Hi! This is Claire Pothier and I’d like to share my experiences I have had during my time as an intern in the Netherlands. While I have been here, I have learned so much and I feel so thankful to have been able to have this experience! Along with working for Fly-By-Night Press, I have had the great pleasure of traveling around Europe! I have been able to accompany the Karren family to Belgium, Germany, and Luxembourg. Every country has its own beauty and I have been absolutely fascinated by each one. I got to see the culture outside of America and saw how different the lifestyle is here! I have learned so much about the history of Europe and each individual country. Seeing these new countries has given me a completely different perspective.
When I first arrived, the first thing I noticed were that things were a lot more organized and put together: streets, signs, and people. I also noticed that there are many bikers which is very normal in the Netherlands. Many people bike to their destinations which I believe is one of the reasons why people seem very put together here. Biking is a good way to get out in the world, put all other distractions aside, and get some good exercise! Each country I visited had both similarities and differences. There are many very old buildings around Europe that make these countries alike, as well as the canals, boats, and cobblestone pathways. But every country still has their own unique way of life, such as the different styles of buildings, language, accents, and different kinds of people.
We will first start out with the Netherlands which is where I have been staying, in the city Maastricht. I absolutely love this country. It has the perfect balance of city and country. When we visited Amsterdam, there was a ton going on, bikers all over the place, buildings, shops, and restaurants. It was so interesting to see that way of life, since I live in a suburban area at home that does not have much of that. I fell in love with the countryside in Maastricht, it has long flat meadow areas with amazing vibrant green grass. It is more calm, the air is fresh, nice bakeries, and cute little shops that carry all you need. This city just seems much more peaceful and so beautiful.
I loved the big city of Amsterdam but one thing I was not a huge fan of was the intense marijuana smell! During the day we spent there, we went to the Van Gogh museum and I was astonished by all the work he managed to create in his lifetime. All the paintings had a specific style to them which made them that much more special. I learned that Van Gogh is actually from the Netherlands and he painted around 900 paintings! The people I saw in the Netherlands seem very put together and organized. Every driver is very focused, not distracted by phones at all, and every biker seems devoted to where they are biking and enjoying the air and nature around them. Everyone is very good at recycling here and taking good care of their environment. I like that they have to pay for bags when you go to the grocery store or clothing stores to encourage the public to bring their own reusable bag!
Belgium is an incredible country. I enjoyed it so much there. I loved the red rooftops, the street restaurants, the flower boxes on many people’s windows, and don’t even get me started on the chocolate! I was so impressed by everything and I can’t even think of anything that I did not enjoy. While in Bruges, we climbed 366 steps of the Belfort Tower with some stops on the way up to learn more about the history behind it. We made it to the top of the tower where we could hear the 47 bells chiming up close. I learned that this bell tower is one of the most important symbols in the city of Bruges. The people I observed in Belgium were a lot like the people in the Netherlands, relaxed and really enjoying their surroundings. It made me want to adapt to that lifestyle so I can be more composed back at home.
It was so incredible to be able to see Germany, and to learn a lot about the war and Charlemagne. The buildings in Aachen, Germany all have very different styles because they are built during different time periods which was interesting to me. There is just so much to learn about in that city! We went into Charlemagne’s Church where there was a huge wall filled with stained glass windows. It was beautiful and the colors were fantastic. There was a huge dome in the center where you could look up and art was displayed everywhere on the ceiling! It was covered gold and I was completely taken with its beauty. I learned so much about how Charlemagne was a strong leader and emperor that ruled most of Western Europe and that he founded the Roman Empire. In Aachen, the people kept more to themselves and seemed to not know as much English as the Dutch people do. I also noticed that they had a very different accent and spoke in a harsher tone.
Finally, Luxembourg is definitely an underrated country (in my opinion). When we first arrived it was hills and hills of green everywhere and beautiful green trees. I was amazed with its beauty and there was a huge castle placed in the center of the city where we stayed. I loved everything about the city of Vianden and the only thing I did not like as much was the amount of construction in the middle of Luxembourg city. But that’s only temporary and the city was still beautiful even with construction. Aside from that, the views from every angle were just spectacular and I could not put my camera down! In the evening we had a fantastic dinner with a view I’ll remember forever. We also got to tour the Vianden castle where I got to see first hand what the armor was like back then, as well as many other historical artifacts and information.
Luxembourg is a very small country so I did not learn much about the people, but the city we stayed in was very quiet and restful. It felt so peaceful and is a great city to visit if you want some peace and quiet. The capitol city, Luxembourg City, is more busy but has much to see. We walked around for a little while through the decorated narrow alleyways and saw some historic buildings. The construction covered the spectacular views of the stone bridges, but I don’t doubt that they are beautiful as well.
Being here in the Netherlands for a month has definitely changed my perspective. I have realized that there is so much more to see in the world! Europe has so many differences from America which has made me look at things a little differently. As I have seen different lifestyles and explored different countries it has made me want to travel even more! When I get home, I want to be more observant of the world outside and not be as distracted with unnecessary things. I want to start to ride my bike more! It’s such a great way to get out into the world and get some good exercise as well. If you are considering coming to Europe, the Netherlands is definitely a place you should come to! It is such a beautiful area surrounded by so many things to do. This world is incredible!
Claire Pothier is a 17-year-old American student and guest contributor to the Fly-By-Night Press blog. She has been visiting Europe for the summer from her native Arizona.
Explore European countries through short stories in these books. Click on the book images to read a sample.