Thursday, July 30, 2009

Positive Thoughts About The Netherlands - Location, Location, Location

One of the things that I love about living in the Netherlands, instead of living on a large island, is the fact that it is such a short drive to other countries, a hop, skip and a jump from other cultures and new experiences. Within an hour's drive I can be in Germany or Belgium, and motoring a little further brings me into France or Luxembourg.

We have made some great trips over the years I have been living here; weekends enjoying the peace of the Ardennes, the bustle of Brussels and the beauty of Bruges; a few days in Paris; a Christmas at Euro Disney, a day trip to Movie World and the magical atmosphere and Gl├╝hwein of the Christmas markets in Aachen and Dusseldorf. We also celebrated an unexpectedly snowy birthday in Monschau in the German Eifel. Wonderful experiences almost on our doorstep and all wildly different to the landscape and culture of the Netherlands.

Before I am yet again accused of sliding into a post of negative comments about the Netherlands, escaping the Dutch and their homeland is not my primary reason for experiencing this closeness and accessibility of other countries as a positive thing.... although for those near the borders it does mean you have somewhere decent to go grocery shopping. Oops.

Growing up in a country where it took us five hours to get to my grandparents (okay, three if my dad was driving the whole way), the Netherlands is a nice change; it seems to me that everything is close at hand- even different countries. Of course, the UK has Wales and Scotland that can be reached by car, but both are still a long drive from the south of England (and I confess I have never actually been to Scotland). For the Americans living here, I can imagine the feeling that everything is very close must be stronger still.
I also love the fact that whilst other cultures are within easy reach to the south and east, there are also miles (or kilometers I should say) of coastline to visit, with some truly unique regions to experience. Hopping to the Dutch islands (see my post about Texel) made me feel like I really was taking a break from the hustle and bustle of life in the Randstad, even within the confines of a day trip. Whilst I was in Texel I had to keep reminding myself that I was still on Dutch soil; it seemed like we had gone 'abroad'.
And then of course there are the big cities, which provide a cultural feast for hungry visitors - Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague and the little places dotted around them such as Delft and Gouda. This side of the Netherlands is also a contrast to the East and North where culture and language differences show their face.

The Netherlands may be small, but we all know it's not size that matters - for me this little Dutch nation really is a gateway to amazing travel and cultural experiences.

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