Quite often when you have the icebreaker ‘so where have you been conversation’ with a backpacker in Europe they reel off this long list of countries and then say ‘and Amsterdam’ as if it’s its own country.
And, it definitely doesn’t sum up the Netherlands, which I have to say is one of the most pleasantly surprising countries I’ve visited.
Not trying to preach but there’s really no excuse for not venturing out of Amsterdam either, given it’s such a small country you can be in an entirely different city within a matter of minutes.
Take Utrecht for example, a 30-minute train ride out of Amsterdam and you’re in this cute cobblestoned canal-wharfed town, though the main draw card for me visiting was to catch up with a really cool Dutch couple I met in Morocco.
The weather didn’t play ball but it didn’t matter because they spent the day introducing me to local delicacies including cherry beer and the Mc Kroket – which was surprisingly tasty.
Next I ventured to The Hague, one, because I wanted to see the painting the ‘Girl with the Pearl Earring,’ and two, being a justice policy nerd I wanted to visit the International Criminal Court.
Don’t get me wrong, it was a nice town with wide leafy boulevards, pretty canals and a cafe scene to rival Wellingtons (clearly I’m biased) but I mise well have not bothered given the girls in my dorm didn’t appear to speak at all, the museum was shut on the day I was there and you have to write a letter months in advance to visit the ICC.
But what I liked most about Delft was this fish shop – which predates the founding document of my country by half a millennium.
I could have spent days here, and would have, if it wasn’t for the Iranian creeper in my dorm.
Honestly in my nine months of backpacking no-one has freaked me out as much as this guy.
Perhaps it was the giant love-heart shaped box of chocolates he presented me within minutes of meeting me.
Perhaps it was the ‘I love New Zealand, I’d really like to move there’ comment.
Perhaps it was the probing questions about where my boyfriend was.
Perhaps it was the disturbing knock on the door while I was showering to ask if I needed to borrow his shampoo.
Perhaps it was how he turned me saying I didn’t have plans for the evening into a date with him.
And, perhaps it was the fact when I checked into the hostel it was just me and him in our 21-bed triple decker bunk dorm room.
Not proud of this, but when date-time rolled around I decided to hide from him in the hostel bar and many beers later when I finally had the Dutch courage to go to bed I discovered he’d unceremoniously ungifted the chocolates from me for standing him up.
Given it was the only hostel in Delft and he was planning on staying for a few more days I abandoned ship and headed for Rotterdam early the next morning.
And by lunchtime it was like a distant memory, given I was now cycling around Kinderdijk – a UNESCO-protected traditional windmill village.
It was a beautiful afternoon, despite the fact my camera died, leaving me feeling like a dick trying to take photos with my iPad.
Slightly off topic… but if anyone out there wants to donate a poor backpacker a new camera that would be much appreciated.
Winter clothes, a flannelette onesie, a haircut and a real job would also be helpful.
Back to The Netherlands…
Aside from being the best place to explore Kinderdijk from, Rotterdam from what I can gather, is really just a big city – though with a famous statue ‘Santa with a Butt Plug’ and some cube-shaped houses.
One note on Santa… On the map it’s in this square which also houses this statue.
I seriously stood here looking at this monstrosity of public art work for a good five minutes trying to work out how you get ‘Santa with a Butt Plug’ out of that before a local, on spotting my mistake, burst out laughing and explained that Santa was in fact hiding behind the metro stop.
And so he was.
Enough sightseeing for one day, I decided on a romantic dinner for one to mark my last night in the Netherlands at a local restaurant famous for its Dutch-style meatballs.
But the word ‘meatballs’ is deceiving.
They should really just call them a meat ‘ball’ because what appeared on my plate was a small windowless building of meatloaf substance in ball shape.
Reasonably tasty but safe to say meat sweats ensued.
Luckily Dutch food redeemed itself on my last day when I can honestly say I ate the best baguette of my life.
It was from a artisan bakery next to my hostel and all it had in it was goats’ feta, honey, pine nuts and mesclun.
It was so good I think I might have to go back to Rotterdam just to eat it again.
And it’s the first time I can truly say, in the words of my best friend whose travel journal fopar this blog is named after – today I ate a baguette.