally unfazed by European languages. I really didn't know that much about this country though, until I found myself working here for some months last year. I find myself in Breda again this year, with a lot better idea of the country and the culture. So here are some tips for anyone who might find themselves here. THE COUNTRY Firstly this country isn't called Holland - that is only a region in the Netherlands. The town which I'm situated in, Breda, is in the region of North Brabant, located near to the Belgian border. The Lonely Planet Netherlands suggests that Breda is "a nice place to spend a day"; well it isn't so bad for a few months, either. Although missing the big city atmosphere and possibilities of, say, Amsterdam, it isn't necessarily a bad thing to be off the tourist trail. I am working just outside Breda, hence it being my base. THE PEOPLE On the face of it, the Dutch are laid back, friendly people, and coming from the UK, it won't be too much of a shock to you, both in and out of work. The vast majority of people speak fluent English, and I haven't had any problems getting by with this. Dig a bit deeper and you get an interesting insight into their psyche. You have to be quite close to them to be invited into their homes. They are known as mean, and apparently they have some sort of device to get the bits of food at the bottom of jars you can't normally reach, invented in Norway but most popular here. The phrase "going Dutch" is no co-incidence; they like to split restaurant bills exactly by how much they have eaten (I must admit this is nothing compared to the Swedes, who, before the advent of mobile phones, I saw getting calculators out to work out exactly what they owed, so this wasn't a biggie to me). I find they can be quite rude, but this is in part due to their direct approach to honesty (witness in every international football tournament the Dutch always self destruct by arguing amongst themselves). They find it odd when a foreigner is just as rude back (I like that part, as a Northerner I thrive on rude & direct when pushed). In the South, they go mad once a year in a Carnival which is happening as I type, where everyone is in fancy dress and lots of drinking is accompanied by bad Dutch music, played everywhere at great volume, with the occasional oompah band just to finish you off. I am no fan of the Carnival it has to be said. Although Breda has over 100,000 people living in it, I would still say it has a small town mentaility, and so I am far from the hedonism of Amsterdam, which also makes things interesting in a way. I also find them to be very tall. I am a bit vertically challenged myself, and to be surrounded by lanky streaks of p**s is a bit disconcerting. Even the ladies are giants. And just try to get a decent sized mug to make your tea in! They have these dinky little cups that far from satisfy. I did manage to find a normal sized mug and I get a lot of comments at work the the effect of "ooo that's a LOT of tea". GETTING AROUND Lots of places are easily accessible by train from Breda, indeed to and from anywhere in the Netherlands is quite permissable by train. Here are some that I have been to: Brussels and Anderlect - not in the Netherlands but the fact that they are reachable within 2 hours by train gives you an idea of my proximity to Belgium. Utrecht - An excellent student town with a great selection of bars. The vibe is very international here. The Hague (Den Haag) - The Dutch capital, with some worthwhile museums, galleries and bars. Dordrect - A pretty little town with the ubiquitous Grote Markt (main square) and plenty of small canals. Roosendaal - the station that connects me to Belgium, the town itself isn't much to look at, but with a handy shopping centre to hide in in the centre of town. Tilburg - a nearby town which admittedly doesn't have much to see but strangely has a huge student population. The Grote Markt is quite nice, though. 