On June 21, 2018, we landed in a very cold and wet Schiphol. That, however, did not put a damper on the excitement of going back to the Netherlands. The weather improved tremendously a few days later.
For my friends, this was a first-time visit to the Netherlands — but for me, this was a revisiting of old haunts 24 years later.
Let me try to explain to you why, within a few hours of being back in the country, I realised that I had made a monumental mistake.
1. Dutch food is unbeatable
Maybe it’s just me, but haring met uitjes, kibbeling, patatje oorlog (speciaal), kroketten and my new favourite: krentenbroodjes. I’m a foodie, so trust me when I say these are heavenly.
Did I forget to mention my first breakfast in Amsterdam was poffertjes? I had to stop myself from rubbing that buttery delight all over my body. I could go on, but if I start talking about the cheese and cherries, then I may as well do a food review.
2. Tip top day trips
We did the tour of Volendam, Marken, and Zaanse Schans. The last one I had done before but wanted to experience it with my friends. The air still had a slight chill, but the rain had stopped. I think the cooler weather was needed for all the walking and sitting on the bus. It was just the touristy thing we needed on our first full day in the country.
We could not get enough of Amsterdam. There are no words to describe the feelings conjured up when in this bustling city. Amsterdam seemed fuller and busier than I remembered, but still, an amazing place to be.
Our travels took us from Amsterdam to Naarden-Bussum, to Wijchen and Nijmegen, Huizen, Spanderswoud, Hilversum, ‘s-Graveland, Rotterdam, Den Haag, Scheveningen, Madurodam, Utrecht, Haarzuilens (Kasteel de Haar), Nieuwleusen, and of course Giethoorn.
I really wish we had longer than just 2 weeks. In between all this Dutch sightseeing, we still spent a couple of days in Germany. There are so many places that needed to be seen, but we ran out of time. My all-time highlight has to be Giethoorn. I definitely need to come back just to visit it again.
3. Public transport in the Netherlands is top knotch
Oh, my word. I have absolutely no complaints about infrastructure and the transport systems the Netherlands has in place. What else can be said? The rest of the world has to sit up and pay attention.
Even though this efficiency was in place 24 years ago, I don’t think I fully appreciated it until I came back. Whether you are using a road, train track, or waterway; this is a place where you will reach your destination effortlessly.
Maybe my South African roots are showing, but this has got to be the safest place in the world. I really wish that my daughter will be able to experience this level of freedom of travelling safely. That was possibly the most familiar feeling that I experienced on this trip. I could give up my homeland for that feeling.
One of my friends summed it up perfectly. She said that nobody bothers anyone else. People just joyfully went about their business without causing anyone any grief. Lest we not forget, Wi-Fi on public transport?! I’m floored. 😅
4. All the bicycles
The biggest difference from 24 years ago: What have y’all done to the bicycles with kid carriers? This is not fair.
When I was an au pair back in the dark ages, those poor kids had no protection from the elements other than their clothes. I had one kid on the back of my bicycle in her seat and the other in his seat on my handlebars. This fancy creation you now have is just superb. I walked past a kid sitting eating her breakfast whilst her mom was riding a bakfiets. I think it’s definitely a massive improvement and great innovation.
5. The endlesss bounds of Dutch hospitality
Imagine, if you will, going back to a country 24 years later and being treated like the returned prodigal son (or daughter). Not only did my au pair family offer me and my friends a place to stay, but we were welcomed with open arms and made to feel at home.
Friends that I’ve not seen since 1994 accommodated us, took us around to visit various sights and generally took care of all our needs whilst visiting. I can’t even begin to thank them for the amazing time we had. I only hope to return the favour when they visit me in South Africa.
This trip was the best, but also the worst. I was heartbroken when I had to leave. Again. This country holds such fond memories. I immediately recalled everything I loved about it. New places were seen and new memories were made. Reconnected with old friends and definitely made some new ones.
This only means one thing: I can’t wait another 24 years before going back again. Tot zo!
Can you relate? Let us know in the comments!
Feature Image: 0805edwin/Pixabay
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in July 2018 and has been updated in December 2021 for your reading pleasure.