Why I LOVE the Netherlands

  • Hello friendly people,

How are you this fine Wednesday? It’s been a while since I last posted here but as I mentioned in a previous post life gets incredibly busy in January due to exams at uni. Fortunately, I could let go some of the stress two weeks ago when we went to The Netherlands with my other half aka fiancé. 🙂 It was my sixth anniversary/Christmas present to him to spend some days over there and go to a concert of his all time favourite musician, Steven Wilson. Those of you who don’t know him: he’s a progressive rock artist. I say artist because he truly is one. He’s not the kind of singer and songwriter who sticks to one well-built image that has high marketing value but he pours his thoughts and emotions into his music, he puts it out there and makes it available for everyone so people can decide wether they want to consume it or not. He acknowledges that he’s too selfish to follow the “golden path” towards success and it is exactly this righteous denial that makes him attractive for hundreds of thousands of people. For me his music is like a really well-written book. He takes his time with it, every single track on his album tells a heartbreakingly beautiful story and today’s music culture needs this kind of quality. So if you like heavier rock music definitely check out his work.

Moving on… 🙂 Today I’d like to share my thoughts on “The Netherlands vibes” and also some useful tips for travelling, restaurant, café recommendations in the places we visited. I know that the first thing people think about when  Holland comes to their minds is Amsterdam, weed, girls and lots of partying but it’s so so so much more than that. When I travel I involuntarily compare my home to the places I visit and in the western parts of Europe I always come to the conclusion that we’re way behind from the standards over there in terms of lifestyle and general thinking. The first thing I noticed and loved were the clean streets. No dog faeces, litter or expired food thrown aways for the birds. These unpleasant phenomenons are part of our lives in Budapest and it was enough for me to feel hate and disgust when I step out of my apartment and actually develop serious ignorance that makes me bend my head down and close up to the outside world. Don’t get me wrong, Budapest is a must-see place. It’s one of the most unique cities in Europe but growing up in a neat little town I’m just not used to sloppy, lousy people who don’t care about their surroundings. In The Netherlands it’s people’s priority to maintain a clean and healthy environment. Sometimes I get an angry response from people who say “yeah, easy for them, they’re all rich”. That’s like the biggest misconception one can ever believe. Although, the average wage is way higher than in Hungary and they’re wealthier as a country keeping your house clean or not leaving your dog’s “gift” on the street is not a question of money. It should come naturally to clean up after yourself. You probably also think about bicycles when someone talks about The Netherlands. It’s kind of a national peculiarity and in a way necessity to ride a bike wherever they go but they put in an incredible amount of effort into shaping their cities and towns into something that’s suitable and safe for riding a bike. Because of that, I felt like I could breath. The streets weren’t crammed with cars, the air was way cleaner not to mention how much quieter it was and I didn’t have to shout. I could here my thoughts which made me feel super relaxed. The third general aspect I’d like to mention and that always makes my stay pleasant in Holland is that everyone speaks English. I had no difficulties at railway stations, grocery stores or restaurants to buy a ticket or order food because speaking English is part of general knowledge and it doesn’t depend on age, even a 60 year old lady can speak English and I didn’t feel like an outsider at all because I was understood and I could understand others which is super important. I personally find it really really sad that certain people expect tourists to learn hungarian because they’re too proud to even consider putting some effort into learning at least the basics. English is like a bridge. It makes life easier and we might as well use it because let me tell you this: you’re missing out big time on so many beautiful things that simply the knowledge of a foreign language offers. Dutch people in general are incredibly friendly and accepting when it comes to other cultures because they’re used to diversity and I could sense just a hint of healthy patriotism. It wasn’t aggressive, it wasn’t overwhelming and it made the country so attractive that while I was there I felt the desire to actually be a dutchie. 

In terms of local highlights both Amsterdam and Groningen offers a once in a lifetime experience with their charming canals, traditional architecture and throbbing nightlife. My way to explore a new place is to walk around as much as I possibly can. Get lost in the small streets, watch people running errands, taking pictures and become one with the course of everyday life. I like cities that are melting pots and where so many different cultures meet and live together. You can definitely see this work out perfectly in the Netherlands. It fills my heart with peace to see people smiling and randomly saying hi just because life is good. Little things like that prove that a large, multicultural community can actually be way friendlier and liveable than a small town with no diversity and still too much judgement.

Anyways, I always get myself into these overly philosophical monologues but I find it important to show people how life works “outside the box”. So now let me share with you some recommendations regarding cafés and restaurants where we enjoyed local culinary delicacies. One thing that works beautifully in the Netherlands is the use of local, organic ingredients. The quality of these products is flawless and the passion people have for supporting local growers and serving fresh food is refreshing. The variety of foods these places offer are completely in tune with the most recent trends that try to satisfy the desire to live greener and more health-conscious. No wonder I found myself feeling at home in an instant. This is my list of places I strongly recommend you to visit if you’re in town:

  1. Black & Bloom Speciality Coffeeshop, Groningen

I’m a huge coffee lover so I looked for third wave speciality coffee shops in advance to try out. I definitely didn’t close the door behind me disappointed. We were lucky enough to try a locally roasted coffee that literally tasted like strawberries. It proves that quality was on fleek and the barista works with great passion and skill.

Black & Bloom , Groningen Oude Kirk in’t Jat Straat 32

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2. Black Gold Specialty Coffeeshop, Amsterdam

This was the weirdest, coolest coffee shop experience I ever had in my life. There was live music with a DJ and the coffee was also divine. I felt like I walked straight into a loft of a traveled, fashionforward guy. Definitely check it out if you’re in Amsterdam. The barista was full of love and joy for serving people quality coffee. If it had been quieter we probably would’ve ended up in a conversation about his barista secrets but that’s for another visit. I was starving when we got there so I  grabbed a quick bite. 🙂

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Black Gold , Amsterdam Korte Koningsstraat 13.

3. Mogador Café, Haarlem

The place has a slight sophisticated feel to it and it’s at a beautiful location right in the heart of Haarlem. I’m not sure if I could call it a speciality coffee shop but as I was sitting there enjoying the precious moments of a sunny morning, I couldn’t help but tearing up when a ray of sunshine lit up the room, saturating it with a golden yellow colour. Man, I love life. I had a flat white and took advantage of the beautiful marble table to take a perfect shot for instagram. Yummy coffee.

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Mogador Café , Haarlem Gasthuisstraat 48.

4. Pluk, Amsterdam

Pluk is a juice, sandwich, cake and coffee place. An instagrammer’s dream. Healthy ingredients, friendly staff and stylish environment left me speechless. Try the avocado sandwich with poached egg and the “perfect skin” juice.

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Pluk Amsterdam Reestraat 19.

5. By Lima, Haarlem

By Lima is really similar to Pluk. It’s also an adorable place with lots of yummy salads, sandwiches, breakfast acai bowls and juices. I wish we stayed longer so I could try out the whole menu. I had a super-green juice and an avo salad with pumpkin hummus. Yes, you heard it right: pumpkin hummus which I loved to pieces. It’s also an instagram paradise.

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By Lima , Haarlem Zijlstraat 65.

That’s it for now guys. I hope you enjoyed this little travel diary kind of post, I’ll be back with more soon when I’m off to my next destination. Have a wonderful rest of the week!

Love and hugs,

fatimapanka

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