's-Hertogenbosch (Den Bosch) - a pretty town with a strange name - known to all and sundry as Den Bosch. There are lots of waterways here, and the associated photo opportunities. A handy link to have is the English timetable (click "English" from this link - it's too long for here): http://www.ns.nl/pages/index.html If you have a car, this opens up the possibilities. Again as examples of places to get to from Breda: Ypres, Belgium - 2 ½ hours Lille, France - 2 ½ hours Aachen, Germany - 2 hours Luxembourg - 3 hours BICYCLES I think you have more chance getting mowed down by someone on a bike that by a motor vehicle; the ubiquitous bike is certainly king in these parts and you'd be well advised to keep an eye out for one at all times. They seem to speed up rather than slow down at corners and I've had a few funny looks standing my ground when being passed by one. The Dutch love their bikes and they appear to have right of way everywhere, or at least they act as if they do. And it's not as if they're super duper fancy mountain bikes either; most of them look ancient. COFFEE SHOPS These are actually throughout the Netherlands, and in some abundance, but I am informed the locals are less interested than visitors. I know of 4 or 5 in Breda, but, crucially and unlike Amsterdam, the town isn't full of tourists intend on finding them. This has been my experience in other towns, too, so for those of you wishing to avoid this kind of tourism, you can be reassured that it does not overshadow the rest of the country. I must confess to being somewhat amused by one near Breda station called "Purple Rain", done up in the style and colours of that Prince album. You can smell it from the station. I wonder if his purpleness would approve? LANGUAGE Dutch is in the Germanic group of languages. If you have some knowledge of other Germanic languages such as German or Swedish you will find this useful, for although many words are completely different, some are instantly recognisable and you can make some sense of the written language. Listening is another matter, as it isn't phonetic. A few useful Dutch words and phrases: Hello - Hallo Thank you - Dank u You're welcome - Alstublieft Bon appetit - Eet Smakelijk Delicious (used a lot when bread is involved) - Lekker Sandwich - Broodje CUISINE I hope you like bread if you come here, as it's as ubiquitous as the bikes. For example, there is lots of it in my work canteen, along with different cheeses and other local "delicacies" to go with it - an example being Filet Americain, in English known as Steak Tartare, (i.e. raw, ground beef). As for non bread related options - what? Are you joking! Many cafes are dedicated to the humble sandwich; it's a national obsession. Vegetarians or those avoiding pig products may struggle, as they have a predilection here to adding piggy stuff to anything without warning - the ostensibly harmless looking tomato soup is fraught with hidden danger for such people (i.e. me). On occasions, I find the relentless bread aggression from the Dutch a bit much. I have come to the conclusion, sadly, that they are not a nation of food lovers but I am sure someone will put me right in the comments! There are, however, some decent restaurants around, with a variety of food such as Indonesian, Indian, Italian, Chinese, Thai, Spanish and of course Dutch (i.e. bread with anything and everything). One word of caution is that the service culture doesn't seem to be prevalent. I have had many experiences of eating out and having what we in the UK would consider substandard service. BELGIAN BEER For those of you who are fans of Belgian beer, you are in for a treat. Certainly in the South, the proximity to Belgium leads to a lot of brews crossing the border. It is not unusual in bars and restaurants to see a dozen or more bottled beers along with a couple of draughts on offer; Leffe, Duvel, Hooegaarden, Jupiler, Stella - they're all there, and more. A little tip for weissbeer is to ask for a slice of lemon in it, it won't come unless you specifically ask for it, complete with a sort of mashing stick which is quite cool. Note that topping up is an alien concept here; they will pour the beer and slice the overflowing froth off the top with a spatula; you are usually left with a bit of beer and a fair bit of head. CONCLUSION As you can see, my perspective is from a small town, very much out of the normal tourist trail. I guess what I am trying to say is that there is life after Amsterdam; for a more laid back experience, with less prevalent drug tourism, try some of the places I mention above. They are alll within easy reach from Amsterdam. I shall be reviewing some places on my travels so stay tuned. You will see me putting the boot in at times, especially about service, but remember the context of me being abroad and letting off steam. I like them really (sort of). Dank u!
