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  >  Europe   >  Short break in the Netherlands? why not?

Gouda with skunk. These two aromas will always come to our minds when we think about the Netherlands. It’s a small country yet it evokes so many associations: tulips, cheese, skunk, freedom, windmills, bikes, Amsterdam’s Red Light District… That’s quite a lot considering that we’re talking about a country covering an area only slightly bigger than… Taiwan! There definitely is something in the Dutch climate that not only attracts people for a moment but also makes them “anchor” here for longer, something other than high earnings (4th most densely populated country in Europe!). What is worth to see? Check it..

 

AMSTERDAM…  YOU DON’T HAVE A BIKE? YOU DON’T EXIST!

This city doesn’t need any advertizing and failing to visit Amsterdam should be punishable by a fine at least ;-) But seriously, our impressions of that specific city are very positive. We were aware that bikes were a part of the picture there but we didn’t know that there were so many of them! We heard about the Red Light District but we didn’t think the place was so commercial. Skunk? Oh yeah, its smell is in the air of the narrow streets of the city and that also leaves positive associations! We don’t see a point of writing about the city’s attractions since everyone can look them up in a guidebook before a trip. See a few of our photographs and form your own opinion. Is this city worth visiting? Only if you aren’t looking for peace and quiet because the city seems to party 365 days a year. After a three-day-long stay there we came to a conclusion that after two weeks of such life in Amsterdam we would have to go to rehab. ;-)

 

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The huge Ferris wheel located in the centre of the city offers a panoramic view of Amsterdam.

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The ubiquitous channels and characteristic architecture. The city’s touristic zone covers a really extensive area so we recommend staying there for at least a few days. During one-day trip the pace of sightseeing will be frenetic and you rather won’t feel the atmosphere of the place…

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Bikes in Amsterdam enjoy probably more privileges than ambulances and fire trucks.

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Bikes are everywhere. You don’t have a bike? You don’t exist. Everybody rides a bike and uses them to transport everything… from shopping bags to bricks.  

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Life of the residents from the downtown isn’t easy. How can you function normally when there’s a raging party all around you all the time?

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Apartments located in moored barges are very prestigious places of abode and people pay for them through their noses.

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Barge residential district occupied mostly by all kinds of artists looking for an original place to live.

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Amsterdam is a city bursting with greenery there are many garden squares and trees. The citizens make sure that their city is not a concrete desert.

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The word “love” in probably all languages of the world that’s wallpaper you can see in some cars of the Amsterdam’s underground. A really high concentration of love per square meter…

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A tutaj And here we have a zone of those not necessarily loving but definitely …practicing Red Light District.

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KEUKENHOF … EXTREMELY COLOURFUL BUT A BIT DISAPPOINTING…

There is no doubt as to one thing – Keukenhof is the most colourful place in the Netherlands…. but unfortunately what breaks the spell is a multitude of tourists. Even though there are fewer colourful umbrellas carried by tour guides than tulips (as there are 8 million of them here in 800 varieties), the crowds are still too big. It’s hard to take a photo because every time you set a frame, some Japanese tourists or a group of pensioners from England or a numerous Hindi family get in your way. You can take some decent photos with a bit of cunning and a lot of patience but I have to admit it’s not an easy task. We planned to spend the whole day in the garden but when we joined the long queue of cars waiting for a place at the parking lot for cars and buses (which seemed bigger than the garden itself) I started to have my doubts whether this plan was workable. And true enough, after two hours of very “collective” walks we made ourselves scarce wishing only for a bit of peace and quiet!

Keukenhof is a place definitely worth visiting but it can be a bit disappointing. Once you manage to find a colourful secluded corner, you get the feeling feel that in a moment Alice in Wonderland will appear to pick the tulips. But such peaceful places are extremely hard to find and despite the area of 32ha we were amazed how many people can squeeze in the garden. One of the reasons behind the crowds is seasonality of this attraction. The garden isn’t open all year round but only from 17th March to 20th May. Before you decide to come here make sure that what you wish to see is blooming. The garden is surrounded by hectares of fields with tulips forming colourful stripes. If you decide to come during the long May weekend, the tulips in the fields will have already finished blooming and you’ll be able to admire only the contents of the garden. The best time to visit is the beginning of the season. We recommend buying your tickets via Internet because despite the enormity of the garden, the number of tourists willing to see it is so big that you may simply kiss a handle!

