The next stop on our tour of the water cities took us to the Netherlands. Both of us had quite been looking forward to spending time in the country and due to the exorbitant price of staying in Amsterdam on weekends, we ended up having a few nights in Rotterdam. We were so pleased that we did as it was a really easy-going city, with enough to see and do without all the tourists of its big sister Amsterdam. It had some really quirky architecture, gorgeous boats in the old harbour and modern bridges and buildings in the port.
L-R: an example of the interesting architecture found around the city, the vibrant Witte de Withstraat where we were staying, walking down the ramp towards Wijnhaven
While staying in Rotterdam, we took a train to The Hague. It was a particularly cold and windy day so we of course decided to catch a tram to check out their beach. I’m sure it would be a lovely boardwalk in different weather, but we graced it with our presence for about 2 minutes before speedily heading back for the next tram.
To warm ourselves up we visited Escher in Het Paleis which displays much of the Dutch artist’s work in the former Winter Palace of the Queen Mother Emma of the Netherlands. We tried to get our heads around the interesting perspectives Escher used and spent much time playing the interactive perspective games. Self-Portrait, Hand with Reflecting Sphere, Day and Night, Metamorphosis II, Waterfall and Drawing Hands were my favourite pieces. It was also fascinating looking at and reading about the different rooms and ogling the gorgeous crystal features in each room.
Steve really wanted to see the International Criminal Court while we were in The Hague, so we made the most of the free wifi and plotted it on our phone’s map. After catching a bus to what appeared to be suburbia and walking a good 15 minutes along a road with nothing much around, we started to question ourselves. A kind gentleman on a bike stopped to help us and informed us that he thought the International Criminal Court was back in the city centre (which we thought would make sense for such a significant building). He pointed us to a closer bus stop which was a little ahead of us near a big white building which I had been hoping was the one we were pursuing. Steve decided to take a photo of the building which we had gone so far to see, only to discover it was the one we sought. It definitely didn’t have the stature that we were expecting.
The International Criminal Court
Some carnival dogs we saw while walking around The Hague
Amsterdam is more of a city for experiencing and despite its intricate canal system, I didn’t find it quite as picturesque as some of the other cities we’ve visited. We enjoyed spending time with fellow travellers we met at the hostel and participating in some of the things for which the city is infamous. There seem to be a lot of must-see museums in Amsterdam, but we chose to queue only for Anne Frank House. It was eye opening to see their cramped living conditions, especially at a time when I was starting to tire of our time in hostels. The fact that her father had so much input with the museum was refreshing, making it quite unique.
Markets: cheese and chocolate
Upon our travels around Amsterdam, we came across one of the last remaining windmills in the city. It was a bonus for us that it doubles as a brewery. We enjoyed a tasting tray of Dutch beers and the novelty of sitting under a windmill.
As we were spending a comparably longer time in Amsterdam, we chose to take another daytrip to experience more of the Netherlands. We took a bus through the waterland towns Marken and Volendam. My mum had visited the former in the 70s, when people still wore traditional outfits. Significantly more tourists visit the town now. The only person wearing the Dutch attire was a girl who was specifically dressed for tourists, standing in the cute traditional house we visited. Marken was such a quaint seaside town with real character. We spent plenty of time strolling along the dock and through the cobblestone laneways, lavishing in the charm of it all.
After that we continued on to Volendam where we wandered along its touristy promenade. We found a cheese shop which had plenty of tastings and a demonstration of the cheese making process. The lady who was presenting claimed the glass of whey she drinks each day keeps her skin in enviable condition at the ripe age of 74. I think I need to get on to that.