The Netherlands, a flat country of windmills, canals, bulbfields, clog-wearing boys sticking their finger in dykes, red-light zones and mind-blowing skunk...isn't it? Not all of it. We've already established in previous reviews that I've got an eye for a bargain - a polite way of saying I'm tight-fisted git - so there's no need to reiterate all the details of the great deal we got from Ryanair that enabled us to do a bit of Christmas shopping in Germany. I won't let that stop me though. Our flights from Prestwick (Glasgow) to Frankfurt-Hahn cost 1p plus taxes each way! We only went for a couple of days and after picking up our hired car from Hertz, drove the 100 or so miles to Aachen where we visited the Christmas market and stayed at the Holiday Inn. If you're remotely interested, you can hunt through previous reviews to read about all those thrilling adventures. The next port of call, the following morning was VALKENBURG, in the extreme south of the Netherlands in the province of Limburg. That's the part of the Netherlands which sort of hangs suspended, looking like an isthmus, at the bottom end of the country. It's completely surrounded by Germany and Belgium and in fact, at one point the province is only 6km wide. Valkenburg is only a 20-minute drive from Aachen and a further 10 minutes will take you, by way of Maastricht, into Belgium. Tourist information: http://www.vvvzuidlimburg.nl/index2_en.asp Geography lesson over, we'll crack on with the review. South Limburg has a lovely landscape, quite different to what most people would associate with the Netherlands, with features such as the Vaalserberg, the highest point in the Netherlands at 321 metres, and also the point where Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands meet. That's why this area is occasionally referred to as the Dutch Alps, by me at least! Valkenburg, or to give it its Sunday name, Valkenburg aan de Geul, is literally riddled with countless marlstone caves. For this reason, along with its small-scale 'mountainous' landscape, the nature reserves of Meinweg, De Groote Peel and De Hamert, the casino and the thermal baths make this the oldest tourist centre in the Netherlands. We arrived there quite early in the morning and were immediately surprised by how busy the town was. However, a quick coffee for me and a hot chocolate for the ever delightful Mrs P, and we were suitably refuelled and ready for the rigours of shopping. It's nice to experience the atmosphere and customs of foreign climes, so you can imagine our pleasure when we encountered a large group of Glaswegians blethering away in that indecipherable babble of theirs. Apparently a lot of coach trips from the UK visit this part of the world and the place was crawling with Brits. C'est la vie! Body-swerving the soap-dodging weedgies, we had a wander around town. There is of course a more mundane part of town with the usual chain stores etc., but in the older, historic part, almost all the streets are given over to gift shops, bars and restaurants. No problemo, that's why we were here after all. Obviously, with it being near Christmas, a lot of the shops were decorated in appropriate fashion, and in fact all the streets were well adorned in twinkly lights. All very tasteful - nothing loud and brash here. Most European towns and cities have Christmas markets but Valkenburg is a little bit different. Whereas normally the market would be in the main square, in Valkenburg the markets are under it, in caves - handy if the weather is a bit dodgy. There are several markets in different caves but the one we visited was the Fluweelengrot, or Velvet Cave. It was formed nearly a thousand years ago by people quarrying for building material. The blocks of marlstone extracted from the cave in those days were used to construct the Castle of Valkenburg as well as other buildings in the area. Under the castle ruins, these are now a labyrinth of mysterious galleries with mural carvings, sculptures, secret corners and a unique 18th century chapel. There are the former 'escape' galleries which will bring you to the imposing Castle Ruins (dating back to 1050) of the one and only hilltop fortress in the Netherlands. From here there's a panoramic view of the fortified town and the surrounding hills. In World War II, during the occupation by the Nazis, the cave was used as a refuge for Jewish people as well as locals. They were also used as shelter by G.I.s as can be seen by some of the graffitti carved into the butter-soft walls. The theme of the Christmas Market in the Fluweelengrot when we were there (2002) was inspired by the Gnomes of the Dutch painter, Rien Poortvliet. This gave everything a fairy-tale like appearance in the soft, twinkling lights and magical illuminations reflected from the silvery, marlstone walls. There's gentle Christmas music breaking the otherwise serene silence as you wander