Going Mainstream in the Netherlands

For most Indonesian, visiting the Netherlands is like an obligation. It’s in everyone’s list. And I’m no exception. Even when I started to think about pursuing masters degree overseas, the universities in the Netherlands were always be my priorities. I have no particular reason actually. I just want to go to the country that shares a long history with Indonesia. So long time ago I applied to some universities there and received Amsterdam Merit Scholarship from Universitet van Amsterdam (UvA). But, for some reasons, I turned down the offer and took the Australian Development Scholarship (now Australia Awards) instead. It was a difficult decision for me as UvA is one of the best universities in communication science. However, I realized that choosing Australia over the Netherlands, at that time, was the best option for me and my family. So I learnt to let it go and made a promise to myself that I’ll come visit the Netherlands one day, to see my former would-be university: UvA. Haha.

Finally, that promise turned into reality around a month ago, when I was visiting the Netherlands on mid August as part of our Euro-Asia summer trip. We went to the Netherlands from Paris by Thallys regional train and were lucky because our ticket was upgraded to the first class (yay!). The journey was smooth and lovely. We had a short transit in Rotterdam then stayed at my old friend’s apartment in Utrecht. Here are the glimpse from our Holland experience:

1. Amsterdam and surrounds

We explored Amsterdam and surrounds on our second day in Holland using the well known OV-chipkaart. This card is valid to travel all around Holland with all type of public transportation. However, you need to have at least 20 euro credit to travel by train. If you travel with kid, it is better to purchase the Railrunner ticket, to travel by train, as it is much cheaper and doesn’t require any deposit. Then, to explore Amsterdam, you can purchase the GVB Day ticket. For more information about public transport tickets in the Netherlands, visit the NS website here.

A friend of mine suggested us to visit Volendam in northeast of Amsterdam. So, to Volendam we went that day. Volendam is known for its fishing culture, colorful houses, harbor and photo studio (haha!). Visiting Volendam is not complete without taking a picture in traditional Volendam costumes. And that’s exactly what we did. We went to Fotograaf Zwarthoed to get our family picture taken. Unsurprisingly (because our friend has already told us 😀 ), the people there greeted us in Bahasa Indonesia :D. We dresses up and realised that lot of prominent and famous people have their picture taken there such as: former presidents of Indonesia, GusDur and Megawati, and actor Raffi Ahmad 😅😅. This wasn’t really our thing actually, but we decided to go mainstream for once in a lifetime because we thought it’s worth (and it IS worth!) The good thing about Fotograaf Zwarthoed is they allow you to take your own picture using your phone so you can strike poses while queuing for your turn. Then, while waiting for the photo result, we went to nearby food stall and had fish and chips and seafood basket for lunch. It’s another must-do list in Volendam as the fish and chips there were quite popular.

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The mainstream family portrait 😀

After around an hour, we went back to the studio and were happy with the photo result. Then, we strolled around and stopped at a cheese factory to see the process of cheese making and tried some samples. Yum. In the afternoon, we went back to Amsterdam by bus and explored the city a little bit. It was raining and we were forced to wait for several minutes as we only brought one tiny umbrella :D.

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Another bucket list ticked

Then, we went to the main reason why I wanted to visit the Netherlands: Universitet van Amsterdam (UvA). :D. Zaki took some pictures of me and I felt like my visit to Amsterdam is official. Haha. I couldn’t describe my feeling when I saw the U and triple X sign, which is the symbol of the campus, for real in front of me. There was some kinds of relief, and happiness, and a bit of hope that I will have another chance to study there. Maybe for the doctoral. Haha. Keep dreaming, Hayu!

Having had my emotional moment for some times 😀 , we then went to the most famous landmark: I AMsterdam. It was super crowded we barely able to take proper pictures. There were also some photo-bombers who intentionally wanted to “ruin” other people pictures. Haha. Though in general, it was still a good visit.

 

On the next day, we spent the whole afternoon in Amsterdam state library: Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam (OBA). It’s been an unwritten agreement between me and Zaki that visiting library and/or university should be in our itinerary. Haha. Just like any other library in Europe, the state library in Amsterdam is well managed, super nice, comfy, and has lots of collections. We spent hours there without getting bored. Then, we tried the city’s signature foods such as frites, stroopwafle and pickled herring, to wrap the day.

 

2. Around Utrecht

Another Holland city we managed to explore is Utrecht. As I mentioned before, during my Holland trip, we were staying at my friend’s apartment in Utrecht so we had the best guide to see around the city. Ha! We started the walk by visiting the main landmark: Domtoren, or the Dom Tower. My friend said, there is a nice park behind the cathedral. Too bad, it was close when we were there. Like in Lund, where some Lund University’s events take place in the cathedral, the area of Domtoren is also used for Utrecht University’s events like doctoral defense.

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With the Iwan’s Family. Thank you for the hospitality!

We then went to local gelato to enjoy delicious ice creams and had dinner in a restaurant that sells best grilled ribs in town. My Holland experience was indeed a super nice one.  I cannot thank Datik and Mas Iwan (also duo Eins&Faris) enough for their warm welcome and hospitality. It’s always a good feeling to meet a friend after a long time and spend some times together. Their kindness will be forever remembered.

 

We left the Netherlands on the next day and I had this feeling of contentment as I’m able to keep the promise I made to myself. Although, I think I should thank Zaki, for always providing me the access, in doing that. I love him for that reason, for the other reasons, and even for no reason. 😉

Till next time, Holland!

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