Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Netherlands with all 5 senses

I miss the Netherlands. There, I said it! And I miss Maastricht, especially on days like today, when it doesn't stop raining and going outside doesn't seem like the right thing to do. My mind has somehow been infested with the weird idea that it didn't rain in the Netherlands. At least not as much as it does in Switzerland and for sure not in lovely Maastricht. I miss the sunny evenings in Maastricht, the laid-back moments spent sitting on a terrace with friends, the shopping sprees during the weekends when the shops were about to burst and my weekly visit to the Hema shop (oh, Hema guys, if you ever read this blog, why don't you open some Hema shop in Switzerland?!). I miss all the weird food I finally got accustumed to, the job I disliked for the first three months, hearing Dutch on a daily basis and I even miss the rough cobblestones that would hurt my feet when walking on thin-soled shoes. Apparently, adapting to my new life in Switzerland is taking a while longer than expected and I don't think I'll feel fully settled in until I find a job, which hopefully will be sooner than later. In the meantime, I think that writing more about the Netherlands might make this homesickness more bearable. And if you're looking for five reasons to love the Netherlands, here you have them. One for each of the senses.

SIGHT: Choosing the most oustanding sight of the Netherlands is a difficult task to accomplish. Canals, windmills, tulips, 17th and 18th century houses with long and elegant façades, so many utterly beautiful things around! But I'm going to stick to something a bit more underrated and I will say that one of the best sights of the Netherlands is the never-ending view of the polders as seen from the train. Polders are long strechtes of lands that make up most of the Dutch landscape. After two hours sitting on a train seeing nothing but polders they can become something ordinary but when the sun is setting on clear summer day the polders are bathed by this golden light that so many painters have tried to capture in their paintings for many centuries. And they were right, the light in the Netherlands has something very special to it, which cannot be compared to the light elsewhere. That's why polders (and canals) look so pretty under this dim golden light.

SMELL: I could go for something really cliche here and say that the Netherlands actually smells of weed. But while this might be true in the most touristic neighbourhoods of Amsterdam and the teeny crowds I don't think this would be representative of the country as a whole. It is actually quite far from it. I could say that when walking around any Dutch city you're most likely to smell delicious bakery or deep-fried fast food but I'll get back to this on the taste department. Now I'll stick to my brother's first words when he came to visit me in Maastricht last year. 'This country stinks of farmland', he said, after stepping out of the plane at Maastricht's tiny airport. And was he right! Maastricht - and I guess that most other places outside the Randstad - smells like the countryside, if only some weeks a year when spring arrives and temperatures rise. The smell of grass, flowers and manure all together hangs in the air and you can have hard time if you suffer from hay fever. But it's not a bad smell and it makes you feel as if you were closer to nature and doing the right thing for sustainable development.

TASTE: The Dutch have mastered the art of deep-fried snacks and one of the things that most surprised me when I first got acquainted with the Dutch culture were the snack bars (FEBO and the like) whose walls were like a large vending machine catering frites, burgers, frikandellen and the like for a couple of euros. That looked really akward to me but it is apparently a very popular option for a quick snack, especially after a night partying hard. I've always prefered to order at the counter, though. And from the many deep-fried treats the Netherlands had to offer I would mostly choose bitterballen, something you won't probably find anywhere else. Bitterballen, or bitter balls, are a sort of round croquettes filled with a creamy mix of meat and spices and usually served with mustard - and not bitter at all. Oh, I miss that too!

TOUCH: Touch experiences are always difficult to identify. After all, it is not easy to isolate what we feel from what we see, hear, smell and taste - unless you're getting a massage, that's it. But there's something about the Dutch way of life that cannot be explained any other way. Whether you're lounging at a park nearby on a sunny day, sitting on a terrace under a sunshade while it pours outside or riding your bike along a canal or creek, there's something very special about the cosy Dutch way of life which slowly grows in and fills you with peace. Seriously, I have no idea of what it is, but there's something about life in the Netherlands which can only be felt when you stop there for a while and forget about the rush of your daily life or touristy ways. For me it was grabbing a blanket, going to the bank of the river and laying on the grass feeling the sun on my skin and that was all I needed to be happy. Maybe that's it, happiness. And in the Netherlands you can reach for it and almost touch it!

HEARING: Gggoede morgggen! Daggg! Tot strrrakks! Ah, the Dutch language, that weird and gutural distant cousin to English. Despite the harshness of its sounds and the sore throat I had for weeks when I first started speaking Dutch on a daily basis, I've grown very fond of the Dutch language. I really, really like it and I'm more than happy I once decided to learn it, even if it was just a hobby back then. It is full of impossible sounds and too many grrrrs, kks and weird letter combinations like ij, which used to be considered as a unique letter. And yet it is so beautiful. Yes, I miss it and some Dutch songs are among my favourites now. So, to finish this journey of the senses around the Netherlands, here is a song which aired daily on the radio for months and months and months while I was living in Maastricht - isn't the video super cute?

Have a lovely Thursday!


  1. Ah you're making me feel very lucky that I'm living here!

    And the Netherlands is missing you too! x

  2. Qué post más bien hecho! con los 5 sentidos, sí señorita! Muy bonitas las fotos.Qué pena que no entienda el vídeo, parece mono.Bss, Irene:)

  3. oh irene! i'm so sorry that it's taking awhile to adjust to switzerland. i hope you get a job soon doll. i also hope the rain clears. that would make anyone frown. beautiful post about the netherlands. those fried snacks sound awesome. haha i think i would love that. stay warm. take care of yourself and know the right opportunity will find you.

  4. Es normal q te cueste acostumbrarte un poco...pero todo pasará, verás como si.
    Me has hecho recordar al verano que pase en Holanda, los molinos los campos inmensos de tulipanes, los canales y los puestos de comida rápida llenos de ventanitas q me hacían alucinar, me has generado muchas muchísimas ganas de volver.
    Besote y buen finde guapa, arriba esos ánimos

  5. Love this post! Definitely one of my favorite countries. :)

  6. Hola Irene! no sé si te gustarán estas cosas pero tienes un premio en mi blog. Espero que te guste.Bss:)

  7. I can feel your nostalgia, how much you miss Netherlands while reading. There seems to be this sense of tranquility. Bitter balls sound delicious. Have a lovely week!


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