Diary of a Backpacker, Days 21 – 24: The Netherlands

I present my second last entry in the Diary of a Backpacker series I’ve been writing in conjunction with Scotcampus.com. My latest adventure brings me to The Netherlands for some seriously well earned chilllllll. And if you would like to read the complete article on the website, just click here y’all.


After trekking this far, you could say we were more than ready for some relaxation therapy. And surely, we couldn’t do it anywhere other than in the international nation of chill: The Netherlands.

I have to admit, Amsterdam was the city I was most looking forward to – above all. By a landslide. Nine years fascinating over Anne Frank’s story led me to that moment when I stepped off the train – after discovering her tale as an excitable 11-year-old. John Green felt the need to make matters worse when I found myself crying over “that Anne Frank house moment” in The Fault in her Stars but by then my heart was already set on journeying there one day. I absolutely had to visit The Netherlands, if it was the last (well, second last) thing I did.

It just so happened – but not unsurprisingly so, given the sheer devastating luck that tended to grace our plans – that we were due to arrive in Amsterdam on a Friday evening and depart on a Monday morning. Anyone who has visited the city before will be able to tell you that the prices of staying in Amsterdam rocket at the weekends. This is because many people tend to stay here for long weekends as opposed to full weeks –  the majority of these new inhabitants being tourists: ideal business bait. Due to this, we decided to stay in a hostel around 40 minutes outside of Amsterdam in a city called Rotterdam. Our Interrail passes covered the costs of our daily train journeys into Amsterdam and having no extra travel costs meant we had another whole new place to explore as well. Ironically, we ended up liking Rotterdam more!

AMSTERDAM

Attractions visited: The windmills of Kïnderdijk, The Cubed Houses, The Rotterdam Summer Market

Best Way to Navigate within the city: Tram.

Much like Rotterdam, Amsterdam is like a very condense, chocolate-box village. Tall, squinty terrace houses line the canals like colourful protected fences with small pained windows. The narrow roads are never short of near-bike-collisions with relentless tram drivers but I imagine it must get tiring avoiding the masses of bikers that dominate the cobbled roads.

While Amsterdam is forever synonymous with clouds of smoke amid districts of red lights, it’s something you learn not to gawk over very quickly. There’s a very strict sex culture in the city and there is a sense of pride surrounding it. Similarly, the use of marijuana seems more like a way of life as opposed to an exciting luxury and the weed culture is far more discreet than you might think for a nation so heavily associated with it.

As it happened, Amsterdam hosted the 2015 World Beach Volley Ball Championships. We bought an evening ticket which granted us access to all of the games happening after 6pm for the small price of 10 euros, which is what we expected to pay for one game, at least. This gave us access to four doubles games which is something I just never even thought about going to. The spontaneity has been my favourite part of this trip. Not over-thinking before taking part in something has opened my eyes to many new and unusual experiences and I feel all the more cultured for it.

Our main objective in the capital was to visit the Anne Frank house which I’m happy to remain discreet about. I feel that touring the house itself is an extremely personal experience because everybody has their own reasons for wanting to visit it. What I will say is that as tragic as Anne’s story is, the museum are very balanced about the reality of her influence which I found quite eye opening. (But you’ll have to go to find out what they say. I’ll give you a clue, it’s at the end.) I did, however, leave a comment about my experience in the interactive guestbook which you can read here!


ROTTERDAM

How we got here: Train. Multiple.

Where we stayed: Hostel De Mafkees

Attractions visited: The windmills of Kïnderdijk, The Cubed Houses, The Rotterdam Summer Market

Best Way to Navigate within the city: BIKE!

We stepped off our train and onto the cold concrete platforms of Rotterdam Centraal Station. I’d heard before that this city was architecturally renowned having won the coveted City of Architecture Award in 2007. However, upon first impressions their train station didn’t give too much away. That was until we realised we’d alighted at the back of the station. The following morning we discovered the front – and wow. The Dutch know how to build. Beautifully stained wood slotted together across the walls of this dome-like station like fine chocolate bars, every angle of the enormous waiting hall etched with colourful LED screens playing footage in the most concentrated form of high definition. I’d have holidayed right there.

Between days in the capital, we spent our time gawking at the buildings in Rotterdam. Above us towered Europe’s first ever skyscraper, Witte Huis (White House), made accessible via the iconic Erasmus Bridge. We ventured into one of the city’s most unique and unusual structures for a nosey around. Painted lemon with creamy white trimmings, situated behind one of the largest Dutch markets on offer, rests the Cube Houses of architect Pier Blom. Eight literal cube homes stand tall at 45 degrees each resting upon their own individual hexagon-shaped pylons. They are said to represent trees in a forest and when you think about it, they do. And it only cost us 18 euros for the pleasure! (I bought a 15 euro camera in the market on the way…)

On our second day we hired bikes for the entire day. Everyone in Europe uses bikes, particularly in The Netherland. It’s unbelievable how much consideration drivers give to bikers on the road, so we really felt safe trying out main road cycling in Rotterdam. We took our bikes onto a Ferry to Kïnderdijk – with a picnic tied to the back – where a system of 19 windmills built around 1740 are situated. Enjoying the site by bike was much more enjoyable than it would’ve been by foot. The sun was shining, the paths were clear… we felt like children racing each other to the next windmill, the loser demanding a re-run every time (me).

It was very peaceful, like a lot of Rotterdam.

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