Plenty of people kept telling me to go to Rotterdam, but I didn’t understand really why. It wasn’t until I did my research before my trip to the Netherlands that I completely understood the significance of the city. Rotterdam was one of the devastated cities in the Netherlands by the second world war, and by many almost entirely demolished. What you see now is the courage and resiliency through its modern architecture and iconic skyline.
I kept seeing people with large, bright blue shopping bags with the initials OH, or so I thought they were OH. A group of girls almost got impaled by a BMW driving too fast right in front of me, and my stomach was less than sympathetic. The store location was about the size of a typical liquor store back in the States; however, it had Whole Foods quality items at Trader Joe’s prices.
“Where are you going today?” Haarlem. Thanks to Rick Steves, during a late-night PBS binge-watching session I came across the Netherlands episode, which included Haarlem. What stuck to me was eating pickled herring and how it would be foolish not to rent a bike for the day. Mental notes. The way he described Haarlem was that it was where you went to for more a small town feel, to get away from the bustle of Amsterdam, and where tourists rarely visit. That’s all I needed.
Besides to think that Dutch was merely German’s clog wearing cousin would lead to some serious conversational faux pas. I could only get about three pages in on a flight from Los Angeles to Copenhagen; yet, somehow I was going to learn Dutch by osmosis. It was wishful thinking at best.
Amsterdam is beginning to open up like a flower when it’s caressed by the sun. As I’m trekking, the city is coming alive before my eyes. Shopkeepers greet each other in languages that are not Dutch, Vespas try to keep up with traffic, the tram, THE TRAM, suitcase wheels shaking their maracas, and me internally letting out a primal scream.
Taking the escalator to the ground floor where the Schiphol train station resided, the platforms were littered with muttering passengers. I overheard a group of young women venting, and rolling their eyes in exasperation because they had been waiting 20 minutes for a train. At that moment, I knew that the days of the punctual Deutsche Bahn trains were over.
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