Editor’s note: This article is presented in partnership with the Holland Marketing Alliance and their award-winning “Holland. The Original Cool” travel series. You can watch their new short film, “The Tale of Kat & Dog: A Holland Cool Movie” here:
After watching “The Tale of Kat and Dog: A Holland Cool Movie,” you’ll be convinced that Holland is a country of art, culture and super-intelligent dogs. In “Holland. The Original Cool”s new short film, an American woman named Kat travels to Amsterdam and is content to eat stroopwafels alone in the park. It’s only after she’s taken on an unexpected tour by a wily dog named Joepie [YOO-pee, which is basically Dutch for “yay!”] that she starts to see the city for all it’s worth.
From houseboats to local watering holes to a view from the top of Amsterdam’s stunning cityscape, the film explores a local life that steers clear of tourist traps. Here are our top five takeaways from this charming short film:
1. There are lots of diverse and unique neighborhoods throughout Amsterdam.
Though the city’s population is barely over 800,000, Amsterdam is full of dozens of different neighborhoods, each with their own particular atmosphere and collection of historical landmarks and modern attractions. For art buffs, the Museum Quarter holds both the Van Gogh Museum, dedicated to the great painter, and the Rijksmuseum, the largest art museum in the country. Amsterdam is also home to more than 30 gorgeous parks, ranging from stately to quaint. Traveling via canal gets you close up to centuries-old architecture, and a trip to the top of the A’DAM Toren offers spectacular views of the whole city. Whether it’s taking in the rich history of the Centrum, strolling through the wild architecture in the Eastern Docklands, or admiring the sleepy canals in Jordaan, there’s a place for any pace in Amsterdam.
2. “Gezellig” is the untranslatable feeling you never knew you needed a word for.
Have you ever felt a sense of comfort or coziness while socializing with your friends and loved ones, but just didn’t have the vocabulary to express it? You’re in luck: the Dutch word “gezellig” [keh-SELL-ig] means just that, though the full meaning of the word is generally considered untranslatable to English. The concept of “gezellig” is said to encompass the heart of Dutch culture, and is thought of as more of a feeling than a word. It’s as if experiences fall on a scale, where different scenarios are either more or less “gezellig.” Places, people, rooms, or an afternoon can all be “gezellig” depending on the mood or activity. A night out with your friends to your favorite bar can be “gezellig” (especially if you friends are “gezellig” and the bar is also “gezellig”), whereas a doctor’s waiting room is not necessarily “gezellig” (which would make it “ongezellig,” the absolute opposite of “gezellig.”) If you’re still confused, don’t worry: There’s a reason “gezellig” is untranslatable.
3. “Jenever,” a traditional Dutch liquor, is the predecessor to gin.
Thought to have been created in the 16th century, “jenever” was originally used as medicine, and was mixed with herbs, spices, and sugar to make it more palatable. It’s usually served in small, tulip-shaped glasses that are filled to the brim, which enhances the aroma of the drink, and it is a tradition to take the first sip by bending down to the glass, rather than picking it up. “Jenever” comes in two varieties, young (“jonge”) and old (“oude”), which differ not on the age of the drink but in the way it’s distilled – “jonge jenever” follows a more modern recipe, where “oude jenever” goes by one dating back to the 18th century. Fun fact: a shot of “jenever” followed by a glass of beer is called a “kopstoot” (or “headbutt” in English.)
4. Holland is hipster heaven.
A thriving art scene, an appreciation for craftsmanship and artisanal goods, and the fact that it has more bikes than people make Amsterdam the hipster capital of the world. This is one bespoke culture: The Dutch tradition of careful craftsmanship extends to all reaches of life, from the use of organic food and refined, rustic culinary practices to expressive and inventive building design and home decor. Also, The Netherlands was the very first country to legalize same-sex marriage, and their liberal politics make it one of the most socially progressive countries in the world.
5. The past enriches the present.
Amsterdam has a long and vibrant history – around 750 years’ worth. But you don’t have to research the city to know this; step outside. Traditional, Dutch golden-era architecture stands proudly next to contemporary structures, juxtaposing classical glory with modern idiosyncrasies. Many famous residents (including Anne Frank, Rembrandt van Rijn, and Vincent van Gogh) have museums and landmarks dedicated to their lives, emphasizing their impact on Dutch history as well as the world’s.
Whether your tour guide is a mischievous dog or simply a list of must-sees, it’s undeniable that Holland is meant to be felt more than it’s seen (and even then, the scenery is pretty great, too.) The unique patchwork of neighborhoods, world-class sights and scenes, and its assemblage of new and old make for an unparalleled experience. Though there’s no promise you’ll meet a handsome, bearded bartender, it’s impossible to not have new adventures, feel at home and fall in love with Holland.