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Published: September 16th 2007
Amsterdam (the ship)
Looks a lot more plastic than the Götheborg from SOIC.
This year's only proper holiday was spent in the Netherlands. Mostly Amsterdam, but whenever I tell people that, they just give me weird looks as if the only reason to visit Amsterdam was the smoky coffee shops and/or the famous district with colourful lamps. It's not, I can tell you. For one, I have relatives here, but there are also a lot of interesting places and a lot of interesting history here.
But OK, I'll do my view of the views the newcomer in Amsterdam sees when getting off at the Centraal Station. It feels like there are a lot more coffee shops now than ten or even 15/20 years ago, the first times I went here and went out nighttime in A'dam. Maybe it's just because I've spent more time in the area east and west of the CS this time, where most hideous places are located. Unfortunately, a lot of the historic places are also situated here, like the West-Indian and East-Indian houses, but also a decent record store ( it seems the one I used to go to when I was young doesn't exist anymore), and then this year's "Uitmarkt", the start of the cultural season with
Amsterdam cannon shooting
Staff on board the Amsterdam fires the cannon
a book fair and performances, located in the new blocks northeast of CS, so you have to pass the station to get home again.
Anyone who's never smelled cannabis can get a decent lesson in the different kinds just by passing the so called coffee shops with a green and white note on the door. They're the ones selling the stuff. If you want a cup of coffee, you should head for a café or a koffiehuis(je), that's where they sell that stuff. And if you're in to latte, with a lot of milk, then you're in the right country. Here you have "wrong coffee", koffie verkeerd (in Swedish, I'd say "avigt kaffe"). That's coffee with tons of milk, warm. Not as strong coffee as in a good latte, though, which on the other hand is good for your stomach.
Speaking of coffee, the guidebooks and maps tell you there's a coffee and tea museum in Warmoesstraat. I shouldn't call it a museum. It's a collection of coffee grinders, coffee roasters and one or two signs telling you things you probably already knew about coffee and tea. But it's free and it's on top of a coffee and tea
Wonder what kind of paint they used to make it look this plastic.
store, so it's probably mostly a trick to get more people to the store. The lady handling the museum bit knew less about coffee than my beloved (who, on the other hand, has read a few books on the subject, but still is no expert), and seemed to know more or less as much about tea as I do, after 9 years working part time in a tea shop. Anyhow, we did buy a couple of teas in the shop, they did have a large selection, after all.
A good museum, but more costly, is the Amsterdam Historisch museum. It's located between Dam and Spui, entrance from Kalverstraat (the busiest shopping street in the centre, hideous place, by the way), so it's not hard to find. Rather big, a kind of "at least 2 hours-museum", but worth it if youre the least interested in history. We found out that the Swedish navy was beaten by the Dutch navy in 1660, when the Dutch helped the Danes! We had never heard that version before ... :-)
And while we're into museums, I might as well tell you about the ship "Amsterdam". It's a replica of an East Indiaman from
Not made of wood, this one. This yellow thing is what your car gets if it's been parked wrong or too long. Two in a row made a good picture ;-)
the 18th century, and since the Dutch are very proud of their VOC, East India Company, they have built not one, but two replicas, the other one being the "Batavia". This one was a decent replica, but a bit different from the "Götheborg III" that I'm used to. This one has decks of exotic wood, not (as in the old days) oak, and the outside seemed a bit ... like plastic. I didn't ask anyone about it, which I perhaps should have. Still, it only cost a couple of euros to get aboard (big difference from the replica of Calmare Nyckel in Delaware, for example), and there were a few members of staff in old fashioned clothes, and they even fired a cannon while we were there :-) hence: well worth a visit of you're the least interested in old ships. Usually, this ship is anchored next to the Maritime museum, but since that museum is being renovated until 2009, the "Amsterdam" is now located slightly northeast of the Central Station (CS), close by experimental museum Nemo.
And finally: the CoBrA museum, in Amstelveen (tram 5 from CS or elsewhere in the centre), the suburb where we stayed this
This building was kraaked (squatted) in teh 1980:s and still is going strong. Their bar is being renovated in the autumn of 2007.
time. This museum is founded for the art of some post-WW2 artists from the cities of Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam, hence the name. The permanent collection was ... not really our taste. If you're interested in art that looks like it might have been made by a three-year-old, then please go here. But on the top floor they had an exhibition on how advertisements affect us, and at least for someone that hasn't seen all these ads on tv, andwho knows at least some Dutch, it was interesting. The general texts are all in Dutch and English, but the ads themselves are not subtitled in English.
