Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tot Ziens, Nederlandse!

I have not had enough of a breather to reminisce about the recent trip to the Netherlands in December and now that I finally had some time to slow down, I sit here looking through pictures that I took, and it all comes flooding back. It is still a little bit unimaginable that I WAS there, but if I stare long enough at the pictures, the experience comes alive again. The wind whips my hair again and sends chills to my toes. I hear the clacking of busy heels on cobblestone and the chatter of Dutch people all over again. My heart races - then stops - at the sight of old, beautiful, buildings everywhere.

Though trip was sudden and brief, I felt like I had enough opportunity to get intimate with Holland since it was spent with locals doing what locals do, eating and hanging out where locals eat and hang out, on a few occasions, cruising on a bicycle (or on the back of one) - just like the Dutch!

So here's what I uncovered about Holland and the Dutch:

1. Everyone rides bicycles. Men, women, young, old, day, night - the Dutch's preferred mode of transport is the bike. I love it! There is nothing more memorable than sitting sidesaddle on the back of a bicycle at 2AM after a night of dancing and drinks.

2. Don't the Dutch dance? I found myself in a pretty happening bar on a Saturday night with great dance music, but.. nobody was dancing. I'm befuddled by this. (But did I dance? Yes. Could not help tearing it up.)

3. There are beaches pretty close to the city. I really did not know this. From Haarlem, you can even cycle to them.

4. Amsterdam is beautiful. Forget it's infamy for legalized prostitution and drugs. It is an astoundingly beautiful city with canals and bridges at every turn. The buildings are old, the streets made of cobblestone, and everything just seems to be frothing with historic, romantic charm.

5. .... But I am known to play favorites and Haarlem, about 15 minutes west of Amsterdam, is the apple of my eye. It's not as overwhelming, big, busy or touristy as Amsterdam, which inspires a more personal connection with the place.

6. See the Dutch masters like Van Gogh, Rembrandt and Frans Hals in a delightfully unique setting. Kroller Muller Museum is located deep in the National Park de Hoge Veluwe in the east of Holland. Outside the gallery is a massive collection of impressive sculptures set in the beauty of nature. I have not been to any place in the world where you can view art and get a hike in at the same time, and afterwards, jump on free white bikes and ride through the forest to the sand dunes. I did not expect to be surprised here, but I was. And delightfully so!

6. The Dutch are a very open, warm, easygoing bunch. Drive around the Dutch neighborhoods and you will see almost every house with the curtains drawn wide open, intimately inviting you to whatever is going on inside - a family dinner, children chasing each other around, someone reading the paper. "Gezellig" is a word exclusive to the Dutch and supposedly does not translate directly to English, but the closest word it resembles is "cozy", as in an atmosphere, or that warm feeling of being with loved ones.

I have always dreamed about going to Europe and Holland was my first taste of it. It was very fascinating for me to see how buildings that are centuries old remain standing to this day. It makes me ponder on permanence and longevity, not just of physical structures but of social structures and relationships as well. I realized that I have grown accustomed to the somewhat disposable culture and mentality in America and it was a great experience to see a different way of life where things are kept and cherished, where things are not replaced on whim. Because I was fortunate to have stayed in Dutch households the entire trip, I was witness to how they keep and take care of the things that have meaning and sentiment and how they are not prone to accumulating, amassing and hoarding.

Besides, if what you have in the first place is already beautiful and fulfilling, why replace it?

No comments:

Post a Comment