A scary encounter turned to a blissful although slightly chilly day in Den Haag. See mind minding artwork, what to visit in the off season and just how special getting lost in this city can really be.
Go to Den Haag they said, it would be fun they said. It was an entirely different experience for me, and not just in visiting the city but the entire process of going, being there and wandering around the area. I was visiting the Netherlands for my Birthday, it was the offseason, and it was very cold! Before I get ahead of myself though, let me take you on the whole journey of experiencing the difference of Den Haag.
Getting to Den Haag:
I had my Eurail Pass in hand, palms sweaty, my first time traveling on European trains was a complete nightmare. I was determined to make this trip better and figure this out. My European friends still snicker at how unlucky I was for my first train ride, with the train catching fire, getting on the wrong train etc…. But this isn’t about that horrible train ride, this is about experiencing something again even though I’m afraid to do it.
Right…..onto the train I go…. I had the right car, the right ticket, the right direction and even found the second class seating like I was supposed to. Ok now that I’m in my seat, I should check the GPS when the train starts going just to make sure I’m going in the right direction towards Den Haag. I should just act natural, not speak because otherwise, these Netherlanders are going to look at me like a stupid American that freaks out on trains……oh if they only knew the horrors I have endured…. Stop being dramatic, and focus on the positive Janiel. Right, ok train is now moving – the moment of truth……YES!!!!!! God be PRAISED I’m going in the right direction! Now I can just sit back and relax and be proud of myself for not flummoxing this one up like I did Prague. See, I can really do hard things!
A Scary Encounter:
It wasn’t long after I had sat down and congratulated myself when a suspicious looking character walked down the aisle of the train. My internal dialogue when something along the lines of, ‘Don’t make eye contact, don’t make eye contact…..oh God, please don’t let him talk to me’. I made the mistake of looking up because I could just feel him standing there looking at me, ‘Shit’, I thought. He smiled a toothy grin and sat down right across from me. Just for the record, I always try to be nice and be kind to whoever I meet…..but I got some bad vibes from this man. He was tall, lanky, had big baggy torn clothes on, and oh how he smelled of the streets.
I had previously worked in a homeless clinic in Las Vegas, and he smelled all too similar to that. I gave him a half smile, and in my panicked brain, I tried to figure out how I could get away and still be polite. He started to speak to me in French, and I had no clue what he was saying. He realized I spoke English, and tried to speak English to me. He asked where I was going, who I was traveling with. I hate lying, so I told the truth and reiterated that I was going to Den Haag and had a very busy schedule.
He wanted to get coffee and as he asked me slyly grabbed onto my hand and interlocked his fingers with mine. I told him politely that I didn’t have time and that I did not want to hold his hand. I looked across the aisle at the couple sitting there and tried to beg with my eyes for them to help me. They were politely ignoring the situation and the male sitting across from me didn’t want me to pay attention to anything else but him.
Evasion and Protection:
I tried to distract him with other areas in the Netherlands, but he decided he was going to come with me to Den Haag. I didn’t want him to, I started to sweat a little and reverted into a fight or flight mental mode. I started planning with the GPS on my phone, the path I would take to the museum, the alleys I would take, using the public roads as much as possible. He got up and sat right next to me, blocking the aisle and the escape. I moved over to the other chair right in front of him. It was like I was playing chess with him, and I was bound and determined not to lose. Maybe I was paranoid, maybe not, but I knew I didn’t like feeling cornered and smothered…..blame it on my prior bad experiences with men. They conductor announced Den Haag, and I got up quickly, told him I had to go because I had a very busy day. I was able to collect my things and get up quickly enough to put a few people between him and I. Step one of evasion and protection complete, not to maintain the distance just out of arms reach.
As soon as the doors opened I was off, not looking back, I didn’t care about being nice at this point. Alas, he caught up to me with his long legs, I cursed my short legs and looked at my GPS. Ok, the museum was not that far away. I maintained a rapid pace, running across a street here or there to throw him off. It was early in the morning so not many people were out. He knew we were getting close and grabbed my arm to get me to slow down, pleading with me to come over to have coffee at his place. I had taken enough self-defense classes to known how to break his grip….a quick powerful smooth movement towards the thumb, with an immediate turn up the road and I was free.
My GPS took me into an alleyway that I knew was not the best place to be alone with this person, but taking another route would have meant more time with him. I quickened my pace, and he ran and got in front of me. I told him very strongly I was not going anywhere with him, and I traveled too far to miss this artwork I have been wanting to see since I was a child. I crossed the street again and a car drove by, blocking him temporarily. I took a photo of him just in case something were to happen, for evidence. “Ugh, I really need to stop watching horror movies” I chided myself for being too dramatic and that he was likely just trying to flirt…..but knew the instant I thought this, it was likely more than just flirtation bordering on something slightly sinister.
He ran to catch up just as I turned the corner and saw the gated museum, luckily there was a cop out front. He grabbed the backpack I had on, and pulled me back around the corner, I twisted out of his grip and he said he cannot go in there with me. I told him that was ok with me, and that he should continue on his way to wherever he had been planning on going. I kept moving, walking, twisting to look at different things and watched as he slinked away back into the alley with a very angry expression on his face. I descended down into the museum and went straight into the ladies room.
This was the first time traveling as a solo female that I had been afraid, truly nervous for my safety. I did exactly what I knew I should do, walk with purpose, keep moving, hold my heavy camera in one hand just in case I had to use it as a weapon, and found the nearest tourist attraction that had police there. It took me a little while to calm myself down from this ordeal before I was able to go and purchase my ticket and finally see a Vermeer painting in person.
The Mauritshuis Museum is built in an old Palace of one of the Dutch Royal families main residences. Complete with a boat loading dock right on the canal, surrounded by gates. I bought my ticket, hands still slightly shaking, chanting ‘your safe now, you’re safe now’.
I went into the first room and went to the windows, lifted the blinds slightly and was faced with the alleyway where I had left my shadow. He wasn’t there, ok, maybe he had gone, ‘calm down Janiel – you came too far to not enjoy yourself here’ I whispered to myself under my breath. The museum attendant looked at me in her navy blue sweater and gave me a warm smile. This seemed to help me refocus on the experience. I wandered the room, getting lost in the artwork here and there.
Then I saw her, the girl with the pearl earring. She was smaller than I imagined but stared into my soul – a beautiful woman trapped in a painting that would be shown to many throughout history. The slight bend in the neck, the wrapped hair, the slight coloring of her lips contrasting against the dark background. Seeing her was like seeing a woman of strength, yet relaxed.
If I were to meet her on a street, I could imagine her inviting me in for tea – getting to the root of my anxiety and then sending the many suitors vying for her attention after my sinister shadow outside. The strength of her stair chased the rest of the jitters within me away, and I became misty-eyed with relief and awe at how moving and realistic Vermeer’s works truly are.
Mauritshuis in Den Haag: open 10am to 6pm – Gold Age paintings like Vermeer – Plein 29, 2511 CS Den HaagNoordeinde Palace, one of the Dutch royal family’s main residences
The Noordeinde Palace Disappointment:
I left the Mauritshuis cautiously, and couldn’t see my sinister shadow anywhere and was able to breathe a sigh of relief. I was still a little jumpy, so I decided to go to the Noordeinde Palace. This is one of the three official palaces of the Dutch Royalty, typically used for official state business.