through, marveling at the Gnome displays in small caverns, while passing the stalls with various items for sale; including old Dutch handicrafts, culinary delicacies and some 'arty' goods amongst the more usual Christmas-time offerings. There's even a bar and restaurant (with live entertainment) where you can sample the Dutch version of Glühwein. There are many other underground attractions, including: The Valkenburg Lourdes Grotto - a copy of the famous Lourdes Grotto in Southern France; The Prehistoric Monster Grotto - the name says it all; the Stone Coal Mine, a sort of museum about the marlstone miners; a replica of the Roman Catacombs; and the Grotto Aquarium. The shopping in the narrow streets of the old town is pretty good and as for food and drink, we were spoiled for choice. We had some lunch while sitting outside on a terrace watching the world go by. The people of the Low Countries seem to have this practice down to a fine art as we witnessed previously in Belgium. There was a canopy above our heads and gas heaters high up on the walls. So we sat there, completely dry and very nearly warm, while just a few feet away people were trudging along, shivering in the increasingly heavy snow. The local brewery in Valkenburg is Leeuw but I settled for a familiar friend and had a very welcome bottle of Westmalle in the cafe. I wanted to visit the Leeuw Brewery but time, and Mrs P, would not allow it. There was an excellent little beer shop in town though, so I treated myself to a couple of 'hard to finds', and a beautiful big Westmalle goblet. Valkenburg is a beautiful little town with plenty to do and excellent infrastructure. I'm sure it's a very popular holiday destination in the Summer, and December also seemed to be one of their busier periods. So, if there is a down-side, I'd have to say it was a bit on the crowded side. So that's my take on the 'Dutch Alps'. If you'd like to know about the opposite extreme, read about when we stayed at the Best Western Nieuwvliet-Bad when we were visiting the Delta region, a part of the Netherlands which is below sea-level. Thanks for reading ©proxam2003
My husband and I have been to Holland a few times now and stayed in Amsterdam so we decided to have a change and stay at The Hague for a long weekend. This is a beautiful city with so much to offer. We flew with Easy Jet from Liverpool airport at a cost of eighty-five pounds return and parked our car at the airport for eight pounds a day. The flight took just under an hour to Schipol Airport and a half hour train journey later we were at our destination. This city has a mixture of ultra modern building styles and the traditional Dutch architecture. There are historic churches and civic buildings galore to admire, my favorite though has to be Binnerhof where there is a maze of palaces at the centre of political life in Holland, including the Medieval Knights Hall, this is really a breath taking place and the beauty of the buildings just superb. The Mauritshuis Art Gallery I found absolutely fascinating with the largest collection of Rembrandts in the world. You really have to walk around this gallery to feel the reverence of it all that is the only way I can describe it to you. There are plenty of shops, cafes, restaurants and galleries to keep you more than occupied for a long weekend, and using the trams to get about is easy enough with a day pass costing the equivalent of 3.25p. Sunday morning is the time to visit Lange Voorhoot Square if you enjoy a good antiques market but do watch out for pickpockets it does get very packed. We packed the city sites into two days and used our last two days to venture out a bit. A nice seaside resort Scheveningen is only a short tram ride away, and well worth a visit. The pier is full of activity it even had a bungee jump tower for the braver of us, I didn’t partake in that but enjoyed watching this crazy sport from a café along side the pier. Madurodam is a miniature town founded fifty years ago by the parents of George Maduro who died a hero in the Se cond World War. It has famous buildings of Holland built all to scale; a very interesting visit and again only a short tram ride away. Delft town is a definite choice for a quick visit by tram, the buildings are beautiful and of course the blue pottery. I treated myself to a lovely biscuit barrel it has pride of place on my kitchen dresser, but dare any one put biscuits in it……just for show!!!!!!! There are plenty of hotels to choose from in The Hague, but a good site to visit for booking accommodation is www.bookings.nl/hotel/10086.html We stayed at the Park hotel in Molenstraat and can highly recommend it. Four nights cost us 180.00 each, but I must admit I saw quite a few other hotels that looked very nice and I know that they were cheaper so when I go again I will probably try one of those and save a few quid to spend on the duty free coming back.
