Dutch culture, cuisine create unique excursion


Sean Garvin

A visit to Haarlem should include a stop at the Haarlem Museum, which offers a glimpse of old Haarlem. Four centuries ago, Haarlem was a thriving commercial center rivaling Amsterdam.

Sean Garvin, Staff Writer

When you hear about people’s travels to Europe, it’s typically a weekend in London or a quick train ride throughout the French countryside with a two-day itinerary in Paris. But rarely do you hear about the Netherlands, also commonly known as Holland. The often neglected country, shadowed behind the likes of England, France, Italy and Spain, has become a hidden gem surrounded by countries with beautiful architecture; but their many tourists decrease the countries authenticity and overall enjoyment. Amsterdam, Holland’s capital city, has been slowly joining its European peers as one of the top tourist-y destinations in western Europe.

It was only my second time in Europe, so the excitement was still fresh. We arrived in Amsterdam Schiphol International Airport, the only major international airport in the whole nation, considering your neighboring country is only two and a half hours away. The airport was very modern, and in it was a train station that connected almost all of the major cities in the country. It was a cold, wet morning once we left the airport perimeters, which is a norm since it starts getting cold during October.

The Dutch people are very warm and helpful, and they seemed pleased to have visitors in their country. They were also very tall and very blonde. We took a bus to a village outside the Amsterdam Metropolitan area in a town called Haarlem, where our AirBnb was located for a more Dutch experience. The town was very quaint, a typical picturesque European village with canals streaming through it. These waterways are described as the life lines of towns outside the major metropolitan areas.

We arrived at our hostel where the owner was waiting for us outside. It was a row of canal houses, infamous along the rivers in Amsterdam. Once we were situated on the 3rd floor of the canal house, which is probably the steepest incline of stairs I have ever seen, my family and I immediately fell asleep since we had just embarked on a 10 hour plane ride, which was much less excruciating since we were fortunately upgraded to first class, and two hour bus ride. Though a scenic journey, I was exhausted.

After a four hour nap, we went out to the city square in our winter coats and scarves as it was almost 50 degrees outside. We were shocked to find that almost everyone rides bicycles as an alternative to cars; and if going a long distance, they travel on trains or other methods of public transportation. This pleased me that they are very environmentally friendly and have plenty of green initiatives advertised throughout the bus stations and city centers.
The city square was a stunning array of buildings built throughout the 1200s until modern day, and we were shocked to find that the local church was turning 500 next year. We roamed around the city, as every single street, though similar, yet was so unique and very instagramable.

After spending three fun, event-filled days exploring Haarlem & Amsterdam learning about Dutch culture and cuisine, we headed back to the airport to fly back to Houston as our week came to a close. I can safely say, the Netherlands is definitely one of my favorite places and I know this will not be my last trip to the country.