I wandered through the streets towards the palace, peering out the windows, admiring the Dutch style. One thing I noticed more than anything else, was how clean all of the windows were. I mean, every single window was clean – several people were out cleaning windows even though was supposed to rain. How odd, yet, how intriguing this cultural idiosyncrasy was to having clean windows as a way of a status symbol in a way .
My phone vibrated in my hand as I was lost in this thought indicating that I had arrived at the Palace. I felt a bit of relief to be able to get out of the cool breeze, but as I looked around….realized there were no entrances. DRAT! It must have been because I was there in the offseason that I wasn’t able to enter. I was severely disappointed, I had been so excited to compare the how the Dutch Royalty decorated their official palace compared to that of the Holyrood Palace in Scotland. So I did what I typically do when disappointed by unforeseen circumstances, I Googled what the inside of the Noordeinde Palace looked like. I took the obligatory photo through the fence, and of the statue of the man on the horse out front. Sighed heavily, and punched in my next destination, the Escher Gallery.
I was wandering the city on my way to Escher in the palace and found this enchanting little courtyard in near the Ridderzal. This is the EXACT reason I have one day planned out for every trip I go on, where I allow myself to get lost in a city. I was able to sit on a bench, not feel rushed to see this or that & interact with some lovely tourists who were there on holiday celebrating their family. It was a beautiful thing to witness and one of the things I really hold in my heart and taught me in a small way to appreciate my own family. It was hard to leave this place because of this moment, but as with all good things — it did have to come to an end.
Imagining the Abstract with Escher:
Wandering down the streets, through perfectly aligned trees I noticed how fancy all the homes were. It would make sense being that in the early 19th century this is where the Royal family lived, and so all of the surrounding buildings would have been part of court or those in power. Escher in the Palace Museum is not a typical cement box type museum, but a repurposed palace full of history. There is a small sign out in front, and you almost feel as if you are intruding into a home when you enter because of the doors. This is an oddly intriguing museum for all who love both Art and History. Combining two very opposite exhibitions for visitors. This house was the former home to Queen Emma, who was part of the Dutch Royal Family in the early 19th Century. You will be able to see where she lived, what her life was like, where she gave speeches and the rumors that surrounded her. To be honest, I wasn’t super impressed with this part of the museum, but it may be worthwhile to visit for those who love Dutch History.
Different sections of this former palace are also reserved for the intricately abstract, and mind-bending photos of Escher. I have always loved his art and remember seeing one of his first graphic designs, The Drawing Hands, and how it entrapped my mind circling around their infinity like symbolism.
One thing I was entirely surprised by was that Mr. Escher was a dreamer and a world traveler. While some may look at his life of art entwined with mathematics and think of him to be odd or eccentric, I found his works and his life to be absolutely brilliant. My creativity skyrocketed after visiting this place and truly made my trip to Den Haag worth it.
I’m very good at getting lost, I know this about myself and this is why I do not travel without some sort of GPS capability. So when I reached the 2nd to last stop on my way to Escher in the Palace and ended up at Scheveningen Boulevard Beach I decided to make it an experience instead of panic about it. I jumped off, saw people heading up a hill with coats, towels and some kites. I decided to follow them and see where the locals went to play.
Cresting the top of the hill I was greeted by the longest running white sand beach I have ever seen. There were also fun metal art pieces, that made me grin and giggle away the stressful morning completely. There is nothing more relaxing to me that watching the ocean waves crash into the beach and smelling that sea breeze. It was a bit chillier than I was planning on, and the torrents of wind pounding the beach front was making my eyes water from the cold. It was exhilarating and made my adrenaline start pumping from the chill that was seeping into my bones.
I wandered along the Boulevard, taking photos of the interactive statues that were available. I think it was the perfect random addition to complete my trip to Den Haag (The Hague). I love getting lost in the city and seeing how locals do things. I was able to witness something I typically would not have searched out and was pleasantly surprised to find something that would bring peace back in my trip despite the cold. I couldn’t feel my face, and my teeth started to hurt from the cold winds hitting me because of my perma-grin. I squealed and ran in place a little bit, which didn’t help thaw anything out, and likely made me look a bit mad really, so I decided to head back to the city trams.
Traveler Tip: The EURail pass doesn’t work on the Trams, so make sure you buy a ticket for them. Otherwise, you can get a ticket, I didn’t know this and was given a one-time free pass because I had my EURail pass. Make sure you buy the right pass for the right city and the right time of day. A ticket in Amsterdam will be different than the one for public transport in Den Haag. Day tickets are less expensive than Night-time tickets. So go to IAmsterdam and buy your public transport tickets there.
address: Bezuidenhoutseweg, The Hague, The Netherlands
Rounding out my day:
I spent more than half the day in Den Haag and feel it was not quite enough time to properly explore it. I was only in the Netherlands for 10 days and wanted to get small taste of multiple cities.
If I were to go back, I would plan to go in the summer so I could explore more of the beaches here, see the palace, and then ride a bike through the forested areas like a local. Despite bad or scary things happening on a trip, you don’t always have to let them destroy your experience. Just focus on the good things, and realize it was a moment in time and does not mean you will have the rest of your day ruined. Just be smart, have a plan, believe in your own power and carry-on.
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The Hiding Place, I was shocked I had never heard of Corrie Ten Boom and her heroic efforts to save hundreds of Jewish victims from the Holocaust. Once I bought my ticket to Amsterdam, I knew I needed to visit The Hiding Place Museum in Haarlem.
Tickets for The Hiding Place Museum:
The Corrie Ten Boom home is still connected to a jewelry shop and has limited space within the home — you must book your tickets online.The tickets need to be booked five days in advance of when you are planning on visiting the museum. Reserve your tickets for The Hiding Place Museum, and learn of the courageous efforts of the Ten Boom family.
Getting to Haarlem:
Address: Corrie Ten boom House 19 Barteljorisstraat | North Holland, 2002 CE Haarlem, The Netherlands Getting to the Corrie Ten Boom home is fairly easy from Amsterdam. I would suggest taking the train from Amsterdam Centraal Station towards Haarlem. Once you exit the train station it is about a 15-minute walk or 5-minute bike ride to The Hiding Place Museum. Here is a Map to The Hiding Place Museum, from Rome2Rio.
Once you reserve your ticket, you will arrive at the home and go into the side door of the home behind the jewelry shop. The door will be locked and closed with times of when each tour starts. Once your tour is about to start, the door will open and you will be greeted by a volunteer from the church that Corrie Ten Boom had been associated with.
Who was Corrie Ten Boom:
It was 1837 when William Ten Boom, Corrie’s Grandfather set up his clock shop and opened his home to all dedicated Christian’s who wished to worship. The family lived by the Biblical verse Psalm 122:6
Pray for peace for Jerusalem: “May those who love you be at peace!”
