Netherlands

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Amsterdam • Netherlands Images

 

The Netherlands is a land of paradox.  It can be creative, tolerant and bohemian, but at other times, puritan, judgemental and rather sterile in its outward appearance.  For centuries it has been the refuge of artists, deviants and persecuted minorities and is renowned for its liberal stance on sex and drugs.  Some think it has gone too far and that the superficial drop in drug related crime conceals a sinister background of organised crime.  It is the only place I have been accosted several times in a few minutes in broad daylight and asked if I wanted "something for the weekend" of the illicit type.  Parts of Amsterdam are quite shocking to a prude, but eventually it all subsides into a blur and you are left confused as to whether you really want Indonesian food, marijuana or uncomplicated sex.

Out in the provinces there are cute, manicured towns and villages, competing with anything Switzerland can offer in terms of cleanliness and sterility.  It cannot, however, compete with the mountains and that is probably why Netherlands has more bikes per capita than anywhere else in the civilised world...and no Olympic ski champions.

It has an excellent, effective and cheap railway system and the trams are so user friendly you wonder why London has to be so anal about its public transport.  You just get on at your leisure and ask the friendly conductor for a ticket to wherever; he hands you the ticket, happily gives you change and even tells you where to get off (as it were).

Despite the highest population density in Europe it does not seem overcrowded, and is vastly less stressful than the UK or Germany.  Rates very high on my list of places to live and could be top if not for their rather unpleasant, guttural language.

Amsterdam Images 1 Images 2

Images3

 

 

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Jeremy Harrison 2005-2013