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On Saturday night, Marvin and I had a fight. We were at his parent’s house and drove home, where we had to work things out. Since we are both rather on the emotional side, we didn’t feel too good and at 12 pm we decided, we could not take our tiny apartment anymore.
Wanderlust had been growing and growing inside of me for the last few weeks and it was time it finally broke free. We cooked potatoes, packed a few clothes, hummus and dog food (since our Italian Greyhound Demian would be our travel companion, of course).
All we knew was, we wanted to go to the beach. From where we live in Germany, either northern France, Belgium or the Netherlands would be a possibility, with about 420 km/ 260 mi to drive each. “I’ve never been to the Netherlands”, Marvin said. I had, but since I was around 5 years old, I didn’t remember anything. We wrapped the pup in blankets and drove off. A few hour later, we parked at a motorway service station and fell asleep in the car for the first time. 6 hours and 4 foggy windows later, we were on the road again. The first place we stopped was the dutch town Bergen op Zoom, right by the sea.
The sky was full of clouds and it was raining a little. To our surprise, the sea looked a lot more like a lake. We went for a little walk, and inhaled the salty air for the first time, knowing we made the right decision. Since we forgot Demian’s little doggy sweater (he has nearly no fur and starts shaking as soon as he’s not in direct sunlight) I cut up some sleeves of my sweaters and an improvised one to keep him warm (this explains his homeless look in all the pictures he’s in). We had breakfast in our car, used a MacDonalds restroom (that’ s what MacDonalds are there for, right?) then decided to drive straight to Amsterdam, the country’s capital.
The first thing we did was to take Demian on a walk. Amsterdam is one of the prettiest cities I have ever set foot on: Beautiful brick houses everywhere, fancy cafes, lots of plants and a million bicycles (I am not kidding). The city has a really strong hipster aesthetic, but in a good way. We even came across some vegan cafes and restaurants. But what we enjoyed most was just walking around the streets and look at the pretty houses everywhere. Unlike in Germany, everyone has plants in their windows and in front of their apartments. Everything is green and fresh looking, little benches right in front of people’s doors, inviting you to sit. It feels more like a huge park where people decided to build amazing architecture in, there’s no other way to describe it.
After our walk through the city, Demian passed out in the car and we went to see the Van Gogh Museum, one of my biggest dreams and places on my bucket list. We were overwhelmed with the beauty and the fact that we were standing footsteps away from the original paintings of my favorite artist. I cannot put in words how much joy I felt when standing in front of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers.
Here’s a slideshow of the pictures we took in Amsterdam:
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With a happy heart, we walked back to the car and found a little grocery store, where we bought huge smoothies and some goodies to make sandwiches, then we drove off to the Vondelpark, where we dipped bread in peanut butter and jelly jars by the water, and Demian discovered his passion for chasing birds.
When we returned to our car, that was parked right in front of a Channel store, it was 8 pm and almost dark. Demian was snoring on my lap and Marvin was very tired as well. There was a lot left to discover in beautiful Amsterdam and we discussed what to do next. Did we want to stay in Amsterdam another night and get to know it better tomorrow? Did we want to go home? After a while of talking through our options, we found out that all we wanted was to be in Nature and spend time in a quiet place as a family. Amsterdam was one of the most aesthetic cities I had ever seen, but it was also very big. We were strangers in a crowd so big people reminded me of ants running around their anthill (only most of them carried really fancy cameras and expensive food). We wanted to remember Amsterdam as the beautiful place we experienced that day. We looked up “the prettiest beaches in the Netherlands” and decided to drive another 150km/ 93mi to a town called Bergen aan Zee on the North sea coast. As I am writing this post and looked the town up online, I am not surprised reading it has only 483 inhabitants. As tiny as that may be, these 483 inhabitants for sure never slept in their car on the coast, because every single one of them seems to own a mansion bigger than their neighbor’s
When we arrived, it was pitch black and we ended up sleeping on a parking spot 2 minutes away from the coast. But before we fell asleep, Marvin wanted to climb the path to the sea over one of the many dunes to see what the beach looked like. As we walked up, I expected a little beach, a calm flat sea, just like on our first stop, but what we could see through the dark standing on top of a dune blew my mind: It was a wild sea singing in the cold wind, untamed. The North Sea welcomed us. It was exactly what we were dreaming of at home.
