For the next leg of the IBIP tour we traveled Leiden, Netherlands, a small town about a 45 minute drive from Amsterdam. As soon as we arrived we were greeted by our Dutch guide, Neik. Neik informed us that this tiny country (only 320 by 170 kilometers) has the 16th largest economy in the world and one of the highest standards of living. We were surprised to learn that the term ‘Holland’ only referred to two of the twelve provinces of the Netherlands, and that the Netherlands is home to both Dutch and English speaking citizens. Also, that Dutch people are the tallest in the world on average. I was also amazed by the environmentally minded culture. There were bikers and bike lanes everywhere, a windmill on every corner, the cleanest streets and public facilities I’ve ever seen, and recycling everywhere there was a garbage can.
The next day the whole group departed for a day out in Amsterdam. We received a walking tour all over the city and hear about the unique history of the city, and gaze at the breathtaking architecture. For lunch, we dined at a restaurant with a canal view. Since 2/3 of the Netherlands is below sea level, many of the cities feature canals similar to Amsterdam. These thousands of kilometers of dykes are have the same distance as the Great Wall of China! After the lunch, we took a boat tour of the city and were able to admire the architecture from up close. We saw the smallest house in all of Amsterdam, it was only as wide as a window! Our guide referred to the owners as the “happiest couple in Amsterdam” since they both lived on separate floors! On our free time during the day some of the group decided to take a tour of the Van Gough museum, however I decided that this was out of my price range and happily walked around the city for the rest of the day.