I originally went to Holland to go and see the capital of the Netherlands- Amsterdam! As I imagine that most people have already highlighted on Amsterdam I will just briefly touch on my time there for the duration I would like to concentrate on other areas of Holland. In the 6 days that I was in Amsterdam I did and went to the following: The Holland Experience- waterlooplein Anne Frank huis- Prinsengracht Rikjsmuseum- The museum quarter Artis zoo The red light district- at night The diamond factory The Jewish quarter 2 different canal boat tours Of these I did the tourist and culture thing as opposed to going out there to sample the legal drugs. (Sorry boring as I am that really was not my thing!) All of the above I would recommend as they were fun, informative and interesting. Now on to my main piece, on day 3 I booked a coach tour with Holland tours Co, they're located in centrum- all trams terminate and leave from there, We boarded the coach to receive a warm and friendly welcome from our hostess who did the tour guide thing which I don't need to tell you about. Basically first up we went to a windmill village and were taken into a place where they demonstrated to us how clogs are made and showed us the different variations they have (more then I thought possible) do you know some of these people actually ice skate in clogs! Next we were taken to a cheese farm not far from Edam but here they produced Gouda, After again being taken through the many processes of making a good Gouda the quirky and bubbly milk maid let us go on to cheese tasting! Next we were taken over the very dam which Amsterdam and Rotterdam are famous for. We arrived in a fishing port to find that one minute we were walking over little bridges and past nice fishermen's houses then the next we were climbing a small staircase to find ourselves facing the vast open se a the second we reached the top step it was enough to blow us away! (It really was as we had had no previous warning and it was very cold and windy that day.) We were somewhat surprised when the guide casually said to us "oh don't mind that it will all be gone by the time we finish lunch!" Somebody joked behind me "Why does somebody pull out the plug?" She walked off smirking without a word because of course all the water was contained by a dam! Finally we visited Marken which is an even smaller island off of Holland where all the inhabitants never leave the island they are all content to stay out there like hermits, but saying that they are all so incredibly nice and friendly to all visitors they receive whether tourists or otherwise. That ended the Holland tour for that particular route and I have to say although it was a very cold day it was fun and interesting and though I'm sure it is probably not everybody's cup of tea, there are bound to be some people out there who might like this kind of thing! The tour Company is called Excursions based in centrum in Amsterdam and that full day tour set us back about 50 euros per person but saying that they have even shorter excursions for even less ranging from inner Amsterdam to other parts of the Netherlands, if you're interested drop in on them and read a brochure. That particular tour also included an evening canal boat tour which was also great.
I first went to Holland on business and have been a few times flying and staying in Amsterdam. An interesting place but I have since learnt that Holland has so much more to offer. My broader knowledge of Holland has come through a twinning arrangement between two Rotary clubs - we are twinned with the Club of Hengelo Driene over near the German border. We visit every other year. On my first visit to Hengelo we flew to Schipol, then took the train to The Hague. What a place! Nicer that Amsterdam I think! We stayed a night there and had an organised walking tour of the city - I recommend that to see all the sights and interesting places tucked away. Fine architecture and buildings; busy streets with modern big shops as well as narrower streets with small shops with different interest at