Upon leaving Utrecht, we made our way west toward Rotterdam, the largest port in Europe. We'd made few plans before arriving in Rotterdam except for where to stay, and this ultimately ended up being my first time staying with someone from airbnb, and excellent site for finding cheap and comfortable places to stay.
First off, airbnb is great. It's easy, affordable, and a great way to meet new and unique people around the world.
Second, Rotterdam is pretty sweet and airbnb provided us with a very different experience than most people probably get when visiting Rotterdam. Rotterdam is a port city, and very big one at that, so it only makes sense that we got to stay on a barge! That's right. A full on barge in the middle of a river.
The end of the barge had an entire bedroom in it with 4-ft high ceilings, making it quite a cramped spot for two people of normal human size. Thankfully we had just one night here, but it is definitely something I won't forget.
After a night in Rotterdam, we headed south to a very famous area of the Netherlands which maintains its water pumping stations and dams known as Delta Works. A majority of the country is actually below see level, so it's imperative that they have a good system of keeping the water under control. They manage this with a very complex systems of dams, levees, dikes, and pumping stations. Historically, the Netherlands is far-and-away the leader in hydraulic and water management systems in the world, and actually, New Orleans used several Dutch engineers when rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina to fix the levees.
After spending a little time at the Delta Works museum, we traveled to The Hague (Den Hague), the primary seat of the Dutch government. The Hague in American terms would be like Washington DC mixed with Richmond, VA. It's both the capital city and the capital of the province of South Holland (for a fun explanation of the difference between the Netherlands and Holland, watch this amazing video). After walking around The Hague a bit, we grabbed some dinner and crashed at our hostel.
The following morning, we woke up fairly early and started heading back toward Amsterdam. One place in particular I wanted to visit on the way was Wassenaar, the official residence of King Willem, and the city holding the name of my Mom's side of the family, Wassenaar.
Since it was just meant to be a quick stop, we didn't do much there, but we did get a chance to visit the Wassenaar castle which was very neat. I like to think this connection make me part royal in the Netherlands, but really, Wassenaar was never really royalty at all, just very noble.
After passing through Wassenaar, we continued to Amsterdam for one last night in the Netherlands. I was leaving the next day, and wanted to enjoy the city one final night. We checked in to our hostel and headed out for the remainder of the day. Of course in Amsterdam if you don't visit the Red Light District, you're not doing it right. We spent a couple hours walking along the streets of the district and people watching, which, just like it is in any big city, is a treat in itself.
After a fun night out and an early morning flight, I'm now on my way back to the U.S. after two and a half weeks abroad. I'm very lucky to have had the opportunity to spend this much time abroad, and I'm already looking forward to the next time I can head back. Hopefully it's sooner rather than later. Now that I'm home, I'm looking forward to a couple of more days training my Danish friends back in Madison.