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The Beauty of a Dutch Commute

A couple of times a week, I commute to my part-time job in Leeuwarden, in Friesland province. Sometimes I drive, but as much as possible, I like to take the train. I start by bicycling to the train station in the center of Groningen, parking the bike and boarding the train.

Groningen central train station

Groningen central train station

The train trip takes about 35 minutes if I catch the express; otherwise it takes about 50 minutes. In Leeuwarden, I finish my commute by riding my second bike, which I keep parked at the station, through the historic center of Leeuwarden to my workplace. (Factoid: There are more bicycles in the Netherlands than people.)

a farm on a frosty day, seen during my commute to Leeuwarden

a farm on a frosty day

Through the train window, the scenery is beautiful: pancake flat, usually green, and dotted with bucolic farms. I have time to appreciate the passing images, and occasionally I think to snap a picture or two. Usually I don’t have my camera with me, so I use my phone.

Sometimes in the mornings, a mist hangs over the fields. On my commute to Leeuwarden.

Sometimes in the mornings, a mist hangs over the fields.

The train windows can’t be opened, and are varying degrees of dirty, which adds a slightly grey patina to the photos. To me, it matches the weather: grey, more often than not.

a rainy day somewhere on my commute between Groningen and Leeuwarden. Notice that fields are not delineated by fences, but rather by water-filled ditches.

a rainy day somewhere between Groningen and Leeuwarden. Notice that fields here are not defined by fences, but rather by water-filled ditches.

It occurred to me yesterday on my commute home, as I gazed absently out the window of the train, that I’ve taken lots of pictures of these passing scenes, yet I’ve never shown them to anyone. I decided it was time to go ahead and show you some.

somewhere on my commute between Groningen and Leeuwarden after a dusting of snow

after a dusting of snow

As you can see, they’re not the highest quality because a) I used my phone’s camera, b) the window was dirty, and/or c) we were moving fairly fast at the time. Nevertheless, to me they have a certain atmosphere: a muted quality that matches my meditative mood as I commute. It’s a time to pause, a moment of suspension, and a time to think between two bursts of bicycling activity.

Speaking of bicycles, the photo below was taken at one of the stations along the way. (Another factoid: Bicycle theft is one of the most frequent crime in the Netherlands.)

Bicycle parking at one of the stations along the way on my commute. Even on a rainy day, people bicycle.

Bicycle parking at one of the stations along the way. Even on a rainy day, people bicycle.

The sun does occasionally shine, however, and on those days the mood on the train is always more lively.

A clear-sky day on my commute to Leeuwarden.

A sunny day at last!

How do you get to work? What is your commute like? Do you see beauty along the way? Add a comment below!


13 Comments

  • Hung Thai

    April 13, 2016 at 8:54 pm

    You’re right, these pictures have a muted beautiful quality about them. Your commute sounds awesome. I would take the train too if it weren’t such a huge inconvenience here… I, fortunately, live 15 minutes away from work so it’s not a big deal but before this current job I spent nearly 2 hrs a day in traffic. It’s horrible, and of course when you’re stuck in traffic, nothing can be beautiful. Thanks for the sharing the pictures. They’re dreamy and remind me of those older photos that evoke a slower pace and time when we weren’t so attached to our electronics.

    Reply
    • Rachel

      April 14, 2016 at 3:32 pm

      When I drive, the scenery is pretty too, but it doesn’t have that meditative quality of sitting on the train. And it takes an hour each way. Fortunately it’s not trafficky, but still I prefer the train.

      Reply
  • Nancie

    April 14, 2016 at 11:13 pm

    Hi Rachel. I love the atmosphere that taking these through train windows helps to create. My commute is a combination of walking and then underground subway. The walk is quite nice this time of year. For the next couple of days, at least, I stop at “my” lilac tree just before the entrance to the subway and breath in its fragrance. Now, that is bliss. The subway ride is all underground. I usually read or watch the Koreans with their cellphones and headphones. They are pretty much oblivious to the world. The walk to the campus is nice once I hit the campus, and again the flowers are blooming now. It’s azalea city from the moment I enter, and gorgeous. Thanks for hosting this week! #TPThursday

    Reply
  • Ruth - Tanama Tales

    April 15, 2016 at 3:27 am

    I do not have a long commute but I do enjoy seeing how the sun starts to come up every morning. Your post reminds me of something I just discussed with my dad. He had to move temporarily to my grandmother’s house which is located in a rural setting (very different to the urban area he lives in). He told me how much he enjoys the view of the mountains and the sea when he is running errands (something not possible in the city). So, sometimes, it is good to take some time to reach a place.

    Reply
  • budget jan

    April 15, 2016 at 3:28 am

    The small/medium sized town I live in and once worked does not have decent public transport so I always drove to work. In my out of work life I walk the same route along the ocean most days and I too take repetitive photos. Quite often I have many the same but it looks so beautiful I just have to take one more. I can really see the meditative quality in the photos you’ve taken and can imagine myself staring at the scenes outside the window and day dreaming. I liked this post and would like to see more photos from your daily life.

    Reply
  • Marcia

    April 15, 2016 at 4:09 am

    Your photos are beautiful. They have a moody, atmospheric quality. I love how the sun brightens the others.
    It takes me between 20 and 30 minutes to get to work – I take the local bus – and usually, I read the paper or a book. I’m so familiar with the route that I look up only to gauge where I am (so I don’t miss my stop). Lately, when I look up it’s mostly to see that another store is papered over or scaffolding has gone up because they’re gutting the building.

    Reply

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