We love the Netherlands – ok it’s a bit flat, but it’s such a civilised place to visit. From the moment you step off the boat you’re made to feel very welcome – it obviously helps if you have an orange dog as Zoly attracts lots of loving glances wherever he goes.
I think I may have written before about the wonderful cycle infrastructure in the Netherlands. However, there can never be too much of a good thing when it comes to cycling, so here’s a little bit more! As well as beautiful segregated cycle lanes everywhere, the spaces provided to park and store bikes are just jaw-dropping. Every little suburban railway station has covered and secure bike parking that makes the so-called ‘extensive’ bicycle parking at our local mainline station – Temple Meeds in Bristol – look third rate. At major stations and interchanges, such as at Leiden the bike parks are even more amazing. At each entrance to Leiden station a ramp takes cyclists down under the station to a vast underground bike park that is staffed and free to use. Such wonderful bike facilities means it’s no surprise that just about everybody from nought to 80 (and over) rides a bike in the Netherlands.
Netherlands’ towns are neat and well cared for, most are designed on ‘home zone’ principles where the priority is firmly given to pedestrians and cyclists. Back in Bristol we live in one of our cities’ few home zones, but here in the Netherlands they are the norm. The gardens here are lovely – many have pleached trees, clipped borders, beautiful herbaceous plants and of course at this time of year: tulips. The Dutch clearly take a lot of pride in how their streets look and we’re getting to enjoy their efforts too.
The one element that foreigners might struggle with in the Netherlands is the language. Fortunately the Dutch tend to be incredibly well-versed in English and we barely have to open a mouths before they realise they need to speak to us in English. It has been a little bit of a challenge trying to read ingredients on the packets to try and make sure we don’t eat anything that isn’t vegan. Thank goodness for translation apps – that has is quite handy for that sort of thing.
I don’t think Zoly is having any such language difficulties. The international language of dogs seems to be working just fine for him. Sniff the other dogs bits, maybe a quick lick (not to much on first encounter), a friendly wag and a low-down crouch to indicate you want to play. The other dogs seem to get it – either that or they think: ‘an orange dog, he must be Dutch!’