If You Go to Holland, I Don't Recommend the Tulip Bulbs
After a solid 4-5 days in Berlin, Andrew and I hopped on the train to sunny Groningen, Holland. Even considering that the trip took 7 hours, it was actually quite enjoyable. Not to sound like an old biddy, but traveling by rail or car in another country can actually be a treat. We even unwittingly got into first class; since the Dutch are first class people, the ticket guy didn’t even care. Or maybe he picked up on our accents…
See, we did wholesome things, too.
Never heard of Groningen, you say? Well, you ought to. It’s a respectable 100, 000 + sized city in the north of the country, and I don’t think Andrew would disagree that it was maybe the highlight of our trip. After the… newness of Berlin, it was nice to be in a place that was certifiably European. I could use my skills in the written language to convey the atmosphere, but that would be silly considering I took photos of the place.
My God. People walking about on foot on a Saturday? Don't they have a big box store they could be driving to? Those Europeans are maybe just a bit too permissive.
Unknown to me at the time, my parents had been there a few days before Andrew and me. During the War my mother’s dad stayed with a family in Holland that he kept in touch with over the years. The parents are long gone, of course, but their children who were only infants while he was there are now in their early 70s or so. One of them lives just outside Groningen now, and she showed my parents around for a few days. Had I known she was so close, it would have been nice to drop in on her.
The nightlife in Groningen is pretty happening, and Andrew and I were lucky enough to show up on the weekend. We made friends with a few folks in the hostel and had a few nights out on the town. I would say those two evenings were the closest to what I was expecting out of the whole vacation, and it’s a shame we didn’t run into more people like them. Ahh well. At the least I was able to confirm my theory that, owing to their superior genes, Dutch women are the most attractive in the world.
If there's one thing the Dutch are fond of, it's canals and bikes (top right).
That, and hookers (top left).
From Groningen we made our way to Utrecht for a night. Why? Not exactly sure. At this point we’d already booked a ticket the next week for a flight from Amsterdam to London, so we couldn’t exactly leave the Netherlands. As such, we found ourselves hopping from town to town while we awaited our flight.
Now, I don’t want to say Utrecht is a horrible town. It just happens to be a bit… old. I suppose there is good Old World charm and then… dumpy Old World charm. From my limited experience, Utrecht is more of the latter. In Utrecht’s defense, it would really have needed to put on a show to one-up Groningen (now would be a good point to mention that all my observations on cities, countries, people, cultures and races are all based on fleeting, ephemeral encounters, tainted not in the least by my own preconceived expectations and judgments).
A lot of Utrecht's Old World charm comes from the fact that everything there is, in fact, old.
After one night in arguably Europe’s worst hostel, we went to Rotterdam for a few days. Again, I hate to disparage a whole city, but it was a tad underwhelming. Like Berlin it had been destroyed during the War, so most of it is all pretty new and fancy. Impressive for what it is, but that’s not exactly what I came to see.
This it the aforementioned worst hostel. Is that... urine leaking from the ceiling?
Andrew and I stayed in an odd hostel where each room had its own theme. Themes included Multiculturalism, History, Art and Party. Ours was Shipping, because Rotterdam was until recently the world’s largest port. Shipping. The room was decorated to look like the hold of a cargo ship, with crates, warning signage and nautical livery all over the walls. Why, they were even kind enough to throw in some steel drums to really give us the whole… sleeping in a cargo container feeling. Muuuuch better than the Art room, and it really provided a great backdrop for when I screwed this one chick.*
Walking around one evening, we noticed a bunch of floozies sitting in a bar near the hostel. After much persuading, I convinced Andrew to go in, for just one drink. We go in, and what greet us are 3-4 semi-attractive girls sitting at the bar, unaccompanied. We take our seats, order drinks, and are… attended to by two of these women. Andrew caught on immediately that these were hookers, but it took me some thinking. For a few brief moments, I thought I was being hit on by a moderately attractive woman not ten seconds after entering a bar. We finished our drinks (Andrew perhaps earlier than me) and got out of there. Those Eastern European hookers can be quite pushy.