I’ve been long overdue with my last blog post summing up my thoughts after visiting Holland.
It was always this place I always knew about, but never thought I’d visit. Now I’ve been there, saw the homeland of my Grandparents, and spent time with family. It was the best trip, and somehow every part of it fell into place perfectly.
Some final thoughts:
- Lack of sirens – for being in a couple cities, Rotterdam and Amsterdam, there was a noticeable lack of sirens. Cities in North America are always loud with sirens. It added to a sense of calm and safeness. Maybe their emergency vehicles use more lights than sirens, I don’t know, but Jeff and I both noticed it.
- Clean – Everything we saw in Holland was clean. The areas around the tracks are clean, the cities are clean, the canals are clean, all industrial areas even seem clean and tidy.
- Environmental – I felt a greater sense of environmental respect there. Every toilet had the double button to choose how much water you need to flush. Showers were low flow but often had high rain type shower heads and hand held wands to still have a good shower.
- Glass water bottles – as part of that environmentally friendly feeling, there was noticeably fewer plastic one-use bottles. Restaurants all had glass bottles with either still or sparkling water that must be refilled and reused. These weren’t cheap though, as I realized once my work event ended and my turn to pay started.
- Clean tap water – the water was quite nice right out of the tap though. Usually refilling a water bottle in a hotel sink is so chlorine-y and yucky, but it was quite nice and drinkable in Rotterdam and Amsterdam.
- Terrible beds – I can’t rave about good beds though. Usually they were single beds put together into a large bed and were incredibly hard. That’s always the best part of coming home after a vacation – crawling into your own bed.
- Cookie banners – The Internet and hope for privacy has brought the EU new laws and regulations, and an annoying accept cookie banner on every site you visit online. There is a very noticeable difference in how many of these you need to see and click on in Europe.
- Real bathroom doors – If you haven’t visited Europe, you’re in a for a treat when you use a public bathroom. The stalls are actually little rooms with walls and floor to ceiling doors. Who knows why North American public bathrooms have stalls that show your legs and sometimes even head when you stand.
- Less begging – Some cities I’ve visited have so many people sleeping in the streets and begging for change. We didn’t see this in the Netherlands. I saw maybe two people sleeping on the street in Amsterdam and there were a few performers playing instruments with a jar for coins, but no begging or harassing.
- Transportation – The train system was impressive, with a network across the country, allowing you to travel wherever you want. The trains were on time to the minute, there was an easy app to figure out where you were and where you needed to be. The trains were clean and easily accessible, even with a huge suitcase. We also used Uber often and the drivers were kind and welcoming, and always had a small car that somehow still fit our suitcases.
- Bikes – The Dutch ride bikes everywhere. It was really impressive, and people are so much fitter! Sometimes it was tricky to determine if something was a road, sidewalk, or bike lane, because sometimes they are all the same size! The people are noticeably grumpy about tourists standing in the bike lanes, which is understandable! I also thought it must be a bit annoying to live in Amsterdam where the tourist season is all year long. We love our tourists in Dawson City, but it is also nice in winter when they are gone.
- Healthy – Along with the fitness level, food seemed healthier. I saw much less junk food, and sometimes it was tricky to even find a Coke to drink. They were also smaller and expensive, and I didn’t see a Pepsi at all.
- Albert Heijn – I love these little grocery shops that were everywhere. They were small and self serve and self checkout. You could pick out a tourist in a flash. The locals zip in, know exactly what they wanted to grab, were likely tall and fit, and never said ‘excuse me’ when reaching in front of you to grab something. I always heard people refer to the Dutch as bold and I suppose it seemed true.
- Dutch language – It was a bit emotional at first, hearing all the Dutch accent, making me think of my Grandparents. Everyone knew English and were easy to communicate with. I wish I retained any Dutch at all. But it was easy to pick things up, quickly learning the important things, like the translations of cheese, and chicken, and farmer. So many words are similar between English and Dutch for some reason.
- Family – it was so neat to meet and spend time with relatives, and to see that they are so similar and obviously family, and are living parallel lives in another country. It will be too bad that the close family connections will be likely lost in another generation. Maybe it is time to get to know my second cousins more!