We also took several walks, of course. We should have had bikes, you always want to have a bike in the Netherlands, but we didn't, so we used our tired legs a lot. It's definitely a fascinating city just to walk around in, since it has both very old architecture and very modern (not like Rotterdam, I know, but still). There are also too many fascinating shops of all kinds, from old, reprinted, maps to toothbrushes and, of course, cheese. So much cheese. We bought one "old" (=ripe) Gouda and one Edam, the
Vrankrijk coat of arms
Isn't this a beautiful version of the Amsterdam coat of arms?
latter organic and a kind that's been around the Netherlands for ages, called a Kommissiekaas.
A fascinating thing is that this city sometimes seem to stand still. Most of my old favourite hangouts are still here. The only difference is they have web pages these days :-) Vrankrijk
is still there, due to the laws allowing squatters to eventually keep their houses. Their bar area is being rebuilt the autumn of 2007, so when that if finished, they have plans to open the bar even during daytime. Those kind of things are good for us elderly people :-) that don't manage to stay awake until 22:00 in the evening, the time when they open on Saturdays!
The Waterloopleinmarkt (webpage
only in Dutch) seems more or less as good as before, maybe a bit more kitsch, but I'm not really the right person to judge that. It was too long ago that I was there.
We took a long walk along the Amstel after Waterloopleinmarkt, simply enjoying the smaller streets and canal sides where there are no hoards around. Unfortunately, we didn't make it in time before the Albert Cuyp-markt closed, I'd hoped for a warm, freshly-baked stroopwafel, but
Beer tasting in Gollem
Belgian S:t Bernardus Abt. Very good. Way too strong :-)
I'll guess there'll be a next time for that.
Talking about food, what's good in the Netherlands is all the asian food you can't (or can hardly) get in Sweden. Indonesian food, for example. Thanks to my friend Pepijn, we got to a nice, small inn in den Haag* where they served perfectly good indonesian food. Good enough to cry ;-) (it was spicy, OK?) We didn't manage to get to any proper ones in Amsterdam, though, but, rumour has it that one on a parallell street to Albert Cuyp, Geraard Doustraat, should be very good. And then we ate good asian-mixed-food from the small toko (take away in immigrant Dutch) "Pasar Baroe" in Augustinuspark in Amstelveen, close to where we lived, as well.
*Den Haag is a fascinating city. Terrible parts close to the main station (den Haag has several, be sure to get of at the right one if you're going here!!), but really nice parts in the centre. We tried to find a nice music club, but with our usual luck, the place did play good music, but didn't have a dance floor and not a lot of people either. Better than our experiences in
Beer tasting nr 2
Raspberry beer in the pink one and local wheat beer in the other one. I could have stayed in here for ages, except I would have a hard time leaving then, if you know what I mean.
the US, though (there, they usually had neither dance floor nor good music, nor people. Or at least not all three at the same time).
The last day, we walked through parts of the Amsterdamse Bos. It actually felt like we walked through the whole *swearword* forest, but there are still parts we haven't seen. We started out from A'dam centre, since I'd been on a business meeting that morning, and then we entered by one of the main gates. Tha plan was to get to the Pannekoekenhuis, another culinary thing not to miss in this country. It was a long walk, I can tell you! Approximately 45 minutes from the Visitors' centre. On the other hand, then we were hungry on arrival, which is good at a pancake house. This one, which is part of a farm close by, is called Meerzicht
and is definitely large enough to handle large groups, but if you go there any other time than a saturday, it's more or less tourist free, as well. And if you should happen to be on horseback, you can put your horse in the stable next door :-)
The walk back to Amstelveen was confusing.
I'm not sure if he belonged to the pub, but he was indeed very cute.
The signs were definitely there for bikers, but not for pedestrians. See my photos, and make a note to yourselves: enter the Amsterdamse Bos on a bike (or on a horse). But we got out, and took a break by the old railway station house, which is transformed into the new shop "Station Stockholm", website
not yet working at the time of writing. Funny having a place for lovers of Swedish stuff there, in a small suburb, and not even close to the other tourist attractions of the place.
So this vacation was filled with walking, some food, and a bit of architecture. Not bad at all, but I might need something more relaxing for my next holiday.
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