14 August 2019

Trains, trams, and automobiles

School had ended, summer had arrived. I was trying to figure out how best to enjoy this scorching week in Amsterdam when an idea hit me—get as far away as I could.

I love this city; the old buildings and the new developments, the uneven streets and the narrow alleyways, the rickety trams and questionable metro refurbishments. It isn’t, however, everything. The Netherlands has more to offer! Hopping on an IC train I arrived at Middleburg, down south in the province of Zeeland, and stayed for a few days with a friend. We went to the beach, ate at a frietboetiek, and spend many hours walking down beautifully scenic streets and canals. In shops and bars we were greeted in Dutch, and expected to reply in kind—a rare opportunity in the larger cities.

In shops and bars we were greeted in Dutch, and expected to reply in kind

Another friend and I visited Tilburg, another southern city in the Netherlands that has a completely different feel than Amsterdam. Wider streets, less tourists, obvious signs of the old wool industry, and of course the site of a huge ten-day fun fair in late July! Definitely not something you’d want to miss. Live music, amusement rides, parades, fairs, markets, fireworks, and just about everything else you’d expect. Don’t miss out on the trappist beer brewed at the nearby De Koningshoeven Brewery!

Different day, different company; we drove north of Amsterdam to Enkhuizen, both a province and a former harbour town within it. The area was a key port to the VOC trading company, as well as a prosperous fishery—now you can explore this old relic of the Dutch Golden Age and learn how Amsterdam moved in as the dominant city. We ate gerookte haring, and wandered around the Zuiderzeemuseum (try saying that 10 times), before getting stuck in brutal commuting traffic on the way back.

What really stands out about all these experiences is I was able to travel for free. Now, as a student, that really makes it for me. To any prospective student I say; make the most of that ov chipkaart! Being able to go the length and breadth of the Netherlands for free midweek, or discounted at weekends, frees you to explore the rest of this brilliant country. Don’t sit around in Amsterdam taking photos of bikes and canals—go to other cities and take them.

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