It is always a dreary affair to write about holidays. It reminds me of Gary Larson cartoons where shark families grin in front of a projection of their picture in Hawaii while other bored shark families feign interest. It is fun only for the family. I understand it. But even then, I want to maintain a chronological journal of some sorts so that I can come back to it after the specifics have blurred in my memories.
New York to Amsterdam
Cabbing into JFK on a pleasant day, it struck me that we were leaving a city that probably ranks high on many people’s vacation wishlist for a vacation. Summer in New York is vibrant. One cannot get enough of the pleasant heat and hustle that is early summer in New York. So it was not without a tinge of doubt that I make my mind up that I am going to enjoy the trip without comparisons and prejudices.
As travelers we do tend to compare and contrast destinations, especially when on serial city watching like many urban euro trippers do. So in addition to packing light suitcases I try to shed the judgmental baggage too. I purposely decided not to slot each country into its stereotypical image. The French and snooty, the Dutch are boring, the Belgians are boorish and Swiss are neutral. Looking back I was just being naive.
Netherlands – First Impressions
The Dutch generally do not get much limelight in the tourism stage other than the infamous “what happens in Amsterdam, stays in Amsterdam” quote. To me there were quite a lot of significant differences that were apparent. They might not make for great tourism but they are fascinating to me.
Obesity – The Dutch are not obese. The Americans are obese. There is no two ways about it. America has an obesity problem which is very apparent. In walking and spending so much time in Netherlands, I am yet to see unhealthily fat people. This might be linked to the next factor.
Public Transport and Bikes – Amsterdam and the surrounding cities are biker and pedestrian paradise. The city is so well planned for bikes (as every travel book lose no opportunity to point out), and the amount of thought that seems to have gone into the roads are insane. Add to that an extensive networks of super efficient trains, trams and buses and you have a country that is fit, forward thinking, practical and efficient.
Flat Land – The Netherlands is flat, flatter than a pancake. The only, and I mean the only elevations that I came across when crisscrossing the country were flyovers.
Dutch Food – The Dutch seem to be getting quite a lot of flak about their lack of culinary variety. In true dutch fashion, they don’t care. Their Herring is potent, and surprisingly Heineken has super tasty variations of their beer like the Oud Bruin. They also have an interesting mix of spices because of their Indonesian and Surinamese connections which the general tourist and locals conveniently overlook when evaluating Dutch food. And they do have the second best fries in Europe.
The Dutch History – For a country whose cities and capital have streets and houses and canals dating from an easy 1500 which are inhabited and intact and functioning they are remarkably easy going about their history. No nationalism, not much cultural hegemony and a refreshing practicality.
Fighting the Sea – I can only imagine the reaction when a group of men and women came together to brainstorm how they can create a country by draining the sea.
All in all a great city to land in, explore a little before hitting the other destination countries.