The Netherlands : A place with more bicycles than people

A Land where there are more Bicycles than People


Seems like everytime I visit the Netherlands I become more and more into their Bicycle Urbanism. I just can’t get enough of their bicycles! It is so enormous in volume, it is everywhere! I get off from the train and arrived in the Station and see a parking lot full of bikes. I thought I’ve already seen it before and it’s no surprise anymore but then I still found it unbelievable. Different kinds of bicycles, old and new, modern, E-bikes and so on and so forth it’s all there. The sight of bikes is as normal as the sight of beautiful Tulips colors in Spring! I say to myself- Only in the Netherlands ! The country with more Bicycles than people.

Bikes parked along the canals of Utrecht, Netherlands

So I am inspired to write once again about Dutch and their bikes because I think this information is inspiring, as well as informative especially for people who lived in traffic prone places ( like I was before!) . I know it also depends where you are in the world but we can learn something about Dutch people and the way they cycle through all cycles of life through their bikes. Netherlands is so flat compared to Germany so going to places is shorter but can also be very windy. I know how hard it is to cycle when you have strong winds ahead of you, it’s not enjoyable and I hated it always. Also, nobody enjoys cycling in the rain, or when the roads are icy and frozen. So I am asking myself why do Dutch people love cycling?

The Netherlands : a beautiful place with colorful Tulips, canals and BICYCLES!

Cycling as an alternative and healthiest way of transport is the most practical solution of getting from A to B. They say that when you cycle for an average of 30 minutes then it increases your life expectancy. And for Expats who lived in the Netherlands and also here in Germany, I am sure this is one of the culture shock that we all can relate. Once I came here, we bought a bike! Anyway, I have been seeing my Stats and I noticed that I have viewers from different parts of the globe and I think that for someone who have never been to Amsterdam or in the Netherlands in general, they don’t really have an idea how big is the Dutch cycling lifestyle . It is really not just a trend or a tourist attraction to see–it’s a culture, it’s their life.

The average Dutch person cycles around 1,000 km annually and only in the Netherlands that there are more bicycles than people! And—did you know that Dutch old people still cycle even they are 80!

Super chic Dutch Bakfiets

With a country of 17.1 million people, there are 23 Million bikes! Imagine that!Meaning an average Dutch has 1.3 bikes, 2 or more! I saw it by my own eyes in my numerous visits in Holland. Bicycles or Fiets is staple as bread (or Brood) in every household and oftentimes they cycle to buy bread! Both young and old ride their bikes, going to school and to work. Every.single. Day! 32% of journeys for example in Amsterdam is by bike alone.

Utrecht Bike Lot is now OPEN : Biggest Bike park Station in the World

Compared to USA with 325 Million people, they have 70 Million bikes. I think everyone owns a bike than everyone owns a car. Last Easter we visited Utrecht and I discovered something more, it seems like that the number of bicycles is much even more than I could remember from what I’ve seen along the canals of Amsterdam and the bike parking lot in Museumplein. 40% of the visitors going to Utrecht are coming by bike so the largest Bike parking lot is found in this city. The 17,100 SQ/m parking space under the Utrecht Central Station can take up up to 12,500 BIKES! Imagine that!

My daughter trying to ride a bicycle we found parked in a light post

If they love to cycle then they need to build cycling paths for sure.There are 35,000km of bike paths only dedicated for cycling in the Netherlands. Most of the inner cities are car-free and there are endless places to go without the need of a car. Bicycle streets is very common standard in many Dutch cities but Utrecht is on top with 6km and plans for more.Bicycle Urbanism is the trend in Lowlands and I can really see why it’s bent to last.
What’s so fascinating is that they even created a pop-up parking concept for bikes and they have installed the Flo – a speed detection system coupled with digital kiosks that read each cyclist’s speed and help them speed up or slow down in order to catch the next light. It is a more complicated system than the simpler ones in place in Copenhagen .

What’s with the flowers and utility baskets in the bikes in Holland?
Without Helmets , the Netherlands is the safest place in the world to cycle!

Another important thing, as a parent, I can totally appreciate the unique love affair of Dutch with their bicycles and incorporating cycling to their kids at a very young age. For the past 2.5 years that I am now living here in Germany, and married to a Dutchman, I am cycling almost everyday and it’s one of my preferred practical means of transport, especially if I want to get on with everyday routines . I love the freedom, the peace and security I feel when I ride my bike but not on rush hours! Long distance cycling is not for me but here they have E-bikes as well but I appreciate everyday circulation and exercise I get from it. The fresh air that I breathe while riding my bike can be a stress-reliever and at the same time enjoying the surroundings while cycling is so nice. It’s one of the things I called “simplest form of luxury“. I often cycle going to work, getting basic groceries and bring my child to the Kindergarten and yes, I cycle even in Winter ! It’s very common here as well for Kindergarten children ( as young as 2!) to use Lauf Fahrrad (or walking bike) and cycle to their school accompanied by parents. We never had this in Philippines and certainly not in Kuwait so this new culture is something for you to really personally experienced for you to appreciate. It is not just a trend. It’s a way of life.

Bike capital of the World!

On the other side, here in Germany, we use much of the “Anhänger“. Of course, Germans always have the best technology for everything! It’s a compact carriage tagged along in a bike so you can cycle with your toddler everywhere you go. My daughter loves it and its very common here. I think most of families with little children have it. Complete with straps, seat belts and children always wear helmet as much as adults. But not so in the Netherlands.They transport their babies and toddlers in a box-type carriage attached to a bike called “Bakfiets” together with a bag of groceries withe other things as well. It’s what they called “super-utility box “!
In Germany, even if you don’t do cycling professionally, or you’re not into Sport, people wear Lycra and cycling gears, which is a total NO-NO in Holland. Dutch people cycle in normal and work clothes. What is amazing that the women can cycle so classy on skirt while riding a bike!

Bikes parked in Train Station

I lived 200 meters from a nearby school and I observed that young people ( Realschule and up to Gymnasium) also ride their bikes going to school, but most of them are being dropped off by a car every single day or taking the bus.

Should I cycle or should I play?


