mf doddy abdurachman

Traveller's Tales

 

H O L L A N D


The Netherlands, or better known as Holland, is a country of water and wind. Most of its land is under the sea level and the highest point is only 230 mtrs high, therefore The Dutch is the expert when it comes to “taming the water” in order to reclaim the land. The Dutch have a saying: “The God created the world, but the Dutch created Holland”. Holland is also known as the most densely populated country in Europe.
 
 
 
However it is interesting to note that it is heavily urbanized, outside the urban area, the rural area is characterized with endless of open land with windmills scattered around, mainly agricultural land.
 
 
Holland with population of around 17 million people sits on a land of about the size of West Jawa Province of Indonesia. There is no part of Holland, from one end to another is longer than 245 kilometer. However, while it is a small country, The Dutch enjoyed the reputation to be one of the wealthiest country in Europe. Dutch companies, namely The Royal Dutch Shell Petroleum, Philips, ABN-Amro are amongst the world giant conglomerates.
 
 
Its strategic location makes Holland the center of entry to most part of Europe. Rotterdam is known as one of the biggest and busiest port in the world.
 
 
The national language of Holland is Dutch language, however, in Friesland, the northern part, the Friesians people have their own language called Frisian Language with heavy influenced by both old English and Germanic language.
 
Besides big names in history such as: Desiderius Erasmus, Hugo Grotius, Christian Huygens, Baruch Spinoza, The Dutch has a respectable contribution in the art world with their famous world class painters such as: Rembrandt, Vermeer, van Gogh, Frans Hals etc.
 
 
 
 
 
While Holland is poor of natural resources, however the agricultural and industrial in form of finished goods are the Dutch main national revenue. Among other things, Holland is famous for their cheese from Gouda and Edam ……..
 
 
and of course the tulips…….
 
 
After went through various occupations since the Roman empire and lately the Spain, William of Orange with the help of the British managed to drive out the Spaniard from Holland and established The Orange Kingdom.
 
 
In the golden age in the 17th century, The Dutch prospered and through a trading company called VOC (Verenigde Oost-indische Company) The Dutch sailed the world around and colonized almost every corner of the world that grow spices. Indonesia, Suriname, Guyana have become the Dutch “provinces” for hundred of years and until now, The Dutch Antilles and Aruba island are still an integral part of The Netherlands.
 
 
There were two big Dutch trading companies: VOC which deal with trading in the far east, such as Indonesia, Malaysia including South Africa etc and “West Indische Company” which deals with trading in the western hemisphere, such as Americas. The Dutch got Indonesian archipelago from the British, in exchange of Manhattan island USA which occupied by The Dutch in those days. The most famous Governor General of Dutch VOC in Indonesia, of course was Jan Pieters Z. Coen.
 
 
The Dutch is also known as a very tolerant and indeed courtesious people. Greetings amongst the Dutch is kind of ritual. People offer “hartelijk greetings” to each others, even to strangers.
 
 
I have never seen such a tolerant people to foreign aliens like the Dutch. These quality is perhaps that make The Netherlands attractive to many immigrants.
 
There are a sizeable number of Jewish, Moroccans, Turkish and many other of Asian origins live in The Netherlands for years. Perhaps, due to the same Christianity, the Jewish people mixed in the pot, where as those Muslims keep their strong traditions, religion and identity, in tacked.
 
 
While many immigrants flocking to The Netherlands, perhaps there are as many Dutch live abroad, in countries such as: Canada, USA, Australia, South Africa, Latin America etc.
 
 
There are many writings about Holland, however, the author like to present the other side of Holland that may not, hopefully, widely covered yet. When talking about Holland, perhaps there is only one town that represent Holland in a whole:
 
 
AMSTERDAM
 
 
Amsterdam with around 1.8 million inhabitants is the largest city in Holland, located in Noord Holland Province. It is interesting to note that while Den Haag is the center of the Government, however, the official Capital of The Netherlands in fact is Amsterdam, where it has the reputation as the town of: sex and drugs…….
 
 
The land scape of Amsterdam, as most part of Holland is a pretty flat and the scenery is characterized with lakes and canals.
 
 
This town attract tourists from many countries, especially from the neighboring Western European countries. Young and old flock to Amsterdam, the old enjoy the beauty, art and culture, whereas the young seeking for freedom that are not freely available in their home town……
 
 
Wandering around Amsterdam is easy and relatively cheap. Public transports such as trams, metro and busses could reach anywhere in Amsterdam, with a bit of walking distance. The cheapest way in getting around the city is to buy one-week ticket which valid for all mean of transportations, such as tram, metro and bus.
 
 
In order to cover Amsterdam adequately, one has to buy ticket valid for all the 3 zones. Perhaps, the Amsterdam Central Station is the only place where we can find just about any ethnics that exist in the world…..
 