More information here:

http://www.keukenhof.nl/en/

And the garden looks more or less like this…

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Przyznam szczerze, że nie studiowaliśmy tych 800 odmian…

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Slightly faded field of grape hyacinths and daffodils.

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 One of the many tulip carpets…

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Do wyboru do koloru…

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Bardziej pospolity fiolet…

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The garden is only seemingly peaceful and quiet….

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A LAND OF CHEESE AND SAD DISCOVERY – EDAM AND GOUDA ARE NOT WHAT WE KNOW….

In a small Dutch town, on a small market square, a special show with cheese as the main star is held every Friday from spring to autumn. Tall and strong representatives of the most popular cheese guilds wearing traditional clothes go to the main square of the town of Alkmaar to present their products in the most dramatic way. They use special handbarrows on which they load several heavy cheese wheels and they gracefully carry them around for the tourists to admire. It has to be admitted that the gentlemen honed their skill of cheese carrying to perfection (because it’s not as easy as it may seem). They probably were also trained by …[h1]  himself because they are real pranksters. When we were watching their show, they fished a shapely blonde up from the crowd, put her on their handbarrows instead of cheeses and made several rounds around the square earning a heated applause from the audience… the Japanese nearly lost it from fear of not being able to take out their cameras in time! But the “carriers” are not the only performers –they are accompanied by a special committee including seniors (experienced gentlemen in their 60s with effective mustaches) who sample cheeses, check their taste, consistency etc. and allows them on the market (or not). Once it’s done, cheese wheels are loaded on handbarrows are transported to the local shops. The whole show is broadcast on a screen attached to the Town Hall and commented in four (!!!) languages. We highly recommend visiting Alkmaar and attending the cheese show. And don’t forget to do some cheese shopping and taste the various types of cheese. Talking about tasting, we hadn’t imagined that our Gouda and Edam that we know from our shops are so different from the original. What’s more, they sometimes have nothing in common with the original! Local delicacies include cheeses with various additions such as caraway, spinach, herbs, and dried tomatoes. Come to Alkmaar when you are in the area. If you are cheese lovers, you’ll be in heaven!

 

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You shall know them by the colours of their hats…

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Different colours of hats help to tell apart representatives of various cheese guilds.

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Dutch beauty surrounded by cheese.

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Star of the show

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That job requires some robustness!

 

KINDERDIJK … EVEN IN THE CIVILIZED WEST THERE ARE PLACES WHERE THE TIME STANDS STILL

 

Kinderdijk is such a strange place; it’s a village near Rotterdam with nothing more interesting than a pub, some hotel, restaurant and gift shops. A place like so many other? Only seemingly. In the middle of nowhere, on two sides of a small river windmills stand in a straight line. What’s so special about them? I have no idea but there is something unique about that place. To be honest, we hadn’t expected much from it. It was at the end of our itinerary and we wanted to simply tick it off out of our respect for UNESCO’s list. We rented ramshackle bikes for a couple of Euros and we set off at a leisurely pace, against the wind. At the beginning nothing seemed to indicate that the place would give us any thrill; we caught glimpses of the windmills at a distance but only when we rode the lane there and back again we felt the atmosphere of the area. Silence, wind and the stately windmills revolving now and then transported us for a moment back in time. Nothing whatsoever happens there, the time stands still and the windmills simply are, were and will be there. After a few hours one feels that the place is more than just a heritage park. “Contemporary” surroundings are at odds with the idyllic and calming sight of windmills standing among the rustling fields. Tourists with smartphones look here like aliens and do not fit in the place where nothing has changed since the 18th century. Wonderful place to get a break and stop for a moment! In a nutshell: it’s definitely WORTH your time!

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Nostalgic, mysterious, atmospheric … that’s what Kinderdijk is like.