Their family held weekly prayer service, open to all who wished to participate for over 100 years. This dedicated family welcomed anyone into their home who wished to pray, no matter what their religion was. This likely set them up in the community as the natural source of leadership, which was vital in saving hundreds of innocent lives in the coming years. Casper Ten Boom, Corrie’s father, began to have prayer meetings that included Jewish members in increasing numbers. The persecution of the Jewish people had started in Holland, and the need for a safe place became increasingly vital.
Their home was turned into a place of refuge, a Hiding Place, for as many as seven to ten Jewish people and the Dutch Underground members who were being hunted. Led by several generations of good examples, Corrie Ten Boom took the baton of the family with her faith in God and became the leader for the Dutch Underground in Haarlem.
Why was it called the Hiding Place:
When you enter the Museum, there doesn’t appear to be many places to hide ten adults from the Gestapo. The guide leads you up into a large room and several chairs set up in a circle, just as it would have been in Corrie’s time. There were pictures on the wall of family members, and Corrie Ten Boom herself.
After I acclimatized to all of the visual stimuli in the room, from the book Corrie Ten Boom write, and I so cherished as a child — I noticed a sheet of music on the piano titled, “You are My Hiding Place”. This touched me in a way that I didn’t expect. Not only was the home itself a Hiding Place, but the songs that must have been sung here preached that God is our hiding place. Now for those of you who may not believe in God, I hope you can appreciate that their belief in a higher deity is what helped bring them through one of the darkest times in European history. After a short history lesson from our guide on who the family was, how prayer meetings were held and eventually morphed into a full-scale rescue operation.
We were taken upstairs and told of how there was a bell in the kitchen downstairs that would be pressed, and only the people there for hiding could hear it. Once the bell rung, they would rush into a room at the back that had a false back on the bottom half of the bookshelf. A brick wall had been built providing just enough room for ten refugees to stand upright in this small space, for as long as it took to let the danger pass. Nothing was allowed in this small space so as not to attract rodents, and give away the Hiding Place. The area was not insulated from the bitter cold winters, so being trapped in this place was not ideal.
As you read the book, The Hiding Place, Corrie Ten Boom writes of the training she received to be able to be woken in the middle of the night and evade the questioning of the Gestapo who would comb the Haarlem neighborhoods looking for Jews and traitors. There were several close calls with the Gestapo, and eventually, they were betrayed by a community member who knew of their operation; but not before they were able to save nearly 800 Jewish lives.
Those who were taking refuge in the home were able to escape, and three of the four Jewish members in the home at that time survived the war. One even came back to the Hiding Place, unknown to the Museum staff, to face the harrowing two days of being trapped in The Hiding Place while the Gestapo combed through the Ten Boom home. The museum staff told the moving story of being able to meet a man who had benefited from the Ten Boom’s efforts during the war.
They may have been caught, but as you read the book of Corrie being separated from her beloved father, placed with her sister in the brutal Ravensbruck. You realize just how deeply courageous she was, and the dedication to her faith could inspire anyone. Everyone Corrie met both inside and outside the concentration camp was both inspired and infused with hope, due to her ability to resist fear and despair in the face of evil. Several camp prisoners in the Ten Boom bunker were converted to Christianity due to their faith while being imprisoned.
Who was the involved in the Resistance?
Corrie was the ringleader for the Haarlem underground. Her “Beje group” strategically search for families willing, able, and courageous enough to harbor refugees and members of the Dutch Underground movement. Much of Corrie’s time was spent finding ways to feed the refugees, continue to give them hope and so forth despite rations being severely limited throughout Holland.
The sign in the window of the shop was used to let members of the Underground know that the area was safe when it was in the window. The night that Corrie and her family were taken, they were unable to remove this from the window — and 20 other members of the Underground movement were caught and brutally treated in order to obtain names of other members. Fortunately, they held on as long as they could, so that those members and subsequent refugees would have time to escape and relocate to other safe havens within the city.
Lessons from the Past:
At the time of the capture of the Ten Boom home, two Jewish men, two Jewish women, and two members of the Dutch underground were hidden behind the brick wall of the Hiding Place. They were forced to stand for two days, in the middle of the harsh winter in that small space without food, water, or bathroom — remaining deadly quiet to save their own lives. The house remained under guard to catch any other members of the Underground movement in the area. One of the survivors remembers there were two guards that played cards in a nearby room, while his heart pounded from the fear of being caught. Two days after the initial seige, the refugees were able to climb out a window onto the roof and make their way to another safe house.
Why were the Ten Boom’s taken, if the refugees were not caught or found in their home? The Gestapo scoured the house and found extra ration cards and some of the Underground operation materials within their home. Corrie’s father, Casper, was 84 years old at the time and was taken to Scheveningen Prison, where he died 10 days after arriving. When he was asked why he would risk his life for the Jewish people, when he was Christian, he responded eloquently by saying, “It would be an honor to give my life for God’s ancient people”.
Corrie Ten Boom and her sister Betsie spent time in three different concentration camps over the next 10 months. The last camp, was Ravensbruck Concentration camp, right near Berlin.
I don’t know that I will ever understand why they were betrayed, or that God didn’t warn the family that was so dedicated to him and to doing good. One thing I will take away from this story is that Corrie Ten Boom was true to what she believed was right; she was the change she wished to see in the world and saved hundreds of lives from never giving up hope that things could change.
The brutality that human beings inflict upon one another is unlike anything else in the animal kingdom, this is a fact. It is the warped sense of feeling ‘our way’ is the ‘right way’, that leads to derision and war. Seeking first to understand another’s mindset, religion, culture is the first step to making the world what we want it to be.
While I truly believe this is the first step, we must fortify ourselves against the inevitable reality that there will always be humans who for whatever reason….refuse to understand or take this first step. Do not give up hope in your efforts, take the message of the Ten Boom family’s efforts to heart and realize that with dedication, heart, faith, and effort — lives are impacted and may one day be saved from the despair that seems to be ever present in this aging world.
The Ending of the Story and A Message For All:
We all have our own internal demons, people who may have harmed us that it is difficult to forgive. I have my own past that is fraught with traumatic events from people I feel never got justice for stealing my self-worth, trust in humanity, and the ability to have a relationship. I don’t know how long it will take to forgive the people that caused these unsavory characteristics. I don’t know if I will be able to have a family of my own, or if my efforts in this platform will be of use to anyone. What I do know, is that in those moments I lose hope….I feel I let my past win.
So I keep the messages from the book, The Hiding Place, close to my mind and heart. I am trying to use the example of Corrie Ten Boom and many others – to forgive, forget, and let God into my life again. As Corrie Ten Boom said once,
“There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still,” and “God will give us the love to be able to forgive our enemies”.
God bless all those who gave their lives and put themselves at risk to save the Jewish people in Europe. May those who did not survive rest in peace, and be remembered for their courage and fortitude. I hope that the world and those who fight for good, may remember the past and stand in the face of ridicule and danger, to help these things not be repeated. Make a Donation to the Corrie Ten Boom – The Hiding Place Museum, and help them continue to operate this house and spread the message of forgiveness and love to all who enter.
As Always, Happy Travels, Happy Tales, and See You on the Flip Side.
Hidden in the Red Light District is the religious relic the Museum of Our Lord in the Attic. It is something you have to search out, but is well worth the visit due to the religious history it represents for not just the Netherlands but Europe as well.
