In September all my Uni friends finished their dissertations and moved out of Bradford, without even looking back to see that I am still stuck here for one more year. Who cares I’m still stuck in here, lets just go travel around Middle East or lay behind the pool with the cutest akita dog ever or party hard in cow onesie, while your lame part-time friend is stuck in library. Oh well, to be honest some of the friends tried to be nice and invited me to their country of origin- The Netherlands. That is the part every international student waits for- let other international students invite you to their home country and let you stay for free at their place. Scored!
The most important thing you need to know about the Netherlands is that they didn’t invite the cheese slicer. Norwegians did in 1927, but oh well who cares about history, the Dutch will just create an illusion of owning the patent for cheese slicers by putting a cheese shop in every corner of their little state and just to make sure people know- they will put windmills and “Holland” on the slicer as well. Who cares that their cheese slicers don’t actually work. Ok, done with my bitterness about the cheese slicers.
Another thing you need to know about the Dutch, that they will cycle everywhere. The country is flat (aside of Nijmegen) and they actually have real cycling-friendly infrastructure. When I heard that Mijke was cycling to school 16km each way I could not believe, then she showed me all the bicycles she owns and I believed. That is crazy.
Odd Dutch stuff:
- The whole nation lives in lie- they think they invented the cheese slicer. Na-ah.
- They eat chocolate sprinkles on the bread when sober (hagelslag)
- They make sounds like they are cleaning their throats but they are actually just saying something in their native language
- Their pancakes looks like small pizzas
- They have a whole life on their bicycles- they eat while cycling, they put make up, do their homework, update Facebook.
- They buy readymade food out of an automat
- Nobody cares about rain, why would you? It’s the NL.
- If your Dutch friends talks about how many “dikes” they have in their country, don’t get offended, they mean the water controlling system.
- They get excited about drying one lake to make a region
- They make great friends and are just awesome, yes Jolien and Mijke.
However, I wouldn’t be able to make all these witty observations if not for my friends who invited me and the rest of the Peace Studies gang to see their country. They designed a whole programme and implemented special parts into it so that I could see all the animals in the NL. And believe me, they have plenty of sheep, horses and cows. There is probably more sheep than people!
Our visit in the NL started with Utrecht, which is really cute and I liked it! There are hundred of restaurants, pubs and cafes. Whole city is divided by canals and has cute little street and all of them are clean, everything is well organised. We had a tour around the city in the evening following the lights path, a very alternative, yet educational experience. The best part was to go for an hour of kayaking on the canals of Utrecht. I even managed to break the paddle a bit, we all got wet and somehow our kayak was never going straight but from left to right, but we managed and it was really beautiful. Apparently Romans lived in Utrecht centuries ago. I think that should be like a top attraction in whole Holland, wish I could do it on canals between fields full of sheep, cows and horses, but they haven’t invented that yet. Next time?
We have ofcourse visited Amsterdam, but I have an odd feeling we haven’t seen the most important sights of it… maybe because our tour guide was high? I really think he was, cos I don’t know how else to explain that he could talk about one crooked building for 2h. However, he did get us some free cheese samples so I was ok 😀 Afterwards we were off to really cool Maroccan restaurant where food was just delicious!!!
I did like Mijke’s hometown more 😀 Especially that on the way we saw so many cute animals and we could stay at her parents and enjoy nature, thanks Mijke!!! And thank you to Mijke’s parents for hosting so many people in their house, we loved it!
But before we go to Mijke’s little paradise, we stopped in a place from hell: Westerbork. A former transit camp used by Germans during the 2nd World War. Just near was also based Dutch Institute for Radio Astronomy- this created a very contradictory impression on me: modernity and backwardness in one place. However I’ve been to Auschwitz before so Westerbork wasn’t a complete shock… 102,200 people were send out from that camp to concentration camps in Europe (mainly Auschwitz), stones were places on the ground to show how many people there were, the higher the stone, the older the prisoner was. It was shocking to see how many “low” stones there were. Whole camp was build with lets say “German precision” and was divided into different zones, train track was going through middle of it. I found it quite shocking to learn that after the camp was closed when war ended it was used to host Dutch nationals fleeing Indonesia in the 1950s, refugees were living there for over 20 years. Somehow it just seems wrong…
After that sad site we continued to Mijke’s where her mum welcomed us in Geiten with unicorn food. That’s correct! If unicorns existed they would eat “stamppot”! It was fluffy and pink and omg I felt like unicorns were alive in that little town of the Netherlands. Magical moment 😀
Our stay was very homey and chilled, we even put some puzzles together- 3D! How advanced is that???
Of course one cannot just visit Netherlands without climbing up the steep stairs of an old wooden wind mill. And of course Mijke knew just the windmill to take us to, an original 1833 windmill that was restored and still used (maybe not daily for producing flour, but weekly for cultural events). I wouldn’t be myself if I didn’t ask my friends to pretend to be windmills in front of a windmill. One more stop before going to fortified city: people and animal friendly farm! That is where I spotted the Dutch dirty little secret- liquor made out of cows. Not so eco-friendly after all…
An absolute hightlight of the trip was visiting Bourtange on a sunny day! This fortified village looked like made just for postcards as it was really well taken care of (just like every single house on every single village in the NL, and damn those gardens!) knowing that it was built already in the 16th century. Fine, it was renewed in the ‘60s but still, really nice! I could even spot a monument thanking Polish soldiers who were defending the fortress during the 2nd World War. As most of my friends lost their common sense and brain cells while writing dissertations I managed to take a lot of ridiculous pics of them!
Unfortunately happy days were just about to finish as Rosa and Isabela went home, and who knows when we will see Isa again! Miss you <3
We tried to cheer ourselves up by visiting the rainy Groningen, but to Jolien’s and Mijke’s disappointment we didn’t really awe over the beauty of it. However we did enjoy the enormous pancakes- mine contained tuna, bacon, ham, mushrooms… and much more… Can everyone please remember not to ever buy a nice looking cheese slicer in the tourist information of Groningen, the cheese slicer is useless. Sorry girls, but you know it is true as I documented it on our Facebook group with indisputable proofs.
Before leaving the beautiful area of peasant Netherlands we visited the “sheep place” where a business lady decided to be\marry a shepherd and breed sheep for woollen sweaters and socks until the whole Netherlands soaks in the water that floods them. Oh sorry, that wasn’t the idea behind it? 😛
We also tried to be very hipster and play with kites, unfortunately our Italian friends turned out to have close to zero kite skills. I do think though, that we managed to entertain some people with our attempts.
Before we left the NL we have visited our Norwegian friend who moved to Nijmegen a year ago and managed to even break her leg while cycling drunk. So proud of you! We stayed in Airb&b and it was quite useful as we could make our breakfasts and dinners there! On the last day we went to see Arnhem ZOO. It was nice, but I have seen better ZOOs, I really missed having more information about the animals, not even their names- at least on some of them. We also got trapped with some school trips and I wanted to kill every single teenager on that trip. Dutch kids are loud, or maybe all kids are loud… I did like quite a lot the tropic dome zone and big area of safari where animals were integrated. It was first time I saw a manatee and he was just so cute with swirling around.
Netherlands, what can I say? I would like it more if they didn’t lie about the cheese slicer…
And cute manate swirling at Anrhem ZOO:
And some more pictures (I took so many so it was hard to choose!!!)