It is well known that Dutch children are the happiest in the world. I believe cycling is a part of the development of inner security that they feel as a kid. Cycling allows them to reach destinations safely and gives them the feeling of freedom, and achievement.

Parallel motion –Bikes, houses, shops, bars and people

The Dutch train their children at a young age to ride so they can confidently ride in the roads when they are around 12 years of age, just before they start secondary school . Only if they pass their traffic exam are they awarded their Verkeersdiploma (traffic certificate). This training is necessary as 75% of secondary school students cycle to school, rising to 84% riding for those living within 5 km of school. Even for distances of 16 km (9.9 mi) or over, some 8% of secondary school children cycle in each direction to school, though this is mainly in rural areas where the closest secondary schools can be a fair distance away.Some 49% of primary school children ride to school, but distances are shorter and adults often accompany the younger ones .

People cycle like crazy without helmet and children sits in front of the bike without the child seat like we have here. Do you know why it so normal? Street accidents are unheard of. In the Netherlands,the traffic rules are so bike-friendly so safety is not an issue. I have seen it by my eyes, children pedals from school to home but bikes being stolen are another issue.

What about you, what is your opinion about cycling? Do you hold back on riding a bicycle?

If you happen to visit Holland, try to observe and capture people cycling with umbrella and especially on bicycle rush hours, it’s really a sight!

How about you, what is your view of cycling? What do you like about riding a bike?

Some interesting read can be found Here and Here.

If you want to know how others feel about when they are cycling then read on from Here.It’s really good.

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One fine day in Utrecht

Livin’the Dutch Life

Last Easter we had the chance once again to visit the Netherlands !It’s been two years in a row now that we’ve spent our Easter break in our second home in Europe, the bike capital of the world, the place where Tulips are goddess of beauty and pancakes are eaten for dinner! See, I always look forward going to Holland in Springtime for so many reasons. One, I’m still over the moon by the colors of Spring which I can only see in the Netherlands. Last year we have visited the Keukenhof in Lisse and I must say it again that it is really the most beautiful Spring garden in the world! If you won’t agree with me then you must see it by your own eyes to believe. Actually, we went to Holland right after we visited Berlin which is just 4 hours away by train on a direct Intercity train. I am glad that we made the right choice for this place because it turned out to be an amazing place add to the fact that we are having a wonderful spring weather in the spring capital of Europe!

Looking down on Manholes in Utrecht, Netherlands

We arrived in Utrecht at around 11 a.m . First thing I did was to look down for some manholes to ponder. I didn’t see much but I found some. Most of the shops are already open from 10 a.m on Maundy Thursday. Utrecht is the 4th largest city in the Netherlands, located 50 km southeast of Amsterdam and only takes about half an hour by train. Netherlands has a great train network so Utrecht is easily accessible from Schiphol central station. Trains runs very frequently so the ride is really quick.What I find unique in the Netherlands is their scanning gate system in the train station which is really impressive and have better control of the passengers.

One fine day in Utrecht, Netherlands
Dutch gable houses: Every angle is different wherever you look

Feels like Amsterdam

For me, Utrecht is a mini version of Amsterdam, less chaotic, trendy but less crazy, but can also be full of frantic crowds, and also very touristy. It’s a great family get-away because it has everything for young and old. The crowds can be so diversed and multi-cultural. Along the canal areas I saw rows of coffee shops and you know that they don’t sell the ordinary Cappucino or Latte! Looking very “Dutch” is Oudegracht’s full of “Fiets” or bicycles. Only in Holland you can see this bicycle fever (ever!). Netherlands is really the country of bicycles. In Germany, people also cycle a lot but I’ve never seen the same amount of bicycles than in Holland! Of course, with the unique “Gezellig ” flair of the two major canals that runs through the city center, the Oudegracht and Nieuwegracht, a daytrip in Utrecht is a great escape from big cities like Amsterdam or Rotterdam. It’s Easter break so the whole canal area was full of people, relaxing,chilling, and basking in the sun.There was so much activity going on around. Never a dull moment and time really flies so fast. But be warned though, if you’ve never been to the Netherlands,brave yourself when cycling and watch out for other cyclists! Aside from the fact that the roads are smaller, most streets in the city center is one-way.

Traditional Dutch gable houses along the canals of Utrecht


Canals of Utrecht

I am really looking forward to spend time exploring the canals of Utrecht. While walking, I was taken back to the time when we are in Amsterdam’s Prinsengracht and the Red light District areas. With the long rows of cafes, shops, boutiques and restaurants along the canals, visitors can have a nice walk. Time flies so fast and it’s really cozy strolling around. This is a feature that is unique for the city of Utrecht. Utrecht is a small city and compact so exploring it doesn’t take that long and walking is the best way to explore it so make sure that you wear comfortable shoes. But because we had a toddler with us, we took our time going with her phase. I just realized that my daughter walked as much as we did even from our days in Berlin. The stone boulders and poles became her jump poles and playground. My daughter was fascinated by the ducks along the canal banks and she wanted to feed them with coins!

Utrecht, Netherlands
Bikes and even more bikes
Oudegracht on a fine Spring sunny afternoon

It is never boring to walk along Oudegracht with rows of houses because everywhere I look is so pretty! I took so many photos because every angle is just different, and as usual, they are never aligned!

Wandering along the canals of Utrecht

Domtoren ( or Dom Tower)

As soon as we exited the mall, ( I totally forgot its name..) which was adjacent to the the Utrecht central station we follow the crowds leading further to the canal area which directly led as to the iconic Domtoren (or Dom Tower).Built of design by John of Hainaut and is the tallest church tower (112.5 meters) in the Netherlands. It was completed in 1382 and the tallest belfry in the country. I’ve heard about this church before but seeing it for real is really great.The exterior of the church tower is heavily renovated from the time of our visit but still on operations so its still accessible for visitors. I’ve heard that renovations are expected to be completed by 2022.

Domkerk, Utrecht’s landmark

The Tower contains 14 bells that weigh 32 tons and what makes it unique is that its still rung by a group of dedicated ringers or the Utrecht Klokkenluiders Gilde. There are two chapels in the tower; the Egmond chapel and the St. Michael’s chapel. Take note that you can only visit the Dom on a one hour tour. If you are in a hurry, you can still enjoy its exterior facade.

