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From the Netherlands (Voorburg, Delft, Rotterdam, The Hague, Amsterdam)

By Sahand Rabbani

from the Netherlands

Dear Friends,

An air traffic control system failure turned a four-hour layover at London Heathrow into twelve hours. While my flight to Rotterdam was canceled just moments before boarding, I did manage to secure a rare spot on a flight to Amsterdam Schiphol, arriving many hours late at one AM Saturday morning. A prearranged cab delivered me to my hotel in Voorburg around two AM.

After a short night's rest, we rose early to embark on an exploration of the towns around the Rotterdam/Hague area. First, we took the train to the farthest of our destinations, the city of Rotterdam itself, where we walked around a bit amid periodic showers. While the city's icon is its modern-looking asymmetric Erasmus Bridge and a row of cube houses on Overblaak Street, the highlight of our visit was probably the loaf-shaped market hall, an amusing building whose spacious, airy belly is covered by an arch of residential apartments.

Then, we boarded a train in the return direction and disembarked at Delft, a quintessential picturesque Dutch town lined with scenic canals, old buildings, and cheese shops. We walked around a bit and had a late lunch of chicken satay and croquettes as the sun set. Daylight hours during this season are a scarce nine AM to four PM and the weather has been uncharacteristically chilly.

Our final stop was the Hague, by which point it was quite dark. The town was dead by six in the evening. We walked around the streets a bit and saw the nice government buildings lining one side of a rectangular pond. Then we walked the very forgettable 2.5 miles from the Hague back to the neighboring town of Voorburg, the location of our hotel. Along the way, we passed the nondescript but very famous International Criminal Court.

We spent the following day exploring Amsterdam. It was a clear, bright day, but the cold wind ultimately penetrated our insufficient layers, and we spent much of the day devising excuses to stay indoors, jumping from cafe to museum shop as we tried to see as much of the city as possible in short episodes. In some ways, Amsterdam is stunning in its beauty: dense facades of old narrow buildings interwoven with canals and arched footbridges. But I am turned off by the city's untamed obsession with drugs and prostitution. Perhaps it is just as much the fault of the rest of the Western world for repressing these as it is Amsterdam's fault for embracing them uncontrollably, leaving no room for moderation.

Early Monday morning, I departed Rotterdam's tidy airport for London, concluding my abbreviated weekend in the Netherlands.


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