After Brussels, we took a bus to our next destination: Amsterdam. It served as a good opportunity to see the beautiful Belgian/Dutch countryside and also to recharge. Upon arrival, we decided to have a day to ourselves, each in a different city.
Onur visited Nijmegen, a small city in the East, close to the German border – whilst Bosse stayed in Amsterdam and explored what the city had to offer. We were both left pleasantly surprised by the differences we saw. Amsterdam, a very old yet beautiful city acting as the cultural and metropolitan hub of the country, was very busy with tourists and locals alike. Filled with cyclists and cobbled alleys with cafes and famous cheese factories, we spent hours walking around its little streets connected by the grachten: the Dutch word for canals. Nijmegen on the other hand is a more modern student city and had a calm and peaceful air to it. Cars are not allowed to drive in the city center, which gave it a harmonious feel. It is also part of the city’s efforts to be environmentally friendly, which won the city the title of Europe’s greenest city in 2018.
As everyone does, we quickly discovered that the Dutch love cycling. It is the most popular mode of transportation in the Netherlands and much more environmentally sustainable. Even though this meant we saw fewer cars, we still had to be careful not to get hit by a bike when crossing the street!
After our day apart we decided to discover Den Haag together, the political capital and third largest city of the Netherlands. Taking the inter-city train line we got there within less than an hour. In general we were impressed by the excellent public transportation system in the Netherlands. Den Haag is less crowded than Amsterdam, but is filled with large business offices. The gothic style Binnenhof is especially impressive, being the home of the country’s political operation, where professionals commute daily to aid the functioning of the country.
Besides exploring the cultural offerings the country had, we got the chance to speak to young people about their thoughts on Dutch politics, the EU and representation. Generally, we found that young Dutch people feel very optimistic towards European politics. We got to know Frank, a former soldier who is now a TUI employee. He told us that the Netherlands benefit greatly from the security given by being an EU member. Even though the young Dutch people we met did not seem to be too concerned about their future and were not as politically engaged as others we got to meet, we found that they still opted to vote. Regardless of the election being a national one or an EU election they would vote in it – or would choose to pass on their vote to a parent to vote on their behalf. We learnt that there is still room for improvement in bringing more young people into politics, as well as a greater focus on integrating ethnic minorities and women into higher positions of power.
To summarise, the Netherlands were an insightful few days where we got to travel to multiple parts of the country and exchange ideas directly with our Dutch contemporaries. We now look forward to our next stop: Sweden, Stockholm!
For more, follow our journey on Instagram: @tuistiftung