Eye- catching statues in Utrecht
Lush labyrinth garden in Domkerk

Website : http://www.domkerk.nl/

Welcome to Miffy Museum !

Nijntje Museum ( or Miffy Museum) and Centraal Museum

Actually, the main reasons why we visited Utrecht is to see the Nijntje Museum ( or Miffy Museum) .I’ve been longing to see this museum for a long time because of my four year old daughter.She had a blast in Berlin in the Legoland Discovery Center, going crazy over lego and the indoor playground, but inside Miffy Museum she had a total world of fun and interactive learning. Miffy Museum is the pride of the Netherlands in memory of its creator Dick Bruna. Seeing the museum, I can say that this place is definitely true to his words–” I create a world that children fill with their own imagination”. For once, I think the Netherlands has the most wonderful museum for young children and adults.

Adjacent to Miffy Museum is the Centraal Museum which houses the great works of local artists such as Joachim Wtewael and Gerard Van Honthorst. Another interesting feature is the “Utrecht ship” located in the cellar of the museum.It’s located in front of Miffy museum. There was a cozy Cafe in the corner of the Museum which you can enjoy a quick bite and enjoy the beautiful gardens.The souvenir shop can be found in the main entrance of the Museum.

Website : https://nijntjemuseum.nl

St. Martin’s Cathedral (Domkerk)

We walked a bit further and we discovered the beautiful Labyrinth gardens in St.Martin’s Cathedral (Domkerk) .St.Martin’s cathedral is the main cathedral in Utrecht and once connected to the Dom Tower but due to the collapse of its nave from the Tornado in 1674, the two building have been separated.This church was once the largest church in the Netherlands.What remains of the interior is still of high quality and extremely ornate with many vaulted arches and colorful stained glass windows. This is the lone church in the Netherlands that has a close resemblance to the style of the Gothic architecture.The building has a sole 367 ft tower named Dom tower which is Utrecht’s landmark. I was rather surprised to see the serene green surroundings inside the square of the cathedral. It has a fountain in the middle and the naves creates a remarkable shadow from the afternoon sun that creates a very relaxing atmosphere. Unlike the other Dom that we’ve visited, the garden has no graves, only a Labyrinth that my daughter loves.

Nice wall art found in the streets of Utrecht

As we are getting tired from walking around 2 o’clock afternoon, we decided to look for a place to sit down and have a drink. We followed the train back to the canal areas and wander through the narrow streets. The crowds are still on frenzy and there were now street musicians playing along the canals. Super ” Gezellig “!

I don’t know its name but it looks yummy!

Grabbing an ice cream, we sat by the benches facing the canal and just enjoyed the view, languishing on the coziness of Dutch life. People of different skin enjoying every single moment of leisure and I know, I am not the only one who became a storyteller after visiting this wonderful little city in the Netherlands.

Indeed, it was one fine day in Utrecht.

National “Romantic” Tulip Day!

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Tulip picking !

Are you prepared to gather your own  FREE Tulips?

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Tulips in bloom in Keukenhof Gardens, Spring 2017

Is it Spring already? Nope, its still freezing over here in Germany, as it is still winter here in Europe, but in the Netherlands, you can catch an early glimpse of Spring! As a yearly tradition in Amsterdam, once again this year, the TULPENDAG or the National Tulip Day is set! What makes this super exciting and colorful? You can gather your own Tulips, as much as you can, and yes—all for FREE!

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Memories from Keukenhof Gardens, Spring 2017

In lieu of this year’s theme “Romance“, Tulips are such in tune with any romantic occasion. I ,myself love Tulips no matter what the occasion is. Most especially when it is given to me as a gift. Just last week, I got a bunch of Tulips and when I put it in the vase, I can’t help myself comparing the bulbs from the gorgeous Tulips I have seen back in Holland. They are totally in different genes !!

Tulips are such a nice token to give to someone you love.It has a universal symbolism of purity, love and beauty.Though it can be super expensive in other countries, in Holland, tulips has its own pride.

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On January 20, the Dam Square will once again be filled with over 200, 000 Dutch tulips ! On this day, Tulip growers will wow the world once again by creating a temporary Garden right in the touristic Dam square. From 13.00 to 16:30, so if you are in Amsterdam or you have a chance to visit this beautiful city ( like I did!), then grab everyone along with you to see this event!

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Photos are from my last year’s visit to Keukenhof Gardens in Lisse, in Holland!

What about you? What is your favorite flower?

Have you ever heard of a Tulip Movie? I found it very interesting and if you love Tulips, then this is something for you to learn more about the pride of Holland.

Enjoy watching!

Pedestrian with a view

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Flower mania Pedestrian traffic!

When there’s the bulbs, there’s traffic.

It’s probably bicycles and Tulips which are obviously  one of the great statistics coming from the Netherlands, not to mention the Great Dutch masters and painters. But when it comes to Flower-mania, the pedestrian crowd in the Keukenhof gardens is something that I really find fascinating.Look, my photos maybe didn’t do justice but these photos says it all.

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Taking it all in because of the killer views above the windmill.

Few weeks ago, as a jump-start for Autumn, thousands of tulips bulbs were once again prepared for planting  in the Keukenhof gardens in Lisse, The Netherlands for the preparation for the Spring  Garden season opening in March 2018. Looking back from our last visit last Spring, these was my pedestrian experience when we are in this place, add the fact that it was also an Easter holiday! Tulips are as common as Biergartens here in Germany. It flocks everywhere, in gardens, balconies, along the road, and even on the wild outskirts.

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A bad weather is not an obstacle to admire the flowers.

But the most extravagant au-naturelle display of the tulips grandeur is along the side of the road, where flower enthusiasts and botanical addicts just like me, likes to wander and linger, for free. I’m telling you, the crowds are huge, the traffic is crazy. More than the crazy crowds I’ve seen during grand sale in Avenues in my life in Kuwait. People are in constant motion. Photographs are endless!

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Pedestrian lane with a view.

