Saturday, November 24, 2018

Going Dutch

The Gouda Cheese
Going Dutch is not really about the 17th-century term coined by British regarding stinginess of the Dutch people when referring to constant disputes over trade routes and political boundaries with the Netherlands. I am using it in reference to the enormous beauty that envelopes the healthiest country in the world, The Netherlands! There are many startling facts that are documented about this tiny nation of which I was not aware of till recently, despite having travelled there more than once. Just to share a few, it has the oldest National Anthem in the world dating back to 16th Century, has the highest English proficiency, tallest men in the world (182.5cm), the lowest country (Schiphol International Airport in Amsterdam is 3m below sea level), first to legalize gay marriages in 2001 and the birthplace of first CD, DVD and Blu- Ray Player( Philips), the longest cycling tracks in excess of 35000km and number of cycles outnumbers the population of the country, to name a few.
The comfortable Dutch trains
The amazing beauty of the country can be best experienced by travelling like a local and visiting the smaller towns and villages instead of Amsterdam, which of course is a melting pot of cultures. So much has been said and written about this capital city of canals, art and architecture, the nightlife and the tulip gardens that I would avoid cliché, rather focus on the pretty sights I came across while exploring this country. The best part is that most places are less than one hour by train or drive from the major hubs like Amsterdam and Rotterdam. The public transport is not only cheap but also punctual and very comfortable. It gives an opportunity to come across the locals, see the pristine beauty of the countryside, the lush green meadows and often the famous iconic windmills!

I had stationed myself at Rotterdam on the last trip and hopped over to towns like The Hague, Utrecht, Gouda, Leiden and Delft. Each of these towns has their own unique identity and beauty which cannot be compared with another.
A view of North Sea in The Hague

The Hague lies on the North Sea with a long stretch of Scheveningen beach and lovely resorts. Cold winds greet the visitors to this beautiful long stretch of sandy beach with many cafes, restaurants and even a bungee jump facility that has come up recently. 
Hotel Kurhaus in The Hague- 20 years ago and now

I had stayed at this place twenty years ago and the memories of the bygone time came back in a flash. The huge hotel Kurhaus by the seaside was much the same except a number of new constructions and real estate ventures that surrounded it! There are several attractions like the Madurodam or the Mini Holland, museums, old churches, The International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court that can be visited. The city also happens to be the seat of Government offices. The modern buildings that have come up in the recent years' gel in beautifully with the old world charm.
University of Utrecht
Utrecht is an ancient city with several structures and buildings dating back to middle ages. The city is dotted with both Roman Catholic and Protestant churches with a very rich history. 
The Dom Tower-Utrecht
The Dom Tower (the tallest Bell Tower in the Netherlands) and the grand building of the University of Utrecht stand proudly having weathered many a storm in the city centre. Strolling along the canals of this city is a pleasure as historical wharves lend character to them. There are a number of museums well worth a visit apart from the De Haar Castle. Lepelenburg park is a favourite with students who come here to enjoy the sunshine and musical and theatrical events often staged. There are train and musical instruments museums popular with children and old alike.
The Town Hall-Gouda
Gouda is a sleepy town straight from the fairytales with the astounding 15th-century building of a Town Hall, cute houses with a plethora of flowers adorning the gardens. 
The beautiful canals in Gouda with dolls transporting cheese
Winding canals, cheese makers that have attained acclaim world over, the advent of Stroopwafels makes this tiny town proud. It is a perfect destination for a lazy stroll to sit by a canal and admire the beauty of this town sipping coffee in a small coffee bar digging into a pastry and sandwich, frites and broodjes(sandwich),  or Stroopwafel that melts in the mouth leaving you asking for more!

The list of never-ending impressive destinations will continue in the next post

PS-  All pictures are mine and were taken during the trip