Why was a Church built in the Attic?
Jan Hartman was a dedicated German and Catholic that was stripped of his rights to public worship in 1663. Calvinists prohibited the ‘non-reformed Catholics’ from worshipping in public spaces. Catholic churches were converted and could not be recognizable to anyone on the street per the local laws of that time. Let us rewind this story and figure out why a particularly popular religion throughout Europe during that time would need to hide in an attic in order to worship.
The Dutch Golden Age and the Reformation:
Catholicism ruled most of the Dutch region until the 16th century when Calvinism was introduced and spread like wildfire. This led to the Dutch Revolt, a revolt against the Roman Catholic King Phillip II of Spain who was suppressing the Hapsburg crown. This revolt produced the Dutch Republic, whose leader was the famed William of Orange (a supporter of King Phillip of Spain). Skirmishes along the French borders, imposing countries vying for lands led to a revolt resurgence in 1572, which forced William back to Delft (his ancestral home) until he was assassinated in 1584. Spain was at its limit, waging war on multiple fronts. Their wars included those against the Ottoman Empire, France, England, and its colonies in the Atlantic. New taxes were introduced into the Netherlands to help fund these wars. The militant Calvinist groups grew restless and agitated, hoping to suppress and oust the Catholic Phillip II of Spain. William of Orange was so hard pressed, he eventually converted to Calvinism himself in 1573. Northern Holland was over-run by the Calvinists and all churches were converted to Calvinism, and the members either fled or were forced to convert to Calvinism. While Holland prided itself on religious freedom and was accepting Protestants and Jewish refugees into its borders, the subversive persecution of the Catholic religion continued. As the number of Catholic priests became rare, so did the ability of the members of the Roman Catholic faith ability to worship.
Hiding their Faith
This wealthy merchant bought the 2 houses on either side of him and built a church where Catholics could worship. When you first enter the home it is a museum in and of itself. Here you will walk back in time to a home as it would have appeared 350 years ago. Complete with corridors, steep stairs, tiled kitchen, and the ornately adorned gathering room. The steps are warped, narrow and steep — this is very typical for the architecture of that time period, but may not be safe for those who have difficulty getting up and down stairs. As you make your way up the different levels, you see the bedrooms, how they kept themselves warm, and then come upon the entrance to the attic.
The entrance is hidden, and in the side wall, there is a rotating aspersorium where worshipers could bless themselves with holy water as a reminder of their baptism. Doing this helped the worshipers transition from the secular world into the world of the divine.
Preparing them to receive the sermons and teachings of their religious leader or priest. Once you enter, you must ascend a set of stairs that leads behind the organ and into the back of the chapel. On the left-hand side of the altar (if facing the altar) there is a pullout pulpit that is built into the wall. The two floors allowed for many attendants to be present for mass.
The Organ is masterfully built, with a dampener to help conceal the sound of worship. If you look out the side window, you will see the steeple of (what was then) their prior cathedral and place of worship. They devout Catholics were likely ousted, and the former cathedral converted for Calvinism uses. How difficult would it be to remain faithful to your beliefs and not give in to despair when you could see your former place of worship outside the window, while you were forced to worship in secret, at the peril of your own life.
Important Information for Tourists:
How to get there
Address: Oudezijds Voorburgwal 38. 1012 GD Amsterdam Get on the Metro tube, and stop at Central Station. From there it is a 10-minute walk to the Red Light District. Don’t try and drive here, there is virtually no parking in Amsterdam except for bikes. Map to Museum of Our Lord in the Attic
Tickets and Hours
Hours: Open Monday to Saturday 10am-5pm, and Sundays from 1pm-5pm. Ticket Prices: Adults are around 10 Euros, Kids between 5-18 years old are 5 Euros, and kids less than 5 years old are free. Purchase your tickets here.
Despite the beautiful facades, cobblestone streets that line the canals of Amsterdam, it still has a religiously troubled past that led to the prominent atheism and agnostic population today. Be sure to visit Museum of Our Lord in the Attic, and be witness to a turbulent part of the history of the Netherlands.
ClinkNoord Hostel, with loads of time still to burn for the day. I opened my phone and was expecting to browse around and kill a few hours. Blessed Google and their location services popped Castle De Haar up into my feed and my jaw dropped.
Castle De Haar, a Neo-Gothic castle so well preserved it appeared as if you would be transported back into the Medieval days of old. Talk about a PERFECT Instagram spot! I quickly packed up my purse and camera gear and headed to Amsterdam Centraal Station.
How to Get to Castle De Haar:
Take the train to Utrecht and then a small bus to Kastel De Haar. For specific times of the train and directions from your location see Rome2Rio. I didn’t know if I would have enough time to do an actual tour before it closed, but I had to try! After a few transfers, the bus dropped me off on a long winding road that led to the castle. I still think that if I had not stopped to take so many blasted pictures of the sunset, I would have made it on time.
History of Castle De Haar:
It is said that there was a castle here since 1391 and remained the property of the De Haar family until 1440 when sadly the last male heir died childless. The castle was then given to Van Zuylen family. After several years of the castle being tossed around and falling into ruin, it was inherited by Etienne Gustave Frederic Baron van Zuylen Van Hyevelt van De Harr (yep that is one name….) who then married Baroness Helene de Rothschild who rebuilt the castle over the next 15 years starting in 1892.
The Castle Grounds:
Covering over 135 acres, with nearly 7,000 trees that were imported I was not too upset about not being able to see the interior. Spending more than 2 hours in the gardens and on the castle grounds taking photos was so peaceful and best of all there was NO ONE else around. It was interesting to be walking the grounds alone. I was looking at this beautiful building and imagining how much money it must have cost to live here. With all other major cities being so far away, it must have been very lonely here and far from society. Can you imagine being so isolated?
Realizing this made me grateful to personally live in a place that may not be as grandiose, but at least I can still connect to the people around me…..which I feel is the most important thing, don’t you?
Castle De Haar Interior:
This castle has 200 rooms, 30 bathrooms decorated with pieces from the Rothschild collections including a rare carrier coach of the woman of a shogun from Japan. There is only one of these Shogun’s left in the world that resides in the Japanese Museum in Tokyo. When you enter it is said that the wood carvings, stained glass windows, and lighting remind you of entering a Roman Catholic church. The colors of the family arms and mottos are seen dotted throughout the house in the red and white of the Van Zuylen and the stars of David in the knight’s hall and the De Rothschild coat of arms underneath the hearth in the library.
A foundation was set up for Castle De Haar (or Kasteel de Haar) and the family members retain the right to stay in the castle for banquets, dinner, and parties at least one month per year. This is typically in September. The parties are typically for A-listed attendees such as Coco Chanel, Maria Callas, Gregory Peck, Roger Moore, Yves Saint Laurent, and Brigitte Bardot.
Festivals at Castle De Haar:
The grounds were just being cleared out from the Elf Fantasy Fair that had just concluded.
Channel Your Inner Royalty:
If you find yourself in Amsterdam and want to get away from the crowds to see something truly unique, stop by Castle De Haar. Channel your inner Bell or Beast, because standing in front of this castle will seem like you have found the castle that Beauty and the Beast was inspired by.
