Goodbye to the NetherlandsOctober 31, 2018 in the Netherlands ⋅ ☀️ 9 °C
After a summer spent with the Danes, October was dedicated to the Dutch. Out of all the countries we've visited and have yet to visit, it would be fair to say we were least looking forward to the Netherlands. As we've frequently mentioned, we attempted to stay at a coastal car park here many years ago, only to be woken by armed police, who demanded to see our papers and issued us with a fine. Although we've passed through countless times since, first impressions have a lasting impact and this was certainly not a good one. Now that we travel full time, we ensure we are a little better informed about camping regulations.
So, did the Netherlands manage to win us over this October?
👎Overnighting is restricted to designated spots, which were in high demand. Luckily we only had to move on once due to lack of space, but we saw plenty of others arriving and departing as the camperplaats was full. Not knowing whether we'd be able to stay at our intended destination caused a certain amount of worry.
👎Because the majority of camperplatzen are in towns, there was the inevitable urban noise and bustle around the van. We were grateful for these free spots, but coming directly from Denmark, where there are hundreds of opportunities for secluded and peaceful countryside camping, we couldn't help but compare.
👎Many places we stayed had restrictions of 24 or 48 hours. Even the paying camperpark at Diepenham had a 5 day restriction, so we often needed to leave sooner than we would have liked.
👎We worked our way from north to south but as we progressed there were fewer camperplatzen and a greater proportion were just a large parking spot in a car park with no facilities.
👍Using mainly the CamperContact app, but sometimes Park4Night, Will managed to find a decent number of small camperplatzen that offered a free stay and facilities.
👍Many had electric hookup and a few didn't even charge for it. With autumnal temperatures similar to the UK, this really came in handy, reducing the strain on our 2 leisure batteries, whose power is quickly quickly depleted by the central heating.
👍With wildcamping off the cards we were often parked with filling and emptying facilities on site. When this was the case we didn't need to worry about the amount of water we used or how much space the toilet had left.
👍Camperplatzen were mostly situated in small towns, giving us easy access for a mooch in the interesting independent stores and a chance to pay the community back for their hospitality.
👎While spoken English was excellent, very few signs / information boards were written in our language. We are firm believers in trying to learn at least a little of the native tongue, but deciphering regulations was definitely more tricky than in places such as Denmark.
👎 We've found that the approach a country takes to roadworks makes a big difference. Dutch roads are well maintained but we encountered several that were completely closed and the diversions were often unclear or non existent.
👍 The number of people who spoke English and the level at which they conversed was flabbergasting. Denmark was good but the Netherlands was better, so we didn't need to worry about a language barrrier.
👍 Another area the Netherlands excels in is the amazing cycle network, giving access to both town and country. More than a quarter of journeys are made by bike and this increases to over a third in big cities. The country boasts 32,000km of cycle paths, meaning noise, congestion and pollution from motorised vehicles is noticeably reduced.
Sights and Activities:
Compared to Denmark's quaint, thatch roofed cottages, we were left uninspired by the Netherlands' brick built buildings on the whole. Saying this, traditional Dutch barn style houses lining the canals did catch our eye and the village of Edam was chocolate box pretty.
After learning that this was the most densely populated country in Europe (aside from the micro states) we feared tightly packed urban areas whose boundaries ran in to one another. Instead, we were pleasantly surprised to find well planned settlements surrounded by plenty of open countryside, crisscrossed by kilometres of canals, whose towpaths one could invariably walk or cycle along. Will bought himself a small fishing licence for under €20 and downloaded the app that showed him where he could cast his line. He spent hours sat happily on the canalside or riverbank and even caught a fish or two!
Meanwhile Vicky got to indulge in her yarn based hobbies by delving into a plethora of lovely little wool shops. We frequently enjoyed strolling along the highstreets of the towns we stayed in. There seemed to be more variety than in the UK and a thriving small business scene. The Dutch are particularly keen on their markets, which of course included the obligatory cheese stalls, bowing under the weight of the huge rounds stacked high, ready to be sliced and packaged. Fish stalls were also popular and we happily discovered that the Netherlands is the only country we've visited so far (other than Gibraltar) that batters cod and serves it with frites in a style similar to the much loved British fish'n'chips. If there wasn't a market on, there was always a choice of cafés, often with a range of loose teas available. Will did very well to stick to his diet, while Vicky made it her mission to sample as many traditional sweet treats as possible. Caramely biscuity stroopwafels became a firm favourite and the much anticipated stopover at one of the country's pancake houses didn't disappoint.
Amsterdam was undoubtedly the highlight of our Dutch tour. We parked up for the weekend at the city motorhome park in the arty and alternative NDSM district, north of the river. Free ferries transported us and our tandem to the city centre to mooch around markets, stroll the canals, visit the sex museum and, fuelled by vegan blueberry space cakes, take in the city lights at night!
Although overall we enjoyed our time in the Netherlands, we found ourselves feeling rather uninspired as we travelled over its flat landscape. A collection of factors unrelated to the country worked against it; the season had changed and the temperatures were dropping as the nights drew in,
Vicky was in poor health the majority of the time and we came straight from Denmark, that we both agree is our new favourite country. We were also preparing to head back to the UK for a long visit in November - December. Our minds were partly reliving the highs of the Danish summer and partly planning the visit home, so we didn't invest much mental energy in the present opportunities for travel and exploration. However, the tight regulations on motorhomes meant we focussed more on where we could stay, than where we wanted to visit. Unfortunately we found that overall the attractions in the Netherlands just didn't have enough 'va va voom' to overcome our apathy and inject a feeling of excitement into the tour. Amsterdam has earned its place on the list of cities we want to revisit, but other than this we left the Netherlands with a feeling of indifference towards it. We certainly wouldn't be adverse to staying over while travelling to somewhere else, but we wouldn't go out of our way to return.Read more