I’ve recently returned from a wonderful two-week European vacation wherein one week (give or take) was spent in the Netherlands and the other was spent in Croatia. I visited four cities in Holland, two in Croatia, and even took a day trip to Kotor, Montenegro. My best friend and his older brother (also a friend) are currently finishing up their Masters in the Netherlands, so I went to pay them an admittedly overdue visit, and crash their Croatian vacation. In order to avoid confusing myself about what I saw in which cities, I’m going to divide everything up. First, I’ll talk about the cities I visited in the Netherlands, and then I’ll write a different post for Croatia. Sound good? Good.
Den Haag, or The Hague is a pretty awesome city on the North Sea coast of the Western Netherlands. The International Criminal Court is there, as well as The Binnenhof, which is the oldest House of Parliament in the world that’s still in use. Neat, huh? My friend took me there on the day I arrived, and we walked around the city so I could see the Palace, China Town, the shopping center and a few museums. I ended up going back to Den Haag on my own a few days later to visit Museum Meermaano, a beautiful book museum where I saw a Latin Bible from 1462! And of course, I did some shopping while I was there too. My favorite part of Den Haag was near The Binnenhof. There’s a fairly large pond with a little island and fountain in it, and hanging from the bridge are the flags of all of the Dutch Provinces, and behind The Binnenhof, you can see the new buildings in the city. It’s a gorgeous juxtaposition of old and new, nature and architecture.
So Delft is absolutely gorgeous. This is the city where my friend lives as he attends TU Delft. He graciously took a day off working on his thesis to show me around the city. We went to Royal Delft, where we learned how the famous hand-painted porcelain pieces are made, their history, and saw some incredibly impressive pieces along the way. Next we went to the TU Delft library (which is super cool, btw) to grab some coffee before we headed into the city center. Once in the city center, we kind of just walked around for a bit so I could get some cool pics of the canals and such. We saw both the Oude Kerk and the Nieuwe Kerk (Old Church and New Church, respectively) although we didn’t get tickets that would grant us entrance to both and the option to climb to the top of the tower of the Nieuwe Kerk. Looking back, I kind of wish I had done that, but oh well. We visited Museum Prinsenhof Delft, where you can see the bullet holes in the wall where William of Orange was killed. This museum details the events of the eighty-year war against the Spanish for Dutch independence. There was also a great collection of 17th century art to peruse. After that, we headed to Beestenmarkt terrace (the largest open-air terrace in Delft) and snagged a beer before heading home.
Rotterdam is really cool in that it’s so different from the other Dutch cities I visited. It’s a major port city in the province of South Holland, which was basically completely destroyed during WWII. Therefore, it has been completely reconstructed and the architecture is new and bold and exciting. The first order of business there (after I actually managed to get out of the train station – long story), was to visit Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. There was some really cool stuff there, like Olafur Eliasson’s ‘Notion Motion’ exhibition, but there was also some pretty creepy exhibitions such as Swiss artist Beni Bischof’s ninth edition of ‘Sensory Spaces’. Of course there regular collection was amazing. After the museum, I walked towards the water so I could see Erasmusbrug, and from there made my way to the Markthal which was incredibly overwhelming. I loved how the ceiling was all painted but there were so many stalls, restaurants and people that unfortunately my anxiety couldn’t handle it. I took a quick stroll through it and then got the hell out of dodge. Next, I hit up the shopping area in hopes of snagging some great finds, but sadly nothing really caught my eye. Eventually I made it back to my friend’s place in Delft – completely exhausted, but proud of myself for navigating a city in a foreign country all on my own.
All right…the big one. My best friend took me to Amsterdam on my last full day in the Netherlands (which was also the day before I left to come home). We took the train from Delft to Amsterdam Centraal, so we had a pretty prime location when we stepped out of the station. The first order of business was making our way towards the Rijksmuseum via Prinsengracht, which allowed me to see the outside of Anne Frank’s house. The Rijksmuseum was incredible; there was so much amazing art to see it was a bit overwhelming. I also got to take a peak inside the library at the museum which was the most beautiful museum I have ever seen with my own eyes. After spending ample time wandering around, we headed towards De Pijp which translates to “the pipe”. It’s a really cool neighborhood south of the city center that has a ton of cafes, restaurants and bars, as well as an entire street with stalls set up along both sides where you can get anything from souvenirs, to cheese, to furniture. We grabbed lunch and a beer (or two) at Cafe Flinck, where we actually met up with a friend from home who has been traversing all over Europe and happened to be in Amsterdam at the same time. The three of us set off to see what we could, and ended up taking a quick stroll through (what’s left of) the Red Light District – an eye opening experience to say the least – and ended the day at Brouwerij ‘t IJ, a little brewery next to a windmill that had amazing, good priced craft beers.