The Dutch Korps Mariniers

Since living in the Netherlands, I have often seen the mariniers training throughout the city of Rotterdam. Training and hiking with their 40+kg backpacks or at the local swimming pool in all their gear. The Van Ghentkazerne Military Base is in Rotterdam near my previous school too.

The Korps Mariniers are the Dutch amphibious infantry component of the Royal Netherlands Navy, who can be deployed anywhere within the world within 48 hours in all circumstances.

Their motto is Qua Patet Orbis (“As Far As The World Extends”)

Their final week of training is the hardest, with no sleep hiking up to 125km a day, abseiling down the Van Brienenoordbrug bridge, peddling with a boat down to Zealand for different scenario trainings and also climbing up and abseiling from the Hef bridge. Unfortunately it was pretty much raining their final week too!

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Source: Defensie Magazine
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Source: Ad.nl
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Source: Ad.nl

On Friday July 14th I watched the ceremony at the Schouwburgplein, where they exchanged their training beret for the official Mariniers dark blue beret. It was pretty interesting to hear what they had gone through since February 6th, and how their final week went. They arrived at 12pm just as the rain got worse, carrying all their gear and weapon.

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DSC_4275The ceremony wasn’t too long before they were done, wearing the new beret and greeted by loved ones to celebrate. It was great to see the final ceremony in Rotterdam, even with the rain.

Kinderdijk, The Netherlands

After 5 years of living in Rotterdam I finally got the chance to visit the beautiful Kinderdijk. I took the opportunity to visit Kinderdijk at the same time as my family visiting me in the Netherlands, combining both was a good chance for us all to visit something new together.

Day One (8)Planning our visit we decided to take the Waterbus from the Rotterdam stop at Erasmus Bridge that takes only 30 minutes to Kinderdijk. A perfect mode of transport to also enjoy the views Rotterdam from a boat, as you can stand on the open section at the back of the boat as well as sitting inside if it’s cold. You can use your OV chip card or buy a ticket on board.

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Arriving at Kinderdijk you will know exactly where to walk with the first windmills in sight. Paying only €8,00 for adults and €5.50 for children (4-12 years) to get in it’s well worth it. The main path takes you past the first restaurant along the walking route to see all 19 windmills that stand there since 1740. The whole route is 15km which can be done in a day with sensible shoes.

Day One (62)Kinderdijk is not just a pretty site, it’s actually needed for the land. Since most of the Netherlands is below sea level, including Kinderdijk, the function of the windmills are part of the water management system to prevent floods.

Day One (34)We took some lunch with us, stopping on a bench to each and drink while other tourists walked by. There are a few restaurants and a cafe too, where you can buy souvenirs, refreshments, lunch or some typical Dutch snacks like bitterballen while waiting for the boat trip back to Rotterdam.

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I plan to go again this summer, but then by bike like a true Dutch person!

Kinderdijk

Dwingeloo, Drenthe Netherlands 2016

We booked this weekend away a month ago for some peace and relaxation. We picked a little rented house with a little kitchen and living space at the RCN De Noordster. It was easy to pick this area because Lennart had been there before with his family more than 10 years ago, so it was lovely to go back for him.

I did my research, as I normally do, about what we can do there. However this was no holiday abroad and the focus was to relax and go walking in the National Park Dwingelderveld. I printed out some of the recommended walking routes as well as knowing where the pancake house was!

It took us roughly 2.5 hours to get there by train and bus. We both had a bag each with warm clothes for a cold spring weekend in the North. We also took our brand new DSLR camera that we invested in a few days before the weekend. So I warn you now, lots of beautiful photos incoming!

We started the Saturday morning by 10am and decided to walk the 13km route around the national park. We started at number 7 where our little house was situated and walked anti-clockwise. On Friday night it had rained so we were happy to see the dry forecast for our weekend.

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It took as faster than we expected and we added on a few extra km’s to our 13km walk making it nearly 20km! It was dry cloudy weather was great for walking too, any sunnier and it would of been too hot!

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DSC_0139The Bospub was the pancake house we arrived at for dinner on Saturday. We had reached over 35 thousand steps on my Fitbit so it definitely was time for dinner, where I chose my favourite pancake with cheese, bacon and syrup!

Zoe with her pancake

Saturday evening after a few hours resting in the warm, we headed back out to Planetron which was only 25 minute walk from our little rented house. We attended the 8pm showing which involved a museum and an interactive live planetarium. It was very interesting and got to see some fantastic photos of the moon and planets that had been taken with their telescope. Our showing followed lastly by being able to look through the biggest professional telescope in the Netherlands at the stars and a planet that was aligned with Earth. Luckily for us the cloudy sky had cleared up and the planet we could see was Jupiter with its 4 moons!

DSC_0205Sunday morning we decided to rent bicycles from the RCN park and make our way around the left side of the National park that went on further than the walking route. Cycling of course was much faster and easier as the national park had a bike path. We discovered the left side had some beautiful lakes and a better place to spot birds.

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DSC_0266By the evening we headed into Dwingeloo, the small local village with a supermarket, pharmacy and post office. Bought some delicious ice cream at Fanelli’s Ijs & Koffee and cycled back home, passing some tulip fields.

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DSC_0278We finished our enjoyable weekend with a late night cycle to watch the sunset. For the whole weekend we had reached up to 52 thousand steps on my Fitbit, which is interesting to see. Dwingeloo is the perfect relaxing place for a weekend away.