 
Amsterdam has many interesting places and perhaps has more museums than any other town in the world. There are many museums worth visiting, if not a must, namely:
however, museums such as Reijk Museum – Rembrandt Museum – van Gogh Museum - Anne Frank Museum etc.
 
 
The Dam is a must to visit, without visiting The Dam, one never visited Amsterdam. Around The Dam there are many places of interest, such as Wax Museum Madam Tussaud, the biggest Department Store De Bijnkorf, the most famous Kalverstraat and Rembrandt Plein.
 
Centrum or The Oude Amsterdam (Old Amsterdam) is a rather nice area to wander around. Stop in Muntplein, crossing the canal, under the watchful eyes of the Queen Wilhelmina statue and enter the criss-crossing narrow alley, colored with cafes, restaurants and sex-shops to, Nieuwmark, China Town and of course the most famous Zeedijk..…..
 
 
There is a saying: “In order to know a country well enough, when visiting, there are 3 things a must do: visit the museum, hear the traditional music’s and eat the traditional foods”.
 
 
Well, when talking about the traditional foods in Amsterdam, apparently there are more Indonesian restaurants than Dutch Traditional restaurants. It is not surprising if those Indonesian and so called Chinese-Indische restaurants have become kind of “traditional foods” in Amsterdam?
 
De Fiets van Nederland
 
 
The Netherlands, Amsterdam in particular is the city of “fits” (bicycles) and they have become part of The Dutch cultures. There are almost an average of as many as 3 bicycles in every Dutch family.
 
 
Since babies, as soon as they could stand firmly, there is only one thing in the mind of every Dutch parent, that is: to buy their children a tricycles, in order to be prepared to get use to the coming, strong and proud   bicycle traditions.
 
 
Because of the narrow streets, limited and indeed expensive parking, bicycle is the best alternative of healthy, cheap and practical means of transportation.
 
 
It is normal for people going to work with distance of some 10 kilometers with bicycles and of course, in the unpredictable Dutch weather conditions.
 
 
Because bicycle has become unquestionably the integral part of The Dutch traditions, it is logical if there is a specific bicycle-way, whereby bicyclists could stroll along in most streets in The Netherlands. In tourist shops, beside any kind of road maps, there is always bicycle road maps available, for tourists. 
 
 
I have never seen anywhere in the world, of so many types and forms of bicycle such as in The Netherlands. It is a common view to see bicycles are tied and locked in almost every lamp-poles, and bridges one could find, even in the traffic lamp…...
 
 
It is pretty common to find bicycles that tied to bridges left there rusted and we often see only the tires tied and locked in a lamp poles or bridges with out its body…..
 
 
Every year, the local authority make a round-up thousands of supposedly “un-owned” bicycles tied in lamp poles and bridges. Normally an announcement is glued in those places warning the owners of the risk of losing their bicycle, if not taken by so and so date. Those confiscated bicycles are normally sold to traders for export or donated to Churches, which in the end send them to their branch throughout the poor African countries. Losing a bicycle therefore is a day to day affairs, like losing sandals in Indonesian mosque, therefore insuring a bicycle is a rather costly preposition, like insuring an umbrella in London!
 
 
The police together with the local government try to help the bicycle owners to protect their bicycle and come up with a rather typical Dutch solution: by giving a free service to those who want to engrave their name on their bicycle. The team move around the town every Saturday, mainly in the parks, to give such as unique services, perhaps only found in Holland.
 
Driving from Amsterdam down south during the springs is very enjoyable indeed, well, provided that the weathers is in your side. Area between Haarlem and Leiden in particular is the most beautiful and picturesque, characterized with colorful tulips along the way, as far as eyes can see. The best place to see tulips is of course in Keukenhof.
 
 
In Hilegom interesting enough, there is a Ford museum worth visiting and it has the best collections of old Fords and other cars and motorcycles outside USA. Along the way to the south, there are many typical beautiful old Dutch small towns, namely: Heemstede, Noordwijk, Katwijk and Wassenar.
 
 
North-west to Den Haag is an old beach resort Schevenengen, best known for its yearly North See Jazz Festival and also known for the best sea foods and those typical Dutch harrings, kabeljou and others.
 
 
Den Haag is very much an administrative town and also the head quarters of The International Court of Justice and Europol that deals with the so called cross-border policy for the European Union members. The head office The Royal Dutch Shell and others big Dutch companies are located in Den Haag. Den Haag is also the center of transportations of highways, rail-road and canal throughout Holland.
 
 
 
Indonesian Tong Tong
 
 
In this town, every June “The Indonesian Festival” or “Tong-Tong” (Pasar Malam) is held and become the biggest center for those old-timer Indos, Indonesian and Dutch mixed yearly. Anything that sounds, smells and indeed taste Indonesia are available along with cultural performances. Old timer singers such as Anneke Gronlog, Winneke (Tante Lien) and others normally took part and the atmospheres is nothing but a nostalgia of “the good old colonial days……”
 
Because of the unfriendly weather and time constraints, instead of driving through west coast as planned, I decided to drive south to a quiet sleepy beach town Vlissingen.
 