Wherever you go in the neighborhood in Lisse in the Netherlands, you are always guaranteed with a view. Tourists and locals, are rewarded with a scenic view of the tulip fields, acres and acres of flower fields, blooming like a rainbow plastered on the ground, which gives endless panoramic vistas even to passers- by or in-transit passengers.

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Pedestrian lane with a view

Pedestrian lanes in the Netherlands has a signature of this. You can’t take your eyes off from the beauty of nature in front of you. Seriously, whether you are driving, cycling or walking, it really doesn’t matter.

It is a journey always guaranteed to be pleasant and any pedestrian is rewarded with a view !

How about you, Do you like crowds?

This post is inspired by this week’s Photo Challenge : Pedestrian

Reflections from the lowlands

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 De Grote Kerk and the Georgiuskerk amongst the greens reflecting in the pond 

From our recent trip to the Netherlands last Easter, I snapped  once again some photos where mirror-like reflections of nature was so captivating and irresistible to ignore.This is one of my favorite subject to photograph in Holland, its water reflections. Be it from a small pond, dike, lake or in canals, the waters are ever-so-clear! As we walked through the woods, I found this little paradise, just in the outskirts of the old town.This is the thing about Holland, be it after the rain or not, beautiful water reflections of nature are just a normal thing. The waters are so clear that the images of trees, city landmarks, and the sky makes a great portrait!

The world seen upside down; but still so beautiful — or maybe even more beautiful!

The first known mirror in the world was perhaps a very clear and still water surface. There is an old Greek mythology about a beautiful boy, Narcis, who saw his reflection in the water and fell in love with himself. So deep was his love, that he didn’t want to do anything but watch his own reflection, and he did it until he died of lust. I don’t know if the water mirror really is that dangerous, but I’ve fallen in love with Amsterdam reflections especially the reflections of the gable houses along the canals. During sunny days, the houses are reflected in the canal water or in the windows of houses on the opposite side. In parks, the image of trees on the water surface looks like a Van Gogh painting.

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Reflections from the Netherlands

Still-life or not, this beats any type of painting. The waters are crystal clear that minute details are clearly seen upside down.

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Though the weather is not that perfect, but still with enough light considering  I am only using my iPhone, I am still impressed by the images that I captured. This simple demonstration of beauty of nature needs no filter and no explanations. It is just perfect.

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Mirror-like collage of leaves of trees 

 

How about you, what are your favorite subjects to photograph in your travels?

This post is inspired by this week’s  Daily Post : Photo Challenge | Reflecting

Keukenhof in Pink!

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Gorgeous Pink Impression tulips in Keukenhof Gardens in the Netherlands, April 2017

I know what you’re thinking…

I know, I know, forgive me for spamming you with my posts about our recent trip to the Netherlands but I can’t help it, Keukenhof is just too gorgeous!  One photo  wouldn’t do any justice and a single post is an understatement of my amazing experience there. The flower arrangement , the garden shows and the different exhibits showcases the epitome of beauty of the flower-mania  in Holland. For flora and fauna enthusiasts, it’s definitely a must-see during Springtime in Europe!

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My daughter adores some fine pink Tulipa ‘Menton’

 

After seeing all these beautiful spring flowers in the most beautiful spring garden in the world, my standard for nature has been elevated. My impression about Tulips in general has become so great that I have  now high regard for this wonderful piece of nature. I didn’t know that flowers could have such an effect to humans in general, and not only to gardeners, landscape designers, and flower enthusiasts.I have great respect for the artistic mind and tremendous hard work and  labor of the people who make Keukenhof a place to show this grand beauty.

To give credit to this amazing place, this time I’d like to share with you some photos from Keukenhof gardens once again, in pretty  Pink floral colors and it’s symbolism  to tell about your love to someone. Pink Tulips symbolizes the ” Awakening of Love “!

I have seen thousands of tulips coming in different shades of pink, from dark ones, almost purple, and with some bright tints of whites and red. Pink Tulips are a symbol of caring, attachment (not as strong as love, like the red ones) and good wishes. They would be appropriate for a friend or family member.

Here are some snaps of my personal favorites so far!

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Pink Double Blooms

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Tulipa Negrita

Close up with ‘The Negrita” -Though it’s not as darkly colored as its name suggests (“nigra” means black in Latin), the purplish-pinkish color looks great in the garden with almost everything.

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Bi-colored peach-pink standard Tulipas!

Pink tulips  express happiness and confidence. This makes them a very good choice when congratulating a friend on a new job or promotion. It’s an ideal gift to have them sent to someone’s office as a warm first-day-on-the-job surprise. I was obsessing photographing them in layers because I just love how they are aligned with each other and how they create a striking sight!

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The pink impressions in Keukenhof gardens

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Pink-reddish lilies!

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Pink roses in the Flower show in Oranje Nassau Pavillion

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Up close with some pretty Pink Pearl Hyacinths

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Pink Double  Blooms, eager to blossom

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Parade of pink beauties!

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Beyond words…

Beautiful, isn’t it?

I must say that If you really have the chance to visit Holland in Spring, make time to get into Lisse, in the Netherlands to visit this garden. A day filled with colorful flowers can brighten anyone’s burden and who knows, It might change the way you see life.

Do you like Tulips? What is your favorite color so far?

If you’re interested to know more of different types of tulips, you can read it from here.

 

 

 

Holland, as I see it!

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Holland, our second home , as I see it!

Even from my countless visits, I am still charmed by Holland. It has its endless enigma that is so unique, so complicated and yet so unforgettable. This country behind its countless dikes, polders, and gazillions of bikes, is enormous. There’s a lot to enjoy and really worthwhile to explore, especially for families and for all ages.

For the first time,we spent our Easter holiday with my parent’s in-laws and my husband’s relatives and as usual, it was  a nice time, always ‘Gezellig‘. Though the sudden drop in temperatures dampen our moods for a while, the crisp winds, hail and rain came as a surprise but not for long, we managed to roll and live like a local.

So, aside from my recent Tulip-coma from the gorgeous Keukenhof gardens, here I share with you some of the things that still caught me by surprise.