Give yourself ample time to get there and back, and remember that day bus tickets are a different price than night bus tickets so make sure you buy it before you get on the bus or have the cash with you. Try and plan your trip around a time a festival is occurring and experience Castle De Haar, like you never experienced Europe before.
As Always….Happy Travels, Happy Tales, See You on the Flip Side!
Kinderdijk Windmills, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is situated in the Alblasserwaard dry land between the juncture of the Lek and Noord River. This peaceful fast-moving Waterland was the perfect place for creating the first clean energy machines. Built to drain water from these low lying lands that would often flood when tides came in too strong. During the middle ages, this land would frequently flood.
The Deadly Flood of 1421 In the Netherlands:
Many people migrated into this area due to the fertile lands, and the fast-growing trade city. It was November of 1421 when anywhere from 2,000 to 10,000 people died in one of the worst floods in world history. A combination of a storm, strong tidal surge, with a harsh Northernly wind – pushed the water upriver causing the dikes to break.
It took several days to be able to get help into the area due to the severity of the flooding. When help did arrive, there were men, women, children, animals and all sorts of debri floating in the waters of this ancient city. If you visit the Rijksmuseum you will find a fantastic art piece depicting the deadly scene.
With trade and the East India Company on the rise, the Dutch did what they do best….invented the Windmill. These massive engineering wonders were utilized to pump water from the low lying fields to the higher ground allowing it to drain back into the ocean.
How they work:
Wind hydraulics, power these clean energy plants keeping their caretakers on their toes. They were required to man the sails, run the mills when the wind blew….which could be any time of day or night. Imagine if your work schedule would rely on the wind. It gives a whole new meaning to ‘where ever the wind blows’. If you visit one of the mills, be sure to ask a staff member of a tour of the place.
Here you will see all the inner workings of how the Dutch keep dry by utilizing: polders, high and low-lying drainage and transport channels for superfluous polder water, embankments and dikes, 19 drainage mills, 3 pumping stations, 2 discharge sluices and 2 Water Board Assembly Houses..and small boats to ferry between it all to say hello to the neighbors.
An Abandoned Masterpiece:
In the 1950’s they fell into disrepair as steam started to replace the wind energy. Then the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science who provided 2.5 million Euros to help restore and repair 11 of the 19 windmills in 2008.
It costs about $15,000 per year to maintain these windmills, and those who live in them have committed to doing this. Each Kinderdijk Windmill resident has to pass a rigorous exam on weather patterns and specific windmill engineering.
Don’t miss out on this:
Be sure to visit the Mill Museums, where one of the mills still holds the unique furniture and belongings of one of the families that occupied it.
If you take the Ferry between the Mills, the cute volunteers will let you know when they will be coming back to pick you up. I really think these cute old guys just like driving the boat back and forth and meeting all the different visitors. While on the Ferry, if you look down the largest canal you may spot a baby basket.
The legend is, that when the flood back in the 17th century happened, the people went to look for survivors. What they found was a large baby basket with a cat running back and forth on the top keeping it stable. (Insert Awwweee!) After the baby was found inside the basket, and the cat saved from an unwanted bath – the area was named Kinderdijk…. it means ‘children’s dike’
The Oldest City in the Netherlands:
Dordrecht is nearby and a must see if you love imagining how people use to live. You can see the city and how old it is with houses tilting sideways. Very few tourists here with some of the loveliest scenes. My camera was hungry to fill it’s SD card to save and cherish these images.
Entrance fees, costs, and other tidbits:
Be careful where you buy your ticket and make sure it is from a reputable site. I made the mistake of going for a cheaper option, and then when I arrived at the museums, it was counterfeit off the internet.
Getting to the Kinderdijk Windmills:
The trip here is not too daunting, and only a one hour 16 min train and bus ride. This is starting from Amsterdam Centraal Train Station to the quaint bus stop in the little town of Kinderdijk right between Dordrecht and Rotterdam.
This trip will cost you roughly $14 American Dollars unless you get an EURail pass, then you will just need to pay for the bus ride from the train station to Dordrecht. For specific times and ways to get to Kinderdijk, visit Rome2Rio.com and enter your location.
Being of Dutch Heritage myself, knowing my Great Grandfather helped build the first Flour Mill in Utah, gave me so much pride seeing these Windmills. I love supporting anything that can provide clean energy and protect our air and oceans. Having the UNESCO Heritage Foundation name Kinderdijk a place worth preserving is reason enough to visit.
Don’t forget to take the Ferry to each of the informative and detailed Mill Museums. If I were to choose between Zannse Schans and Kinderdijk, I would likely choose Kinderdijk. The reason behind this is you get to see the Windmills as they were meant to be used, and not just as a tourist trap to take pretty pictures. So if you have an extra hour to take a bus/train ride to Kinderdijk, I would highly suggest it.
The first time I backpacked through Europe as a US Citizen, I was entirely overwhelmed and confused. I wasn’t the only foreign visitor who was confused, there were so many people who had questions about how this complex interconnecting system worked. So for those first timers out there, here are my Top 15 Tips for Travel by Train in Europe.
Just because you have a Eurail pass, doesn’t mean you have a reserved seat. So be sure to buy that extra ticket in order to reserve a seat. Also, make sure you are there at least 30 minutes early so you don’t miss your train. Especially if you are traveling across country lines. Only buy tickets from reputable places, there are a lot of scams in Europe around travel. Educate yourself on how to avoid scams in Europe.
2- Check Your Platform And Car Number
Get on the right train from the right platform. Look at the train names above the numbered platforms. Then make sure that the car you enter is the exact car you need to take. The cars separate at different stops and you don’t want to be left behind unknowingly.
IF YOU DON’T KNOW, ASK!!!! Ask someone after you get on the train if you must. They will close the doors when the conductor blows the whistle. The trains in Europe wait for no one.
3- Anticipate The Need To Run
Once seated, look at your ticket……look at the next platform you need to go to. Look at when your train arrives and when the next departs. You may need to run across the station to platform 12b from platform 1a in 15 minutes. There is always going to be someone slow in front of you, so take the stairs.
4- Scan Your Ticket To Get In And Out
Keep your ticket in hand! You need it to scan in and scan out of each of the train stations. The ticket must be current, or you can get a fine. If you have a Eurail Pass, you can just scan the code on the outside of the ticket to get through the gates. The Eurail tickets sometimes have their own gates. Try to go with the gate not everyone is going through (if you can’t understand the Language).
5- Check The Type Of Train You Get On
Make sure you are getting on the right type of train. If you get on the wrong train you can still get fined. It may be going to the right place, but if you get on the faster train or get on an inter-city train instead, you can get fined. B
6- Bring Your Own Supplies
Bring your own water, your phone charger, and a Travel Pillow— especially if you have a sleeper train — small backpacks are the best…..just minimize by packing like the news told you the city was going to be bombed and you had 15 minutes before you had to be evacuated. That will get you everything you need in one bag. Yes, you will probably smell……bring Febreeze…..trust me…..there are people who smell worse on the trains.7 – Take Your Trash With You
7- Take Your Trash With You
Take your trash with you when you exit the train. There are small little garbage cans underneath the tables or right under the window on most trains. These fill up very quickly, as well as the ones in the bathrooms, so take your rubbish with you when you get off.
