This is the last post about my trip, I promise! And it’s more of a photo essay anyway…
As you may know, I’ve been getting into film photography for a while now. For my Euro trip, I decided it would be fun to bring my film camera along, even though everybody told me I was crazy for lugging around two cameras plus films (really, the weight wasn’t bad. The films are light, and since my film camera only has the 50mm lens on it, it’s not that heavy either.)
I ended up shooting 4 rolls of film during my 5-week trip. Here’s the terrible thing, though: only about a third of the shots came out! One roll was broken, which was my fault, I made a mistake when unwinding it. But for the rest, I think there was something wrong with the film – I bought expired films because they were cheaper, thinking it wouldn’t matter. Stupid me. (I refuse to believe I was that bad of a photographer, because in the same roll, a shot would come out perfectly while the very next one would be foggy/blurry/overexposed.) I’m only glad that I didn’t rely on the film camera, so I still had plenty of good photos from my DLSR.
In the end, here are some of the best shots I got:
This hasn’t put me off film photography while traveling, but next time, I’ll make sure to bring good films!
In my post about the Amsterdam Gay Pride Parade, I said there were two reasons I stayed an extra week in the Netherlands. One was the Parade itself, and the other was a book fair held on the first Sunday of August in Deventer, a town in central Netherlands. It is said to be the biggest book fair in Europe, with 6 km (!!!) of stalls winding all through the Old Town and along its riverbank. I knew I couldn’t pass up such a chance. So on Sunday, I got up early and took the train to Deventer (it takes 1.5 hours from Amsterdam, and the fair started at 9:30).
If you ask me what Deventer is like as a town, I wouldn’t be able to answer. As I left the train station, I followed the signs (and the crowd) to the main square, where the stalls began, and I didn’t see anything else after that. It was all books, books, books as far as the eyes could see. It was like Heaven. Of course, most of the books are in Dutch, but just basking in that atmosphere is exciting enough. After wandering around a bit to take it all in, I did find some stalls specializing in English books and spent the rest of the morning browsing through them.
Because of my luggage weight, I had to limit myself to 5 books. I ended up getting just three, but for less than 10 euros, I’m happy with my haul.
I couldn’t walk through all 6km of stalls, of course. By the early afternoon, my legs were screaming, so after a quick lunch, I got on the train again and headed toward Utrecht – it was on the way back to Amsterdam, and it was a town I’m interested in.
I didn’t spend too much time at Utrecht (mostly because I was exhausted), but I liked what I saw. I walked along the canals, visited the central museum, and finally settled down for a cup of delicious hot chocolate at the museum cafe. Utrecht has more of a scholarly air than other Dutch towns I’ve visited, and I also like that the canals there have stairs leading down from the streets, so you can walk along them. And of course, its most famous creation, Miffy (or Nijntje, as she’s known in Dutch), is everywhere.
And with that, my absolutely wonderful trip was over. It has reawakened the wanderlust in me, and now I can’t wait to plan my next trip. Where should I go?
There are two reasons I stayed in the Netherlands an extra week after our Iceland trip, and one of them is the Gay Pride Canal Parade in August. I’ve never seen a gay pride parade before, and since the Amsterdam parade is unique in that it is held on the canals, I knew I had to check it out.
On that day, my friend from The Hague also came up for the festivities, so we met her at the Central Station and walked to the start of the parade – at Westerkerk, near Anne Frank’s House. The parade was scheduled to start at 1:30 PM, but at 11 AM, the station and the streets were already thronged with people dressed up in all sorts of colorful and outrageous costumes. The closer we got to Westerkerk, the thicker and noisier the crowd got – there were party boats all along the canals blasting music at full volume. It was a bit stressful, but oddly exciting at the same time.
By the time we got to Westerkerk, the line along the canal was at least three-deep, and there was absolutely no room left on the bridges – since those are the best spots for photos. So we wandered down the canal, in the same direction as the parade, until finally I found an empty spot between two houseboats. It wasn’t ideal, but at least it was clear and we could watch the parade. It was truly an explosion of colors and sounds. There were all sorts of boats from all sorts of organizations, but my favorite has to be the senior citizens’ – their slogan is “Ou(d)t and Proud” (“oud” means “old” in Dutch). That’s clever.
After an hour, though, we were beginning to get sensory-overloaded, so we left for the quieter side streets and stopped at a café for some much-needed refueling. After that, we just wandered in the general direction of the parade, until we ended up at its conclusion at Rembrandtplein, on the other side of the old town. There was a huge street party nearby, but we’re not exactly party girls, so we decided to call it a day and went home.