This is Holland, the Netherlands, as I see it! Enjoy…

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Spring in Holland : Tulips everywhere, anywhere. I saw these bunch of  red beauty right along my in-laws neighborhood.

Easter egg hunt right in Opa’s garden!

Just like in Germany, Easter in the Netherlands was a blast. My daughter and her cousins had lots of fun hunting for eggs and of course, we had an overload of Osterhase ( Easter bunny) and chocolate eggs.

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Easter dinner with some fancy appetizers

Talking about the wind and Dutch Cloudscapes

The photo below is a typical Dutch cloudscape. I snap this  photo while I was in the attic and opened the window during dusk. You can almost feel the wind in the higher parts of the sky; the strips of clouds they call “wind feathers” . I know I am in Holland when the clouds makes an exhibition of their fluffy, airy, and colorful palette.The ‘cumulus’ type of clouds is as typical as the tulips and used as inspirations by artists in many classic paintings in the Netherlands. If you have time, Google ‘ Solomon Van Ruysdael’ and you will know what I am talking about.

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Phenomenal sky in the Netherlands, April 2017.

The Kissing couple  

I love everything Delft, and this one is far by my favorite second to the Tulip vase that I’ve seen from our visit to the Rijksmuseum. I can’t find any history of this but this little piece of a Dutch farmer kissing his wife in the fields is really something very-Dutch. It come in all sizes but they are typically in the blue and white color which means that they are made of Delft Blue (or Delftware) – a Dutch version of Chinese porcelain.

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Only in Holland, The Kissing Couple

Crystal clear water reflections

I know that I am in The Netherlands when nature is visible in any bodies of water. The water is super clean and clear that you always have a mirror-like reflections. I am obsessed photographing all these reflections. I took this photo  from one of our walks in the city center where the small river lies along the green trees and a castle. It always seems like just a few meters away and I am taken away to another place.

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Crystal clear water reflections

Flower power  spectacle in full colors

Need I say more,when it comes to colors, the Dutch have a reputation to defend. This applies to famous painters like Rembrandt and Van Gogh, two of my favorite painters, whose work can be seen in several Dutch museums. One of my unforgettable experience was seeing the “Night watch” in Dutch –De NachtwachtBut Holland is best known for its spring flowers, especially Tulips. They are gorgeoussssss!!!

My recent trip to the Keukenhof left me with a flower-coma but I’m telling you, by Springtime, a sight of tulips  are seen ordinarily in every Dutch household. Actually the flowers are just a by-product, it’s the bulbs that counts and is exported all over the world.

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Keukenhof Gardens, Easter (April 2017)

The Dutch Tulips, and the season of Spring in the Netherlands is something that you should not miss if you are visiting this country. If you wanna know why these flowers causes the first financial crisis in Holland, you better read it Here.

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Pretty in bright, red tulips, the queen of Spring season.

I have a kid who is obsessed with animals and in Holland, the wild animals are typically seen up close. You can see herds of cows, goats , chickens and sheep as you drive along the highway. There is always a country-farm feel like even in the midst of a busy city. I think I have seen so much horses and stable in my entire life every time I am in Holland. Here, deers are still 100% natural. In the Veluwe, a protected wildlife park, there’s always a chance to run into one. My daughter enjoyed her up close encounter with huge deers that she can feed and with the petting zoo in Keukenhof gardens.

 

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Huize Almelo 

Our lazy walks lead us to this castle, just a few meters away from the city center. Huize Almelo is a castle ( manor)  in Almelo which is owned by the family Van Rechteren Limpurg. It is not open for public access but of course you can view it from a distance.We love walking around here as it has a beautiful greenery and clouded with trees with a nearby lake and ponds.

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Local sighting- a herd of cows lounging in the fields

The taste of Dutch cheese

Need I say more? Gouda is the type of cheese that is known worldwide, but the famous cheese market is held in the town of Alkmaar, north of Amsterdam. I don’t know about my husband why he doesn’t eat cheese, but as for me, I adore cheese and I could eat this everyday!

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Delicious Dutch threats 

My sweet tooth indulgence when I am in Holland is elevated to the max. I can’t resist the delicious goodies like the  stroopwafels, gevuldekoek, kozakken,  Dutch Apple pies and bonbons. Though the Netherlands is famous for its ‘Frites’ and bitterballen, you can never underestimate the Dutch homemade dishes. My parents-in-law always spoiled us with so many home-made cooking that I can’t describe farther than ‘Gezelligheid’. It is always served with lots of love. And yes, even in Holland, it is Spargelzeit!

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Having a Gezellig time inside the Bolletje ” bakery and museum where the Apple pie is as good as their spiced biscuits and the all time Dutch favorite—Kruidnoten!

Our visit to Holland is not  complete until we had coffee and a slice of warm Krentenwegge ( raisin bread) and Dutch apple pie with a window view of  spring violet pansies, for which is truly relaxing. This bakery which dated since 1867, is a home to my husband’s favorite- raisin bread and Kruidnoten.

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If you see bikes  everywhere, then you know you are in the right city and you are definitely in the Netherlands! Either tucked in the central station, if not on a bridge, they are firmly locked over a canal or  in front of Dutch houses.

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Ik voel me zo ( I feel so..) Miffy figurine design created by Artist Mies van Hout. One of the life-size decorated Miffy  we loved during the Art parade on 60th Anniversary (2015) in Amsterdam.The fact that Miffy rarely shows her feelings allow children to project their own feelings on her.The red line that winds its way around Miffy is made up of faces that expresses all kinds of feelings.

Her name is Miffy, and  she’s older than Hello Kitty !

Nijntje, is a shortening of “konijntje,” which means “little rabbit.”Oftenly mistaken as Japanese because of it’s ‘kawaii’ features but actually she’s Dutch. Sanrio even got sued for copying her design; the court ordered them to discontinue their “Cathy the bunny” character.

Dick Bruna released his first bunny book in 1955, followed by over 30 more. This year, Dick Bruna passed away but left a legacy with this white bunny character loved by children all over the world, even adults. We were lucky to witness the Miffy Parade last August 2015 in Amsterdam for its 60th Anniversary where 60 artists decorated a life-size miffy  (1.8 metre high) from creepy goth to rubber ducky. My daughter adores Miffy  since birth, and I am thrilled that we brought home one of the limited edition’s design.

