I purposely pushed my bed up against the large front window in my apartment, specifically so I could wake up to mornings like this one. I don’t ever bother looking at the weather report any more, so it comes as a lovely surprise whenever it snows. I love when the snow just falls perfectly on the trees as it did this morning. Later, it started coming down quite heavily and I managed to catch a video of it. I know this is nothing like the snow in Vermont (which I will be revisiting quite soon), but it’s a good amount of snow for Amsterdam! What do you think? Will it be a white Christmas in Amsterdam this year?
Giethoorn is a town located north east of Amsterdam. This town is considered to be the Netherlands’ Venice. I had stumbled upon many websites mentioning this neighborhood before I even decided to study in Amsterdam and ever since I had a great desire to see it for myself.
Instead of streets, this neighborhood has canals, bridges, and walking paths. The people living in these homes do not have one, two, or three car garages, but rather one, two, or three BOAT garages. Little wooden bridges arc over the canals to allow passage to each home.
The town was very quiet when we were there. Supposedly it is not that quiet in the summer time and is actually quite the tourist attraction. We visited on a freezing cold day in November where we ducked into café on the edge of a canal to get warm. Very cute restaurants and shops adorned the walking path aside the main canal, right across from the residential homes.
Later, we took a boat ride for only €5 around the canals where these beautiful homes are nestled. The canal opened out into a lake where there were some islands with a park for summer camps and a large house with boats to rent. The entire town was filled with ducks, sheep, and friendly cats. The drive out there was beautiful as well, seeing vast fields and hundreds of windmills. It was quite a nice afternoon.
Everyone knows the story of Santa Claus with his elves, reindeer, and his sleigh. He wears the same red suit every year, pushes himself down a chimney, and puts presents in stockings and under the tree while he eats his cookies and milk. Well, in the Netherlands, this story is a bit different.
Instead of Santa Claus, the Dutch have Sinterklaas. The holiday is celebrated on December 5th which is the Eve of Saint Nicholas. In November, Sinterklaas will arrive in Amsterdam by steamboat from Spain with his Zwarte Pieten and his grey horse. The Zwarte Pieten are the Dutch version of Santa’s elves and are translated as “Black Petes.” You can see these Black Petes playing music in the video below. I have seen them roaming around all over Amsterdam as well as with the decorations in the windows of stores.
Instead of stockings hung over the fireplace, children in Holland will place their shoes by the fireplace and Sinterklaas will fill the shoes with goodies. Sinterklaas travels from roof to roof, putting presents down the chimney just as Santa Claus does.
There are many stories explaining the origin of these Black Petes, but it is rather unclear as to exactly how they originated. These helpers have been questionably considered to be a racist concept. With the most modern, politically correct story, the Black Petes are known to be the chimney sweeps of Sinterklaas and their faces are black because of the soot. Very old origins mention that Black Pete was Sinterklaas’ servant that he set free. To show his appreciation, Black Pete stayed with Sinterklaas and helped him deliver presents to little children.
Currently in Amsterdam there are two Christmas fairs going on with ice skating rinks. These fairs serve traditional Dutch food and offer a winter wonderland for people of all ages. There are figures of Santa Claus and his reindeer put up all over the fairs. This may be to attract the many tourists that make their way to Amsterdam. Sinterklaas looks a bit different than Santa Claus. Sinterklaas looks like a mix between the American Santa Claus and a bishop. Lights have been put up all around Amsterdam too! Christmas is coming!
“To myself I am only a child playing on the beach, while vast oceans of truth lie undiscovered before me.”
- Isaac Newton
“The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach – waiting for a gift from the sea.”
- Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Okay, I’ll be honest. It wasn’t exactly a “day” at the beach. More like 15 minutes at the beach, but I loved every second of it.
We decided to hop in a car and take a drive down to The Hague (Den Haag). I had been there once before, but I never got a chance to see the Coast.
First, driving down was exactly what I needed. One thing I really miss about being at home is the freedom I get when I have my car. Aimlessly driving around is one of my favorite things to do when I’m at home, and it’s a huge part of me that I feel is missing since I’ve been here. It started to come back to me yesterday.
On the way there, the beauty of Holland became quite apparent. The fields of cows and sheep were absolutely beautiful and there were numerous windmills spread out along the way. To compare it to the US, I’d have to say it reminded me a lot of driving through Wisconsin.
Living in a city after growing up in the woods, I’ve really learned to appreciate what I left behind. City life is wonderful, fast-paced, and exciting, but I could never forget about how nature exists at its best.
Standing on the beach as the cold wind whipped my hair around just felt so liberating. I stood for a few seconds with my eyes closed, just breathing deeply. The fresh, sea air made me feel so alive! I forgot that nature does that to you.
I think I prefer going to the beach when it’s cold outside and you have no intention of swimming. Seeing all the wind surfers and kite boarders reminded me of the coast of Oregon; its vast beaches with freezing waters and relentless wind.
Yesterday was exactly what I needed.
The Hague is a little city on the Western coast of The Netherlands. You can see exactly where it is on the map above. From Amsterdam Centraal Station, it took about 30 minutes or so to reach The Hague via train and the cost was about €20. The city seemed like a quieter, more posh looking Amsterdam. It was absolutely beautiful! We even managed to get a few hours of sunlight in the early afternoon. Then, of course, it started to rain quite hard. Typical.
Oh, how very Dutch we are! Cheese is a common snack to have on the side when drinking a glass of beer in the Netherlands. The cheese tasted wonderfully potent.Very good with pepper on it! We tried this at the Brouwerij’t IJ Amsterdam, a brewery attached to a windmill, which is also very typical of the Netherlands. Now all I need are some wooden clogs…