After a busy year I just wanted to unwind, so I solo traveled to Netherlands, just before Christmas, and stayed there for 12 days. Easily one of the best decisions I made in my life. Nobody to slow you down, noone to argue with and you are “forced” to make your own social contact.
I began my journey in Prague, took a plane to Amsterdam and then I traveled around — Utrecht, Gouda, Rotterdam, Delft, Haag, Leiden, Haarlem and then back to Amsterdam and Prague. The full cycle. And here is what I found.
The Netherlands Experience
Upon arrival I still thought that the mental wellness of Netherlanders is caused by their use of marihuana, but after the 12 days, my views changed. It’s their way of life. Everything just works, the societal system is balanced just the right way and noone even thinks about stealing (proof are the unlocked bikes around all of the cities — the very thought of theft is silly in a mind of a Netherlander). Coming back to my country (CZ) I realized, that I did not hear anyone scream or even raise a voice at each other in any of the cities. No reason to stress. Everything works. People are happy in their jobs — even the tram “overseer” (a guy, sitting behind an oval desk, checking if you logged in your public transport ticket — without this ticket you won’t get into any tram or bus, or even the main station). The bus drivers are very social, as is the overseer, talking with people and just overall enjoying their jobs.
Staying in the hostels at night and each night having a small social event, and in the day just walking around, taking photos, sight-seeing… it was a wonderful feeling — Hygge I would say (Danish concept of absolute bliss).
This feeling did not come only in Haag and Rotterdam, the cities are too modern and very materialistic (so are people there). I prefer old castles and relaxed atmosphere.
So, the best cities I visited were definitely Delft, Leiden and Haarlem (and Amsterdam was nae bad either!).
The buildings are emitting neat german quality and british style. Beautiful facades, robust tables and complex system of bike lanes — oh yes, and they have the right of way here. If you cause an accident as a pedestrian, you are always the one to blame. At the same time, everyone is really considerate of each other and even after stepping into a bike lane a few times I did not receive any angry responses from the cyclist, just a warm (reciprocal) sorry.
The buildings man.. the buildings. So beautiful. I asked around, “what’s up with the style? How is it so fitting with the rest of the environment?”. I found that they hire only architects (for new houses) that specialize in the same style as the buildings around already have.
People here wear only dark palette colors — black, brown, green, gray — so they can blend in with the environment and not stand out too much. Also, it would be very inconvenient to wear i.e. white in the wet and murky weather.
People here are obsessed with bikes. Boys drive their girls around seated at the front of their bikes, there are double bikes with moms and children or attached baby-carriages. There are no traffic jams — almost nobody uses cars. 5 PM on a Thursday morning in the city center? Almost no cars, I would say that 80% of traffic is people on bikes. Clean air. Clean streets. Fit and cold resistant people.
I think I did see around 5 people using a handkerchief in the 12 days. It was 5 degrees Celsius and people just walk around in light clothes. No hats, no gloves.. that probably has to do with everyone being so hardy from sleeping in the cold. I met a guy, couch-surfing, who slept in a 15 degree Celsius room since he was a kid. He told me that almost everyone sleeps that way. No wonder they are so resistant to cold (well, take Wim Hof for example :D). It is almost impossible to fall ill with this kind of resistance.
The quality of life has to do with the food too. Netherlands is known to be the most technologically advanced agricultural super-power in the world, surpassing even the USA, China and Germany (COMBINED!!!) in the export of potatoes (and other produce). Their technology is so sophisticated, that they don’t have to use pesticides, hormones or antibiotics. They prevent diseases, rather than heal them. That makes everything bio quality — and food is known to alter your gut microbiome and neurotransmitter production, thus controlling your mental state. Their drones check the quality of the crops and the sensors on their livestock in being monitored with sensors too. And the water systems use water 90% effectively than the rest of the world.
There are “smoking rooms” in every hostel, where you can smoke anything that is legal in Netherlands. There is a coffee-shop on every corner — a gram of an average-grade herb is 9€, so is a cookie.
You can visit the well known “Red Light District” in Amsterdam, you can knock on the window and a lady will answer. Her price would be anywhere between 50 to 100€.
Best places to visit are definitely Delft, Leiden and Haarlem. In Haarlem you get to see and visit a church full of beer. Monks have been brewing it in there for hundreds of years. It’s called Jopenkerk. In the day you can see the glorious Teylers musem, the oldest in Netherlands.
The Delft.. I did not wanna leave Delft. It was just too beautiful. City of blue porcelain and the birth place of Jan Vermeer (Girl with a Pearl Earring)
And the breakfast and dark beer I had, right under the tower in a coffee pub!! Priceless feeling. I recommend everyone to visit this place :) The pub owner even noticed that I did not like my eggs cooked “bloody” for the dinner so he did them “rare” for my breakfast.
I open at the close
I closed my trip back in the Amsterdam. After an awesome experience I had in Leiden’s hostel “Flying Pig” I checked into their branch hostel in Amsterdam. Once again, only young people (the hostel does not accept anyone over 40 years old), social events every night and a lot of good energy (the barmaid even got me a free breakfast when I did not bring any hard cash!). Good karma all around.
I recommend solo travel to everyone. This was my first solo experience and I really can NOT recommend it ENOUGH. You are forced to create your own social contact, and every day I talked to new people, having new raw experiences. I did not plan a thing, just pure spontaneity for 12 days. Some conversations shallow, some very deep. If you have any doubts about traveling solo, destroy them and try it!
P.S. If you are getting munchies for photos..