8- Sit In Seats With No Reservations
Don’t sit in a seat with a paper at the top or an electronic name above the seat…..You will lose your seat. I had this experience once, and that is all it took for me to learn to not do this. Was very unpleasant to be laughed out of your seat by a group of teenage boys. Then I stood in the café car for two hours till the next stop, the train was so full you couldn’t find a seat even between the cars.
9- Treat The Train Like You Would Your Living Room
Don’t put your feet up on the seats, or let your luggage take a seat near you. Put your bags on top and your coat on the hooks. MOVE if there are people looking for a place to sit. You wouldn’t want to sit on a spot where someone’s muddy shoes have just been, ruining your outfit. Take your shoes off first at least before you do this. They don’t exactly clean these seats regularly.
10 – Be The First In Line, In the Right Spot On The Platform
Be the first in line to get on the train…..the seats run out very quickly. Don’t be rude and shove people aside, but if you have the chance, stay close to the train. I also would gauge where the train door would stop ultimately by the train next to us. You stand right where the train opposite would stop, and you get to be the first one onto the train! Worked like a charm every time. Most people just stand at the platform thinking if they are near the front they will get a seat, this is not true. If you are at the front of the platform, right where the doors are going to stop, THEN you will get a seat.
11- Pack Light
Please don’t bring 500 pieces of luggage that require you to ask for help onto and off the train. If you cannot easily get up and down 4 very tall 18-inch steps with both luggage pieces in hand…..people will get mad. The longer you take to board the train the less likely the people behind you will be able to find a seat.
12- Sitting In Between Cars Is Uncomfortable
If you are just going one stop, you can sit in-between the cars. If you try and do this for the entire trip….you will have to get up and move every time someone opens the car doors……very annoying.
13- Sit In The Cafe If All Else Fails
There are seats in the back at the café car that you can order food and sit or stand there. I wouldn’t recommend this, as it gets crowded very very quick. No one can eat for 6 hours straight…..you would go broke.
14 – Limit Your Bathroom Use When Possible
Don’t try to use the bathrooms unless it is an emergency. If you do try and use them— bring hand sanitizer and toilet paper in your purse. The few I did have to use were so gross I was gagging. One had a floor so sticky and stinky that I had to breathe through my mouth. A coin-operated train station in Amsterdam was another bad experience. This particular bathroom had no toilet paper (luckily I had Kleenex in my bag), the sink had a powerful water flow and you could literally see the poop near the walls of the sink.
I am a pretty laid back person when it comes to expecting things to always be perfect (if you do expect it, your trip will be horrible); but this particular restroom was the most disgusting one I have used in the ENTIRE world. Who would have thought that a train station in the Netherlands would be that gross…..they are usually a very clean people.
I will say this though, there are some trains (typically the newer ones) that have decent bathrooms with air-fresheners and everything. They give hefty fines to people who are caught using first class bathrooms without a ticket.
15 – Getting A First Class Ticket Can Be Worth It
If you get a sleeper car for an overnight train trip, get one in first class with one other person if you must. I’m telling you….. it is amazing, and I actually slept…..everything is so clean and really just like a hotel room. You even get breakfast. Second class sleeper trains are adequate but don’t expect to have it be perfect.
My experience with the Second class sleeper was with 4 people in it, and nowhere to put your things because the ladies on the bottom bunks took up all the space. On top of that, you are usually at the end of the train which is a lot more bouncy and less restful. The Air conditioner broke and it was so incredibly hot woke up drenched in sweat. The gentleman in charge of our car and cabin just apologized, said they tried to fix it, and there were no other rooms for us to go
Make Train Travel in Europe Easier
Now all these things may make you not want to take the train at all. These 15 tips, were constructed from the worst parts of my experience. These tips and tricks will help your experience better. There are many many more wonderful parts of train travel, that can end up being a really great experience. My luck on trains is not the greatest. Apart from the one time I got a first class cabin all to myself. Being in first class was sooooo worth the money! To be in a cool, quiet, restful place with an attendant who really cared.
So don’t let this article deter you from train travel, it really is a great way to get around. I hope these things have helped and will allow at least those in the Culture Trekking Community to travel with ease, by learning from my mistakes.
As always, Happy Travels, Happy Tales and See You on the Flip Side.
Cheese is one of the major exports from this tiny town, with exports of the classic round Edam Cheese balls being shipped throughout the world since the Golden Age. There is even a cheese museum there that has a cellar that dates from the 8th century. Learn how they refrigerated their food and kept their produce fresh and always in season with the floating cellar. This house is particularly interesting for its floating cellar, designed to accommodate changes in water level without destabilizing the structure.
Don’t miss out on the famous Edam Cheese Market! This typically takes place in July & August, and has been around since the 16th century! This market happens on Wednesdays from 10:30am -12:30pm. Just to show you how popular this market is here, the most Cheese balls ever sold was 250,000!! So go get your Cheese Ball on! (They are actually called Cheese Rounds, but I just like the term Cheese Balls 😉
In order to export the cheese, you had to have on important component….a way to do it. Shipbuilding is also a major component of Edam’s history and contributed to its prosperity. With these two components, it quickly became one of the most important trading cities in the 17th century. Edam was also one of the cities that helped to protect Amsterdam, take a walk through the old Edam Fort and see how the city was protected.
The Small Things of Edam:
While I was there in November, I didn’t get a chance to see the famed cheese festival, but the streets of Edam are well worth the visit. Full of lovely people who are so helpful and kind. I had a nice chat with a fellow about the cheese, the family business tried a few morsels and took some home with me.
Traveler Tip: Make sure your cheese is sealed nice and tight with shrink wrap, otherwise they may confiscate it on the airplane.
Take a seat at one of their outdoor cafes and sip on some tea. Wander around the cozy streets of these adorable little houses. I felt so at peace in this little town, I wish I could have stayed here longer.
Beyond Cheese, Cheese Museum and the Cheese market – what can the lactose intolerant do? There are several grand adventures nearby, be sure to check out:
Take up a conversation with a local and ask them how long they have been there and if they are in a family home.
Take a seat at one of the tea-houses on Schepenmakersdijk
Bring your tent and pitch it by the water, Edam actually has camping spots!
There may not be as many fantastical things to do in Edam, but I sincerely loved this town and really feel it captures the spirit of what the Netherlands really is with its tiny houses and shops.
How to get there:
Take bus 314 from Amsterdam Centraal Station to Edam Bus station. The buses typically congregate on the top floor and tickets can be bought at the yellow kiosks for a full day trip. If you will be coming back on the night bus, it will cost you more, so be sure to buy a night ticket as well. You can also buy the tickets from the driver as well but need exact change. If you buy the ticket at the yellow kiosks, they do take cards and there is an ATM nearby as well but may not have the best exchange rate. They also have a money exchange window, but hours are variable and they have a terrible exchange rate. If you aren’t headed there from Amsterdam Centraal Station, take a look at Rome2Rio for the best options for your location and situation.
