My first destination was Rotterdam, birthplace of Manchester United's main striker Robin Van Persie. The name Rotterdam came from a river "Rotte' after it was dammed. I decided to see each and every corner of Rotterdam so bought a day pass. It was 7.10 Euro. I thought it was cheaper than UK (not because of exchange rate) but because with that day pass, I travelled all around Rotterdam in subway, bus and tram and went to De Haag from there, which is about one hour by train.
Each building in the main town centre has its own architecture, which unifies to give classical character for Netherlands. This is probably why Netherlands is also popularly known for its architecture. Even their train stations look like museum. Impressively architected! I have to declare here that architectural students must go to Netherlands at least once. There are just so much to admire.
I found Dutch people really nice and welcoming. Every time I was seen looking at map and getting confused, people stopped by and asked if I needed help. I was actually surprised and glad as everyone speaks really good English, giving me a feeling that I was in UK.
After coming out of train station, I headed to 'Cube Houses', one of the most popular architectures in Rotterdam. The 38 cube houses were constructed in 1984 and it is known that they were sold even before the construction started. Just by looking at them, it looks like the houses are kept there for decoration but people actually live there. The houses are diagonally attached to each other and constructed on top of another building. With 3 Euro, you can go into one of the houses and see how people live there. There is no straight vertical window like normal houses have. I was actually scared to stand there because from each window you look through, you either see sky or straight down to road giving you a feeling that you are hanging in the middle. People pay about 1200 Euro per month rent to live in those kinds of flats. Its amazingly architected but I kept asking myself- "Will I be able to sleep at night if I ever get to live here?"
|Cube houses attached to each other|
After Cube houses, I moved to old harbour, which is the oldest harbour in Rotterdam, built in 14th century. Beside, this harbour, you can see the mixture of both classical old buildings as well as modern high tech designs. There are numerous restaurants near by from where you can take the advantage of amazing view while eating. After enjoying some time in old harbour, I headed towards Erasmus Bridge, which is just in walking distance. It is the most popular bridge in Rotterdam, connecting south to north. From one end, I walked across this 802 m long bridge to explore more on other side.
It is the third largest city in the Netherlands after Amsterdam and Rotterdam. De Haag is the seat of Dutch government and parliament. There are also many attractions including Royal palace and my plan was to visit it in next half of the day. It was about an hour train journey from Rotterdam to De Haag. By this time, I was really tired and my feet were hurting because of walking bit too much. After calculating the time and what else I have got left to see, I realised I have little bit of time to rest and eat. I decided to have lunch there but couldn't find anything fancy in train station apart from Burger King. So, Burger King after coming all the way to Netherlands? WTH! I was starving.
|This is the train station in De Haag. Just look at it. Isn't it beautiful?|
After some rest and planning, I headed to Madurodam; my first destination in De Haag. It is a popular miniature park. What they have there is a miniature of every main attraction and popular place of Netherlands. It’s amazing how they made it by giving every attention to detail. The park was under renovation when I went there. The receptionist told me that 10% of the attractions were closed. I asked him if I could get 10% discount then. He refused but I had to see it. Still, I think 15.50 Euro was bit too much. Here are some pictures from the park:
After Madurodam, I went to see a famous painting called 'Panorama Mesdag'. Hendrik Willem Mesdag painted this popular painting, which is 120 m in circumference, in 1881 in 4 months with the help of his wife and few of his students. The painting describes people's life and De Haag city during that time. It is kept in 40 m distance away from visitors and around the painting is filled with sand and other ancient looking stuffs like log as shown in picture. The top and bottom of the painting is covered to make the painting look real. The picture you can see here is De Haag town during that time. On the other side of the painting was the Palace of that time. I have to admit, while looking at that painting, I actually felt like it was real. The best thing is, you get student discount to go in.
|De Haag town in 1880s|
|Cycles in Delft train station|
This is typical Dutch. I am glad I took a picture of it though quality is not that good. On second and final day of the trip, my plan was to explore Amsterdam. I left Delft early morning at 7 am and what surprised me in train station were 5 aisles of bicycles in both sides, exactly like supermarket. All 10 aisles were so packed that people were leaving their cycles on the road. I was surprised. How early do people come there to keep those cycles? And where do they go on weekends? Just imagine what it will be like on weekdays. You see bicycles everywhere. Its strange in other countries when you walk on the road you are scared of getting run over by vehicles but here, I was actually trying to save myself from cycles :P
Just like Rotterdam, the name 'Amsterdam was given to the city after the river 'Amster' was flooded and dammed. Amsterdam has total 160 canals. First thing I did in Amsterdam was cruising around the city (Highlight of the day!). It was an hour cruise and it takes you everywhere. I really enjoyed it. This is one of the 'must do' activities if you are in Amsterdam. An automatic tape was played in 4 different languages (English, Dutch, Portuguese and Chinese) to describe the popular and famous places seen from the cruise.
|Enjoying the view from cruise|
|Houses captured from the cruise. Look at the hooks on top of the houses!|
In 17th century, Amsterdam was commercially strongest in Europe but also densely populated. So, only few square meters of land were provided for each family. That’s why houses you see there are very small. On the top of each house, there is a hook extended to the front as you can see in the picture. Those hooks are used for taking furniture up to the room because the staircase and space is too small for furniture to manoeuvre. You can see that hook in every house there.
|'I amsterdam'- very popular for tourists|
"I amsterdam" is one of the places I desperately wanted to go because I had seen this in so many of my friend's picture and I wanted to see it myself. It was in the afternoon I reached there but it was filled with tourists trying to take pictures. I waited for a while thinking people will go but more I waited, more crowded it became. Everyone was disturbing everyone's picture. At some point, I was bit annoyed that I wanted to keep everyone in queue and make them take picture one by one but I didn't have that much time. The single ticket from central station to this place was 2.60 Euro. With that ticket you can hop on and hop off numerous time but it is only valid for one hour. So my mission was to go there, see this, take picture and come back in an hour. Pheww!! It was rush time but mission was successful.
|Red light district from far|
Every country has prostitution and weeds legally or illegally. The good thing in Netherlands is, they are legal. The red light district in Amsterdam is one of the most popular in the world. It is also said that if you don't see Red Light District in Amsterdam, your visit is not complete. Although people there find it normal, the whole time I was there, I felt really bad for those girls. The worst thing was to see people laughing at those girls. Of course they are in this profession by their will but coming from Asian background, I couldn't understand why on earth they prefer to do this than anything else. The area also smelt of weed everywhere. Not sure I will be happy living with my husband around this area unless I hire a person to spy on him :D. Sadly or not, we are not allowed to take picture there but I took the surrounding of it from far.
I didn't have time to go to every museum but if that’s your intention, I suggest you take I amsterdam city card. You will save lots of money. I really wanted to visit Keukenhof and Volendam but Keukenhof is closed in winter and I didn't have enough time for Volendam. Oh well Netherlands, get ready to welcome me again! Thank you again for great hospitality. I cannot give you anything apart from a promise to support you in World Cup :).