Sunday, July 5, 2009

Holland - Windmills, tulips, cheese & wooden shoes

We began our trip with the Netherlands. I like to call it Holland as that is how I used to call it as a child. We spent about three days there, which was perfect for exploring not only Amsterdam, but the beautiful country side as well. For the sake of brevity, I'll leave out some of the mundane details, and list some of the things that I enjoyed the most.

Canal Tour around Amsterdam

Amsterdam is criss-crossed with beautiful canals. It's as easy to get around the city by boat as it is by road. Seeing how much water flows into the city (almost the entire country is below sea-level, hence the name Netherlands), one must appreciate the Dutch for fighting all odds. Truly great engineering minds. Anyways, we began our trip with a canal tour around Amsterdam. It gave us a sense of what was where and also beautiful views of the city. The historic warehouses with beautiful exteriors and unqiue gables, flanked the canals on either side. These have been preserved and converted into apartments. The Dutch don't believe in drawing their curtains, so you get beautiful views of the insides of these apartments as well. I noticed that they use a lot of paintings/art pieces for decoration.

Beautiful historic warehouses that flank Amsterdam's canals

Floating Flower Market

A visit to holland would be incomplete without seeing the beautiful flowers that grow there. Unfortuantely, their tulip season was over, however, we got to see a lot of beautiful flowers in their floating flower market (Bloemenmarkt). We visited it right after breakfast and it was a real treat to see the endless, beautiful flower shops. A great way in which to start the day. The "onion" like things you see in the pic below are tulip bulbs. I bought two, lets see if they bloom next summer :). Also, it's called the floating market, because all the flower stores start at the end of the road and float on the canal water.

Flowers in Bloemenmarkt

Tulip Bulbs (can be easily mistaken for onions)

South Holland Tour

We went on a tour of Hague, Delft and Madurodam. The noteworthy of these places was Madurodam, that has a mini-holland park, very, very popular with kids (and Telugu movie directors :)). It was a real treat, it had a mini-version of every landmark in Holland in a 1:25 ratio.

Mini Holland

North Holland

This was my favorite part of the Holland. It was exactly like I had imagined the Holland countryside...and more. We went to the "Windmill town" of Zaanse Schans. There were beautiful fields, windmills and cheese farms - just what you would expect from Holland.

One of the 1000 remaining (traditional/old) windmills in Holland

Zaanse Schans

We also visited a cheese farm, where we indulged in some cheese tasting. The cheese was phenomenal! It was not only picture-perfect to look at, it also tasted nothing like the cheese I've tasted in India or the US. Rich, creamy, delicious!


We also saw how traditional Dutch wooden shoes, also known as Clogs, are made. You'll see tiny wooden and china clog-souvenirs in every store in Holland.

Tiny Clogs

Following this we visited two fishing villages called Volderdam and Marken. Both were really beautiful places with traditional wooden houses. Luckily the day we visited Volderdam was also 'Volderdam day'. So we got to see a lot of people in traditional dutch attire walking around and drinking beer in groups.

Pretty little girl in traditional Dutch Attire

Fishing Village of Marken

Amsterdam's Red Light District

We took an organized walking-tour (taking special pains here to specify exactly what kind of tour :))) of the famous Red Light District in Amsterdam. I must say, it was one of the most interesting aspects of the city. It really opens up one's mind to see how if something is legalized and not abused, how "unshady" it can be (for the lack of a better word). In my mind's eye, I expected this area of the city to be super-shady. However, it wasn't that way at all! It was as well integrated into the rest of the city as their flower market for example. No demarcation really. Also the tour guide told us that there is no human trafficking and there are several security measures to protect these women.

Culinary experiences

Although very few reviews online mention the numerous culinary pleasures that Amsterdam has to offer ( I suppose the focus is on the other kinds of pleasures ;)), Amsterdam has a whole array of cuisines/restaurants to pick from. There are streets after streets lined with restaurants boasting of cuisines from all around the world (Anyone been to an Uruguayian restaurant lately?).
Also, Amsterdam is a vegetarian's delight. Whoever said that vegetarian food is hard to find in Europe, is seriously mistaken. We went to a vegetarian restaurant called Cafe De Waghaals. The food there was phenomenal! It was almost like...a beautiful lullaby...sung softly and beautifully..ahh. Another noteworthy meal was at Two Greeks; their Veg Mousaka is rather delicious.
Cafe In De Waag is another note-worthy cafe. It is actually located in an old castle. Tremendously nice to be sit in their outdoor seating view a view of the castle and the local fair right beside it. Of course, Amsterdam also has it's very famous "coffee shops" for those seeking a different kind of ... coffee ;).


I wouldnt call Amsterdam a romantic city, but it sure is a very charming place. One of the things I enjoyed most about Amsterdam was just walking around the city. It is very bike and pedestrian friendly. Also, it doesnt really grow dark until past 11 pm in summer. The city is alive at all hours, and so rich and full of live that it was a real treat to walk around the city (hand in hand, may I add ;)).

Amsterdam by Night. Beautifully lit canals.

Well, so that sums up our visit to Holland. The only thing we missed was a visit to the Anne Frank house (which was right opposite our hotel btw; typical oh-its-right-next-to-us-can-be-visited-anytime syndrome). Not sure if my post did justice, but Holland is every bit as beautiful as they say it is, and Amsterdam every bit as fun!


  1. Sounds like great fun. Did you say you spent 3 days there? Oh Hang on, what time does it get dark in NY these days? Looking forward to your other stories

  2. are dutch people as 'tall' as they're acclaimed to be?

  3. Wow.. u had a lot of fun !! I am jealous :).

  4. Butterfly, I have a picture to prove how tall Dutch people are. We took some pics with people in traditional attire (they're so very friendly and dont mind tourists snapping away pics), and I was like soo short beside them. Both men and women are really tall.

  5. Tanu, u had your turn. Remember your Jamaican honeymoon?

  6. Ooh you went to Two Greeks after all! I'm still trying to find a veggie moussaka that's anywhere as good, but no luck so far :-/ Wish we'd done the countryside tour. Maybe another time!

  7. Hi,

    Accidentally found your blog... it should say that its a nice travelogue. Keep writing... I would if possible and if im not asking too much sharing your itinerary would be of great help to ppl like me who are planning a european vacation.


  8. hi

    Just came through your profile n saw ur blog...

    A nice blog with beautiful pics. Why cant I find you in your blog...

    DNV Srikanth

  9. SURYA -- sure I can do a short post with my itinerary. I only, "sort of" had one for my holland trip though.

  10. nice tour diary.It reflects ur love for the places u visited.Keep going.

  11. PP - really nice post & gave us a good peek into Holland - lookin fwd to subsequent posts on the other European countries....

    - Ranjit & Chandana

  12. A very nice blog PP...and beautiful pics! helps me visualize all that you've said :)

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