Make it Edam Cheese Please
If you really want to see what the Netherlands looks like outside the city, visit Edam. Fill up on the best Cheese in the Netherlands. With so many flavors, it will be hard not to please even the harshest of critics. I personally recommend the Truffle Cheese, it is scrumdiddlyumptious.
I personally found this interview with Emma from Amsterdam to be compelling as My Heritage is largely Dutch. Emma is a receptionist at ClinkNoord, the Hostel I was staying at. She was a petite woman, tall, with blonde hair and blue eyes.
After looking at her, I felt as if I compared to my Scottish Ancestors more than the Dutch as I am 5’4″ tall. She had a sweet unassuming smile with an open countenance, but also a professionalism that would make you not want to challenge her in a duel of wits. Although she consented to my interview, she did not want to have any photos taken of her, so I apologize I cannot provide more of a visual for you. Read the full interview below:
The People of the Netherlands:
Me:How do the people in Amsterdam identify themselves? Stoic, Kind, helpful, funny, laid back? Emma: I believe that people here are open-minded, blunt, optimistic, and yet always in a rush. They are typically blonde with blue eyes and are very tall as well. Me: Do you feel that your culture and traditions have changed in any way in the last 10 years? Emma: The Dutch culture is fading away, the smaller villages still wear clogs, but it is very modernized and different than what it was.
Me: How can we as tourists help maintain your culture? Emma: Clean up after yourselves! Please do not throw garbage on the street, the Dutch people are a very clean people, even in the streets. Me: How many days off a year do people get in the Netherlands? Emma:20 days and if you work for a company you can get another 5 days, especially if you are a teacher. Me: If I moved to the Netherlands, how would you suggest I assimilate into the culture? Emma: Connect with people in the bigger cities as most of them speak English. You want to speak Dutch if you are planning to live in the smaller towns. Me: What languages are spoken here? Emma: Dutch, English for the younger people, and German for the older people.
Me: What is the best mode of Transportation here? Emma: (laughs and responds with a grin on her face) You must use a bike or a bus. You can trust Uber, but it takes awhile to drive through cities. Me:What are the major religions here? Emma:Catholic, Protestant, Muslim Me:Are people here devoted to their religion? Emma: Yes Me:What are the biggest Misconceptions people have about the Netherlands? Emma:That the people are arrogant with strong opinions. The thing is, is that people in the Netherlands know their shit and it comes across as arrogant, but it really isn’t true. Me: What are your favorite memories of this city and why? Emma:The beach for sure, and the flower fields, cows coming into my backyard. This was usually at my Grandparents house that the cows would come into the flower fields.
For the Tourist:
Me:What are some Festivals that you think are worthwhile for people to visit? Emma:Tomorrowland, Mystery land, and the Pinkpop Festivalis very very popular with a lot of big artists, Justin Beiber was there last time.
Me: What are the biggest tourist traps that you see here? Emma: The tourists come and get caught up with the drugs here. There is also an area that I would say to avoid called Bijlmer area, it is a homeless area and can be dangerous. Me: Where are the best places to eat Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and get a beer? Emma: For breakfast, I would say the Pancake Bakery which is here in the Netherlands about a 10 min walk from ClinkNoord. Then for lunch, we don’t really eat a lunch, just eat a snack or something. For Dinner, I would say Jordaan or Hannover streets you can find really great places to eat all along those streets. If you want a good beer, you can really go anywhere in Amsterdam but the type of beer is what will make the difference. So for the beers, I would suggest getting: Amstel, Heineken, Grolsch, Hertog Jan, or Bavaria. Me: How do you tip at restaurants? Emma:We don’t really expect a tip, but if the bill is 13.50 you might round up to 15 euro so that you don’t have change. We like the round numbers here, but I would say do not tip more than 5 euros for a meal for one person maximum. Me:I have noticed that they charge you for bottled water here, and tell you that you cannot have tap water. How would you as a local get around this, or is there a way around it? Emma:They tell you they can’t give you tap water, but it is not true. You can ask for tap water and they cannot refuse it, it is a way for the restaurant to make more money. So how I usually get around it, is to say, ‘Can I have tap water, to begin with’, and then you can bring a water bottle for in between meals.
Me: What is one of the best-hidden gems in the Netherlands? Emma:Haarlem, it gives you a really good local experience and it is right next to the beach where they have fairs and different experiences for the tourist and for the locals. Me: Are there places in the Netherlands that you would say are Romantic? Emma: Romantic in Holland? (She smiles a huge smile and stifles a laugh) Dutch people aren’t Romantic….we just light a candle and call it romantic. (Laughs again). Me:Where is the best place for nightlife in the Netherlands? Emma:The Sugar Factory is really nice, also Melkweg or Paradiso are great places for nightlife that aren’t super crazy. Me:Where are the best places to go for outdoor adventures and hiking? Emma: The Flatlands, the forest, they have caves here that are fun to explore and Veluwe. Me:If you were to get hurt doing these fun adventures, what number could you call for an emergency in the Netherlands? Emma:Call 112 for emergencies, or just ask someone to call the paramedics for you because they will know the area better and how to direct them to get to you.
Schooling in the Netherlands:
Me: What are the school systems like here? Emma:At 3 years old the parents decide if they want you to go to school, from 4-6 the kids go to Kindergarten, 6-11 reading and writing school, 11 years old and older is High School until 17-18 where you decide if you want to go to a higher education. We have here MBO, HBO, and the University. The MBO is a practical industry school, HBO is the economy school and you must be smart to go here, and then the University is where the smartest people go. Me: Does it cost anything to go to a lower level school? Emma:Yes, the parents have to pay to send you to school. The government can give you money for this, but you have to pay them back in 12 years. Me:How do they advance grades? Emma:You have to pass a test after each grade. If you do not pass you can take it again, but after you fail the second time then you go to a lower level. Me: What about higher education, how are people able to access that? Emma:it is much harder because you have to have money to do that….lots and lots of money.
The Family Unit in the Netherlands:
Me: How does the family unit work here? Emma:It depends on how close the family is. Young kids go to the city & leave their parents. Some stay and buy a house if they have a good job. Me: Who wears the pants in the family, or who is in charge? Emma: Mom definitely wears the pants in the family. Dad is the money. Dad typically goes to work, eats, sleeps, and repeats day after day after day. Me:Where do the elderly go when they can no longer walk? Who takes care of them? Emma: They go to the old folks home where their family can visit them. They do not move into your home because you have to work and then take care of them all the time and it just creates a bad situation. Me:What is the view on feminism, gay, or minorities here? Are they treated equally or do you notice a societal difference in how they are treated? Emma:It is an unusual thing to separate them, but I see that the younger generations are ok with it. The older generations are still traditionalists and have a hard time, but if you look at forms that people fill out there is options for man, woman, or other. We were actually the first country to approve gay marriage.
Me: Is having children common here? Emma: yes Me: Do people get Maternity leave here? Emma:Yes, you usually get 5-6 months of maternity leave. Me: What age do people here get married? Emma: Typically in their twenties. Me: Are their customs associated with marriage you would like to share? Emma:Not really, they just go to the church, they might have a reception and eat some cake. Then there is a party in the evening with a dinner and a DJ. The party typically lasts all day. Me: Is it common to live together prior to getting married? Emma:Yes Me: What is the classic place that people get married here? Emma:The city hall (laughs), there is no special place, you go, you get married and it’s done. If you go on Monday morning actually you can get married for free at City Hall.