There’s still so much to write about but I don’t want this post to be a novel . But do you wanna know what’s my priced souvenir from this family trip? This…

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Finally, my own Dutch Potato masher!!! I am completely Dutchie-FIED!

You know you are completely Dutchi-fied when you have this in your kitchen!

 

Did you enjoy reading this post? If you’d like to waste more time reading about stuff Dutch people like, make sure to follow my Blog  for more stories like this and hey, If you like to support my artwork, please like my facebook page JustbluedutchArt  which I created just recently.

Are you in Instagram? Please follow me in JustbluedutchArt and let’s stay connected!

 

 

 

Keukenhof, the most beautiful Spring garden in the whole world!

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Welcome to Keukenhof Gardens, a Dutch pride!

Woowww!” This is my daughter’s word when we saw the bright, bursting colors of tulips last Monday in the Keukenhof gardens in Lisse, in the Netherlands.

Visiting  Keukenhof on the second day of Easter was totally overwhelming, but yes, for me, it is probably the most beautiful garden in spring in the whole world! I have been looking forward for this trip this Spring and I am so glad we had a great weather to witness this place. This year was the 68th time that the Keukenhof gardens ( literally translates as kitchen garden) wows approximately millions of tourists and even locals. My husband, who is a Dutch native, but a first-timer to see the flower-mania inside the Keukenhof gardens was surprisingly impressed by the beautiful landscapes. He thought only old people and tourists go there, but then he was mistaken.Seeing tulips grow as normal as weeds during spring in almost every backyard all over Holland, he saw the other side of its beauty.He was greatly enamored by the flower power as I did. He hates crowds but I must say that the traffic flow inside the park was still controlled and manageable, even with a 2.5 year old toddler with us. Since our visit falls on a holiday, we’ve seen visitors from all over the globe,different nationalities.Totally chaotic but then also so much fun!

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Tulipa…in bright dark red blossoming in Springtime in Keukenhof.

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A chaotic, crowded garden on the second day of Easter in Lisse, the Netherlands.

We took the trip with Arriva tours and it was very pleasant, on time and smooth all the way.  I won’t be surprised if visitors this year would surpass last year’s  2016 recorded 1.1 million visitors! As one of the highlight of our Holland trip, my feet was itching from the moment we book our tickets and kept on hoping that we had a great weather or else we will definitely cancel the trip.The time that I come face to face with the gazillions of around 800 varieties of tulips, I fell in love!

There is beauty everywhere I look! Have you ever heard of Tulips coma? There is never enough Tulips to see, and of course, to photograph!

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This year’s theme in Keukenhof Gardens is the “Dutch Design”, or also known as Mondriaan. This is a landscape created to depict the artistic dutch design in red, blue, yellow and white frames.

I think this is how I’ve felt when I saw the bright tulips fields, the tripartite layers of colors, gorgeous landscape filled with different colors, unique artwork, inspirational gardens and flower exhibitions!

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This year’s theme is “Dutch Design“. Dutch Design is characterized by Dutch sobriety combined with innovative solutions.The Mondriaan Garden with its primary square color patches was crowded and so as the Roses flower show in the Oranje Nassau pavillion was a great crowd pleaser. Surprisingly, my daughter had a blast in the petting zoo, in the Miffy house ,spacious playpark and running around the garden. The restaurants were crowded but there were plenty to choose from.You will have something to eat and drink depending on what you want.Don’t forget to  try the Dutch , Bitterballen, and yes, the Kroket sandwich to have a taste of Dutch foods.

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Orange crown tulips

Personally, seeing this garden up close and personal  was a dream come true!

Gazing at the tulips made me appreciate nature even more and I was just overwhelmed by how beautiful the flowers are.From this, the Dutch people should be very proud because they have this heritage. It’s no wonder people travel across the world just to see flowers, especially  this Tulpen-Mania!

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Beauty everuwhere…Tulipas in dark pink and yellow.

This spring,we are lucky to see the new amenities of the park, like its beautiful grand entrance hall, with geometric design ceiling, visitors luggage deposit area, restaurants, souvenir shops, and a car park where 4,500 cars and 1,000 coaches can park. If you like to gaze at the Tulips fields, you can walk a few meters from the park and just be amazed by horizons painted in red, yellow, violets, and pink tulips!

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I am so glad that I had the chance to see this place in person. It was totally worth it. This place fueled my love for nature even more, flowers and the inspiration behind the art. I think its not just the tulips but there’s really a creative art behind these landscapes.

Here are some interesting facts I’ve learned while researching about this amazing garden.

1. 2017 is Keukenhof’s 68th opening to the public.

2. Keukenhof is only open eight weeks each year and, in that time, welcomes 1.1 million visitors ( as of 2016 records).

3. Nearly 50 million people have visited Keukenhof since it first opened and, nowadays, 75% come from more than 100 countries abroad.

4. More than 7 million bulbs are planted in Keukenhof’s 32 hectares (79 acres), which are supplied, for free, by 100 bulb growers.

5. The gardeners dig out these bulbs, at the end of each open season, and destroy them (by order of the growers). Most are used as food for livestock.

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Pretty in Orange ( Orannje Tulipas Double Blooms)

6. There are about 30 full-time gardeners, who work year-round at Keukenhof.

7. Each autumn, the gardeners plant the bulbs, by hand, in a completely new design. It takes about 3 months. The bulbs are selected to bloom throughout the eight-week opening period.

8. The bright green grass, around the park, is a special quick-growing variety, needed to cope with the shady trees. It is reseeded each year.

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A garden full of colors!

9. In addition to the tulip gardens, Keukenhof also hosts a Japanese garden, an English landscape garden, a spring meadow, a natural garden, a historic garden, a garden maze, and seven inspiration gardens that are different each year.

10. Although known for tulips, Keukenhof is home to the world’s largest lily show, during the last ten days of the opening season.

11. Keukenhof began, in 1857, as an English landscape garden, designed by the Zocher firm, who also designed Vondelpark in Amsterdam.