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Dwingeloo

Pompeii & Mount Vesuvius, Italy 2015

We booked a tour online with City Wonders that would pick us up at 7am in Rome for a long drive to Pompeii for the excursion. Our lunch and entrance tickets for the Pompeii Lost City were included in the price and we would be back by 11pm. We were a bit skeptical as we would be sat on a coach for a total of 6 hours (3 there and 3 back) and this is hugely something out of our comfort zone. Plus with Lennart being 196cm tall he’s not the comfiest person sitting on a coach, but we really wanted to visit so we prepared ourselves for the long journey.

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From the first hour on the coach to Pompeii we already had a great impression of how the rest of the day would go. Our guides were Luca and Dmitri who were fantastic! Luca told all different information about the region, the food and the history of castles on the way in such an interesting and comic way that we really enjoyed it. He also made it personal by adding in little stories of his wife and children and how they have experienced life in the region.

Once we arrived at the Pompeii ruins we were appointed to a guide who works at the Lost City to show us a main walking route that takes 2.5 hours. Right from the start it was impressive and fascinating to be walking through the ruins. Experiencing the houses of how some of the richer families lived to the poor areas where the famous brothels were. Truthfully we could have spent all day exploring there, but for an excursion this was the perfect amount of time. It is definitely a place we will return to and explore more.

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(It’s been hard to choose which photos to share as we have so many! This last photo above shows Mount Vesuvius in the background, where we headed next.)

Back on the overheating coach we headed to a booked restaurant for lunch. We were treated to a set meal of a fresh salad, a Napoleon pizza of our choice and a much needed cold drink, since it had reached 29°c! From there we had about a 40 minute drive up to the highest part of the volcano. Lots of twists and turns in the road definitely made it a challenge for the coach driver but he did a fantastic job getting us to the top, most likely something he does often on these excursions.

We bought a fresh cold water at the temporary little shop and prepared ourselves for the steep walk to the top of the volcano. It was temporary because the previous little shop had been struck by lightening a few weeks before!

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We were prepared with our sneakers on, rather than some guests with high heels on. There was a time limit of 20 minutes for us all to get to the top and enjoy the views before having to get back to the coach as we still had the 3 hour drive back to Rome.

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If you open this photo above larger, you can see the dried lava/volcanic rock in grey from the eruption from 1944.  The other two photos are of the creator of the volcano.

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We were extremely lucky for such a clear day. There was a super friendly Chinese guy on the tour that took our photo at the top, he lost his wife near the coach as she was wearing heels and literally couldn’t walk up the steep part, but he didn’t want to miss out and joined us to the top.

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The day ended back in Rome at 12pm, later then expected due to some traffic from Naples. We highly recommend City Wonders tours, since we can’t think of any negative things to say about the day as we were well informed about the history of Pompeii, Naples, Mount Vesuvius and the overall service was fantastic. If we visit another city that the tour company is based in we will certainly book another excursion with them.

Day Trip to Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius

Rome, Italy 2015

Rome was at the top of our list to visit for a long while. But we knew this would be a little more expensive than our usual city trips, due to the amount of attractions in Rome that we really wanted to visit. Plus, we couldn’t go to Rome without at least a day trip to Pompeii for the ancient ruins of the Lost City and to climb the top of Mount Vesuvius volcano, so we were pushing out our usual budget.

As soon as we arrived we were hit with the 36°c degree heat and we were prepared with our sunglasses and suncream. We stayed at the Four Seasons Hostel, which was great location from the train and metro stop plus cheap to sleep there, however overall rather dirty and it’s definitely not a place we will return to. But seeing as we spent the whole day and evenings in the city it was fine just to sleep and shower there.

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We were a little in doubt to queue up and visit the Colosseum inside, as we could see how crazy it was to wait in line up to 4 hours! And we are definitely not the type that like queuing! We took a chance and got up on our 3rd day at 7am, which was hard to do after going to bed so late, and took the metro to the colosseum to see if we had a chance to get to the front of the line. Surprisingly, it was the best time and idea we had on our vacation. We must of been within the first 100 people, so once the Colosseum was open we went straight in!

We found it stunning to see, and to learn the history of how it would of been. We wanted to book the underground tour as it was highly recommended and definitely something we would enjoy, but unfortunately it was sold out online months before we actually arrived! When we return in the future, we will keep this in mind and book in advance.

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With the same ticket you had entry to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, which was also at the top of our list to visit. We took a side entrance that was rumoured to be less popular for the tourists, and with our curiosity we got there and could walk straight in, instead of queuing at the main entrance for minimum an hour.

Once again Rome took our breath away as we tried taking in all the information and history, how life would of been and how amazing it is to walk around freely in such a preserved area. Again we didn’t go with a tour so we could take our time and explore at our own pace, but we would of benefited from a guide to learn better about what some of the ruins were.

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With one of our free afternoons we decided to travel out of the non-stop city with the metro to the famous aqua ducts. I personally didn’t know much about them, so Lennart became my tour guide. He had a good place in mind that he had researched where there were still parts of the aqua ducts standing that would have carried water towards Rome.

IMG_8726Was beautiful to just walk through the fields, with no other people in sight. We followed the dried up path, with the wild flowers and a little stream nearby. It didn’t feel like we were only 20 minutes from the center of Rome. We could of spent hours there but once the sun was setting we headed towards the city for dinner and prepare ourselves for our excursion trip to the Lost City of Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius the following day (and our last full day in Italy).

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IMG_8738Here Lennart is photographed with a section of the original stoned road to Rome.

Some things we missed were the Pantheon and the Appian Way so they will be on our list next time our travels take us to Rome! There is just so much to see and take in it was hard to fit everything in on a 5 day visit! Would definitely recommend at least 7 days if your planning your visit to Rome.