|Three posts in one day, this must be close to a record. This is actually going to be one of my favorite posts because it was definitely a highlight of my trip. I was fortunate enough to meet two very nice Dutch sisters, Kim and Britt, in the hostel I stayed at in Barcelona. I was smart enough to keep in touch with them because I had a day to spend in Holland before my brother got here and it is always nice to have tour guides.
I met Kim and Britt in a city called Den Haag, or more commonly known as The Hague. Den Haag is the seat of the Dutch government and I didn't get a chance to see it my first time in Holland. I decided not to make that mistake again this time and luckily Kim and Britt were nice enough to show me around. Den Haag is a beautiful city that is similar to Amsterdam in ways but was void of some of the things I didn't like so much about the city. I've probably said this way too many times but the Dutch people are definitely my favorite Europeans. They are incredibly smart and well-educated and are the nicest people I've met so far. Den Haag was very cool because I got to see more of the history of Holland.
I always knew the Dutch were great sailors but it was interesting to see how far they made it. I also got a great insight into the life of a Dutchmen in older times. Holland is another interesting country because like England, it is very small but has always been a powerful nation. Holland is also another example of a great European country that has been attacked from all sides by some other great country and had to defend itself repeatedly over the years.
My next stop with my two tour guides was Dortrecht. This is a smaller city than Den Haag or Amsterdam but it has just as much charm. I found Dortrecht to be more amphibious than the other cities, which was quite interesting. Dortrecht has several small draw bridges to let the boats out of the marinas and into the canals. I was happy that I saw this city as well as Den Haag because it does go to show that the whole country is not represented by what you see in Amsterdam.
Finally, the best part of my day was getting to go to Kim and Britt's hometown to meet their parents. They were kind enough to invite me over for dinner and I quickly agreed (it's been almost 3 months since I've had a home-cooked meal). The van der Aa's were truly amazing people and they showed me such amazing hospitality. I absolutely loved getting to see the behind the scenes picture of the Dutch country and culture. I love the large cities and everything they have to offer but this might be the best cultural experience I've had on my whole trip. It is an incredible thing to just sit with some people in their own setting and talk to them about their country, Europe, the world and life in general.
Kim and Britt's mom, Ellen, was kind enough to cook us a delicious Dutch meal. I got to eat herring and another fish I can't pronounce, as well as Dutch cheese. That was just the starter, we then ate fried sole and boiled potatoes/carrots. The meal was awesome but the conversation was even better. Ellen and Dick are both teachers so I got to hear a lot of history about Holland (Kim and Britt also know their stuff too). I can honestly say these were some of the nicest people I've ever met and it was an indescribable experience.
My travel guide always touted that you should get out and meet the locals and this experience far surpassed anything I could have imagined.
My brother is in Europe now. I won't have much time to post so you should only expect to see a few pictures here and there the next few days. Stay tuned!