Off To Nether-Netherland

Graduation is a strange thing. Three years of your life given to academia, a huge debt gained for a number on a sheet of paper (a number with a decimal point for most – not even a complete one!). Yet somehow actually getting to university three or four years ago actually seemed like a bigger celebration. Maybe it’s because we knew the freshmen year was upon us back then. Now all we have to look forward to is work – or a very long-lead up to it.

Despite this, my final weeks in Coventry were something of a hollow experience. When I am old and grey, telling my grandkids about the trials of young adulthood, with the end of university I will say that I saw my mate’s band at a pub, and some of my course went for a meal at a chinese restaurant. Here I was expecting some massive, mental, last-stand-against-responsibility – a final night when we all stormed Coventry Kasbah and got banned from the place for life by doing stupid stuff. My final night in Coventry was mostly spent with people from my Iceland trip, and I had a few meals here and there since returning to my hometown, and I got my own key to my mum’s car. But my point is, with my own big ‘graduation day’ months away in November, it feels as though I have just left university, started job-hunting, and not really celebrated the closing of three years of my life.

Roughly the size of Wales – ‘Yeah, why not.’

Lingering in the vista was always the beckoning of a promise I had made to most of my companions in the Tenerife expeditions of last year. For some reason, there was a large amount of Dutch people on the same placement as us, and they proved to be some of the most memorable characters I met out there. I had previously been to The Netherlands only once before – when I was eleven. I said I would return when university was over, to see the place more for what is was.

Although quite happy to wait until ‘peak prices’ went down, there was one other factor that was brought into play, when earlier this year I was told that drugs and prostitution were slowly getting closed down in the capital city Amsterdam. *ahem* NOT that I would care to indulge in such vices (too much) but I do feel that the ‘legend’ of Amsterdam will surely be hampered if these things are not around anymore. I can understand the government wanting to make these changes, so come September time it may become a much quieter place. I, however, plan to go before these changes are made.

The Red Light District – Funnily, one of the main attractions of the capital!

I got in touch with several people from Tenerife, and planned my route around the response. I was fairly certain I wanted to ride the ferry at some point, and also stop by Nijmegen, Arnhem and Amsterdam.

I don’t know much about Holland as it is, besides drugs, prostitution and windmills, but one thing I definitely know about Holland is Medal Of Honor: Frontline. I grew up playing this game, which based a whistle-stop tour of WWII’s infamous ‘Operation Market Garden‘ at it’s centre. The airborne operation took place in September 1944, and was basically a rush to get to Berlin and end WWII by Christmas, by going around the German defences East of France. The operation went infamously sour at Arnhem, with people quoting that the allied forces had tried to go ‘a bridge too far’ (lending to the movie of the same name). Nijmegen Bridge had the strangest story – rigged to blow to stop the allied advance, yet having the explosives disarmed at some point by a secret agent (presumably). Anyone who ever played the Medal Of Honor game will surely remember the bridge level – it was an in-joke!

Medal Of Honor: Frontline – This game’s ancient. It did however teach me a rather in-depth knowledge of Holland’s part in the end of the Second World War. I’m pretty sure the real Nijmegen Bridge and Arnhem are nothing like as shown here (quite a few decades have passed!) but it will still feel like visiting a childhood haunt.

Aside from visiting moments from my game-orientated childhood, I will be stopping at Eindhoven and The Hague to visit my friends there. These locations are the start and end of my journey respectively. I know virtually nothing about either location, aside from the fact that the ‘Hook of Holland’ near The Hague is where I will get my ferry home. I will fly out to Eindhoven from here, work my way back to the shore doing a city a day, and ‘ferry it’ back to England.

Despite celebrating graduation and re-uniting with old friends, there are several other things I want to do during my time in The Netherlands:

1. Develop An Appetite

I don’t think I know a single Dutch dish. I can cook, but I don’t think I’ve ever cooked anything from The Netherlands. When I return home, I want one dish where I can go ‘yes, that tasted awesome – I want to cook that!’ (after returning from Spain, The Netherlands has a lot to live up to!)

2. Revisit ‘La Madonna’

During my last visit to Amsterdam eleven years ago, my mum and I took refuge not once, but twice in the same day (unusual for us) at a restaurant called La Madonna. It was the first time I’d ever had onion soup, and despite being an Italian restaurant, it is something of a cherished memory of Amsterdam for me. I want to go there again and see if the food is as great as I remember it!

3. Learn Some Dutch

I’ll probably do this before I go, though I’m sure it will be almost impossibly to come away from this journey without learning at least five words in Dutch. The thing here is that I’m currently learning latin languages, so the change in dialect will be something of a culture shock. As long as I can navigate the train stations, I should be okay!

4. Check Out The Diamonds

Amsterdam is not only known for vices that are illegal everywhere else – ‘wealth’ is a big factor in play as well. Apparently there is a diamond museum somewhere around the city centre, along with a Van Gogh museum, and a Rembrandt one. I can’t promise I’m going to see everything in my one-day stay there, but hopefully I’ll get to see a glimpse of at least one of them!

5. Find A Windmill

There’s a lot of cities on my list, and most of the countryside that I’ll be seeing will be out a train window. If, however, I get the chance to hang around a rural windmill for a little while, I’m taking it! (Yes, I know we have one in Nottingham… but it’s not a Dutch windmill is it?)

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