A Travellerspoint blog

Busy Little Bee

Sinterklaas, Rotterdam, and My First Hostel Experience

rain 5 °C

Saturday the 13th Sinterklaas came to visit! Sinterklaas is the Dutch version of Santa Claus.

The story of Sinterklaas is weird and creepy, but the kids here go ape shit for him. He looks like the love child of Santa Claus and the Pope. SInterklaas rides in on a boat from Spain every year about 3 weeks before his birthday which is December 5th and rides back to Spain on December 6th after all of his birthday celebrations are over. Sinterklaas brings with him all of his Zwarte Peits. Zwarte Piets are the Dutch version of elves. Except for the fact that they are all painted black. The Zwarte Peits were children who were naughty that Sinterklass kidnapped and took with him to Spain to work as his slaves. They are painted black because they got soot all over them when they went down the chimneys to deliver presents in the good childrens' shoes.

012.jpg

(You can see Sinterklaas coming in on the boat)

So, we have a creepy old guy who leaves candy for the children and steals them and makes them slaves if they are bad. Then he comes all the way from spain to the Netherlands once a year for three weeks to celebrate his birthday with the soot covered kidnapped children that he now calls zwarte peit. alrighty then.

Moving on....

This weekend I went to Rotterdam with a fellow Au Pair. The experience started off well. We made to the train on time, foudn seats and had a relaxing 30 minute ride from Den Haag Central Station. Well.... As soon as we got off the train that changed. Those of you who know me know that I have a terrible sense of direction. It just doesn't exist for me. So, in order to keep from getting lost I looked up directions before we left. The directions said take Tram 7. So we hopped on Tram 7. In the wrong direction. By the time I figured it out we were at the very top of Rotterdam and we suppose to be at the bottom. Oops. So just like Captain Ron we pulled on some wares and asked for directions! So we got off the tram and hopped on the Metro then hopped off the Metro and hopped on a different Metro then hopped off again. Got that all? Then we started walking. And walking. Then turned around and walked some more. Finally we passed a giant map of Rotterdam and found our street. When we got to it, it was the one we started at. :( And there was. Hostel ROOM Rotterdam. In all of its glory. ( http://www.roomrotterdam.nl/ )

The second we walked in we got the very potent smell of pot the first of which I actually had smelled since I arrived here. We wondered to the front desk and got our keys and head up to our room.

005.jpg

After we put our things on our bunks and made our beds we headed back down stairs to the bar. We ordered a couple Jupilers and sat down with some of the other people staying. One of the locals who worked at the Hostel was sitting with us and told us about a Mediterranean Restaurant name Nazar that was amazing. So, we finished our beers and headed there.

011.jpg

We ordered feta and mint rolls that were melty and delish! I ordered chicken skewers and Laura ordered Salmon. Everything was so good!!

We then went back to the Hostel to see what else what going on that evening in Rotterdam. After sitting with a couple from Canada for about an hour we headed out in search for a pub. The first four we walked in we ended up turning around and walking right back out. We finally found a good one back down by Nazar and we sat and enjoyed a dark lager and bad 80's music.

On Sunday morning when we got up we quickly got dressed and head down to catch some breakfast before they cleaned it up. It was there that I ate the best thing ever. NUTELLA!

Then we grabbed our bags, checked out and headed into the great city of Rotterdam.

We walked all the way back across town to the central station so that we could ride bikes and after circling the building ten times we finally found it. And it was closed. So we grabbed our handy dandy map and started walking. And we came across some pretty cool stuff.

023.jpg

The Town Hall

3033.jpg

A weird sculpture guy

034.jpg

The cool cube houses near the Erasmus Bridge

039.jpg

A beautiful view from a pub behind the cube houses. You can see the Erasmus Bridge and the Witte Huis.

After our day of exploring we finally went back to Central Station to catch a train home. Sounds easy right? Nope. Apparently in the cold Europe winters there are lots of "jumpers" These "jumpers" are people who jump out in front of trains. So all the trains were delayed at least an hour, which wouldn't have been a problem if we could understand a word of the Dutch announcements they were mking. So we finally latched on to someone who spoke Dutch and English and followed them around as they continuously changed around our boarding gates.

But, alas, we finally made it home and we have some pretty crazy stories out of just a day in Rotterdam. Rotterdam doesn't compare to the beauty of Den Haag in the slightest, but it was still a great trip and wonderful memories. And I have to say I really enjoyed my first Hostel experience which is a good thing because I have many more in my future!

Posted by Michele530 10:27 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

Lekker!

Nom. Nom. Nom.

storm 1 °C

So, California may have happy cows and Wisconsin may be the Cheese Heads, but Holland kicks the US in the butt with dairy products. I don't think I have drank so much milk, eaten so much cheese or, devoured so much yogurt in my life! It is so good here!

That said.... Lekker is one of the Dutch peoples' favorite words. You hear them yelling it in Cafes, eating from street venders, or even when eating at people's homes. Lekker means Good! Delicious! Love it! and it is a high compliment to receive a "Lekker.

Today there is a huge storm. It is about 6 degrees Celsius, plus its pouring and the wind is howling at 45 km/ hr (the weather forecast says with the windchill factor it is comparable to 1 degree Celsius which is about 33 degrees F) and there are still people out on the streets. Riding bikes. I'm pretty sure there are either crazy or have a built in heater that I didn't inherit when I moved here.

Moving on....

Yesterday I was in Albert Heijn, the "grocery store" here and I heard the person who was ringing me up say to another worker as they passed by "Hola." The person replied "Hola. Como estas?" and so on and so forth ( in terrible Dutch accents of course). And for some reason this cracked me up. I thought I for sure wasn't going to hear Spanish or Spanglish for a year, but low and behold I heard it in my first week here. It was pretty awesome.

