One Dutch Week In July
Bonkers, absolutely bonkers.
Sure, every country has its myriad of stereotypes and myths. But I never for one moment believed that anywhere would conform to quite so many. In conclusion I am totally baffled by Holland.
Alright, so that's not quite the conclusion (jeez citizens, you ever seen me do a short blog entry?) so I think I might explain.
They all ride bikes. No seriously, every angle is covered, from all sides they flow. You look right, then left, then right again before crossing the cycle path and you still only narrowly avoid getting hit by one. Or twenty.
I couldn't figure out why the car users defied the laws of European driving by being neither continental (i.e. French, Spanish, Italian and driving too fast with road signs as mere suggestions rather than laws) nor anglo-saxon (sure you keep broadly (ish) to the laws but you do so sullenly and with only your hardwired politeness to prevent you from mowing down all and sundry).
However, if you lived in fear of the cyclists you'd drive politely too. You would. I guess it only works that way because the country is totally designed for bikes, cycle lanes everywhere and plenty of places to park bikes. Plus there were so many, and they were all so similar, that there's probably no point stealing a bike as it'll only be the same as the one you already own. Nice plan. There were even plenty of opportunities to rent a bike for the day which is great for tourists who want to get around cheaply, heathily and like the locals. I'm afraid I had to pass on account of having legs which refuse to go anywhere near a bike at all.
Bikes. Shitloads of them.
Not generally amazing but not bad by any means. I'm not a fussy eater or a vegetarian so I wasn't stuck at any stage, it's just that I can't really remember many of the meals I ate which suggests nothing good or bad… with one exception. The cheese. Mmm.
I cannot explain why I like cheese so much but the gouda, the edam, the lot. Yum. I came home loaded not with sweets and curiously coloured alcoholic drinks (actually that's a lie, I did) but with cheeses. Not entirely sure of what my parents made of their twenty year old daughter running round cheese shops like a six year old in the sweetie aisle of the newsagents, but they didn't laugh too much. It's their own faults really. And yes, it is damn fine with cheese and wine shops everywhere. Like some middleclass dinner party mecca.
I like flat. I don't do inclines, hence Holland is roughly 40 million times better than the Lake District. And best of all, to make it interesting there are windmills. Shitloads of them. Don Quixote wouldn't know what hit him. They make good landmarks to navigate by. Except when there's lots of them, then you get confused and end up like me and Ex-Housemate:Els did that time we went looking for Niamh who was "in Stratford by the tower." How were we supposed to know there are 3184090115 towers in Stratford? Well, for every Stratford tower, there are 40 Dutch windmills.
Anyway, the flatness of it all means they can build really cool buildings which won't fall over or be wonky or require much engineering nous. Cool buildings include the two below. The one on the left is Rembrandt's house which included a pretty bloody interesting mock up of how it was when he lived there. I'm an art lover, albeit a contrary one, my mum and dad are proper art fans, and my brother may not know art but he knows what's boring, and for once everyone liked it. It's a good one as there's context, paintings by those who Rembrandt liked and patronised, as well as his really cool room of stuff.
The other house (below right) was just a cool house. Imagine living there.
Of course the houses weren't as cool as the really big old buildings like the palace in the centre of town.
Were all helpful in that nice genuine way which is so rare. Being used to the British sullenness, American 'have-a-nice-day' at all costs and the French indifference, I found the Dutch attitude quite refreshing. Must be a small country thing, it's fairly similar in Ireland (except for the parts which don't like the English for historical reasons).
And yes they do all speak better English than we do.
The Place Itself… Odd
So in conclusion go to Holland. Here are some small things I noticed whilst over there which amused me.
A sign on a butcher's door. I don't know if it's possible to make out the chicken's eyes which are little crosses like a cartoon character would have.
Well quite. The showers there were in general very good.
The stereotype of the Dutch/German metal fan is artfully illustrated here. Do they have more words for metal than the Inuit have for snow? I couldn't say but what I can say is that, according to this market stall, Deep Purple are both "Heavy Metal" and "Very Metal". Intriguing.