Notes from Holland

Just back from a short holiday to the Netherlands.  All of it was spent in and around Amsterdam which was our base.  We managed to fit in four day trips to different places.  Though the weather forecast had been for rain and more rain we were very lucky and only had to endure one afternoon of the wet stuff.  It was pretty cold nearly all of the time though, even in the sunshine.  I hope to post in more detail about the places we visited over the coming weeks, but here are some of my initial thoughts about the country.

Water, water, everywhere – Travelling by train and bus through the countryside brought home just how flat the country is.  It is not called the Netherlands for nothing.  And along with the flatness comes an awful lot of water.  Rivers and canals are everywhere, not just running through the countryside, but through most towns and cities as well.  A wonderful sight they are too and well used as a means of transport.  Above is a view of the Amsterdam waterside taken from high up in the Sky Lounge in the Hilton Hotel.  In addition to the rivers and canals the countryside is peppered with narrower irrigation ditches which seem to divide every field.  These ditches are also home to a wide variety of wild fowl which added to the attractiveness of the scenery.

Bikes can be dangerous- Every town was full of bikes and half the population seem to travel by bike.  They come in all shapes and sizes and Emma has already put up a post here showing some of them.  In the towns and cities there are special lanes for bikes which are right beside the pedestrian pavements.  As the bikes can travel in both directions this can be very dangerous for the unwary tourist.  All of us were at various times in danger of collision with a cyclist.  If you do plan a visit to the Netherlands – watch out for cyclists.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – the Netherlands has a bit of everything.  In all the towns and cities we visited there are some beautiful buildings.  They also were filled with a variety of small artisanal boutiques.  Many more than one sees in equivalent towns in the UK.  However the towns all had their fair share of nondescript and in some cases downright ugly buildings.  Scheveningen was a particularly bad case.  One thing we did find very strange was the presence of very garish funfairs in the centre of towns.  In Amsterdam for example, the Royal Square – Damplein – is the home of some really huge and garish fairground attractions.   It does look spectacular in the dark, but to me is out of place in a central square.  There was also a fair amount of rubbish lying around outside shops and restaurants, which was very surprising given that the Netherlands is full of beautiful places and the Dutch have a reputation for cleanliness.

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