I hopped the Thalys high-speed train to visit my aunt in Holland this weekend. It took three hours to get from Paris to Rotterdam, with a quick view of Brussels along the way. I leaned against the window, straining to see until the sun set, thinking “land of chocolate, land of chocolate.” I was later informed by my French teacher that Switzerland is considered the land of chocolate, and Belgium would only take over if a tragic chocolate-based accident were to wipe out the entire industry. Who knew?
I’m always shocked by the transportation system in Europe. The train was absolutely packed. I don’t doubt that a good number of the businessmen on my train, many of whom jumped out for two-minute smoke breaks at every stop, commute back and forth between major European capitals every week. They looked exhausted, and it seemed they were happy to hit the bar car or doze as opposed to lining up along the freeways.
Once in Holland, I was reminded of yet again of how Europe has it right and North American has it wrong when my aunt, uncle and I took a four-hour bike ride Sunday.
There are bike trails everywhere. And it’s not unusual to see someone whizzing past in full suit and tie, or an elderly couple out for a gentle pedal on a weekend afternoon. School groups travel in bikes en masse. A shiny-haired teenage girl sped past me, music blaring from her front bicycle basket, texting on her phone with an eye on the road.
In Holland, if a car hits a bicycle, it’s the car’s fault, no matter what happened.
But despite all the options available to them, and the fact that gas is jaw-droppingly expensive, the skinny highways seem almost always completely backed up. I very close to missed my train back because it took my aunt and I almost an hour and fifteen minutes to drive a distance that should have taken half an hour.
Whenever I finally manage to run my own country, it’s going to have trains and bicycles and brightly-coloured scooters galore. No cars.
I also got to meet up with my aunt’s husband’s daughters, which was lovely. They’re both sweet, gorgeous Dutch girls and it was nice to catch up with the family I’ve inherited on the other side of the globe. It also created the opportunity for photographic evidence that I am indeed in Europe, and not ghostwriting this from somewhere in Canada:
Finally, and kind of randomly, in Holland they create these weird jungle gym-style contraptions to allow goats to climb up and sit off the grass. We saw them perched up high as we biked along the countryside: