Monday, August 10, 2009

Even More Holland

So, I'm still in Holland, and getting more confident. Koen is working again today, so I went into town. This time I managed to buy groceries and a cup of coffee. I was feeling so confident I thought I'd walk home a different way and, of course, got lost. Never mind. I love wandering around this city - it's beautiful. I have now seen several Dutch cities (and a German one) to compare it to. On Thursday, I braved the Dutch train system to meet Koen in Nijmegen, the city where he works. Well, I managed to cock that up. The wording on the ticket machine was slightly different to the wording Koen had written down for me, and a few key words were missing from my phrasebook. I faked my way through it, claiming a bogus student discount when I didn't have enough Euro coins to afford full fare. Nijmegen is a lovely medieval town, with a spacious shopping district and beautiful old castles and garden along the riverside. 

We spent Friday in Amsterdam and, in hindsight, we didn't do much, mainly wandered around and looked at the sights. The architecture in Amsterdam is particularly striking - very old, but well-maintained. I wasn't so taken with the city but, admittedly, I didn't explore far from the centre. The centre, of course, had a very touristy feel, and all the marijuana and sex paraphernalia was a bit tacky. The red light district was an eye-opening (and eye-popping) experience, with prostitutes hanging out in windows, trying to beckon us in. Gross. We were in town for a Cocorosie concert, and that did not disappoint. It was in a venue called Paradiso, a converted church where David Bowie, The Rolling Stones and all other kinds of rock and roll royalty have played. The venue was beautiful, and the concert was amazing. Koen is a big fan and I'm just a casual listener, but I was converted: they use their unusual voices (think Bjork and Kate Miller-Heidke) with creative arrangements of piano, percussion and beatboxing, with the occasional harp or horn thrown in. Getting home was a bit of a bitch: we had to wait a while for the train to take us back to the transferium, an enormous and affordable parking station for commuters, and then faced the ninety minute drive back to Oss. We finally made it into bed around two o'clock.

The weekend was much more relaxing. We ventured into a few nearby towns on Saturday, and on Sunday, drove to 's Hertogenbosch, or Den Bosch, the capital of Noord Brabant, the province I'm staying in. It's a beautiful old town whose signature dish is an enormous profiterole. I was most pleased. We then slipped across the border into the German town of Kleve. I don't know if it's representative of Germany, but I liked it much less than Dutch towns. It was just a bit dirtier, a bit more run-down, a bit more higgeldy-piggeldy. Oh, and there were really ugly seats shaped like swans all over the place. We headed back into Holland and had an amazing dinner at the Turkish restaurant where Koen worked during his high school years.

And now, I'm planning my next move. There were a few very hots days last week, but a cool change came through over the weekend. It reminded me that I have a lot to see and not much of winter left to see it in. I'm loving Holland, but I know I'll be spending a lot more time here over the next year or two. I think I'll jump on a bus to Berlin in the next few days, although most of the hostels seem to be pretty full. Yikes. I'll probably have to get one for Thursday and Friday night and then spend a bit of time looking for somewhere that can take me for the weekend. I think I'll spend some time in Berlin before heading up towards Stockholm. After that, I'll jet up to Aarhus and Skagen in Denmark before arriving in Copenhagen by the first of September. From there, I'll probably head to Warsaw and Krakow in Poland before stopping off at Prague on my way to Paris, after which I'll finally arrive in London.

Finance allowing, of course.


  1. Did you go to the Anne Frank museum? World of depressing, but still worth it.

  2. No, we couldn't find it, but I will be going there on future trips.