SU The Dutch Rainbow: Hitchhike Past the Highlights of Holland

By | October 5, 2014 at 12:08 pm | European Events, Summer Universities | Tags: , , , ,

Walter White was looking at me, seated down in his cheap, rusty chair. His face was a mixture of rage-looking eyes, disappointing gesture and an unusual peace. I felt weird, lost in my mind, again. When suddenly, a voice broke into my thoughts.

– Are you ready? – my dad asked.

Yes, I was. My first Summer University (SU) would start, after five hours in a car, two in a plane and another half an hour on a train. I was pretty sure I was ready. I picked up my backpack, stopped looking at my Breaking Bad poster and had a last look at my house. Little did I know then that my own room would look strange to me only two weeks later…

Some hours after, I arrived to the Netherlands. Schiphol turned out to be a better airport than Barajas (at least this was my impression), full of people from very different places, running, laughing, smiling… I felt like Tom Hanks in “The Terminal”, and this feeling became stronger one hour later, when I was still waiting there for organizers.

I went to the Netherlands one day after the SU started because of exams so I was alone in Schiphol, with my luggage and a useless smartphone. Then, I thought that being smart would be a good idea, and I bought a sim card, so I could contact organizers. “We are waiting for you in Utrecht train station, we told you”.

Although they forgot to tell me this small detail, I finally knew what to do. During the train travel I started thinking about what I knew about the SU. “The Dutch Rainbow”. Really? I mean, I’d been told that this was a university meeting, not a meeting for eight-year-olds, with unicorns, pink t-shirts and lively colours.

Everything went better than expected however, soon after I met the Spanish team (we were with seven Spanish participants) and all the other people involved in the SU. I have to confess that until the very last day I was not able to remember all of the names. People were very friendly, outgoing and funny, so it was not difficult for me to feel comfortable in the group.

The first days were the most exhausting. We visited Utrecht, The Hague and Amsterdam. Utrecht is a beautiful city, with canals, small houses, a welcoming city centre and its big tower, which provides a startling view over the Dutch landscape. There, we played the crazy 88 game, in which basically, we had to demonstrate Dutch people that we were as crazy as they thought, by kissing stranger’s feet, dancing with a cucumber, asking people to marry them… Just normal stuff, you know. We also went to many bars, particularly to a Belgium one and a gay bar in which we were only among participants and organizers.

The Hague was the most cultural trip, thanks to the father of one of the organizers, who showed us the city and its historic buildings. We visited the Dutch Parliament, too. My favorite thing in this city was the huge sculpture of Zidane’s headbutt.

Amsterdam had the inconvenience that we visited it during a rainy day. But after a wet morning visiting the city by boat, we had free time and I could try haring, which is a typical Dutch fish. I found it disgusting (also another participant who tried it with me), but it was an unique experience. After, we went to Van Gogh’s house, just to be half an hour in the queue because it was too long to wait, and we had to be back at the meeting point. It was funny that I met lots of Russians that appeared out of the blue. In the afternoon we visited one of the most famous parts of Amsterdam: The Red Light District.

After Amsterdam, it was time for a new experience: hitchiking! “It will be nice”, they said. “People will stop”, they said. “You won’t be waiting for more than one hour and a half”, they said. Well, nothing of that was true this day. Four hours. Rain. Cold. And finally, we took a train to Enschede with a group of participants, while the other fourteen participants did arrive to Enschede hitchhiking.

I can summarize our stay in Enschede with one word: Beer. We drank while watching football, while having cultural workshops, while visiting the Grolsch brewery, and during the Cantus. I was not in the mood to do the Cantus, and I did not like it at first, but in the end I loved it. And now you are all thinking: “What is this Cantus thing?” It is more than a game. It is a law. You will sing, you will drink and you will be punished if you do not follow the rules. It reminded me of American college films.

Do you know how we went from Enschede to Nijmegen, the last stop? Hitchhiking! And, guess who had to go by train because nobody stopped again? Yeah! Me.

Nijmegen was very relaxed. We were all tired and it were the last days. But it was great that during these days the city was celebrating the Four Days Marches (Vierdaagsefeesten). It is a yearly event during which people walk 30, 40 or 50 kilometres every day and the city is full of music, colours and food.

In Nijmegen we went out, saw fireworks, played typical Dutch games (it was a lie, most of them were typical from everywhere :P), and we visited a lovely lake. We had an important visitor, too. Sinterklaas came to teach us more about Dutch culture and traditions.

The Netherlands are a very liberal country, in which everybody follows the rules. People are very kind, and they all speak English (I wish all Spanish people spoke English, too). Their food will not become my favourite, but it has lots of Asian recipes and they use too much vegetables. All cities I have seen were beautiful and contained mostly houses, not flats. And of course, coffee shops are a must-go-to. Time is too different from Spain however, since they close shops at six, have lunch at twelve and dinner at five or six. That was weird to me.

Still, this experience was the best one I have ever had. I cannot wait until my next SU-experience starts.

Written by Daniel Iglesias Rodriguez, AEGEE-Madrid


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