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12. Keukenhof’s name has even older origins. Countess Jacoba van Beieren owned the land in the 15thcentury. The uncultivated land was used for hunting and gathering herbs for the castle’s kitchen, hence Keukenhof, or Kitchen Garden.

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Fringed Tulipas…a rare breed!

13. The striped tulips, so popular in the 17th century, got their colouring from a virus, transferred by aphids, only discovered in 1931. These days, multi-coloured tulips are bred to look that way.

14. Growing 4.2 million bulbs a year, the Netherlands is the world’s largest producer of tulip bulbs. Half of which are exported.

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The Kissing Couple , famous Delft figurine from Holland

15. The main bulb-growing region of Holland stretches from Leiden to Haarlem. The number of hectares for bulb production has increased from 10,000 hectares in 1960 to more than 23,500 hectares in 2007. However, the number of growers is decreasing, from 13,000 in 1960 to only 2000, in 2007.

16.The website travel guide, Lonely Planet, opens with a feature on Keukenhof. Wikipedia has just one photograph of the Netherlands: of Keukenhof. More recently Keukenhof was awarded the Certificate of Excellence by TripAdvisor

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If you have the chance, you need to give it a go to visit this amazing garden, you won’t regret it. Keukenhof is  definitely a family & kid friendly place and there’s so much events and activities inside Keukenhof for all ages!

 

Did you enjoy this post? If so, you might want to see Keukenhof in Pink and The National Tulips Day in Amsterdam .

If you are planning to explore the off beaten attractions in Holland, you might want to check out why Dutch clouds, especially the Cumulus clouds are long time inspiration from artists and depicted in famous paintings. Read more in Holland, as I see It!

The Gable houses in Amsterdam

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Amsterdam canal houses

Even before I’ve met my husband, seeing Amsterdam is already on my bucket list. I love how different this city is and how unique the architecture you’ll see once you walked through the narrow cobbled-streets of Amsterdam. Oh yes, the bikes are another thing ! The first time I’ve visited Amsterdam and looked from the plane’s window, I was totally surprised by how different the landscape compared to the “brown, desert scapes” I saw when I first I came to Kuwait. Holland is flat as Kuwait, but at least with green landscapes.

Yes, The Netherlands is a flat country same as Kuwait, no mountains or valleys. Literally, about 27% of the country lies below sea level and tracing back the history, very prone to flooding.This fascinating country of my Dutch man  falls into three natural topography, the dunes, the lowlands or “polders” , and the higher eastern section of the country. But Holland is not only world renowned by bicycles, colors, thru Van Gogh and Rembrandt, or from its Tulips spectacle, but also with its capital landmark ; the remarkable Gable, and leaning  houses along the canals of Amsterdam.

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Reflections in the canals of the Gable houses in Amsterdam

“A leaning standpoint “, this is my first impression when I saw how crooked and odd the houses looked in a row. Some houses appear not to be standing straight, some really are!

When I explored Amsterdam and walked along the canals,even with a toddler in a tow, I really noticed that some of the houses are tilted, and wondered why. Maybe they just follow the previous pattern of houses. I know that it’s not only me, most of the tourists observed this. It was hard taking a decent photo if you follow an aligned perspective.Amsterdam houses are leaning forward, they tilt to one side and some look like they might fall over. The vibes in this beautiful city is really wonderful, very diverse and totally laid-back. I could spent hours and hours walking on the small alleys, admiring the quaint cafe and shops, and the details of the houses. Everything is just so pretty!

Amsterdam has more than one hundred kilometers of canals and its charming Canal District holds the city’s hidden gems; elegant canal-side mansions. From research, I’ve learned that the cost of living in Amsterdam is high, let alone renting an apartment along the canals. Amsterdam is known for its luxurious canal houses and it’s famous for the series of canals that encircle and crisscross each other throughout the city. From 17th century, locals built their houses along the canals which also served as their business offices, the basement and attics are used to store goods to be sold.

The architecture of these houses is very unique and particular and the intricate style shows the talent the carpenters had when building them many years ago. The 17th-century canal ring area was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2010.

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Beautiful houses in Amsterdam, a world heritage site ( UNESCO)

These Canal houses are known for being slim, high and having interiors that run deep. Due to the danger of flooding, the front door was usually built higher up and only reachable via stairs. The floor of the main story was a few steps above street level for this same reason. One of the things that stands out in Amsterdam are the big windows and charming gabled façades, many houses that seemed tiny from the outside opened up into beautiful spaces within.

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Every street along the canal is picturesque, unique and vibrant.

It is these very gables that are an exclusive Amsterdam design! When looking up at these majestic houses, you can see that many of the gables are adorned with a hook. Although it may look like a decoration, the hook is there to enable tenants to pull large, bulky objects up and into a window at the top floor. Canal houses were built slightly leaning forward so that the gable was further out into the street, in order to make it easier to haul everything in via the hook and window. A special beam or pulley installation would be located in the attic to hoist up valuable goods. You can see this method being used today as the pulleys are still used for moving furniture in and out of houses.

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A postcard from Amsterdam

Also,many old Amsterdam houses  are leaving forward towards to the street. This leaning is not an accident. Amsterdam houses were built leaning forward intentionally! In Dutch this is called ‘op de vlucht bouwen’. Amsterdam was a typical ‘staple port’. This is a place where merchants make money by trading all kinds of goods that enter into the city, usually by boat. And speaking of boats, there are so many boat houses in the canals, most were privately owned and adding to the “charm” of the rings of canals flowing all throughout the city.

 

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Amsterdam canal houses

The thing about Dutch houses is that the large open windows  don’t have any curtains, which guarantees zero privacy. The sheer size of them and complete lack of drapes illustrates the openness of Dutch society and how its people show that they have nothing to hide. Having one’s possessions out in the open for everyone to see isn’t very common, with many closing their curtains at night for privacy or security reasons. This idea of transparency is a key social element and shows how comfortable they are with being completely open.