 
From Vlissingen, I drove east passing Goes, Roosendaal to Dordrecht and instead of taking the highways, I drove to Nijmegen through the “dijk”, where on the right is the river and the other side lay endless framings’, lower than the river level. I must say that driving along the dijk through typical Dutch villages, is one of the most beautiful scene in Holland.
 
 
Around Tiel, a nice small town is the biggest producer of Jam/Marmalades and one of the world known brand is of course “Hero”.
 
 
I continued driving up north through Nijmegen, Arnhem and from Apeldoorn drive to east through wooden area around Ermelo to Harderwijk a nice beach town full of life especially in the evening.
 
 
From Harderwijk, I drove back to Amsterdam via Lelystaad. Around Lelystaad there is an outlets factory town Bataviastaad, worth visiting for those who like to do some shopping of cheap branded stuffs. I continue driving south along the dijk to Amsterdam.
 
 
“The Queen Day”
 
Hollanders are very respectful indeed to their Queen and The Queen Birthday is one of the most awaited day in The Netherlands. People from everywhere flocked to the big cities to have fun, as well as to celebrate the unique Queen Day. In that particular day, all hotels in Amsterdam, be it 6 stars or without any star are fully booked since 6 months before.
 
 
It is indeed a unique event of celebrating a Queen birthday, whereby many people bringing their “rommels” or unwanted household-stuffs and put up for sales. They occupied most of the road sides or around the winkel-centers (shopping centers) and sell their unwanted belongings for cheap deals. Canal are packed with decorated boats, disk-jockey with all sorts of music appeared in just about any apartment windows. In most places there are fire-works, singing and dancing throughout the night, until morning (if the weather is cooperative of course). Guy couples showing the real act of love out in public and “Ex Porn Star” feel obliged to celebrate their Queen Birthday. Most public transports, such as buses and trams around the centrums are reroute, well it is a day of funs to Hollanders…
 
 
 
 
De Eilands
 
Texel -   Vlieland - Terschelling – Ameland - Schiermonnikoog
 
There are a strip of five islands in the west part of Fryslan province worth visiting. These islands are typically a low land area that have to be protected from the rather nasty north sea winds and waves, by building and indeed maintaining dijks. It is a continuous works to fight against the nature and as part of life that can be seen from “The Dijk Wacht” statute to remind people how hard life can be in those islands.
 
 
T E X E L
 
I was lucky enough to get hotel accommodations in Texel and Ameland, since during summer, all hotels and any kind of accommodations are fully booked. The islands are flocked by both the Dutch and the neighboring German people. To be able to work in those hotels, anybody must master both Dutch and German languages.
 
 
Texel, the biggest island, with population of about 14,000 people, about 180 sq kilometer is the biggest island with just about anything an island resort should have. It lives on tourism, farming and agriculture can be reached from Den Helder with Ferry that run back and forth from 6 am to 9 pm carrying both passengers and cars. The island has also a small air strip to accommodate kind of Cessna type of plane. Therre are three urban concentration in this island: Den Burg, De Cockdorp and De Waal.
 
V L I E L A N D
 
Vlieland can be reach from Texel or Ameland by a small passenger ferry and cars can only be ferried from a sleepy town Herlingen in the main land, through Terschelling.
 
 
After taking a boat from Ameland, we arrived at a distance shore and have to take a buggy-bus to the places of interests.
 
 
Vlieland island is rather unique whereby it accommodating two conflicting things: a bird sanctuaries and military training target area for both aircraft as well as artillery. While nature and animal loving people appealing for years to stop using the island for the military purposes, for obvious reasons, however, from military point of views, the Dutch military is in a dilemmatic position, whereby it has a very limited places for such purposes.
 
 
However, a complex deals have been reached, involving the timings and indeed area for the military target practices, so that both could coexist peacefully and indeed happily in a little island. There are several small hotels in the island, but people mostly visit Vlieland in the morning and back in the afternoon and it is a heaven for birds watchers……
 
 
 
AMELAND
 
Ameland has population of around 3.500 people and exploded to some 11.000 average tourists daily during the vacation periods.
 
 
 
It is a rather nice peaceful place with nice hotels, cafes, restaurants (even a Chinese restaurant), souvenir shops and a little book shop. There are three main villages in this island, namely: Ballum, Nes and Buren.
 
 
The houses of the locals Amelanders are a typical Dutch house, nice and tidy (spotless) as the saying goes: “While the Dutch clean themselves once a day, but clean their houses twice a day …..”
 
When visiting Terrschelling, it was raining with winds for the whole days, therefore I could not get anything from this island. Sadly, I could not visit Schiermonnikoog because there is no any kind of accommodations available that I could find…… so next time.
 
To be continued………..


 
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