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The only missing element is a woman in an old-fashioned costume and a white embroidered shawl, washing clothes in the river…

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Do People still live is some of the windmills!

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Fortunately for the time being there are no Melex cars or scooters… only good old Dutch bikes.

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The time has stopped.

 

THE VILLAGE OF EDAM …A PILGRIMAGE POINT FOR CHEESOHOLICS?

This tiny Dutch town is a great alternative to the crowded places such as Keukenhof which turn out to be exhausting on a long-term basis. Edam looks almost like a miniature town. Just a few streets along the canal one can see around in literally 15 minutes. Nevertheless, the place is so charming that we spent good few hours wandering around the village. We absolutely loved the small houses which look just perfect. Everything about them is so polished, from bricks to flowers and beautiful window shutters. On a side note, windows in the Netherlands, which immediately caught our attention, are a topic for a separate post – they are big and frequently uncovered, without any lace curtains or blinds. The townspeople of Edam seem to be competing for the most beautifully adorned window: their windowsills are like small window displays. Everything is elegantly styled: beautiful flowers, vases, some sculptures and other stuff of that kind. Our Polish windowsills displaying ferns and orchids seem really boring and predictable in comparison to the Dutch windows. We recommend spending some time in Edam or the nearby Volendam – an old fishing village located by a lake. You may take a slow walk, drink your coffee or taste the famous Dutch fries, for example with peanut sauce, which was a totally new flavour for us.

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One of the perfect houses in Edam.

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A company shop.

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Houses in Edam in romantic setting.

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Edam cheese.

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A street in Edam.

THERE ARE NO PALMS… BUT IT’S ATMOSPHERIC NEVERTHELESS

At the end we want to show a few snapshots of the Dutch seaside. The Netherlands are such a lovely small country that one day is enough to taste the local variety, starting from the partying Amsterdam to small villages, cheese markets, seas of tulips and ending at the seaside. Granted, it’s not Spain and the palms are nowhere to be seen… the landscape is rather barren, windy and open-spaced. Nonetheless, the beach is a good spot to relax and gather your thoughts.

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The landscape is stark, one could even say that it’s unfriendly but… atmospheric at the same time.

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One of the biggest wind farms on the high seas… How did they do it?

(QUITE UNUSUAL) LOW-PRICED ACCOMMODATION IN AMSTERDAM?

 

And finally, a brilliant and super-duper accommodation in Amsterdam. You don’t have to smoke skunk to feel like you’re in another crazy world. All you need to do is stay at Lucky Lake campsite which offers accommodation in old caravans in all colours of the rainbow. You can choose from two-bed or four-bed caravans which probably remember the times of PRL. The caravans are equipped with a bed, wardrobe, table, space heater, which you may start during cold nights, so generally it’s all you may wish for ;-) Apart from tidy bathroom and well-equipped kitchen, the campsite offers also comfortable hammocks, a ping-pong table, cinema room and a fun caravan where one can play board games, play the piano or smoke… whatever you want – it’s Amsterdam after all! The campsite is run by young people who are totally crazy and have a positive attitude to life but manage to get everything done. The only minus may be the distance between the campsite and the centre of Amsterdam. There is a small bus going between the campsite and a metro station. Once you get there, you need to spend around 20 minutes in the underground so the total length of the ride from the campsite to the city centre takes 30-35 minutes. Also you have to remember when the last metro train leaves from Amsterdam because if you miss it, you can use only taxi service. During the long May weekend in 2014 we paid €50 for a night, including breakfast for two people. Two nights is a minimum length of stay there.

Advantages:

– nice atmosphere

– unusual campsite “design”

– good organization

– friendly staff

 

Disadvantages:

– distance from the centre of Amsterdam

– it’s targeted towards motorists as it’s difficult to get here if you don’t have a car

 

 

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Cinema room, two fun caravans for smokers and those more or less sober, hammocks, ping-ping table and tens of colourful caravans. Good vibes for chill out…


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Despite appearances, the campsite’s canteen isn’t motorized…

 

 

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