What if I’d tell you that Amsterdam is not ‘the’ sole destination in Netherlands? What if I’d tell you, that going to Netherlands (mostly) just for the coffee shops, weed or the inevitable red light district is just a matter of choice? I visited Netherlands for the very first time during such a cold, damp and windy week of Spring but I still remember loving every bit of it. So there I was, one and a half years ago, riding my ‘8-euro-per-24-hours-rented-bike’, utterly soaked to the bones, not being able to see anything through all the rain drops covering my glasses, thinking: ‘Damn you, rain! I hate my glasses! Is that a man trying to cross the street? Hopefully I’ll get home alive and in one peace. Man, I love this country!’ And I was pretty sure about what I was saying and also, I must confess, I was not, and I repeat: I was not on drugs! But there was something about that country! Something I can’t find the proper words to explain, but it just made me happy. Genuinely and intensely happy. Denmark can count itself on this list as well, but that it’s another story which will soon be told.
Lucky enough to find myself for the second time in Netherlands, I decided that one cannot ‘judge’ the country only by its capital, so there I was again, one and a half weeks ago, sandals in my feet, sparkle in my eyes, playing hide and seek with the sunshine in between the masts of the sailing boats, thinking to myself: ‘This country is really making everything even harder for me. I simply want to move here’.
Now let’s pop the big question: where to go from Amsterdam? My answer: simply everywhere. Doesn’t really matter where, you’ll like it anyway, so just go! Do yourself a favor and rent a car instead of paying 40 Euro or more for just one trip outside Amsterdam and visit everything around at your own pace. Why not have an early breakfast in Amsterdam, a quick brunch picnic on the beach of Scheveningen, lunch in Rotterdam and dinner in Utrecht? Maybe grab another piece of cheese when you’ll get to Zaanse Schans.
I mean, I am sure you will have a wonderful time in Amsterdam and you will find yourself recommending this trip to everyone, but why not explore the Dutch hospitality to the core?
Said and done: after grabbing some pancakes on a lovely Saturday morning, we packed ourselves in the car and we drove along the highway. First stop: Rotterdam. Ok, first stop wasn’t really Rotterdam but a cheese farm close to Amsterdam. Pointless to even try and describe the absolutely delicious things we’ve tasted there. You can try, buy, take some photos of the place, talk to the owners (English is not going to be a problem) and visit the farm around. Why visit just the cheese shops from the city center, when you can experience the entire process in a perfectly picturesque landscape (sheep and cows included), away from all the tourists and the crowded areas?
One hour later, we found the heart of Rotterdam overcrowded during one of Europe’s longest street market, with over 400 stalls selling countless goods, from clothes and electronical devices to the very typical food Dutch products. If you want to have the ‘market-kind-of-experience’ in Rotterdam, (except Monday, it doesn’t really matter the day); you can find various, small markets in different districts of Rotterdam.
Since Rotterdam is the architecture capital of Holland, Rotterdam’s Market Hall, comes in the shape of a giant airplane hangar, and a jaw-dropping interior due to the huge colorful panels on the walls and ceiling, representing lots and lots of fruits. Many superlatives have already been used to describe this building, and I must say all of them were indeed, for good reasons!
Our time in Rotterdam was perfectly divided between window shopping, leisurely strolling along the largest port in Europe and constantly reminding ourselves the huge discrepancy between what we left behind in Amsterdam and the singularity we found there.
photo credits: http://www.boonedam.us/
photo credits: designdiffusion.com
Scheveningen beach? Yes, please! No parking spots because of all the Dutch people trying to take advantage of those beautiful sunny summer days that finally decided to come upon them? Well, yes, that happened as well. Doesn’t really matter, cause after another hour of driving we set foot in a little paradise: Zaanse Schans. So we decided to end the day by catching a glimpse of all the traditional houses, small museums, enchanting windmills and the perfect authentically charming Dutch landscape, that make Zaanse Schans one of the Netherlands best loved attractions. Oh, and that was a magical day indeed.
photo credits: commons.wikimedia.org
I am one of those rare, ‘morning-type-of people’, who actually loves walking up early in the morning, having breakfast and making plans for the rest of the day. But it’s something about Sunday morning that makes me love it even more. And apparently, that Sunday made no exception from the rule. And how could it? It was pretty early in the morning when we hit the road, so we found Volendam’s streets quite empty and missing the touristic buzz. What a delight; wandering along the deck, seeing nothing but the sea masterfully assembled with a sky full of masts from the sailing vessels instead of wires and cables. My kind of a Sunday morning.
This is a brief glimpse of the 2 days, I spent outside Amsterdam .As I try to recollect everything I came across, I realize how lucky I was to find such a sunny, hospitable and above all: happy country.
Let me know your special places from Netherlands. Can’t wait to discover some more when I’ll go back there!
PS- from 23 March until 21 May 2017 you will also have the possibility to visit Keukenhof, the most beautiful spring gardens in the world, a magnificent outstanding exhibition of over 7 million flowers (mostly tulips) in full bloom.