"I didn't even realise we went to the zoo"

Trip Start Jun 24, 2013
Trip End Aug 13, 2013

Flag of Netherlands  , Utrecht,
Sunday, June 30, 2013

Unlike a lot of travellers I had zero plans for what to do after a couple days venturing around Amsterdam for a couple of days. But in the back of my mind I had decided on a place without even realising it. Utrecht! I am not exactly sure what attracted to me to the idea of going to Utrecht. I have a theory that it was because I think the name of the town (or is it a city??) is really cool and fort someone who doesn't speak Dutch, it isn't to hard to say properly.

I decided to try Couchsurfing because I feel it is the best way to actually immerse yourself in the culture of the city and the country you are in. Fortunately I found a host very quickly, a young guy, Marc, who like me is associated with the media. We meet at the Utrecht Centraal station and he took me to his apartment in an outer area called Utrecht Terwijde, which he described as a quiet, overly rule abiding area, which judging from how clean the park was, and the lack of graffiti covering the walls of the many apartment blocks seemed really believable.

But immediately after he showed me an impressive castle in the region, in what seemed more like a stereotypical Swiss mountain village than a Dutch village. I simply expected to see people wearing Leiderhosen and eating some kind of Bratwurst. Instead they were just dressed normally, which was a slight disappointment. But overall it was good to see a very small quaint Dutch village, but it did feel weird to be constantly stared. I assume it was because two mid twenty guys drinking a beer around families because that in my mind would constitute some weird looks.

But the weirdest thing of the trip was watching the show Marc was an Editor for, and actually understanding (well roughly) what the hell was going on. I was impressed because it was in Dutch and I speak as much Dutch as you, the reader can speak Greenlandic (which I assume probably fairly you can't, and yes I realise I am now breaking the fourth wall). It was about Doping in cycling, it was fairly obvious what they were saying and judging from the faces one on the panel was a doper. So it really didn't take a Brain Surgeon to workout what was being said.

The next day I ventured into Utrecht, with the major goal of visiting the major landmark there, the Dom Tower. As you'd expect from a high tower the view from the top was incredible, even more amazing is that from the top of the 114 metre tall tower it is possible to see Amsterdam and Rotterdam, which is amazing, but also brings into context just how small Netherlands really is, and how flat it is too. But what made this more memorable and enjoyable was hanging out with a deceptively young New Zealander named Lisa. I don't mean it in a bad way in the slightest, but she looks older than what she really is. I honestly thought she was 19 or 20, but she was only 17, which was a little shocking but overall it didn't matter in the slightest. She was a nice enough chick, and she was easily a lot wiser and more well-rounded than her years. She was interesting and very knowledgeable and she possessed a major asset for herself, the ability to speak Dutch. I didn't get to spend much time with her but she was a memorable person because I don't think I would have been able to travel the other side of the world solo at 17. She truly did impress me.

The day was also very memorable because of the evening too. Marc decided to show me his favourite place to eat in Utrecht. Somewhere that a lot of University students eat at because of the cheap meal prices and good quality food, which I discovered wasn't that rear in retrospect. It started off ordinarily enough, sharing a jug of beer between us having a typical chat that guys have (for you ladies reading this...If guys are chatting in a bar, they are rating the hotness of girls there). Then all of a sudden, between 10 to 15 girls came wandering in wearing animal onesies, which to both of us was strange. Marc immediately emphasised that this wasn't a normal occurrence in Utrecht, which is expected but a little disappointing as it is cool to see unexpected things sometimes.

Marc and I sat there talking for a little while about what we assumed was going on there. After all seeing a large group of rather drunk girls wandering the street dressed as zebras, lions, tigers, giraffes, etc is a little weird to say the least, not to mention the fact that it wasn't even nine pm yet. So after a challenge laid out to me by Marc, I got up and went over to the group of girls thanks to the 'Dutch' Courage that I had built up after a few pints of the local ale. Dutch courage in the Dutch countryside, it has only taken me to now to realise the brilliance of that moment. I tapped one of the many Zebras on her shoulder and asked in slow deliberate English, which I realise now wasn't necessary because most Dutch people speak as good English as I do, "why are you girls all dressed up like animals?"

It took the young lady a second to register that she was asked a question in English. With a raised eyebrow in confusion she snarkly responded that they (being the drunken zoo animals) were on a mini pub crawl and that they had wanted to do a themed pub crawl for such a long time. But before I could gather any thought to respond, she quickly blearted out in a drunken slur, "I like your accent, where are you from?" I responded with Australia and that sparked the interest of her friends and soon I was the centre point of the group for a small moment. They asked the most obvious questions you ask a tourist, so I won't bore you with the details, but the last question was interesting. "Do you want to join this pub crawl?" I am still deciding the context in which she asked the question, was it one of will or was it just to be nice. However the question was raised and immediately without thinking I jibbed back that I was sorry but I couldn't as I was heading off to Cologne early the next morning. To this day I am slightly disappointed I didn't agree, after all what wonderful tales would I have to tell now. Instead I decided against it. After all it was very early in my trip and I thought I would have plenty of time to do things in the future. Little did I realise exactly what fun I had to look forward to.
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