Summer Break

During the middle of June in the Netherlands, you might notice that flags and schoolbags are common decorations on homes along your street. This is due to the results of the Dutch High School exams being published, and if a student passed the official exam in the 4-5 or 6 year High Schhttps://www.giethoorn.com/en/ool program, they will celebrate this by hanging their schoolbag and flag outside their house. In the Dutch system, retake exams are possible next week. Our own AP and IB students have to wait for the results until the first week of July, so please continue our tradition and, with passing grades, do as the Dutch do.

We start by going to Scheveningen for the Festival Classique. A great festival to end our school year. Closer to home in Leiden (at the end of June), you can enjoy the annual Lakenfeesten, a celebration of the city's beautiful canals, on the canals. It is a very popular event with Leidenaars, therefore it is recommended that you take public transport when going to visit the city. The Lakenfeesten takes place during the end of June, with all sorts of entertainment going on throughout the festival. The highlight is on a Friday evening, where a parade of boats travels through the city and park in the city center, all in different decor and themes in attempts to win first place. It is a wonderful sight, and a great way to start off the summer break; be sure to make a stop in Leiden if you are around next week. Also, in tandem with the Lakenfeesten, the Culinary Festival takes place, a wonderful pairing of events for all of the senses.

Throughout the year I mention the famous museums in Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam and other cities. For these end of the school year tips I will not be mentioning them, instead, I will talk about lesser known places that are equally as nice to visit. So, here are some tips to take you through the summer months, until we see each other again at the start of school in August:

  • The joy of being in a country as small as the Netherlands is that you can choose a different mode of transportation from one day to the next. Biking, walking, boating, taking the train or driving are all ways to enjoy a vacation in this country. Starting in the north we arrive at the Waddeneilanden; the islands of Texel, Vlieland, Ameland, Terschelling and Schiermonnikoog. All of them are wonderful places to visit for a few days. Texel (please make sure you visit Ecomare), can be seen in one day, but the other islands need more time to explore. Driving up to Harlingen and taking the boat is already a real treat. During the month of June in Terschelling, you can also enjoy the Oerol Festival, a wonderful festival of music, dance and drama. My family loves to visit Terschelling and we always try to spend a few days there to bike around.

  • Friesland has wonderful boating opportunities on many lakes and rivers, while Groningen has biking opportunities and great farms to visit such as the Menkemaborg. Drenthe contains old burial places known as "Hunnebedden," dating back to 3,500 BC; biking and driving through the countryside of Drenthe is truly special. Overijssel is an interesting location, as is the town of Giethoorn, where all transportation takes place by boat. You can rent a flat boat or take a tour boat, and you might be lucky enough to see a wedding party floating by on the water. Those who prefer "dry land" can visit Giethoorn's lovely stone and mineral museum "De Oude Aarde" - definitely worth a visit. Two wonderful museums to visit in Overijssel are: Museum de Fundatie together with Castle Het Nijenhuis.

  • The province of Gelderland has a beautiful nature area called the Veluwe, and the city of Arnhem hosts the National Park De Hoge Veluwe, along with the Kroller Muller Museum, the Open Air Museum and the Safari Park. Many Dutch people camp or rent chalets in this area for their holidays, so make sure you book early. A lovely small museum is Museum More-Castle Ruurlo.

  • Continuing to the south we reach the province of Limburg, where a new world opens up with rolling hills and even a mountain (our one and only Dutch mountain, the Vaalserberg). The "White Village" of Thorn is also a must to visit, while a trip to the capital city of Maastricht feels as if you are walking into France. Valkenburg is the location of the "Drielandenpunt" where the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium come together in one location, right alongside the impressive American War Cemetery of Margraten.

  • Heading back up to the north west we reach the province of Noord Brabant, with the cities of Tilburg, Breda and 's Hertogenbosch. Moving west towards Zeeland, known as the "water province", you will discover the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Delta Works, a visit that warrants at least one full day. There are also beautiful beaches and lovely harbors such as Veere, Zierikzee and Vlissingen, alongside this amazing water system.

  • Water lovers should continue traveling north to the province of Zuid-Holland, where you can find the cities of Kinderdijk, with its picturesque windmills, and Rotterdam, with its outstanding harbor. Don't forget to visit the cheese city of Gouda and Oudewater, home to the infamous weight house where, (so-called) witches were weighed. Of course, we shouldn't forget the province of Noord-Holland, as it is the home province to the Dutch capital Amsterdam. Water-bikes in Amsterdam are a great way to discover parts of the city you can't reach by foot. For further information on the water bikes, visit Canal Bike. A great, International Festival takes place in Amsterdam in June or July is the Roots Festival. Combine this with a visit to the Tropenmuseum a museum of world cultures.

  • Other highlights include the Open Air Museum Zaansche Schans, the Friday morning cheese market in Alkmaar, the "Enclosure" Dam that connects North-Holland with Friesland, the Zuiderzee Museum in Enkhuizen and the dike that connects Enkhuizen with the Flevopolder, our newest reclaimed province. Finally, you can end your Dutch tour in the province of Utrecht located in the center of The Netherlands, with the cities of Utrecht and you still have the opportunity to visit Paleis Soestdijk, residence of the former Queen, grandmother of the current King Willem-Alexander, Juliana and her family.And last but not least, the newest province, completely reclaimed land, Flevoland. Please stop by the Museum Nieuw Land to discover the wonderful science behind the idea to reclaim land from the sea. Or visit the Batavia werf - next to these two wonderful museums, you'll find the Batavia Stad Outlet Center.

  • As you can see, with a bit of walking, biking, boating and driving, you can travel across all of this small country very easily. The adventurous among us can cross the border into Belgium to visit Brugge, Brussels, Antwerp and Gent. Further east is Luxembourg, which requires a beautiful drive through the Belgian countryside and along Bastogne, known for the Battle of the Bulge, the battle was fought 75 years ago this year, in the Belgium Ardennes. This area is also a great ski spot in the winter. You can also cross the border into Germany to visit the cities of Aachen or Cologne. With two months of summer vacation, you can visit three different countries, which offer everything for the whole family. Make sure you visit the websites of the different cities and provinces. The summer months usually yield a large variety of cultural festivals.

  • Don't forget to use the wonderful Dutch Tourist Office, known as the "VVV", located in every main town, city and province in The Netherlands. These offices have plenty of useful information, so be sure to stop by before planning a trip. The website Holland.com, gives you information during the entire year. Check out events under the month of June, July and August with the North Sea Jazz Festival, and other festivals which are taking place during the summer in the Netherlands.

In between our busy school schedules, we did a lot of "sightseeing" together. I hope you've enjoyed being in the Netherlands, experiencing a bit of our culture. Together, we have all learned about each of our different cultures, whether it was through our trips, our lunches/dinners in the local restaurants, International Day, or Sinterklaas. So...as we sing in our school song: “From our homelands far away to the kingdom by the sea, Holland has become our second home. We are grateful for the chance to see what we can see, And we shall try to be all we can be.”

I started and finish these summer tips with the lyrics of the chorus of our school song, written by the late Gary Cramer:
"Tell me, tell me, where do you come from? (Children from around the world) Tell me, tell me, where do we belong? (We can make the world our home.) Together we discover ways to learn and grow. American School of The Hague, we’re a part of you.”

Have a wonderful summer!
Bernie