2 Visits To The Netherlands, in Photos

Amsterdam (Visit 1)

Amsterdam was the first stop on my 2015 Euro trip. Before I left, I was told that Amsterdam might as well have been designed by spiders and that I should be prepared to get lost.

I landed at Schiphol Airport on cool day in July, took the Intercity train into Amsterdam, and fell in love with the city the moment I stepped out of Amsterdam Centraal Station. And then, yes, I proceeded to get lost. Eventually, after months of getting lost in far more foreign cities, I realized that Amsterdam is actually quite easy to navigate.

Very quickly, I decided that Amsterdam is one of my favorite places in the world along with Vancouver, Singapore, and Bali. The city is lively, clean, and lined with quaint canals, colorful canal houses, bike paths full of cyclists, bridges heavy with love locks, and flowers blooming in the summer sun.

I met up with a friend whom I planned to travel for the next month with, as well as a large group of people all headed to Tomorrowland in Belgium in the following weekend.

All the while, I was thinking that if I could love the first stop on my trip this much, I couldn’t wait for what the next unplanned number of months had in store.

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Amsterdam Centraal Station in the summer sun; I fell in love with this city the moment I stepped out of these doors

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A very quintessential Dutch scene of bicycles, flowers, and canals

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The I amsterdam sign in front of the Rijksmuseum

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This piece of public art mysteriously appeared one night in front of De Oude Kerk (The Old Church; aren’t the Dutch so creative with their names?) in De Wallen, Amsterdam’s famous red-light district.

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Bicycles in Vondelpark

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Koninklijk Paleis Amsterdam (The Royal Palace Amsterdam) in Dam Square

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Cruising through the canals with the People of Tomorrow heading to Tomorrowland

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My travel buddy with whom I spent the first month of my Euro trip with, Tomorrowland pillows, and the flag of Amsterdam

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De Nachtwacht restaurant in Rembrandtplein (Rembrandt Square)—one of the best meals I’ve ever had!

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Escape nightclub in Rembrandtplein (Rembrandt Square)

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The Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam (Amsterdam Public Library) looks more like a sleek bookstore than a public library.

 

Amsterdam (Visit 2)

Several months of dragging my suitcase around Europe later, I found myself back in Amsterdam with a month-long rental at an Airbnb.

While it was true that I loved many other places in Europe—having gawked at the Basilica de la Sagranda Familia in Barcelona, drank at biergartens in Berlin, found peace along the Danube in Budapest, and chased seagulls on bridges in Istanbul—there was something about the Netherlands that drew me back.

Before I left for my trip, I figured I’d want to find somewhere to relax for a month before I was due to go to Poland for the Miss Supranational pageant. My initial plans were either Spain so I could re-learn the Spanish I had completely forgotten over decade of misuse, or Germany so I could decide if I liked it enough to consider getting a Master’s there since post-secondary tuition fees had been abolished several years prior.

Instead, I decided to spend the month in the Netherlands. My social media posts from when I was in Amsterdam earlier that year said things like, “Canadians are allowed a 1-year working holiday visa for the Netherlands before 30; I think I need to come back!” “I should move to the Netherlands; they have the best electronic music and the cutest rabbits” and “I could see myself living here and loving it!”

And so I spent a month in the Netherlands. I met up with friends that I had made my first time in town and others that I had met around Europe, visited different parts of the country, sorted the tens of thousands of photos I had taken on my trip, and wrote lots of stories about my adventures.

I even met the cute Dutch DJ that I had joked to my friends back home about finding!

Amsterdam Music Festival and the live announcement of DJ Mag’s Top 100 DJs

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De Oude Kerk (The Old Church) is the oldest building in Amsterdam and located in the heart of Amsterdam’s famous red-light district.

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Amsterdam’s canals in mid-autumn

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I tried bitterballen, a traditional Dutch snack, for the first time on a sunny October afternoon on a patio next to the River Amstel.

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Light streaming through a window in the Rijksmuseum, which recently reopened after a 10-year renovation

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How very fitting! A giant XXX (Amsterdam) <3 Bikes banner hanging in front of the 3-story bicycle parking lot by Amsterdam Centraal Station

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Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) is a helper of Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) and a long-standing Dutch tradition. Zwarte Piet is portrayed by people in blackface wearing Renaissance attire and has become a controversial subject in recent years.

Because of course the departures board at Schipol Airport have cows on them!

Because of course the departures board at Schipol Airport have cows on them!

Utrecht

During my first visit to the Netherlands, I had befriended a number of international students studying at Utrecht University and stopped by the city several times for afternoon drinks and dinner parties (those seem very popular in Europe).

Utrecht is the 4th largest city in the Netherlands as well as its religious center. The city, with its canals and bicycles, looks quite similar to Amsterdam but is somehow even quieter and cleaner.

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The Dutch really like their bikes and canals!

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The unfinished nave at Domtoren (Dom Tower) in the heart of Utrecht was destroyed by a tornado in the 15th century and never rebuilt. A mock nave is now displayed in its place.

 

Rotterdam

After hearing various stories about the architecture in Rotterdam, home of the largest port in Europe, I decided to see it for myself. Most of the city was destroyed in the Rotterdam Blitz during World War II and, as a result of being rebuilt in a modern era, has architectural sights that are uncommon in other Dutch cities.

It was a rather gray and rainy day in November that I wandered around Rotterdam taking photos. The city reminded me of both Singapore and Vancouver with its harbors, suspension bridges, and futuristic architecture.

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Kubuswoningen (Cube Houses) are an architectural attraction that don’t seem particularly practical.

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Colorful buildings and boats along the Nieuwe Maas

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A ship along a canal in Rotterdam

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I’m not entirely sure what this is but it looks cool

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Markthal (Market Hall) is a residential and office building with a market hall underneath lined with images of fruits, vegetables, flowers, and insects.

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Rotterdam Centraal Station a.k.a. the future called and they want their train station back

 

Kinderdijk

A number of people recommended that I go see the windmills at Kinderdijk, a UNESCO World Heritage site. From Amsterdam, I first took a train to Utrecht and then rode a bus for 1.5 hours through the Dutch countryside. It was quite a pleasant journey though—the Dutch countryside is extremely quaint and I (animal lover that I am) was thoroughly entertained by sights of probably a good 50,000 Dutch cows and sheep blissfully lounging in lush, green fields divided by canals.

The entire journey and destination felt like a ride through an idyllic fairy tale. Much to the chagrin of my excessively tall/large Dutch friends, my trip through the Dutch countryside only served to reinforce how cute everything in the Netherlands is.

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Miniature pony grazing in a small farmyard

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One of the 19 windmills in Kinderdijk that drain the polder in the Alblasserwaard, helping the Dutch reclaim land from the ocean

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For display, but very cute nonetheless

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Klompen (wooden clogs) look like some of the most uncomfortable footwear in the world, next to stilettos

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An idyllic display inside one of the windmills in Kinderdijk

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Windmills in Kinderdijk on a breezy afternoon in late fall