Rotterdam is an easy city to live in as everyone speaks very good English, people are friendly and there are many good amenities and facilities for citizens. Although the architecture of the city is clearly interesting, from an aesthetic point of view it did not win me over. All these brutal, ultra-modern and oversized buildings made me feel like I was a player on some giant board game board! The reason for this modern architecture is that in World War II the city was bombed resulting in large parts of it being completely destroyed. Fortunately my sister’s house was in a neighborhood that apparently had not been bombed and has retained the character of the traditional architecture. On the plus side I should add that the public transport was very functional and everything in the city was spotlessly clean.
In the city I walked to central places, the central market which looked like an open mall and an outdoor street market where they sold very interesting things, I even found grilled fish take away! I saw the familiar cubic houses and the “pencil”, “sharpener” and “eraser” buildings. I entered the Markthall shopping center, one of the most famous modern architecture in the city with small shops, mostly food and cafes and residences in its upper parts. On my birthday we ate at the Vietnamese restaurant “Little V” where I tasted delicious dishes and was pleasantly surprised that almost all the cooks in the kitchen came out singing Happy Birthday. I didn’t explore much of the city because other things took priority on my list…
As for Amsterdam, I stayed there only a few hours, once I arrived in the country. I was quite unlucky because somehow I had run out of battery on both the mobile phone and the camera. But lucky enough because my cousin Draculis was waiting for me there who was also visiting my sister in those days. I spent some time at the Stedelijk museum, but when I go again I will not make the mistake of skipping the Rijksmuseum, which houses some of the most important masterpieces of Dutch art. I explored the center of Amsterdam on foot and by tram and had a hot cup of coffee on one of the busiest streets outside the central train station.
Now let’s go inside! Utrecht was the first provincial town I visited. Cute and romantic with cozy cafes, small shops, beautiful cobbled streets and the lovely canal.
There I ate a delicious delicacy something between a donut and a pear-flavored churro. I walked with my cousin on the old and new canal and bought my first souvenirs in a fully equipped shop. We enjoyed the walk among the crowd of tourists that flooded the pedestrian streets.
The traditional architecture with the buildings stuck together and almost touching the water in the canals, people on foot or on bikes (those on bikes were many!), ducks and birds giving extra life to the scenery and of course a permanent cold and one more more permanent drizzle which lasted exactly three minutes, stopped for some time and then started again the same. Utrecht clearly has character…
We sat there until it got dark and wandered through the narrow streets, the shops and then back to the canals. We had a hard time finding shops with tasty and affordable food that also offer WC space. Finally we ended up in a burger place and I preferred the falafel. When we got down to the old canal we realized that under the town there were a lot of good restaurants that we could give a chance to. It’s okay, maybe next time.
Next city is Leiden, the birthplace of my very favorite painter Rembrandt! I visited there with my sister and maybe that played a catalytic role in this city touching my heart. We knew that many Greeks live there and the best option for brunch was a Greek shop with handmade pies, coffee and products from Greece. The narrow streets, the oversized Gothic Hooglandse church and the De Burcht fortress had a melancholy beauty. It is a circular fortification on a hill with free entrance, which offers an excellent view of this romantic city.
Apart from these, I had set a goal to visit the De Valk museum. It is a tower mill that has been converted into a museum and in its premises I was able to get an idea of how the millers and their families lived from the 17th century. The current tower is the third mill built on this site.
Lots of floors to climb and the stairs quite steep and narrow, like going up to a bunk bed and the gentlemen at the reception didn’t even warn me, I guess to have a smooth experience without spoilers.
I felt fear so alone as I was burdened with my heavy clothes and camera, but also awe that I finally managed to reach the top of the balcony and enjoy the wonderful and atmospheric view. Then of course I had to go down all the way I had come up, which was also scary. There was adrenaline, it was an intense moment.
On my last day I set off for quiet and very pretty Delft, a small town just a quarter of an hour by train from Rotterdam.
First thing is a visit to the Oude Kerk (Old Church), a Gothic Protestant church in the center of the old town. Its most recognizable feature is a 75-meter high brick tower that leans about two meters from the vertical. It was founded as the Church of Saint Bartholomew in the year 1246, on the site of previous churches dating back two centuries. The arrangement followed that of the traditional basilica, with a nave flanked by two smaller aisles.
I then walked for a few minutes to the square looking for the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) following the map. Suddenly at a bend, a huge building rose up in front of me among so many much smaller ones. It dominated the city center pointy, but beautiful. The building was built in 1430 and completed in 1496 and is 109 meters high, which anyone can climb!
Beautiful sculptures, marble inlays and of course the stained glass windows which were sheer masterpieces of incredible detail and artistry! I was really impressed by the interior of both temples and I highly recommend you to visit them. I didn’t go up to the top of the tower because it was raining quite a bit and my time was limited, but I guess the view would be breathtaking from both churches. I should also add that both had overcrowded gift shops where I bought, among other things, a mug – a replica of a Blue Delft technique. The staff were very pleasant and I had the opportunity to have conversations about the art and history of the country. I didn’t want to leave because despite the cold atmosphere, I felt warm there, as if it were my home.
Directly opposite the New Church is the beautiful Town Hall building. Impressive in Renaissance style with red and gold details and intense sculptural decoration. The square was quiet even though many people were out in the market. The sweet harmonious sound of the church bell could be heard somewhere. I ate and drank something quick and enjoyed the view, a Christmas spirit came over me.
I said goodbye to Delft with a heavy heart because the last city, Hague, was waiting for me! A large city with a strong element of both the traditional and the modern depending on the neighborhood you are in. My goal was to reach the coast, where the view opens to the North Sea. I got on the No1 tram that connects Delft to The Hague and luckily for me along the way I realized that this is exactly what will take me to my destination at the edge of the city! So I had the opportunity to do a tour inside The Hague, like a proper tourist, and see various sights such as the Peace Palace, streets and districts.
A very friendly lady who lives on the shore guided me and showed me which way to go to get to the wheel or more correctly De Pier Scheveningen. I envisioned a large American style beach with coffee shops, food and shops and a large marina that enters the sea with the wheel and bungee jumping facility. Because it was Monday most shops were closed. But I entered STEAM, a very good restaurant with delicious food and very friendly staff. There I enjoyed an omelette and coffee and waited for the right lighting time to capture the coast.
Cold, weak but continuous rain and strong wind were my companions. Frozen fingers are a permanent phenomenon, the price is high but the beauty is wild and takes your breath away. At the point, despite the cold, surfers had come out near the shore to enjoy the waves (faintly visible in the pictures). A few local residents were walking their dogs. Seabirds flew over the water, and the sound they made joined the wind in something melancholy. I wandered around the beach and marina facilities, the wind was shaking me violently and many images came out blurry. I indulged in all this difficulty and savored it as much as I could. It was a strong finale to my trip to the Netherlands.
Then I got back on the tram and then the metro to get to Rotterdam. The next day it was very cold but very sunny, but I was returning to Greece full…
Personally, there are so many that I would like to visit and I didn’t have time, so I will be happy if the road takes me back to the Netherlands, because I will have the opportunity to delve into the secrets of a country with a lot of water and no mountains (half of the country is less than a meter above sea level, while 1/4 below sea level), friendly people and an inland beauty straight out of Rembrandt’s paintings!