The Dutch holiday season starts with the arrival of Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piets in early December. We arrived a little later, to spend the last three days before Christmas in the holiday decorated streets of Amsterdam and The Hague. We went along canals with light shows, and we met both whimsical Santas and crowds of last-work-day-before-holiday-cheerful Dutchmen.
We stayed in a friend’s apartment, centrally located but cold due to (typical Dutch) single glazing. Great views, though, to green parrots and lively cycling through Vondelspark. These noisy birds provide Holland with an exotic touch, although the temperature is as low as in Scandinavia.
Another great thing about Holland is short distances. We took a train to The Hague for a few hours of nostalgic Christmas shopping and hot stroopwaffels at “the safe Royal Christmas Fair”. (Quote from a tourist guide; and how sad that safety has become a marketing word).
Back in Amsterdam, streets were crammed with tourists, and we pushed along the canals through narrow shopping streets. Result: Sore feet, should have used those bikes, kindly offered by our friend!
One night, we went to De Hallen, which is an old tram station turned into food stalls with all kinds of food and drinks. We had Vietnamese springrolls, and in the crowd of happy Dutchmen we managed to poach a few seats at the bar. A small choir entertained with Christmas carols: The conductor was blind, the pianist had no legs, and their voices were not impressive, but they were a cheerful bunch.
We strolled through De Negen Straatjes (nine streets) with little quirky shops and had a coffee, yes plain coffee, on our way back. Next morning, infected by the relaxed and cheerful Amsterdam atmosphere, loaded with clog slippers, kruidnoten (bisquits), and presents, we flew back home to celebrate Christmas in Denmark.