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 alas, we didn’t. Well, life can’t always be perfect, can it?