each turn. We visited the Vermeer exhibition - what a treat that was! Virtually all the Vermeer paintings gathered together in chronological order. We had Indonesioan ristaafel at a famous restaurant at Schevingen, the beach resort of The Hague - the locals think some dishes quite hot, but they are not to a British palate now used to curries and nothing near as hot as the equivalent I have had in Malaysia. Very nice experience all the same and good food. We were taken by car to the Kirkenhof (excuse my spelling of these places!) - the famous tulip gardens. Fantastic! We had lunch there and all the chaps bought ties with tulips on! Seemed a good idea at the time! We then went by car over to Hengelo passing dykes and boats and general countryside. We stayed in friends homes and enjoyed speacial entertainment. We had a bicycle ride over the German border - good fun! My bike had no brakes but you had to peddle backwards to stop! Took a bit of getting used to! Eventually we said farewell and tookthe excellent train service back to Schipol. The following trip I decided to go by car and this has given me an even better enjoyment of the country! We sailed from Harwich to the Hook of Holland - good fast service. However, it does not sail sometimes in bad weather and you have to wait. People we met had been scheduled for the previous day. Do not ignore the Hook - turn off to the town for a small but pleasant shopping experience. Maybe somewhere to allow time for on the way back. We stayed at the Vanderwalk hotel in Haarlem Sud - we always stay with this chain. They are excellent value and you can book the next one from the one you are at. This is just South of Amsterdam and a good stopping place for the evening to tie in with ferry times before heading to Amsterdam or the north. We went north via Aaltmark - the cheese town. Very pretty - a bit like a small Bruges. Then we crossed east to Enkhuisen, a pretty fishing port. It has a Zuidersee museum. It was market day when we were there - stall winding right through the streets. Excellent fish and Macedonian wine! We crossed the dam to the other side of the Iselmeer - an experience in itself. I had wanted to go to Emeloord. Our Dutch friends say nobody goes there. This is the last polder - area of sea reclaimed by dykes. It was populated by the government - by some lottery scheme I think - very recently. 1960 something. I was fascinated that this area had been seabed so recently! All the buildings are new and laid out carefully. There is one old place at Urk, which used to be an island fishing village. I think this area is worth a visit. All this area and largely north of Amsterdam there was little English spoken and we could not even get an English menu. We chose our food in the hotel through signs!! I can tellyou the sign for Dover sole - which was first class! On through Appeldoorn - excellent shopping centre with parking right underneath the main square. Then to Hengelo and overnight with friends. We then joined Rotarians from Germany and Hengelo in a bus trio to Groningen right in the north. The Dutch always ask the Germans if they have brough the bicycles back - they took them during the war for the metal! A standing joke! I think! Groningen is a wonderful university city - markets, old buildings, great atmoshere. Well worth a visit. Nearby we visited: the dyke and looked out to the north; an old and rare star shaped medieval village - can't remember the name, but it was really interesting; some Chinese gardens - excellent; and the famous art gallery which you either love or hate - Gabrielle loved it! Back to Hengelo for farewells and we drove back in our own car via Ablasserdam and the Kinderduik - umpteen windmills. A nice small Vanderwalk hotel right there. This is nearRotterdam and you can see the wide rivers and river traffic. A quick trip to The Hague for shopping, a stop at the Hook and there we were back on the ferry after a short but action-packed trip. So forget Amsterdam. Go in your car and just explore! And enjoy! Have some Auld Jenever - neat - too!
