Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Netherlands

One of the best things about traveling to foreign places is how my five senses just seem to go on high alert. Suddenly, I am more aware of my surroundings and my place in it. This time, to be fair, I wasn't venturing into completely unfamiliar territory. The photo above was taken in Utrecht, the Netherlands about two weeks ago. Although it was my first time in this charming city, I've been in the Netherlands before. Someone very special in my life is from this low-lying country, which is famous for its windmills, tulips and cheese.

My first time in the Netherlands didn't count for much of an experience, as I was only in Amsterdam for a weekend. However, over the course of two more visits, I've realized how wonderful this little country really is. What really impresses me about the Netherlands is how environmentally concerned people are. Supermarkets actually charge shoppers for plastic bags. As a result, most people bring their own. The Dutch also have one of the highest recycling rates in the world. Throughout the country, you'll also see windturbines.

Trains and bikes seem to be the most popular mode of transportation. Practically everyone owns a bike. The country is quite flat, so I guess it just makes perfect sense. I also think it's wonderful how all the towns seem to be connected by bike paths ("fietspad" in dutch). The country is said to have thousands of them. Don't get me wrong though, there still is a lot of traffic despite the exorbitant gas prices. Back here in Puerto Rico, as well as the U.S, people are complaining about paying over $1.00/liter (which amounts to around $3.50/gallon). This pales in comparison to what drivers pay in the Netherlands, where prices are nearly double.

Perhaps, one of the highlights of my recent trip was my ability to actually practice my Dutch! Although my knowledge is quite limited, I was able to understand a lot of the street signs, billboards, etc. I was also able to order my food (and ask for the bill) all on my own. Although most Dutch can speak English, out of respect and to the best of my ability, I like being able to communicate with the locals in their own language. Besides, I like languages. Isn't it wonderful when you can express yourself in different ways?

1 comment:

monika said...

that's so exciting how much you've gotten to visit the netherlands! i just found out that ikea is now charging 5 cents for a bag -- which i think is a step in the right direction, sorta. recycling isnt very common in apartment buildings in LA, which i think is sad. and the gas over here is up to $4.50/gal. yikes! i need to get my hands on a bike soon!