Written in 2001
I worked in England trying to raise the needed money to go somewhere else. The original plan was to go to Scotland around September with just enough money to get there and start working right away. Even then I would have to camp for a while since I wouldn't have enough. But then at the last moment the idea hit to try and find a UK company that had contracts in Europe. This way I could use my UK work visa and get a job in mainland Europe a lot easier and quicker. So I first looked into the construction industry and sure enough within a matter of days I had a job offer in the Netherlands. It was an opportunity to go into mainland Europe, and was a country I had always wanted to see, thanks in large part to those KLM flight attendants. So I took the job, borrowed a little money from my family, and in the first week of September went to Holland.
The Netherlands is a unique country. It is very small, some Canadians probably have land that is bigger than Holland, but it has always been there throughout history and is still there today in many areas, business is one, tourism another. It has one of the biggest and most interesting cities in Europe, Amsterdam. But it also has two other underrated cities, the modern North Amercian style Rotterdam and its capital, Den Haag which is pretty unique. It also has the biggest port in Europe called the Europort, because of the country's position on the continent. The country is famous for its engineering feats, its high quality of life, and it has some of the top places to have a good time. It is also famous for the legalisation of Marijuana and prostitution. Those are not for me, but they are a kick for many people, and I got nothing against it. To top it off the people there are great, they are friendly, and they know how to have a good time. Apart from Montreal there aren't that many places that rocks like Amsterdam and Rotterdam. And by the way if you don't believe me about Montreal do some research and you will find it has been ranked the nightlife centre for the new Millenium, I'm a little biased too.
I can't say enough about the people there. They couldn't be any friendlier or more welcoming. From the first day I arrived to the day I left a month later I kept seeing examples of this. People helping you as a traveller, the a're easy to talk to and to get to know, they have an interesting culture, they are usually pretty happy and out going. I even had a gas station once pay me a coffee when they saw I was cold on the bike on the way to Russia. Of course that can happen anywhere, but it happened a lot there. And I can't write about the people without mentioning the women there. If Dadid Letterman has his top ten list I got mine too for women country rankings, and Holland is tied with Russia and Sweden right now. I almost snapped my neck while being there, attractive women everywhere. And unlike other countries they have a good attitude, they dress well, are outgoing, and they know how to have a good time. If you don't believe me next time take KLM and you'll see.
I worked as a construction handyman in a town called Oud-Bejerland to the south west of Rotterdam. It was around 20 km from the city. For the first week I lived 40 km to the east in a small town called Striyen-Sas. There were only 500 people in that town and I lived in a pension, which is a bar with a few rooms above. The good thing was I got to spend time in a small and typical Dutch town and see the culture. All the same locals would come in later in the day and start chappin' away. It was fun to talk to them and watch the people there. But a week was enough, because there was no one my age there and it got to be boring. So I went to live in the Rotterdam hostel. That was fun. The hostel there was very different than the one in Oxford, the travelers were surprisingly different too. The Oxford hostel was smaller, older, dirtier, and it partied good. The travellers tended to be more hippy style. The Rotterdam one looked more like a hotel than a hostel. It was really clean, full facilities, was more laid back, and had locked dorm rooms. The travelers there tended to be less hippy and more formal. It was just different. It was a very nice place. They even had a gated courtyard where I could park my bike.
Rotterdam is a cool city. Unlike other European cities it is very modern and has skyscrapers like we do in North America. Completely destroyed during World War II it was rebuilt to what it is today and is famous for its high tech infra-structure and its architecture. Unlike many modern cities this one has a very distinct look, some people like it and others don't, but it is impressive to see. I liked it, and was impressed when I first saw it at night, the two bridges there are also impressive. When you get to the center it gets even better with well designed streets and a centre that has everything, including several great pedestrian streets that includes shops, great nightclubs, bars, internet cafes, you name it's right there. The setup of the city I liked a lot. Best of all was the atmosphere there. The clubs blaring out at night with good music, people and girls everywhere having a good time, it was fun. If you're in the area Rotterdam is a place worth seeing.
Of course Amsterdam is the place to have a good time. Everything is there. It is a good looking city. Unlike Rotterdam it was spared during the war and has preserved its old look. There are many sights and things to see, good restaurants and shops, and the nighlife is one of the best in the world. Not to mention the red light district. That place is just cool to see. You don't have to do any of that stuff to have a good time. Seeing all the girls in the booths, the sex shops, the drugs, etc.. It was funny to see. I went there with Anje and we had a fun night, drank beer along one of the canals there, walked around. If you want to have fun this is the place. Then there is the capital of Holland, Den Haag. I went there several times. Holland being a small country the three main cities, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and the Haag are all are a short distance from each other. The capital is a small to medium size city and it has a different look and feel than the other two cities. It is more laid back than the others. And like Amsterdam it has been preserved and has kept its old look to it. Shops, restaurants, and pedestrian streets in the centre. I didn't spend a lot of time exploring the city but it looked nice.
Holland is flat as a table. There isn't that much scenery there. Supposedly some of Europe's best beaches are in the north of Holland. I think there are also a few parks that have some scenery in them. Apart from that it's farmland, forests, small villages, windmills, and dutch cows. That's pretty much it. Some forests and areas looked nice, but overall scenery is not Holland's strong point. But the country makes up for that in other ways.
If you a're looking for scenery Holland is probably not the place to go. But if you want to see an interesting country with a great people, and even better you are looking to have a good time, then you can't go wrong with Holland. I really enjoyed my time there even though I was only there a month. Most of my time was spent looking for new work after my job ended after just two weeks. It's too bad because I liked the country, but a good thing because now my trip was getting a lot more interesting. I was now going to Russia, and about to enter a whole new world.