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Friday, February 11, 2011

Travelogue: Netherlands: Holland

When: I traveled to Netherlands in December 2005 for 15 days.

General: Den Haag is the official capital of Netherlands. Netherlands and Holland are same. Den Haag is also known as The Hague. Amsterdam is the working capital of Netherlands. The Queen’s residence is in Den Haag. Den Haag and Amsterdam are very opposite to each other in culture. Den Haag is quite conservative carrying the old traditional values of Netherlands, while Amsterdam is a very famous tourist place for most of the advanced countries. Amsterdam is very crowded, not too safe in respect of pick pocketing etc. But at both places life is active day and night. Den Haag has the world’s largest casino in Rotterdam – “The Holland Casino”, Queen’s Palace, and a superb beach (all near to each other). You don’t require separate visa for any other European countries to travel as a visitor if you have the visa for any one of these countries. Medical insurance is a must to get the visa. Population wise Netherlands is not too overly populated except Amsterdam since there are lot of tourists at all times in Amsterdam. It was 0-5 degrees during the period I stayed there. The International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court are situated in The Hague. Moroccans are a big threat to the peaceful life of Netherlands.

Amsterdam Airport: This airport sleeps during 1am to 4am and nothing officially happens here except the early morning travelers get in and sit to wait for the counters to open up for check-in etc. check-in facility is available through automated machines where you login with your ticket and passport details and get your seat number. I delayed my departure by one day and hence I had to pay around 80 Euros as penalty for changing my departure date. I was over with my Euros and hence paid in Dollars without any hassles.

Trams: Trams is the local source of transportation in Netherlands. The trams running in Den Haag will not be crossing Den Haag and trams running in Amsterdam will be specific to Amsterdam only. For 6 and half euros you get 15 tickets in one strip, (n+1) tickets are required to be punched to cross n zones. Like if you are crossing 4 zones you have to punch the 5th ticket in the strip. Nobody is there to check if you are traveling free without punching your strips or buying the specific ticket from your tram driver. If you are not carrying a strip, you can buy your ticket for that specific journey from your tram driver. No extra person is there to sell tickets, the driver of the tram does it very efficiently, and this is because most of the people are already carrying monthly pass, weekly pass, weekend pass or the strips. Hardly 10-15% of the travelers will be requiring buying ticket from the driver. The strips and passes are easily available at most of the hotels, trams, specific ample number of outlets.

Fast Trains: Fast trains connect different cities of Netherlands and Netherlands with Germany, London, France, Belgium some other European countries. A comfortable night journey will enable you to reach any of these locations. From Den Haag to Amsterdam it is half an hour journey. For most of these other countries destinations trains start from Amsterdam. So if you are in Den Haag, you will have to travel to Amsterdam first. Every half an hour you get train from Den Haag to Amsterdam and vice versa. The tickets are available at the station through automatic machines, you check the chart, drop in the money and specify the ticket amount you want for. For outsiders who feel insecure to drop in the money in the automatic machines or fear for lack of understanding of technology, there are manual counters where you get your ticket but then you have to spare 1 Euro extra for availing manual service. The trains are having 2 floors, you can choose wherever you feel comfortable. There are two classes in the train, 1st class and 2nd class. Rates for 1st class are almost double. Even the 2nd class is a luxurious one. All compartments are connected to each other through glass doors. There is a checking in the trains occasionally. Tickets are quite reasonably priced. Den Haag to Amsterdam it is around 7 Euros and for London you will have to spend around 18 Euros. People: People (especially in Den Haag) are friendly in nature (unlike Germans), they will love to help you in case you loose direction or want to know anything about Netherlands. They are helpful up to the extent that they will explain you again if you have not understood a route etc.

Traffic sense: Being less populated, very less roads are having 3 lanes, most of them have 1 lane or 2 lanes and still there are no traffic jams, no lack of discipline, and highly fluent traffic flow. No body breaks traffic signals, pedestrians use only zebra crossings to cross the roads.

Living Style: People are serious in earning money and enjoying life. They spend money very sensibly. Usually they would love to go to hotel for dinner on weekends, but locales having a good standard of living do not spend money in casinos or overbuying. They buy only those items and that quantity only that is essential. Most of the people of any age are health conscious, and that they take care while eating, drinking, smoking etc. Cycling in this country is famous in the whole world. This is one the countries where they have separate lane for cyclists, since many young and old people prefer cycling to keep them fit. Temperature being low in this country, you will find people jogging, running, exercising on the roadsides. The day starts quite early with people taking lunch at 1pm and dinner around 7pm. After 9pm most of the eating outlets will be closed. Usually people will take a glass of wine or beer along with the dinner. A Beer Can will cost 1.25 Euros, a wine 1.50 Euros and water bottle 0.66 Euros.

Cleanliness: The country, airport, trams, trains, buses, people, houses and hotels are clean up to the extent that we can not think of in our country.

Amsterdam night life: Amsterdam is very famous for its night life and most of the tourists come to this country for two reasons mainly – to enjoy night life and to play Casino. Prostitution is a profession and is legally allowed here and the prostitutes are tax payers here. The pole dance, the night shows, the read light areas are very famous here. There is an official night trip for tourists. The red light hanging on a window is a sign of house of a prostitute.

Internet: For 17 Euros per day (specifically if I take it for one day, it will be for 26 hours 12 noon to next day 2 pm), I got high speed internet in my hotel room.

Coffee Shop: Don’t mistake it with a normal coffee shop, rather these are the places where you officially get drugs up to a limited quantity if you are 18 or above. You can sit here and consume the drugs.