The Netherlands is a very diverse country. Although it's small in size and within a couple of hours you can be in three other countries, it has a great range of places and people. Most people who go to the Netherlands go to Amsterdam, and there really is so much more. Don't get me wrong I like Amsterdam, I lived there for some years. I like the fact that it's such a mix of different culture's, people and attitudes. I like the coffee shops (I don't just mean the dope ones), the whole sitting watching life go by as you have a coffee. For want of a better word it's very cosmopolitan. Amsterdam also has a vast wealth of art galleries and museums that are simply world class. But it is not, as most tourists seem to think, just about the sex and drugs of the red-light district. As you go out of the city centre you'll come across suburbs and smaller centre's that have none of the lurid, brashness of the main drag. So outside of the main centre of city you can all of the great relaxed atmosphere without the thronging masses of drug-tourists looking to get as stoned as possible in the fastest possible time before getting on the ferry and going home. But getting away from Amsterdam is what you really need to do. I lived in The Hague (Den Haag in dutch) for 5 years and it really is far more time than the 'Dam. The city centre boasts some great shopping, all in a pedestrianised area. There are some good historical sites even within this central area. The Noordeinde Palace being one of them. This palace is used by the Royal Family when receiving foreign guests, dignitaries and the like. The street it's on (Noordeinde) is one of the oldest in the city and contains some of the best art galleries and shops in the country. So if you are looking to invest some money in some paintings this is definitly the place to do it. If someone is in the Palace then there is usually a parade by the Military Service recruits (Military Service is no longer compulsory but it is still very much in action), and these troops do end up looking somewhat less professional when compared to the Royal Guard who also parade with them. The Hague also has access to some nice stretches of beach. The small town of Scheveningin has slowly become part of the city as a whole and has a very well developed beachfront. I don't just mean bright lights and ice-cream. It's really an extension of the drinking coffee and sitting watching life go by philosphy. The cafe's, bars and restaurants are all glass walled and heated which means that people sit for hours tanning themselves in the sun even when it's cold outside. It's well worth a day out, especially if it's even a vaguely warm day. The night life in The Hague can easily rival that of Amsterdam, just make sure you pick up a Time or What's on magazine so that you know where it's happening. Other towns and places worth visting are; 1) Bergen and Alkmaar - Bergen (in north Holland, there are a few about) is on old town to north of the country which is generally where people go to chill out. It is reclusive and hence expensive, but it's off the tourist trail and calming. Alkmaar is nearby and famed for it's cheese market, it's impressive, but once you've seen it you've seen it. 2) Groningen - Most notable for some great sailing. And the people in this region are far more old-style than that of Amsterdam, much more traditional here, and quieter for it. 3) The south of the country - towards Belgium it all becomes different again. For want of a better term it all becomes far more flemish. The whole area between this bottom corner of the Netherlands and the top corner of France is like one big autonomous area with borders stuck on arbitrarily. Good food, beer and nights out to be had here. Other tips about the Netherlands. - I'm sure you've heard before but hire a bike. It's best way to get around the cities and get out a bit too. - Other than that the public transport system is first class. The trams are always bang on time and you never have o wait around long before one turns up. - English is spoken widely and excellently in the cities but do beware the further you go into the north and north east of the country the less you will find people speaking english. - Everything is very organised in the Netherlands and seems bureaucratic but it's really just an excuse so that they can all deal with the dull stuff quickly and get on with enjoying the day. But however organised they are don't EVER compare them to the Germans. Although the war is well past there is still bad feeling about the wiping out of over a third of their population. Overall this country is worth far more than a weekend visit to Amsterdam. I would almost suggest going to a different city first and then you can go to Amsterdam knowing it is different from the rest the country. I hope you do go, and I hope you enjoy it. If you do make it across, enjoy a grolsch for me, it does taste better there, trust me.
Picturesque bridges over gentle canals. Narrow streets with towering old houses and the finest architecture in the world. Crowded city centres full of high quality shops. An eclectic collection of Reniassance and modern art. Pockets of green parks where you can sit by a lake and listen to live music while others roller-blade past. A historians paradise in one of the greatest countries in the world. A city centre at night where the air is thick with tempting smells that you'll never smell in a public place again without feeling guilty of law-breaking. Semi-clad women bathed in red light dancing in windows. This is Amsterdam. I'm pretty sure that whoever you are, something in that list will interest you. You can experience all of them, but you can be selective about where you go and what you see. Apart from that, Amsterdam pretty much sells itself.
The Netherlands (Dutch: Nederland) is the European part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (Dutch: Koninkrijk der Nederlanden), which consists of the Netherlands, the Netherlands Antilles, (Dutch: Nederlandse Antillen) and Aruba. The Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy, located in northwestern Europe. It is bordered by the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east. The Netherlands is often referred to by the name Holland. This terminology is not correct, as the provinces of North and South Holland in the western Netherlands are only two of the country's twelve provinces (for more on this and other naming issues see Netherlands terminology).