The flight from Inverness, in the Highlands of Scotland, to Amsterdam, was probably one of the more random routes to travel, and indeed lead to a sort of dream like culture shock. Suddenly everyone had grown a few inches, was blonde and slightly Nordic looking. The breeze wafting hints of waffles and weed was still cold (coldest summer on record – lucky us!) but the endless sparkling canals and flowers made up for the chill.
Bright eyed and bushy tailed Gesa and I traipsed through the endless side alleys narrow footpaths to try and find our accommodation. Thinking we could master the Dutch language with its fondness for double “aa’s” and random “j’s” we failed and what started as a delightful stroll quickly turned into where are we, I’m cold, this bag is freaking heavy, we are late”. Backpacking isn’t all shits and giggles, I’m not going to lie to you fine people!
What really strikes you about Amsterdam is firstly how pretty it is, clean and well looked after. Then you notice how many bicycles there are. Literally hundreds! They stop for nobody, the bikes rule, then the trams, scooters and finally the cars. It is also a very stylish city, with men wearing smart casual suits and Dutch style old man’s shoes, enough to make a backpacker want to put some lippy on!
Of course Amsterdam is touristy, but as most people know it has something for everyone. You like boat rides? Tick. You like “special coffee shops?” Tick. You like sex? Tick. Boutique stores, cute cafes, architecture TICK. Unfortunately we only booked two and half days there and couldn’t afford the exorbitant prices of $95NZ per night to stay during the weekend! SO we really pushed ourselves on Thursday to see as much as possibly including a bit of the famous red light district… We must have stumbled across the fatties section though because there was a lot of ‘woman’ to be seen. Then of course you have all the, condom and sex shops selling an array of products including toilet roll gimp masks. But we managed to have a fun night out and squeeze in a canal boat trip the following day. I would say this is a city that definitely needs at least four nights to truly experience and cause a bit of Amsterdamage in.
(Three part series to how amazing Dutch waffels are.)
Our first impressions of Rotterdam wasn’t the greatest, all the shops were closed, it was cold, and raining – Yes we seem to have brought the rain with us from Scotland. However the next day the sun came out and my amazing friend Lydia gave us a two day VIP tour of the city. We visited cafes in old docking stations, futuristic bridges, beautiful parks, local fruit markets and were lucky enough on Sunday to make it to the craft market, the Romantic festival, a music festival (in which we scored some perfect seats by the water – oh so European!) and finally an outdoor movie! We saw the best pockets of Rotterdam all thanks to lovely Lydia, so big thank you to her and for being such an amazing host!
From what I saw of the Netherlands, in the short amount of time I was there, I truly enjoyed it, the people were very friendly and could all speak very good English. The food was great and affordable, and I was all of a sudden average height. The narrow stairwells took a while to get use to though, especially with almost 20 kilos of luggage hanging off your body! I love the narrow buildings with big windows and the fact they don’t close their living room curtains at night because if you do it means you have something to hide!
Holland is certainly somewhere I would love to explore further, perhaps by bicycle.