The world’s youngest language:
South Africa is home to the world’s youngest language, Afrikaans which is a mix of Dutch, German and a little bit of French; Afrikaans became an official language in 1925 with 7.1 million native speakers in 2011.
As a child growing up in South Africa I personally did not live in a mud hut or fight with lions while walking through the streets but I did learned a lot about Jan Van Riebeeck while in school, he was a Dutch colonial administrator that left The Netherlands in 1651 on a ship with his family and a large number of Dutch farmers, reaching Africa and becoming the first commander of Cape Town in 1662.
His big mission was to build a harbor along the coast line as a mid-way stop for ships passing by, these ships came from many places including France, Germany and of course The Netherlands. A difficulty in communication arose due to the different languages which ultimately gave birth to our language calling it Cape Dutch before it became an official language which still is about 90% Dutch.
My journey through The Netherlands while returning to my roots:
Travelling as a South African, we often face a ridiculous stereotype which is why I added the video below just to show how funny some of our experiences could be.
Trevor Noah’s – stand up set:
Due to our crazy exchange rate I travel in the cheapest way possible, an economic crisis will never stand in my way of seeing the world, having just a small backpack, a trusty tooth brush and a big slice of biltong that I smuggle around on my travels. Biltong is dried out meat that you can only get in my home country which is served best with a cold beer, making it very easy to fit into the Dutch culture.
Upon my arrival in Amsterdam I was met by these beautiful waterways that engulf the city and little alleyways stretching along antique buildings, I admire the amount of freedom the Dutch people have in their day to day lives, it is unlike that of most European countries I have been to and even though the city may have a bad reputation for drugs and prostitution there’s still so much more to see and do while in the city other than following the normal tourist routs.
I stayed in Bob’s youth hostel right in the city center for the few days I spent in Amsterdam before I set out on my hitchhiking road trip around the country. I made my way to a local coffee shop to practice my Dutch and wait for Koiningsdag, the first and probably only rule the city has is that you are not allowed to smoke Tabaco in buildings but Weed is no problem as you can smoke freely around the whole city whilst trying to respect children and the elderly.
It is funny how you can recognize most of the tourists by their red eyes and a “Where the hell am I” expression on their faces as the weed in Amsterdam is very strong, being one of the best destinations in the world for legal cannabis use. There are a lot of shops around the city that primarily sell cannabis seeds having a wide range of choices, as I learned from just walking into one shop you have 3 major strains where one is called Indica which is a body high making you relaxed while the other which is a mind high giving you more energy known as a Sativa strain and the third which is called a Hybrid being a mix of the 2 strains above, this is the most sought after.
Best things to do while in Amsterdam:
- Rijksmuseum, it has some of the best art in Europe.
- Van Gogh Museum, World’s largest Van Gogh collection.
- Vondelpark, a big park not far from the city centre with free entrance.
- Hash Marihuana and Hemp museum.
- Red Light District.
I’ve made a good Dutch friend called Joery while on my travels through South East Asia and I’ve always spoken to him in Afrikaans with him replying in Dutch, but there’s always a point in our conversation were he laughs at me for sounding like a drunken farm boy, it’s just the way Afrikaans sounds to the Dutch people as they think of us as farmers but that’s nothing a quick arm wrestling match can’t sort out.
Joery manages Escape club, one of the biggest night clubs in the city as its been around since 1986, it’s in one of the most upcoming areas in Amsterdam and “in my honest opinion” the best place to party when in the city as they play really good music with a very high Tech setup, he gave me free entrance and drinks while in the city but for anyone planning on visiting prepare to pay for entrance as nothing in Amsterdam is for free.
Kingsday festival 2016:
Kingsday is the biggest festival in the Netherlands celebrating King Willem-Alexander’s birthday held on the 27th of April, it’s a public holiday for the whole country and what better way to experience the Dutch culture while people from all over the world and locals alike come together for one epic day of partying.
On Kingsday you are given three choices, you can either spend your day hiding from the cold in a pub or bar while smoking till you go home, or take a walk through the streets while brushing shoulders with some of the locals while drinking from stands that sell very cheap beer or pay to go and see some of the top DJ’s play at big indoor festival located in all the big cities.
If you are on a budget as I was, your best option is to buy a case of beer put it in a backpack and walk around the city as you would not believe the number of people there are.
Kingsday survival guide:
- Wear at least one clothing item that is orange as it is the national color and could save you some trouble when ending up in the wrong side of town.
- Don’t buy too many souvenirs while walking as there will be a lot of free stuff lying around when the party is finished and everyone is blackout drunk.
- By beer at the local supermarket the day before and from some of the locals selling on street corners during the festival.
- Don’t pee in the streets as a lot of people nearly get arrested and fined for that, including me but it helps speaking the local language.
I really enjoyed the local Dutch music they were playing as it sounded a lot like back in South Africa but with a slight twist to it, I posted this video below because it feels like the theme song to my 2016 Kingsday festival as it always came on at the right time, it will give you a slight idea of Amsterdam but just don’t take it too literally as it is just a video.
Lil Klein – Drank en drugs:
So my time in Amsterdam ended and I didn’t feel much wiser about my Dutch heritage and my finances weren’t looking so good either so I decided to get out of the city and make my way to the nearest beach to try and save some money, my answer came in the form of a small town called Noordwijk.
It’s a small beach town with a lot of flavor, I never expected to find such a place in The Netherlands and after spending a lot of time there it is now my favorite destination in the whole country and it reminded me a lot of home, I was a local the day I arrived. The local Dutch people were from a small surfer town so their Dutch was much more basic and chilled making Dutch feel like my mother tongue, compared to the faster-paced Dutch in the city.
I stayed in a hostel called the Flying Pig beach hostel; it’s the only backpackers/hostel in the town only costing 11 Euro making it a steal compared to the cities. There I spent every night playing beer pong and flip cup with locals and some travelers and during the day I was on a bicycle making my way to the beach with the sun shining but still having to wear something warm as it was still very cold, making it a memory I will never forget
Hitchhiking to Rotterdam:
My friend and I made a plan to hitchhike all the way to Rotterdam after deciding that public transport was too expensive, we went from Noordwijk to Leiden and ended up at a friend’s house in Rotterdam where a free youth day festival was held.
I took us 5 hours to Rotterdam while seeing and experiencing the whole Dutch country side and taking some crazy photos along the way, it was one of the most memorable adventures of the trip and a cheap way of moving around while meeting interesting locals.
Rotterdam is a beautiful city known for its great architecture and history, if you’re interested in that type of stuff and even though the city is rated as one of the best cities to travel to in 2016 on Lonely Planet’s website, in my opinion what really made this city fun for me was spending some time with old friends at a free festival.
One of the few places in the Netherlands where you don’t have to spend a lot to have a good time and that is why I liked this city.
Money saving tips when travelling:
- Buy food at supermarkets and avoid eating out.
- Hitchhike rather than using public transport.
- Make friends with the locals as they are very helpful people.