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A Knowledge Junkie’s View of Nederland

A good friend sent me Strange Geographies: Quick Facts on the Netherlands, an article recently written by Ransom Riggs on Mental Floss.

Mental Floss is a funky little US site with the tagline ‘Where Knowledge Junkies Get Their Fix’.

Talk about an understatement. It’s full of facts, trivia, quizzes and brain challenges involving information that ranges from useful to offbeat to odd to arcane.

I mean, where else can you find such articles as:

  • How to Tweet Yourself Out of a Job
  • Carl Sagan and the Drake Principle (to identify detectable extraterrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy)
  • How Do Countries Choose Which Side They Drive On
  • Twelve Essential Talking Points for the Deodorant Enthusiast

Wow. I hadn’t even realized that deodorant enthusiasts even existed, let alone potential extraterrestrial civilizations in our galaxy.

Ransom recently took a one-week trip to the Benelux countries, and the aforementioned post is his first of what promises to be several on his observations and experiences.

Now before anyone starts muttering underneath their breath that 3 countries in one week does not really afford much of a sense of a place, or that he remained in the Randstad (that would be the heavily populated Amsterdam-Utrecht-The Hague-Rotterdam corridor for new Adventurers), please bear with me.

I know, because they were my initial thoughts, too. But then I decided to stop thinking like a person who lives here, and open my eyes and mind to what he had to say.

Let’s give Riggs props for getting out of A’dam. So many visitors never do so, leaving The Netherlands with Amsterdam as their only reference point.

Nothing wrong with that, sometimes lack of time and money preclude travelers from going into the northern, eastern or southern heartlands, not to mention seeing the gorgeous beaches and islands.

Yes, it’s like going to New York City and thinking you’ve seen the United States. Or London and England. Tokyo and Japan. Moscow and Russia. Sydney and Australia. And on and on.

So while A’dam isn’t fully representative of Nederland, that’s okay. What one place possibly could be? 

In the end, time spent in the capital (but not the seat of government, for you knowledge junkies, that’s The Hague) does offer a view of a quintessentially Dutch, large city experience. And Amsterdam is definitely unique. I mean, you know you’re in The Netherlands, and aren’t about to confuse it with other European cities.

Riggs covers the usual topics such as canals, bikes, great beer, tiny bathrooms, interesting architecture, heavy population density, etc. But he also goes beyond that; who knew some unruly kids are tossing Smart cars into canals for kicks? He also accurately captures the lack of interest in the beautiful flower fields dotting the landscape by his jaded fellow car riders. Don’t we all tend to become dulled to the beauty, the unusual, the newness of what surrounds us?

Riggs clearly enjoyed his time in Nederland. You can read it in his words, and see it in his photos. Just the fact that he’s indicated he’ll write more in the future shows that his time spent here, while limited in duration, was apparently rich in impressions and experiences.

So I say ‘well done’. Not only for sharing a visitor’s view of where we live, but also for reminding us to keep our eyes and minds open.

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