The biggest question on my mind when going to the Netherlands was this: Why are there two names for this country? My other question after that was: Why are they the Dutch then? Netherlands, Holland, neither of those names start with a D…
Well, here is the tale of my time in the Netherlands and my quest for the answers to these questions (it’s not actually that epic, but just go along with it).
Katie and I flew into Amsterdam late at night on a Thursday. We hopped on the bus toward our hostel, and oddly enough met two other American girls going to the exact same hostel. We stayed at Hostel Annemarie. It was okay at best. After we all got unpacked, the girls invited us to go downtown with them. We wanted to see what the nightlife was like here. There was an entire street dedicated to restaurants.
The next day we decided to wander around town. First we stopped by the “IAMsterdam” sign. After that we walked toward the center of the city. We passed by cheese shops, flower shops, and a whole host of canals. I loved the canals. French fries are big in Amsterdam apparently, so Katie had to get some. We also made sure to eat Dutch pancakes for lunch. They were huge! I got mine with apples and raisins in it.
Amsterdam has a lot of history pertaining to World War II and the Holocaust, so we made sure to look into that. We didn’t get a chance to see the inside of the Anne Frank House, but we walked right by the line of people waiting to get in. It felt extremely weird to be walking down the street next to the house a family was forced to hid in. We went to a Holocaust museum as well. The woman in charge gave us a small tour of the building and explained the significance of the spot we were in. During WWII, the building across the street from the museum was a deportation center for Jews. Every day people would be sent there to wait for trains that would take them to their death. The man that owned the building we stood in (which was a daycare center) helped the resistance by coordinating nurses and students to save children. Nurses from the daycare center would take strollers across the street. They also wore backpacks. Young college age students would meet these nurses by the deportation center, take the backpacks, and ride off on bikes. Inside the backpacks were babies. These children would have been sent on the trains eventually. It was horrifying to stand in a spot where people were condemned to death, but it was strengthening to learn about how people stood up and said no.
At one point Katie got a water, but she couldn’t open it. I tried too, but with no success. Fed up, Katie went up to a random man, said “I’m pathetic, could you open this?” and proceeded to hand him her water bottle. He opened it with ease.
Being in Europe so far has meant being able to tune out what other people are saying. I can’t understand Italian, Norwegian, or German, so I’ve learned to just turn a deaf ear to people. That wasn’t quite the case in Holland. I kept hearing people speak Dutch and I thought vaguely that I should be able to understand them. I would then listen more closely but it was all gibberish. It was quite frustrating.
The next day, before we headed out the countryside to visit family friends of mine, we went to the Van Gogh Museum. Although Van Gogh spent a large portion of his life in France, he’s from the Netherlands. It was crazy to think that in elementary school we were painting our own versions of Van Gogh’s Sunflower (I honestly think my older brother, myself, and my younger sister painted the same thing), and now I was seeing it in person, right in front of me halfway around the world. Learning about his life and seeing some of his painting in person was neat as well.
After that we walked to the train station and headed for Apeldoorn. Try saying that! I liked traveling by train. We saw towns, and fields, and a lot of horses and canals. Once we got to our stopping point, we met our wonderful hosts for the weekend: Phil and Louise. Phil is actually English, but he met Louise, a Dutch woman, and moved to the Netherlands. Her family has lived in the same area for hundreds of years. Longer than the United States has been a country, probably.
As we drove out of Apeldoorn and to their house, they asked us if we had any plans for the few days we would be with them. We said no and then they suggested that we might go to Germany the next day. WE MIGHT GO TO GERMANY?? I guess I forgot to look at a map before the trip, because if you take a second and google Apeldoorn, you’ll see that it’s only about an hour from Emmerich, Germany. GERMANY. We of course said yes to the day trip. Who turns down an impromptu trip to another country?
After a bit of driving we made it to their picturesque home. It is the cutest house I’ve ever been in. There is so much character to it. They also own a B&B. That night we went to sleep in a cottage home in Holland as it gently rained outside. It kind of felt like I was in a novel at that point.
The next day we went to Emmerich, Germany. It’s a small town with a lot of significance. The Rheine River is a very important shipping river in Europe and it flows through Emmerich. It is kind of like the Mississippi for us. There were a lot of barges making their way through. We also toured a church there that had been partly destroyed during WWII when the Allies bombed. Katie and I also made sure to spot in a candy store, especially since it was named after her.
I learned a lot about the Dutch while staying at Phil and Louise’s. First, breakfast. It’s usually something like hard boiled eggs, bread, and cheese. Then there’s tea and coffee. I don’t know how many times Louise asked me if I wanted more tea. You also can have coffee before a meal, and afterwards too. Cheeseburgers are made fully of cheese, and they’re delicious. There are volunteers to help toads across the roads. I think I would be one of those people if I lived there. Many homes in the Netherlands have big front windows with a plant or vase as a centerpiece. Also, instead of huge parking lots full of cars, there are extensive bike racks. I really liked that! One evening Louise invited us to watch a show with her. It’s kind of like the Bachelor, but way tamer (sorry Darci). It’s about Dutch farmers from around the world that are trying to find wives. I found it quite hilarious. Along the border with Germany, I saw some people on runs. You can run from one country to the other without having to show anyone your passport.
The last day in the countryside, we visited a castle, but it was more like a fancy house with a moat around it. The grounds around the home were quite beautiful, even in early March.
And now, for what you’ve all been waiting for. The answers to my questions posed at the beginning of my post. Well, I asked Phil and Louise, and this is what I learned. When Britain decided to come to the Netherland, they came to a part of the country called Holland. So, they decided to start calling the whole country Holland. Typical Brits. As for why the Dutch are the Dutch…they weren’t quite sure. So that question is left unanswered…
So far, Amsterdam, and Holland in general, is the place I want to go back to. It was cloudy and rainy almost the whole time we were there and I would love to see it in the summer when the flowers are in bloom and I can take a bike out and ride around the canals. Being able to see both a city and the countryside was quite wonderful to me as well. You really begin to understand a country and its culture when you venture out of the cities.
Next up, Scotland and a friend from home! Thanks for reading!