I was exhausted from all the noises and the sights, but still, I had a great time – I may be a hardcore introvert, but sometimes it’s fun to go outside of my comfort zone and join a huge celebration like this. This is Amsterdam at its wildest, and I’m glad I got to see it.
After 10 days in the Netherlands, I finally arrived in Amsterdam. Knowing its reputation as the party center of Europe, especially in the weeks leading up to the Gay Pride Parade, I was a bit apprehensive at what I was going to find. To my great relief, it’s not much different from the other Dutch small towns I’ve visited. Sure, it’s bigger, there are more tourists, and there’s the constant smell of weed in the air, but other than that, I found the same pretty canals, the same cute crooked houses, and quiet streets if you know where to look for them (hint hint: the Jordaan neighborhood. Seriously. Just five minutes up the canal from Anne Frank’s House, and the crowds melted away. Plus Café Winkle 43 with their famous apple pie is right there.)
I didn’t do a lot of the touristy things in Amsterdam – I didn’t take a boat tour, I didn’t rent a bike (my friends, whom I stayed with, live in the south end of town so I had to take the metro into town center), I didn’t go to the Red Light District (not at night anyway) and I didn’t buy any weed from a coffee shop. I didn’t even go to Anne Frank’s House! I know, it’s like going to Paris and skip the Eiffel Tower, but honestly, it was always insanely crowded, and even with my Museumkaart, I would have to wait in line for 45 minutes to an hour. I’m OK with that choice.
What I did do is walking along the canals taking in the sights, and going to all of the museums. I went to the big ones like Rijkmuseum (I spent an entire a day there), Van Gogh Museum, and Rembrandt House, but the pleasant surprise was the National Maritime Museum. It’s free with my Museumkaart, and it was rainy that day, so I figured, what the hell, let’s check it out. It has a lot of great history, you get to climb on a real ship, and my favorite is the navigation room, where all the devices used for navigation back in the day are laid out under a starry ceiling. It was a great way to spend a morning.
The dollhouse that inspired “The Miniaturist“
After coming back from Iceland, I had a week left, so that time I spent at open-air markets like the Waterlooplein Flea Market, Bloemenmarkt (Flower Market), and Albert Cuypmarkt, to shop for gifts. True, these markets may be geared toward tourists with lots of stalls selling knickknacks and souvenirs, but I wasn’t that particular about buying unique gifts (I ended up getting a scarf for my mom, a bulb of amaryllis for my dad, and stroopwafels for everybody else) so I really liked them. Plus it was fun just to people-watch.
It was also the week of my birthday, so I dropped into a few vintage shops to find something for myself. I didn’t get a picture of the dress I bought, but you’ll see it on the blog soon enough.
I still have one more post about Amsterdam, but my impression of the city was a fun, relaxing, quirky place. It may be a bit too outgoing for my taste, but there’s definitely more to it than just sex, drugs, and parties!
Like I said in my Rotterdam post, I combined my visit to Rotterdam with a visit to the Kinderdijk windmills. These are the windmills that come up on every image search engine when you type in “Holland” or “the Netherlands” (I never remembered to ask the difference between the two names while I was there, by the way). Kinderdijk is about 30 minutes away from Rotterdam by waterbus, and once you reach the village, you can buy a ticket to go inside two of the mills to see how they work and how people lived in them back in the day (or you can walk around for free!) Just remember to get back in time because the last waterbus leaves at 4 PM. We didn’t get there until 2PM, and it was so nice to walk there with the sound of the water and the wind on your face that my friend and I had to run the last bit of the way. We made it back to the dock just as the waterbus was pulling up!
While I was in Amsterdam, I took a day trip to another village – Giethoorn, about 1.5 hours’ drive from Amsterdam. It recently gained some fame as “Venice of the Netherlands” after a post about it appeared on Bored Panda, so my friends and I decided we should visit it now before it became full of tourists. The village is best known for having no road (actually, there are some footpaths and bike paths) and only fully accessible by boats, so we drove up, rented a boat, and spent an hour going around. The village itself is tiny and most of our one hour was spent on the open river, so unless you want to fish or sail, I’d say one hour is all you need. It’s gorgeous though – as you can clearly see:
Afterward, we walked around on some of the public paths, fantasized about which house we would buy (there were a lot of them on sale!), and I tried another Dutch dish – bitterballen, or ground meat rolled in breadcrumbs and deep-fried. It tasted very good (well, anything deep-fried would taste good) even though I couldn’t figure out what the inside is.
