Friday, September 10, 2010

Den Hague and Rotterdam

or about the end of my journey...


That's where I spent my last two days in Holland. In den Hague just few hours, in Rotterdam 1,5 days. And I still don't know which place I like more. Both are quite non-touristic – I mean, there are some tourists, of course, but just a few and walking down the streets in this time of year, you usually notice locals. Both cities are different than Amsterdam – less crazy bikers, less coffee shops, less crowds. Both have Chinese districts and I met a lot of Muslims in the centre. Den Hague seems to be cosier as it's smaller and doesn't overwhelm with its huge modern buildings as Rotterdam does. But what I like in Rotterdam is the Old Harbour with nice caf├ęs and colourful boats, vivid flea market and strange sculptures placed everywhere around the centre. Busy commercial streets and glass skyscrapers destroy a bit the calm atmosphere of the city, but I enjoyed exploring it anyway.

I was also quite surprised with the hostel (Mafkees) where I stayed. It's different than others, with large rooms equipped with plenty of double beds, friendly staff, and quite a big common room. Many guests who stayed there where students looking for a flat in Rotterdam and I didn't really meet there many nice people, as I usually do in a hostel. But I think I liked it.

The country outside Amsterdam attracted me as much as its capital. Time was passing by quite quickly and soon I had to leave Rotterdam to catch my plane from Eindhoven. But the magic of Holland – its special places and special people - has put me under a spell and I'm coming back there next week...

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Marken-Edam-Volendam

or about the world outside A'dam...


As said before, outside Amsterdam the world gets back to normal again. Well, not really, because I still felt like under some magic spell while discovering all the small towns and walking along cute houses with original gardens. When I left the capital I was travelling alone again and could explore more, get to know more people and shot some nice scenes. Again a well-balanced proportion between travelling alone and travelling with a company.
Marken, which is an island, boasts a colourful harbour and an array of original nicely decorated houses. I could walk there the whole day long and wouldn't be fed up at all. But as it was rainy almost all the day I quickly changed my mind and after few hours headed for the next towns. I enjoyed though the peaceful atmosphere of the town, the view of wide empty fields or calm animals grazing near the harbour.

Edam and Volendam were much more crowded although still far less chaotic than Amsterdam. The main attraction in Volendam is the harbour again but I preferred to stroll along its narrow streets, far away from crowds of tourists. I met an Australian couple on the way – a marriage in their middle-age travelling around Europe for 6 weeks, heading for Italy after visiting the Netherlands. We talked for a short time and then our ways parted again.
Both towns were full of souvenirs as well and in the ecenter of Edam there was a huge loud and kitschy fun-fair. But once you got through it, you could discover the real, quite calm image of the town, well-known for its cheese.

Amsterdam

or about a journey different than others...

I don't know what it is, but IT makes the city very attractive. In a way magic. And you just have to get back there. I spent there nearly one week two weeks ago and... I'm coming back next week. But these are two different stories. First things first!

Before visiting Amsterdam I did want to explore the city as well as possible. Go to all the famous places, walk along narrow streets in the old town, spend some time in the parks and just feel how the city breathes. But you never know what happens once you get to the place. I met some Austrian friends in the city, then it turned out we have no accommodation and the women at those place we were supposed to stay suggested we should stay on a camping. Nice. But no once was prepared for that. I had at least a sleeping bag, but the guys (3 of them, from Austria) had later no choice but to buy some. The camping shop was well-equipped so we shared the price of 2 tents and all in all we spent less money than in a hostel. And when the days got rainy we were lucky again. We could finally move to the old ladies' flat and stay under the roof.
Although it was quite difficult to push yourself and do something else than just visiting coffee shops and enjoying the smoky-crazy-blurred atmosphere of the city, I was really eager to see something more than just the shops:) After few days I had my favourite places – like the flea market Waterlooplein or the Jordan district. And all of us had the same favourite coffe shop – Homegrown Fantasy, which we used to visit nearly every day.
And what surprises me the most are the crazy bikers and the bike decorations, nice 'flats' on the water, creative street artists, exited tourists who enter a coffee shop and behave like kids who have just discovered a sweets paradise. But my paradise is for sure on the Waterlooplein where I got a bit scent of India again – with all its colourful and original clothes, useless antiques and funny souvenirs.
The city somehow embraces you, catches your attention and makes your head spinning around. With all the colours & scents, bikes & bridges, eager tourists & drug fans. But it's enough to go beyond the city boarder to find yourself back to normal again. There's a different world out there, less smoky, less colourful, more down-to-earth. But equally fascianting.