Looking down, we saw a house at the beach with the lights on. Hoping for a restaurant, we walked down and knocked on the windows. It was a beach club. They were already closed of course, but they let us in to use their restroom. Going on this trip in our car, we did not bring a lot. But everything we needed, the Netherlands seemed to give to us. That night, I fell asleep laying on my side in my seat, looking at Marvin, Demian cuddled on my lap, happy. Happy, that we had our fight in the first place. Happy, that I found his kind and loving heart. Happy, that we just left home without thinking about it. We had been sleeping on the road for days and not once did I feel unsafe with him by my side. I closed my eyes and woke up the next morning feeling exactly the same.
I never thought I’d be able to sleep that good in a car. When we left, none of us knew how long we’d be gone or if we were going to get hotel rooms on the way. Before we fell asleep the very first night on the road, Marvin told me that the last time he slept in a car was when his father took him to Rome after Graduation and that he had a very hard time sleeping then. But on our trip, we slept in our car 4 times and we didn´t mind. Every night, we were so exhausted from the long day we had, that we all just passed out and woke up with the sun.
Our pup Demian even seemed to enjoy our new tiny home. He got to sleep on my lap or cuddled up next to me on my seat if I slept on my side, sharing warmth and feeling safe and loved. At home, he usually wakes us up 1 or 2 times a night to go outside, since he is very young still. On our road trip, he was so tired from all the adventures and hikes, he didn’t wake us up at night once. Before we left, I was scared our road trip would be more difficult than the ones I took before, since it was the first one taking my dog with me.
But not being in an apartment, constantly being on our side and off leash and running around as much as he wants to (except for the day in Amsterdam of course), he seemed so much happier than at home. I can imagine he felt just like we did: free.
Waking up the next morning, we got to see everything in daylight for the first time. We brushed our teeth on the side of the road, got dressed and walked up the path over the dunes again, to have breakfast at the beach club. Even though I had been there the night before, I felt like I walked in there for the first time. It was the most beautiful cafe/ restaurant/ place to chill I had ever been in. Let me show you:
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The sky was covered in clouds, the coast stretched its cold fingers for us, touching our hair and skin with wind, salt, sand. The North Sea is passionate and beautiful, cold and comforting. It felt like home. We didn’t feel like tourists or wanderers, we felt like we belonged, like we had been here many times before.
Near where our car was parked, Marvin found an entrance to The North Holland Dune Reserve. We bought a pass and went in. The main function of the dunes is to provide natural protection for the coast against the sea, because without the dunes, almost all parts of the Netherlands would be flooded.
It looked so unreal. The dutch dunes had a special feeling to them, almost like no-mans-land. We saw wild horses, European bisons and all kinds of birds.
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We ended up going back to the beach club to have lunch. This time, there was a group of other people there, the sun had come out and there were people and other dogs at the beach. It looked so much different than it did in the morning. The North Sea was lit up by the sun and shimmered like a painting. Our waiter, the same one we knew from breakfast, was super nice and helped us figure out how to “veganize” some meals they had on their menu. For the fist time on our trip, we enjoyed a warm meal. Looking outside, I felt so happy, I was sure all of the happiness would explode out of my body and in that moment, I must have been the happiest girl in the world. The happiest me I have ever been. Looking at Marvin only made me happier and happier. There was something about his curly hair, the sand corns on his sweater, his kind eyes, that made me realize there is no other human out there I wanted to be with more. Here, at the most beautiful beach I had ever been to, as travelers and at home, in our tiny apartment where we lived as broke university students.
Maybe all it takes is a little salt, sand and wind to wash a heart happy again.
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