The first time I was in the beautiful Kingdom of the Netherlands, I was embarrassed down to my stomach at the amount of Americans sitting around. It seemed that they couldn’t care less that Anne Frank’s house was around the corner, and round the other was a Holocaust memorial. They had their fix. It was all about the plant. Most people do not know this, but it still actually isn’t legal to smoke marijuana in Amsterdam. If you take a free guided walking tour with Sandeman’s and delve into Amsterdamer history, you’ll understand their longstanding “out of sight, out of mind” mentality explaining that “coffeeshops” are technically illegal. Enough ranting. I’m not here to rain on parades, but to address a trend of thought.
When I travel, I always try to challenge the travel quo. This results in my list of 5 Things to See OTHER than Amsterdam. The Netherlands is a kingdom and not just a city called Amsterdam. It has a very extensive history which even influenced the U.S. before the British took it over! Where do you think Santa Claus came from? If you’re thinking of visiting it and haven’t made it over, I urge you to think deeply! There’s more to it than marijuana. Sorry. I know getting high is a hobby for many, but use that energy and money to instead educate and further yourself as a human being. The more you understand the world around you, the more you will be able to deal with it in a way that is filled with patience and listening. I find that there is just so much to see in this tiny but splendid country; one that in my opinion is definitely on the underrated list. Don’t get me wrong, Amsterdam is a lively city, but it doesn’t define the Netherlands anymore than New York City defines the U.S. After reading the post, watch the vlog at the bottom where I talk about why Dutch libraries are awesome amongst others. Follow me as I attempt to answer a tiny portion of the question “What makes the Netherlands great?”
Being of Indonesian descent brought this place to my attention when I was a child via my grandmother. You know when you get on an airplane and seeing the world from above makes it seem unbelievably tiny? You can experience that without flying. A magical place called Madurodam in Den Haag allows you to see the Netherlands in miniature and all the proceeds go toward charity! Talk about a great place to take photos. When else will you be larger than everything else around you? Guess what, it’s actually the inspiration for Disneyland’s Storybook Land and also why we sing, “It’s a small world afterall.”
This is the only tourist destination I know about where the proceeds go straight to charity. While you’re there might as well check out the other things the city of Den Haag has to offer.
If you are Indonesian or have Indonesian friends, you probably have a picture or know someone that has a picture of this place hanging up in their house. I’m a sucker for traditional clothing and cultural amenities. It looks ridiculous, but I HAD to do this. If you don’t like cute little Dutch villages and cultural photos, don’t worry! Everyone’s dreamt of taking a photo with a windmill and there’s a huge one down the road! It’s probably one of the easier places to get a photo with one without hundreds of other tourists in the way.
Rotterdam unfortunately had it really rough during the war. It was so bad that they basically had to reconstruct the city from scratch. Let just say that Nazis were never very nice and completely decimated the city in order to break the Dutch and conquer them. When they conquered the Netherlands, the Dutch government was forced into exile and Queen Juliana took her children to Ottawa, Canada where they were taken in and cared for. This has created an incredible bond between the Dutch Royal family and the Canadian goverment resulting in a tulip festival as well as tulips being sent to Canada yearly as a thank-you gift. I think whenever anyone protests the roles of monarchy, they need to read a bit more.
Back to Rotterdam. As a result there are very many modern buildings that are puretty funky! This includes cubicle homes and other modern pieces of architecture that don’t exactly look comfortable and are tilted at an angle. I should’ve gone inside to see them myself, but my conclusion as with many things today is that it’s a fashion statement by people seeking to find meaning. Rotterdam is home to skyscrapers which is very uncommon in the Netherlands as the rest of the country is very intact.
Sometimes we don’t realize it but it’s good to reinforce a stereotype. When most people think of the Netherlands, we think of “tulips” but truth be told, this is the best place in the world to see them. The amazing garden is one of the largest in the world housing over 7 million flower bulbs and only open from mid-March to mid-May. You have to see it to believe it. One couldn’t believe how many different types of tulips there are from around the world, and then you see “flower art” where there’s an exhibit with statues and other things.
It’s a trek to get to without a car, but to say it’s “worth it” is a complete understatement. There’s also a windmill within the park but it’s impossible to take a proper photo with the face of it. Definitely better getting food elsewhere, but they did have amazing ham sandwiches.
A city that is very dear to my heart and embodies the Netherlands in a wonderful way is the city called Delft. This gem in between Den Haag and Rotterdam is a must-see. Many don’t know, but the Netherlands was ruled by the Spanish at one point, and a man named William of Orange arose and revolted after having served the Spanish crown for sometime. He soon became father of the Netherlands and is buried here after having been assasinated by a vigilante and royalist of the Spanish Empire.
I haven’t visited his grave but I have climbed to the top of the Nieuwe Kerk church tower. The views from uptop make it absolutely worth the climb. Not many other places you can get a topnotch view for a reasonable price. You can also enjoy the canals and visit Johannes Vermeer the painter.
Here’s the secret part: I was in the Netherlands with my parents a year ago and discovered that I have Dutch cousins the day before I met them. It personally means the world for me to have a home away from home and has also inspired me to learn Dutch. I wanted to understand them, and this country I love so much all the more. Considering that I live just across the border and speak that language, to not learn the language would only be cheating myself out of a greater experience. Is there a country that you love and feel strongly about? I could rant about how Spain is much more than Barcelona as well, but we’ll save that for another post.