I know there is no such word as flatter, well not used in this context, but it is very flat here. Coming from New Zealand you do notice the absence of anything even approaching a mound in the west and north of the Netherlands. We haven’t gone east yet and they tell me there are a couple of hills over that way.
We have been getting out and about with a couple of days trips to Utrecht and Gouda, a weekend trip to Groningen in the north of the Netherlands and a bit of biking around the Leiden area.
Utrecht is a university town about 45 minutes east of Leiden by train. We spent a day wandering around having a look at the historic buildings, climbed the Domtoren and visited the cathedral. It has the usual Dutch mixture of canals and cobbled streets although the canals in Utrecht seemed to be a lot lower from the street level than most I have seen. It was very cool (in both senses) up the Domtoren and you could see for miles as there really isn’t anything to block the view in all directions. The history of the tower was very interesting and the tour was well worth doing. The cathedral was rather plain compared to the southern European ones but the history around a section that blew down during a hurricane was fascinating. I never thought of Holland and hurricanes as going together.
A couple of days later we went to Gouda. While it had it’s picturesque highlights the town itself didn’t have the feel of most of the other places we have visited here, probably the only way to describe it is that it is a “little tired”. It did have a couple of highlights, the ertwensoep (pea soup with sausage in it) was excellent and the Old Stadhuis is a lovely old building. We didn’t buy any cheese I’m afraid as we have a fridge full of it because it is so good and very cheap.
Groningen is in the north of the country and as seems to be the case you can’t really fault the architectural properties. The Dutch spoken is certainly more gutteral which I think would add another level of complexity to our language lessons if we lived there. The highlight of our weekend was the Groningen Museum which had a very good collection of art from a number of eras. The buildings were art in themselves with unusual shapes and layout adding to the experience. While the museum was the highlight the Saturday market and some good food made it a very enjoyable weekend.
We have a few more day trips planned, Arnhem (military history), Nijmegen (the oldest city in the Netherlands), Breda, and maybe around the Maastricht area.