Politics, Stereotypes, Citizen Rights:
Me:What are the common stereotypes that are encountered here? Emma:It is always the immigrant’s fault, and people feel it is always those from Serbia, Turkey, or Morocco. Me: What are the different political parties here? Emma:There are a lot of different parties that represent different things like the animals, religion, elderly, economy, immigrants and religion. Me: Can you vote? Emma:Yes, from the age of 18 you can vote. Me:Are the citizen’s allowed to do demonstrations? Who are the people that typically do this? Emma:There aren’t usually demonstrations here. There was a time where Kindergarteners were demonstrating because of the low salary for the teachers. Me: What are the Police and the Military system like here? Do you have confidence that they would protect its citizens in the event of a terrorist attack? Emma: You don’t want to call the police because they will want to do a ton of paperwork. The citizens take care of the problem themselves and just beat the people up because they don’t trust the police.
Me:How do you say thank you in Dutch? Emma:Dankjewel (sounds like Dunk-ya-vell) Me: Well a big Dankjewel to you Emma for taking the time out of your day to answer these questions I really appreciate it. Emma: No problem, they were interesting questions and some of them made me think a little bit.
Emma was so kind in answering my questions, and I was so grateful that she was willing to do so as it was so difficult to find someone to Interview in Amsterdam. I personally found the Dutch people to be a people motivated by duty. Duty to make their lives better for themselves, their family, and their country. There is a certain pride within them from being Dutch, but I felt that it was not as forthright as other places I have encountered like Texas. They are a quiet, clean, kind people as a generalization and humble enough to not want to be on camera or have photos taken.
I really enjoyed my time and all of the cities I was able to visit while in the Netherlands. Stay tuned for more posts on Edam, Haarlem, Zannse Schans, Den Hague, Delft, Jordaan, Kinderdijk, and Dordrecht. If you would like my full itinerary please email firstname.lastname@example.org Should you ever visit the Netherlands, make sure to stop by and say hello to her at ClinkNoord, she is a receptionist there and like most of the Dutch, is tall, blue-eyed with blonde hair and looks like she stepped out of a magazine.
Have you been to the Netherlands yet? What was your favorite place to visit?
My Great-Grandfather was born in Apeldoorn in what is now the Netherlands, so going to the Netherlands has always been a must. Other members of my family had already been several times, but for my Birthday I decided to go by myself. I arrived in Amsterdam and stayed at ClinkNoord Hostel, which was a perfect location as the Central Train station was about a 10-minute walk from my accommodation. Although I visited many cities in the Netherlands, Giethoorn was always on the top of my list.
Giethroon In The Off Season
Giethoorn is a small town, about a 3-hour train ride North of Amsterdam. I made sure to leave early in the morning and once I arrived off the bus, it looked like everything was closed up for the season. It was November, but I thought surely at least one store would be open……I had traveled so far. As I was here in the off-season, I was unsure if I would be able to take my coveted boat ride through the city with no roads.
I walked into the only open restaurant, ‘t Zwaantje (Little Swan), that morning to get some Hot Cocoa to warm myself up while I tried to come up with a plan. They happened to not only be a restaurant but were also a Boat tour of Giethoorn! You may know Giethroon as the city without roads, and to get from house to house you must travel by boat. In the springtime, it is filled with flowers, budding trees, birds, and is often the location that is sought after for a ‘Make a Wish’ Destination.
You may know Giethroon as the city without roads, and to get from house to house you must travel by boat. In the springtime, it is filled with flowers, budding trees, birds, and is often the location that is sought after for a ‘Make a Wish’ Destination. I climbed onto the boat with 4 other passengers, which I was told was quite unusual as the boats in the spring are overflowing with tourists & the canals of Geithoorn are crammed with boats. I am one who loves the quiet, uncrowded destinations so this was a perfect situation for me. There were blankets in the boat, and they allowed me to bring my Hot cocoa with me which was fantastic. It was unusually sunny and warm for being the end of November, so the young man driving us around allowed me to open the windows and take photos of this fairytale city.
The History Of Geithoorn
The name Geithoorn was derived from Geytenhoren. Geytenhoren is a term assigned to this city after the Peat farming diggers pulled up ancient goat horns from 1170 AD. It is believed that these goat horns are actually ones that may have drowned during that flood. After time the name was shortened and changed to Geithoorn.
Geithoorn was a peat moss farming town. With the Netherlands being so close to water sources wherever you go, peat moss was easy to grow, and very lucrative in the 13th century as peat moss was used as a source of fuel in the wetlands throughout the Netherlands. Peat moss is dug up from the bottom of lakes and is dead plants that accumulate over time, piling on top of each other.
The Peat moss is then created by drying it (typically on rooftops) and then pounding it down into easy to transport pieces. This fuel type was beneficial to those in the 13th century because it did not come with as much smoke as the local wood did, warmed the house nicely, and burned for an extended period of time comparatively. Those individuals tasked with digging out the peat moss were not paid that well, the turf makers or the ones who stamped out the water with their wooden shoes were paid much better and considered well to do in the 15th century.
Canals were dug in between houses to both help grown and drain out the water so that the peat moss could be farmed more efficiently. Houses were built on the dry land between these homes and thus Geithoorn was created. Over time coal took over for peat moss as a source of fuel and Peat Moss farms became a thing of the past.
Want To Live In Geithoorn?
Homes were sold to individuals who enjoyed the solitude that comes with living in a town like this. Now Geithoorn has been made so popular by different travel magazines that an 800 sqft house could cost you between € 195,000 to € 800,000 (per 2017 quotes). The individuals that live there are under strict community codes as well with no blinds being allowed so they use special plants and vines to give some form of privacy. If your thatched roof is in bad shape, well you have to replace it and it could cost you around 10 euro per square foot.
The People in Geithoorn:
Despite it being winter it was still so beautiful and peaceful. I met some lovely people on board who also happened to be in school studying Tourism. The boat operator was a young man who looked like he had turned into a human popsicle. He told me that after you are on the boat all day you go home and just can’t seem to get warm again because the cold seeps into your bones. It was chilly, but I was just glad it wasn’t raining as had been for the last several days.
He also told me that the boats are built so that children who wish to come and see Giethoorn but are unable to get out of the hospital bed or disconnect from their IV’s can be rolled onto the boats and taken on a tour as part of the ‘Make a Wish Foundation’. Being someone who works in the medical field this made my eyes a little misty and was so grateful for the kindness and accommodation that these people offered to children and their families.
Make Your Own Wish In Giethoorn
No matter what time of year you choose to go, Giethoorn is a beautiful place, with beautiful people. I cannot wait to go back and compare Spring to Winter touring of this place, but would not have had my own experience any other way for my first time there. The cottages on their peat moss mounds, the rolling clouds lazily floating by, the people that I met, and the feeling of gratitude for my heritage leaving this place was one of the best Birthday presents I could have asked for…..almost as if I fulfilled my own ‘Make a Wish’ dreams.