If we had more time, I would’ve loved to stay longer and rented a bike to explore the countryside, but on the way back, I did get to see another new thing – a bridge being raised for a sailboat. It was pretty cool:
While I was in The Hague, I took two day trips to nearby towns, Delft and Leiden. They are good samples of what a typical Dutch town is like – cute canals lined with shops, boats, and houses (and houseboats), with a couple of churches to provide navigation points (most of them are named Oude Kerk & Nieuwe Kerk – Old Church & New Church. Old churches were usually built in medieval times, around 1300s, and new churches were usually built around 1600s.)
Leiden is a bit bigger than Delft thanks to its university, but I think Delft, due to its small size, has more concentrated cuteness. Even then, with both towns, you don’t have to walk far to find a photo-worthy spot. In both places, my friend and I spent most of our time walking along the canals, taking in the sights, people-watching, window-shopping, and stopping at a cafe or a fish-and-chip van when we were tired (no raw herring for me though!)
We happened to be in Delft on the day its municipal museum was free, so we spent the afternoon admiring the artwork and gorgeous Delftware. I wish we had time for the Royal Delft Factory as well, but I didn’t mind wandering around. In fact, I prefer to just wander instead of rushing through a place to cross things off a list.
Another thing I noticed about Delft and Leiden (and other Dutch towns too, as I came to realize) is that they have these mini libraries on the street, filled with free books for anyone to take. Of course most of the books are in Dutch, but that is an idea I can totally get behind.
One last funny anecdote: as we were walking along the outer canals of Delft, my friend suddenly said “Is it me, or is that church tower leaning?” We were pulling out our phones to look it up when a tour boat passed us on the canal, and I overheard the tour guide saying something along the line of “… leaning at a 20 degrees angle.” Turns out the Old Church tower does lean – it’s even called the Dutch Leaning Tower, to differentiate from the one in Italy, you know. We just didn’t notice it because we had only been seeing it from the front!
It took a while for me to write up my travels in the Netherlands, not just because I had too many photos to sort through (about 1000+), but also because I was figuring out how to group them together, since it would take too long to give each place its own post. In the end I came up with a system that kind of makes sense – I grouped together towns that are similar in size (big towns, small towns, villages) – but they are not in strict chronological order. Hope you guys don’t mind.
Let’s start with my first stop in the Netherlands: The Hague (my Amsterdam friends are away on business when I arrived, so I stayed with another friend in The Hague first). The Hague is the administrative center of the Netherlands, so it has a more stately air. There are more imposing buildings (a lot of them are embassies) and the ubiquitous canals are small and not a major part of the city like in other Dutch towns. Still, you shouldn’t skip it – the Old Town is pretty, it’s close to other cities and towns so day trips are easy, the Binnenhof (seat of the States General) is gorgeous, and of course, right next door is the Mauritshuis museum, home to “Girl with the Pearl Earring” and “The Goldfinch”. The museum itself is really small (I think it took me about 2 hours to see it all, which is a record for me. Usually a museum takes me at least half a day), but if you love Dutch Golden Age paintings, it’s a must-see.
(Pro tip: I got a Museumkaart for 60 euros, which gave me free access to 400+ museums all over the Netherlands for 31 days – if you have a Dutch address, register it and it’s good for a year. Since most museum entrance fees are between 15 – 17 euro, it more than paid for itself.)
While there, I also visited a weekend flea market, where I bought a couple of cute brooches (they will debut on the blog soon, hopefully), and a farmers market, where I had my first taste of stroopwafel (a famous Dutch snack, made from two thin waffles with a syrup filling). It was too sweet for me, to be honest. I prefer Belgian waffles.
I got the chance to taste more Dutch food when I went to Rotterdam with my friend. We only had half a day there, and half of that was spent at the Kinderdijk windmills (which will have its own post), so we didn’t get to see much of Rotterdam. To make up for our lack of sightseeing, we spent most of our time in its Market Hall, an indoor market that sells everything from fresh fruits and veggies to fish, meat, cheese, and of course, snacks. We ate so much fried food that the next day I was actually craving a salad!
Right next door to the Market Hall is Rotterdam’s famous cube houses, so we did get to see a bit of the city after all. It looks a lot more modern than the rest of the country – makes sense, since most of it was destroyed during WWII and had to be rebuilt. It is usually said that most Dutch towns are versions of Amsterdam, except for The Hague and Rotterdam, so I’m glad I got to see them both before I arrived in the capital.