We are finally on the adventure of our life time (up ’till now)! After resigning from our jobs teaching English in South Korea in February, we are traveling through Europe, visiting Paris, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Czech Republic, Poland and Austria. We spent almost a year planning our two month trip to Europe which eventually evolved into a ten month journey that will see us crisscrossing Europe, Ireland and the USA for a few months. Central America may (hopefully) make its way onto our itinerary.
The Netherlands has definitely been the friendliest place we have been to so far in Europe. The town of Gouda didn’t fail on this point. The town is famous for the style of cheese named after it as well as another Dutch delicacy, Stroopwafels. These are absolutely delicious and a must try! They are like thin almost crispy waffles with a layer of syrupy goodness in-between. You can enjoy them hot from a street side stand, crushed up to mix into desserts or store bought in packs. We demolished a few packs of these with coffee over the course of our stay in Gouda. The packs from Albert-Hein, a local supermarket chain, were less than 2€ and delicious!
|Stroopwafels and flowers at the market|
Gouda has a beautiful old town area. There are, of course, canals all around and through it as well as a dyke nearby that you can walk along. We stayed right in the old town area at our Couchsurfing place. It was a stones throw away from the town square where all the restaurants and cafes were.
|Sundowners on the canal (our accomodation just behind Kayley)|
|Standing on a dike|
|A real dike|
We spent most of our time just walking the streets and marveling at the little alleys, old buildings and canals. There is also an official Gouda museum if you want to learn more about the history of the town and of course a cheese museum! We spent a pleasant Saturday afternoon soaking up some sun at a cafe on the town square watching the throngs of people go by. They also have a market on the square every Saturday as well as a cheese market every Thursday. The town square has the old city hall right int he center of it. This is an impressive looking Gothic style building that dates back to the mid 1400’s. It is no longer the actual town hall though.
On our train to Gouda we struck up conversations with two dutch ladies who were full of advice on the area and what to see and try. They were full of questions about South Africa,what we were doing, where we were going and where we had been. Much more welcoming to us and our big backpacks taking up space on the train than some frenchmen on our first train from the airport in Paris.
A few days later we happened to strike up a conversation with an elderly couple sitting next to us at a cafe. Kayley and I were trying some more drop (dutch liqourice candies). I had quite a salty one and they laughed at the sour face I pulled. Before we knew it they had invited us to their house after dinner for some drinks. This turned into a lovely evening listening to stories of their time in Gouda,(they had lived there all of their lives). We of course shared our experiences in Europe, South Korea and South Africa with them. They also refused to let us leave empty handed and we boarded our morning train to Amsterdam with a bag of easter egg chocolates as well as a pack of stroopwafels to snack on. This interaction with this delightful couple was the cherry on top for our stay in Gouda.
If you have a day spare on your itinerary for the Netherlands Gouda is worth the visit. It is less than an hour by train from Amsterdam. Everything you need to see is within walking distance in and around the old town square. Time it right so you can catch the afternoon sun to sip a beer or some wine at one of the terrace cafes on the old town square after building up a thirst walking the streets.
Have you had any experiences like this on your travels? For us meeting locals and getting an insight into their daily lives is worth more than seeing monuments and museums of times gone by.