The Netherlands isn’t a very big country but there are lots of little things there that made this one of the greatest trips I’ve been on.
I wasn’t very happy at the start of my Netherlands trip. I was supposed to be going with one of my friends, but she decided the night before that she didn’t want to go. Obviously, I was pretty annoyed about this; I have no problem travelling alone, in fact, I quite enjoy it, however, it was such a last minute change of plans and she was supposed to be driving us to the airport in the morning.
I was very stressed and tried to find a hotel room near the airport however they were all very expensive as I was booking for the same night. Airport hotels can be quite cheap if you book them in advance but due to the volume of guests, they can get quite expensive with short notice. Thankfully, my dad offered to drive me to the airport as it wasn’t my fault I had ended up stranded.
When I arrived at Rotterdam airport, I was still a little miffed about the whole ordeal. First thing I always do in any new country is buy a travelcard -there is a Welcome Card option like in Berlin and Venice, however, I didn’t know enough about any of the attractions to opt for this, instead I got a standard OV chipkaart which I topped up with euros, very similar to an Oyster card. As soon as I had this in hand, I hopped on a train and went straight to the ocean. Whenever I’m upset, water always calms me down – be that a lake, a river or the sea – no matter where I am, I will always find a body of water in case of emergencies.
I headed to The Hague which is an incredibly beautiful part of the Netherlands. I got off the train at the central station and rather than get another tram or bus I decided to walk to the ocean. But first, I wanted food. As in most places, the train station offered me a wide selection of places to eat. I opted for a sandwich shop where I got a baguette and some crisps and then I headed outside to find somewhere to eat it.
I hadn’t gone far when I came across a lake with an island in the middle and some ducks swimming around. Sitting down, I started eating and got out my book (The Mayan Prophecy by Steve Alten – I thoroughly recommend it). I was attempting to read and eat at the same time; however, it wasn’t going very well so I decided I’d eat first and then read a little in my nice quiet spot. It was only then that I noticed something odd about the island. It was filled with deer. Just a random herd of deer on a little island opposite the train station. It was such a simple thing but it made me forget about my annoyance and concentrate on having a great holiday.
After I finished eating and reading, I headed off to find the beach. Unless you’re a big fan of walking (and I was playing Pokémon Go at the time) I wouldn’t recommend walking. It’s quite a long way. I’m really glad I did though. I found some beautiful parks and incredible buildings (and a lot of Pokémon) on the way.
I ended up at Scheveningen Beach; a beautiful stretch of beach with lots of cafes and restaurants. One thing I found in the Netherlands is how clean everything is, and the beachfront was no exception. Along one of the walkways, there are metal statues, some tiny people huddled next to you on the steps and some giant, like a huge man feeding himself a fish. They were incredibly made, and some were downright adorable, it’s definitely worth a visit. It was such a safe and comfortable place for me to while away the afternoon.
When it started getting cold, I headed back to my Airbnb in Rotterdam. This time I got the tram though. I got the train back to the city and went and found my room. I stayed with a couple who I think I spoke to about once (very rude of me, I know) and I had a lovely room on the top floor of their house. It was a great space and I really enjoyed my time there. It was also around the corner from a Lidl, so I went there and bought snacks so I could keep myself going for the next few days.
My second day in Rotterdam I went on a bike tour to help orientate myself in the city. I went with a company called Bike & Bite, who offer tours where you stop and try some local foods. Now I love food so this seemed like a good fit for me. And it was amazing. I went on a Wednesday afternoon so there was only me and one other German family of three, but our tour guide was amazing and made sure the slight awkwardness passed rather quickly. He was very knowledgeable about the local area and got to know the four of us a little so he could make personal suggestions about what to do with the rest of our respective trips.
I think my favourite part of the tour was something the people in Rotterdam refer to as the ‘Kabouter Buttplug’. This translates to the ‘Buttplug Gnome’ which is a giant statue of a gnome holding what looks like a giant buttplug. It was originally intended to be Santa holding a Christmas tree, however, the tree did not remain the shape it was supposed to and rounded somewhat, and the Buttplug Gnome was born. I urge you to go and see it. I promise you, if you have the slightest amount of immaturity left in you, it will make your day.
My Airbnb was right next to the Rotterdam Zoo so the following day, and my last day in the Netherlands, I spend the day there. It’s possibly the biggest zoo I’ve ever been to. For such a tiny place, I wasn’t expecting such a big zoo or quite so many animals. I had a wonderful day wandering around all the enclosures and I got to see polar bears for the first time. It is well worth a visit and they offer concessionary rates for students too, so that’s always a bonus.
For such a small country, that people only ever really think of for Amsterdam, it has a big personality, and it was a great country to spend a little time just being.