Thursday, May 29, 2008

Holland: First Impressions

It's been a long time since I've been compelled to whip out a notepad (or in this case, a computer) to write, but Holland has done just that. Oh my goodness, how lovely. I haven't actually gotten off the train yet, but I've decided we must come back here and spend some time cycling and travelling through the countryside and exploring its cities and villages. That might require us to learn at least a few words of Dutch; as of now, I know exactly no Dutch. I know Dutch people, but that doesn't help much.

Anyway, the miles I've seen between Amsterdam and Maastricht are green and lush and not entirely unlike Britain. But it's just ... different. There's an order and a cleanliness to things that gives peace to the part of me that finds anxiety in clutter. I even passed a huge compost center whose humongous piles were neatly divided among the various stages of composting. They are completely obsessed with planning trees in rows, which I somehow find peaceful and endearing.

The newish buildings are very modular and angular, but they still have a lot of style and are interesting to look at. Somehow the old buildings are better kept than those in Britain, or maybe there's just fewer of them. (Remember, I haven't gotten off the train yet.)

As my train moves though the towns, there are more cyclists at railroad crossings than cars. (Mental note: shop for Dutch bike accessories while here.) I just passed a whole family, out for an evening ride on their tall, sturdy Dutch bikes.

Dutch people are interesting to look at, too. I hate sweeping generalizations, which is of course what you say before you're about to make one. My sweeping generalization about English people is this: They tend to be short, with thinning hair and very pale skin, and, well, squishy. (I'd love to hear the generalizations about us; we often get pegged as American before we even open our mouths. JT recently went to buy some shirts that were offered in S, M, L, XL, and American size.)

But the Dutch are tall, lean, angular, and stylish. Their shoes are smart and fashionable to the Brits' (and my) tendency for the practical. The casual dress is infinitely more chic than the Brits or Americans. I find myself insecure here about my messy hair, which I shoved back in with a barrette for the plane ride. I wish I was wearing one of my business outfits, instead of my usual travel outfit of a t-shirt, jeans, and hoodie.

Even the cattle are lean and seem to strike a pose as they lean over to graze. (Reference the pointless yet somehow obligatory photo of cattle as seen from a moving train.)

Post-train update: It was 9:30 pm by the time I started walking from the Maastricht train station to my hotel, and I realized it would be approaching 10 by the time I got there and turned around to find some dinner. So, I decided to stop in at a place that had a nice vibe and outdoor seating. It was when I looked at the menu that I realized, yet again, that I do not know a single word of Dutch. Even though my language rules state that you should always know hello, goodbye, please, thank you, sorry, and two beers please, I don't know any of those. But, in case you had doubts about my travel savvy, despite having no language skills, I managed to get myself a Dutch beer, a grilled ham and cheese sandwich, and tomato soup:

Am I good or what?

I'm looking forward to my days, albeit busy ones, in Maastricht. I also fully anticipate to have a different attitude about Holland come Saturday night, when I return to Amsterdam for 24 hours. I say that because of JT's experience there a few months ago, and also because, as I learned from half the passengers on my flight to Amsterdam, there's a tattoo convention there this weekend. Bet you can't wait for that post.

1 comment:

Nora Bee said...

I'm with you on this. Jeff's company has a client in Holland and I'm working the junket angle. Hope it was grand!