-Doie!

Posted by Michele530 04:45 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

Irony

sunny 6 °C

Oh the irony of the Dutch. They are terrified of losing their culture but...

1. They teach English and German in addition to Dutch in their schools.
2. They emulate America in SOOOOO many ways
3. They hire Au Pairs/ Nannies from all over the world so that they can teach their kids English/ Chinese/ etc.
4. They don't really have dutch food anymore- its all Greek, Mediterranean, Indonesian, Indian, a terrible version of mexican food, or fries.

But...

I still love it here because of:

1. Cute itsy bitsy cars
2. Boys in tight pants
3. The gorgeous scenery
4. The fact that I get to buy cute boots and jackets and actually use them
5. Lots of coffee!

Tot Zeins

PS. The Dutch seem to think I'm Dutch until they start talking to me and I try to reply with one of the 5 phrases I know. Then they look at me and say "Silly American" and start talking to me in English. Should I be offended or relieved?

Posted by Michele530 12:10 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

All Things Dutch...

And some not so Dutch....

rain 9 °C

1. Windows. This country is made of windows. And the windows aren't just windows. They are a display for the rest of the neighborhood to see. The Dutch are very big on blending in and not sticking out. They don't want people to know they have money and will always bargain so that they don't have to give people their secret money. Therefore they have these huge open windows so people can see how plain they keep their windows and don't think that they have money inside. Weirdos.

2. Boots. While boots are huge in the fashion scene right now (I happen to have bought two pairs before I left the States) they are mostly just show in a lot of places. Not here. Don't even think about bringing tennis shoes with you to the Netherlands in the fall and winter months. The only thing you will get out of your favorite pair of converse is a puddle inside of your shoe instead of out. (They also get you dirty looks that say "Stupid American.") So, if you want dry feet and warm legs opt for buying a pair of boots before heading to this side of town.

3. Men in short shorts or tight pants. Yummy. I just love seeing men with itsy bitsy clothes on. This isn't football pants itsy bitsy-- this is I'm going jogging in the freezing cold in practically a speedo.

3. Ja and Nee. Beside the constant DAG! DAG! DAG! that you hear down the street as people say goodbye, you also here Ja (pronounced ya) and nee (pronounced nay). Nee way!!! oh Nee! Ja, ik wil een spa blauw, alstublieft. It's everywhere!!

4. It's a tall country. Everything about this country is tall. The country itself is tall and skinny. The men are tall and skinny. The streets and parking spaces are just skinny. The buildings are tall and skinny. The hallways, doorways, closets, and cabinets are tall and skinny. Oi.

5. People are bigger than their cars. I have seen countless people fold themselves into their cars. And then they unfold inside and take up almost every single inch. There are some cars here that are smaller than the smart car! What are these people thinking you may ask? Well the size of our parking spots and lanes in America are HUGE!!!! compared to theirs. It's ridic.

6. Coffee to go? I don't think so! They simply don't believe in coffee to go. If you order coffee then by god you better order a scone or kaas croissant to go with it. And then you better sit your butt down for the next half hour and pretend you're busy.

7. Bikes are the way of life. And people don't just ride their bikes here. They bring a whole new meaning to multi-tasking. They read while they ride their bikes, talk on the cell, eat, etc. etc. etc. Plus its usually raining at the same time! I'm sure if we asked a dutch person, they could knit us a hat while they road their bikes in the rain while eating patat frites and talking on the phone. Is their anything these people can't do while riding a bike??

Goede Middag,

Michelle

Posted by Michele530 08:25 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

I can now transport

Learning the ways of the Dutch transportation system

storm 7 °C

Today was a busy day! I woke up nice and early (after a night of wrestling with sleep) and made a Koffiemelk, or Coffee with cream, some warm oatmeal, and a piece of toast. After eating breakfast and nearly burning the house down with my straightener (which caught on fire while straightening my hair ahh!) I headed out with the family to learn how to use public transportation. After trying out the bus and learning about the chip/pinnen cards that you beep on your way in and out and maneuvering a stoller up and down steps we finally made it to the city centre, Centraal Station. In the Centraal Station is the main bus and tram hub which leads you to the Gemeetre (Hkem- eet-raw) which is their City Hall. It is a huge white building that is full of windows! On the other side of the Gemeetre is a huge outdoor mall like area with tons of shops and cafe (of the coffee sort). Then past that is the Binnenhof which is the Parliament. On the journey I also saw the U.S. Embassy (it looks kind of like a jail with bars in the windows.odd.) And throughout this whole journey there was a steady drizzle.

I have learned three things today:

1. When coming to Europe get a heavy duty umbrella. the cute polka dot ones from Target just don't cut it. Betweem the constant drizzle and the fierce wind, nature kicks umbrella ass.

2. Don't bring your curling iron, straightener, or blow dryer to Europe. They are useless. The voltage is different, not only the plugs. Therefore, plug in blow dryer= set house on fire. Not a good way to introduce yourself.

3. There is no such thing as enough layers. Today I wore a spaghetti strap under a long sleeve under a short sleeve under my trench coat under a scarf under a hat. Plus I had on pants, calf high socks and knee high boots and the only time I was warm was sitting on the bus for the 10 minute ride. Brrrrrrrr!!!!!!

I also was able to get a sim card for a phone here so I can get in connection with people. The family here is setting me up on a "play date" with another American Aupair who got here a few weeks ago so we can explore the city together.

Goede Nacht,

M.

P.S. I'm whining like a baby now at 7 celsius. Next week is suppose to be between 3 and 4 celsius which is about 37 to 39 fahrenheit. Then factor in the windchill. I may freeze to death.

Posted by Michele530 14:11 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

(Entries 26 - 30 of 33) « Page 1 2 3 4 5 [6] 7 »