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Throughout the centuries, the phased expansions of the city of Amsterdam were thoroughly planned. The plots of land along the 3 main 17th century canals (Herengracht, Keizersgracht, Prinsengracht) were initially quite small. Each plot was 5 to 7 meters in width. Probably they chose to divide the land this way because that way, a maximum amount of houses has an entrance on the waterfront, the most important means of transportation in the late 16th century.

Amsterdam houses might seem narrow, but they are quite deep. In the back there is a large garden hidden from view and often the rich had a carriage house in the back.If you want to experience a chance of “Dutch’s Gezelligheid”, take a peek of their lifestyle the next time you roam around and walk through the small alleys. Amsterdam sure thing is a busy city and literally never sleeps, but you can’t afford to miss the beauty that this city holds!

 

Have you visited Amsterdam? What do you like from your travels?

 

 

Walking in the Red Light District with a Baby

Now who among you parents out there would bring out your little ones in the Red Light District or locally known as “De Wallen ” in Amsterdam?

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Red Light District in Amsterdam or locally known as De Wallen

Nope, it’s not the Disneyland of Amsterdam, and if its your first time to see Amsterdam sure thing it has many attractions  that might catch you off guard! I have written before how to enjoy the free things in Amsterdam but this one is totally different. Different in a way that the Netherlands is a country more than sex & drugs! You really need to see the country for you to have an impression since what you read in the internet is not always true. This country is totally laid back and relaxed, highly tolerant and the Dutch people are very liberal. No wonder that Dutch Teen pregnancy rates the lowest in world standing, and as what the experts and studies shows,  Dutch kids are the happiest kids in the world.

Okay, I’m sure most of you who have traveled in the Netherlands specifically in Amsterdam knows the “Red Light District “that I am talking about. But for those of you who are clueless, here’s a brief description of what Red Light District is all about. Before I had our trip, my vision of the Netherlands is mainly of Tulips, clogs, cheese, canals, and beautiful architecture of the leaning gabled houses. Even the taste of Poffertjes and Stroofwafels are unknown to my taste buds so imagine my surprise when my husband & I with our 1 year -old daughter took a walk along the streets near the Zeedijk up to the Oudekerksplein.My husband is Dutch and visited Amsterdam frequently but He rarely went to the Red Light District. So for people who think that Dutch people are fond of taking drugs and fooling around in the RLD, on any given day, then you are completely  wrong!  I noticed that this place really thrives on tourists and visitors and not the locals!

We decided to pass by the streets of the Red Light District in the morning, where there are less crowds. We had previously explored the city and thought of having a break from the Museums since my daughter easily gets bored and in dire need of playtime.So then we found ourselves strolling through the alleys where its best known to be a public display of prostitutes and marijuana! Yes, prostitution and drugs is legal in the Netherlands! It is also came as a surprise to me knowing that the Netherlands is the first country to legalize gay marriages. The red-light district in Amsterdam  consists of a network of alleys containing approximately  three hundred one-room cabins rented by prostitutes who display their goods and offer their services from behind a window or glass door, typically illuminated with red lights. These “kamers” are the most visible and typical kind of red light district sex work in Amsterdam and are a large tourist attraction. I have read about it but seeing these girls , totally made up as early as 10am in the morning  still gives me a different experience. In the broad daylight,they all looked bored and there’s so much in their stares, some are just playing with their phones and fidgeting with their shiny underwear.

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Street sightings in Amsterdam

De Wallen, together with the prostitution areas Singelgebied and Ruysdaelkade, form the Rosse Buurt (red light areas) of Amsterdam. Of these, De Wallen is the oldest and largest area.The area also has a number of sex shops, sex theatres, peep shows, a sex museum,brothels, a cannabis museum, and a number of coffee shops that sell marijuana, legally. My 1-year-old  certainly had no idea what these are all about and doesn’t pick up anything about what is in the billboards and signage. Taking photos of the ladies is highly prohibited and the whole area is on surveillance of camera so every visitor is expected to be discreet.

So, am I a bad mother for dragging my innocent daughter into this place?

After we’ve seen the Miffy  (or Nijntje ) exhibition in Museumplein, then we took her into a place full of things she doesn’t even have an idea of what it is. Well, as shocking as it may look to the world that a toddler can have a glimpse of ladies parading their almost naked bodies, I find the whole experience normal.Just like in other cities. Of course we didn’t get inside of those Sex museums or lounge in the Coffee shops, we merely passed by to take a look. Strolling around the Red Light District with a toddler was peaceful, calm, and safe. The only disturbance we’ve had is my toddler’s whining and wanting to run all over the place.

Although the Red Light District is for adults, its  only after dark that there are throngs of people just walking around to soak up the atmosphere, I too, as a visiting tourist have spent some good times just watching the world go by.Most of the tourists there are actually not there to indulge in those activities,they’re just there simply to watch. I found it a very  relaxed friendly place. Although I don’t recommend to go in there at night , and yes, not even with a baby with me.

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Street art in Amsterdam

Amsterdam city centre has a romantic image. I truly enjoyed the cozy strolls along the city center and now I know why Amsterdam is such a vibrant city. The city is gorgeous and a place for kids to enjoy. Sure it has its seedy and naughty parts of the city but its a beautiful place to explore and I am even grateful that my daughter experience the benefits of traveling at such a young age. The neighborhood is full of interesting shops, pubs, fantastic restaurants, leaning gabled houses and the city’s most charming canals. It is the same location of the Nieuwmarktsquare, the gothic Oude Kerk  and just a stones throw away,you will be in Amsterdam’s Chinatown, the Zeedijk (also home to an impressive Buddhist temple). It is unbelievable that after a few minutes strolling along the RLD, you will be in another place, a totally different atmosphere.

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Dutch Gezelligheid

Our trip to Amsterdam became a memorable one, and not because of the things we’ve seen in the Red Light District, but because, it is a beautiful city that is rich in culture. More than the bike culture, Amsterdam will always be special for us. It was our first trip as a family and I am sure, I can tell stories to my little girl that during the first year of her life, she had been there…through the secrets of the Red Light District!

If you want to visit Amsterdam and have a look in the RLD, this page might give you some interesting information.

Would you stroll along the Red Light District with your baby if given the chance?