Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Below 0

I just came back from The Netherlands, Europe's sunless country. It wasn't my first time there, I visited the country about 6 times in the past couple of years, it's great. I love Amsterdam with it's great shops, boutiques, cafés and restaurants, atmosphere and its coffeeshops.

The way I see Amsterdam is a bit like a small-sized London, a city that offers everything - except sun (sunny summers though).

Walking around this circular shaped city, you will fall in love with its canals, its cafés along the narrow streets and its "collapsing" houses, like the one below. It's totally normal over there - the inside floors are leveled up though.

The use of the car is absolutely useless as trams, metro and buses perfectly connect the city, not forgetting the most popular transportation: the bike.

Not just a cliché, bikes are everywhere and bikers don't like it when dumb tourists confuse the bike lane for the pavement...ah yes, I forgot, the Dutch aren't necessarily the friendliest people in Europe.

Along with London and Barcelona, Amsterdam is among my favourite cities in Europe. It's alive, cultural, hip and tolerant. You can do and be whoever you want and no one will judge you.

After Amsterdam, I went to The Hague to visit some friends of mine who moved there - against their will. I say that because the city is rather boring. It doesn't have much to offer, it's too much of a family place and even though it's full of expats, it still is an uneventful city. Most inhabitants there are government workers and UN lawyers from the international court - so not the most exciting people (except for my friends), which explains why the city is a rather conventional place.

One thing I liked about it is its seaside. Unlike Amsterdam, The Hague (or Den Haag) has sea access and quite a pleasant harbor. Of course it isn't the Caribbean but its swimmable in summer and pleasant to walk around in autumn to get some fresh air from the sea.

It has an enormous beach which is cut in half when it's the high tide. Around it is full of casinos, bars, cafés and restaurants which gave me the impression that summer must be quite happening over there.

I went on a Sunday afternoon to walk around with my friends - because the city center isn't all that original - and we ran into as many dogs as kids: HELL. As I said, it's a very family oriented place and you could definitely see that at the beach.

The Hague isn't a horrible place, it just isn't an exciting city - at least for tourists. If you go to Amsterdam and don't have time to visit other cities, don't worry as there's nothing much happening outside the capital. I've also been to Rotterdam which is an architectural paradise for modern design - it is full of skyscrapers and creative architecture - but I felt that the city itself wasn't all that happening: it's more of a big business hub for the country than anything else.

The country is small and highly populated, it actually is one of the most densely populated countries in the world along with Bangladesh and other developing countries. It has Europe's biggest and most efficient port in Rotterdam, good cheese and pancakes (but that's pretty much it for Dutch gastronomy) and beautiful tulips - a gift from nature to add some colours in people's lives. Actually the first financial crash came from the trade of these flowers in Holland - called the Tulip Mania - where the price of a tulip bulb reach extraordinary high levels before collapsing. The Dutch introduced the concept of speculation and economic bubbles to the world. Americans now master that art though.

1 comment:

  1. "Along with London and Barcelona, Amsterdam is among my favourite cities in Europe. It's alive, cultural, hip and tolerant. You can do and be whoever you want and no one will judge you."

    A major reason why I prefer leading my life in Europe instead of Lebanon.
    But we've already discussed this, haven't we :)