I had always pictured the Netherlands to be something of a beautiful, green country with an almost magical aura. I had associated it with peace and happiness. I’m not sure why I did, but that’s just how it always was in my head. But when I was there in April of this year, I got a taste of what the country was actually all about.
My mum, my sister and I booked a five day tour with ABC Tours which left on the second of April, and would take us from the Czech Republic, through Germany, into Holland and Belgium, and back to the CZ on the sixth.
Okay, before we go any further, I’m going to explain the difference between the Netherlands and Holland, because I know many people, including myself a few months ago, don’t know the difference. Here it is: the Netherlands is the country, and Holland is a region within that country. Holland is made up of two provinces, North Holland and South Holland. Amsterdam is located in North Holland, and apparently most of the things that the Netherlands is famous for come from Holland.
So now that that’s out of the way, we can get on with the tour.
We left from Beroun in the CZ, and started our drive. It took the better part of fifteen hours, with multiple stops in Germany along the way. Our drive began in the afternoon and continued overnight.
When we finally arrived in the Netherlands, we stopped at The Hague. Our tour group went inside the miniature museum there, the Madurodam, while my mum, my sister and I just explored the area and ate some food. It was nice, but we did regret not going inside the museum. We didn’t have enough time (or confidence) to go into the city alone, and the tickets to the museum are only €13.50 if you buy them online at http://www.madurodam.nl/en/visit-the-park/buy-tickets/, and €15.50 if you buy them at the desk. I think that’s actually one of our biggest regrets from the whole four month holiday.
Nevertheless, we walked around a park just next to the museum, and talked. The part was green. And I mean green. It reminded me of a rainforest, and looked very much like how I had pictured the Netherlands before I was there.
When the tour guide took us into the main part of The Hague, the first thing I noticed was a big second hand book market in one of the squares there. Granted, most of the books were in Dutch, but I can never pass up on a good book market. We didn’t buy anything, though.
My mum wanted to try the Hollandse nieuwe haring, which is raw herring fish served with chopped onions, and is eaten with or without bread. She was a bit hesitant, however, and eventually decided not to.
We went to the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis (http://www.holland.com/us/tourism/cities/the-hague-1/museums-in-the-hague-1/), home to ’Girl With a Pearl Earring’. Unfortunately that particular artwork wasn’t there at the time but the other artworks were amazing to look at. It didn’t take long to go through the museum, so we just wandered through the streets.
Then we all piled back into the bus to reach our next destination, which was Scheveningen beach.
I don’t know why, but I found it weird that we went to a beach. I guess I’ve just never associated the Netherlands with beaches. Especially after I found out that over a quarter of the Netherlands is below sea level.
I know Australia is known for its beautiful beaches, but I really liked this one. It was really sunny, and it was quite warm, so we bought some overpriced hats from a souvenir shop along the water and sat on the beach. We dipped our heads in the water, which was absolutely freezing! We didn’t do much there, we just bought some food and took photos and talked about how our holiday was coming to an end. It was nice and relaxing, and a bit sad.
That night we stayed at the Ibis Hotel in Antwerp, Belgium. I know, it’s weird, isn’t it? Apparently it was quite a bit cheaper to drive from the Netherlands into Belgium and stay there than to stay directly in the Netherlands. I didn’t mind the drive though—it’s given me the opportunity to tell people I’ve been to Belgium!
We settled down for the night and got ready for the next day.