Holland is so much more than Amsterdam, with it's cheap clogs, hookers, tulips, and weed. When you get out into the rest of the country you really get to see what it's all about...
I've been going to Holland for years; I'm lucky enough to have a good friend who lives in Den Haag and he's even married a cloggy. Not quite gone native but when he commutes he's got a bike for both sides of his journey.
His Dutch friends have been saying I should come over for Carnival for a long time now but in February I got to try it out for myself. I was sold the idea of a couple of days of drinking, singing some songs, and eating some local food.
From what they explained basically it's based on some Catholic tradition. Somehow that seems to have transmuted into a drunk red-faced Carnival Prince riding a float through town with nightmarish bloated faces stuck to the sides.
The kids seem to love this, people cheer as they go by, I was just struck by how weird it all was. All the while thousands of people line the streets seemingly listening to the same drinking songs on repeat at insane levels of volume.
We started on the Friday night, this was the quiet night, money is collected for the potje and whoever holds the pot buys the drinks. For six hours I had at least two drinks in my hands at any given time. We danced, sang, and drank. It was good.
I soon learned that the smoking ban is seemingly optional in bars when Carnival is on. Fancy dress however is mandatory; everyone makes the effort.
Saturday morning I woke from a fugue state. I had no recollection of how I got home and before I could even open my eyes our Dutch host had forced a cocktail into my hands.
I'm not going to lie to you; I was essentially drunk for 48 hours. This is not responsible behaviour and you shouldn't glamorise drunkenness. It is fun though...
After a drunken morning fry up we hit the town again. Our party getting bigger as the day progressed. At some point during the day we found a wig; or at least I think we found it.
We went from bar to bar losing people each time only to find them in the next place and I think there was a club involved.
The next fact I am certain of is the Smullers fried food shack and the train home. The 8am flight the next day was not so fun...
If you've got the stamina you can do it like the Dutch and carry on drinking till Tuesday rather than stop after two days like me.
I'm certain there is more to Holland than clogs, hookers, tulips, and weed. There's national alcoholism as well.
I had hoped to be able to write a bit more on the subject but in honesty the only thing I remember vividly is how hard it was not to puke on the airport tarmac on my way home.