Couch Surfing in the Netherlands
I’m not a morning person so a flight at 7:35AM was already a tough start for me but that’s how me and my dad began our first trip to the Netherlands. We landed in Eindhoven, with a vague plan of going to Groningen and figuring it out from there. Stepped out of the plane, missed a few buses until figuring out how to buy a ticket and got to the centre, already sweating because of the hot summer weather. The hostel was at a 20-minute walk and the check in was only available from 12:00 so we talked the employees into letting us leave our suitcases (with money and everything) in the corridor and moving on to Starbucks, Taco Bell and a coffeeshop, because for an Eastern European those places are almost exotic. We stayed at a cheap hostel for the night, falling asleep to Lithuanian tourists talking and smoking weed just under our balcony and that was my time in Eindhoven.
The next day we took a train to Groningen. Getting to another city requires changing the trains at multiple stations, super confusing to do when it is your first time in the country, so the employees at the station helped by printing a transferring plan for us, how amazingly lucky for us!
After guessing our way through the Dutch train system, largely due to our handy plan, we made it to Groningen and quickly realized the cutest places in Groningen are anywhere by the canal, so we sat down at a location that we later titled the pirate port. While my dad was smoking, I was eating my first Ben&Jerrys trying to figure out where to sleep that night. We didn’t want to splurge on a hotel, so I had messaged tons of people on Couchsurfing who all ignored me until a guy named Mark messaged me … he was able to host us and show us around the city!
I had never done Couchsurfing before, so I was a bit anxious, I mean it is sleeping in a complete stranger’s house after all. But it was an amazing experience! His huge apartment was on the 19th floor next to a small pond in a friendly neighbourhood. The whole city could be seen from the balcony. Mark lent us the two extra bikes he had, and we had dinner together at a café in the middle of a huge park, where we had some Dutch beers, Bitterballen and a lot of other fried stuff. After we had already been at Mark’s for a couple of days, he offered for us to stay in his apartment for another week, since he was leaving on a trip to Amsterdam. I mean the guy is an absolute hero and really made our trip, just shows that trusting people makes travel more enriching.
While we were there, we were basically living off tomato soup, coffee, and waffles. Our humble meals at home were balanced by our trips to Vismarkt, which is still my favorite place – it’s a market square with loads of street food options and that’s where we had some Belgian fries, kibbeling – deep fried fish that you have to eat fast or seagulls might steal it, warm, crunchy stroopwaffels made in front of our eyes, churros and poffertjes with way too much butter. What more could you want from a Street Food Market!
The next couple of days we were alone in the apartment but tried not to spend too much time indoors. My dad is a drummer, so we cycled to a huge music store a bit further from the centre and visited a punk music concert in Lola afterwards, which left me half deaf. Everyone in The Netherlands rides a bicycle and oh boy what a challenge it is to keep up with the fast pace and properly hit the brakes not to annoy people behind you, not fall and understand when it’s your turn to go at the crossroads. It is basically like a traffic system you would see on the road, with cars, in most other countries. It is crazy being in this kind of system but in bicycle lanes.
To try something different, we went to The Northern Maritime Museum which consists of old Dutch ships. Not going to lie, it was quite boring, but good for some history knowledge and silly pictures. The last night we stayed at an Airbnb, owned by a Russian lady, and left the next day with a minivan we found at the last minute as well. It took us 24 hours on the road to get home, but we tried to sleep most of the time, except for a dinner break – the best Mexican wraps from a gas station in Germany.
This trip was when I fell in love with The Netherlands and all the things and experiences the country offers. In fact, it was so great that it was later followed by exploring Amsterdam, Haarlem, the whole province of Groningen, and it is currently my third year living and studying here. I strongly encourage everyone to get out there and explore, because sometimes after just a small trip can relocate what you assumed to be your place in the world.
Thank you Elizabete for sharing your story about you first trip to The Netherlands, it is so cool that you took this amazing trip and you now live in The Netherlands!
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