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Published: March 22nd 2008
It was a dark and stormy night…….no wait a minute, it’s 2 o’clock in the afternoon. Sure is dark and rainy though. Welcome to Amsterdam in March, where the wind howls off of the North Sea and the conditions can change from sunny and breezy to windy and sleeting in a matter of moments. It’s not quite officially spring as we write this, but we are sure hoping to escape some of these cold sea breezes.
We are wearing four layers of clothing and it still feels like the wind goes right through you. This is what we get for coming directly from Dubai to London to Amsterdam in late winter. It did not feel anywhere near this cold in London.
Our feet are in full revolt and threatening to contact some podiatry association as we now have to wear shoes. We’ve worn nothing but sandals for the last six months, and our feet are not used to being covered up.
We took the quick hop from London and ended up staying just southwest of the city center in Amsterdam. The next morning we set out to explore the wonderful canals, shops, and sites of Amsterdam. They have
Truly European style....
wonderful public transportation and we quickly took advantage of it. A brisk five minute walk from our hotel and we were on an electric tram headed for Central Station in Amsterdam. Once there, we got some much needed information about the city and hopped on a boat for a quick tour of the canals. What a beautiful city, full of wonderful 16th and 17th century architecture and tens of thousands of bicycles.
We were not aware of the thousands who ride their bikes in Amsterdam. They have bike paths on all the streets and the bicyclists have the right of way. Each time you cross a street, you need to look out for cars, trams, and bikes. It keeps you on your toes. More than once we almost had an incident with a bicyclist. They seemed to sense we had no clue they were coming, so there were no collisions.
Museums are quite abundant in this Renaissance city, with something for everyone. There are museums that range from tulips to houseboats to modern art and everything in between. We opted for the Van Gogh museum, the Rembrandt House, and the Rijk Museum on our first day. We later
Anyone seen my bike??
In America, the garages are for cars.....not here...
visited a houseboat that served as a museum to the floating residences. When the owner/curator found out we were from Seattle, he knew about the house boats there and asked us some questions about them.
MJ was curious about Rotterdam so one day we hopped on the train and headed south. The concierge at our hotel tried to talk us out of going to Rotterdam, saying that it was just a big city. He suggested that we head south and stop at Delft, which he described as a cute Dutch city. This is where the Blue Delft china comes from. We decided to listen to him and add Delft to our stops along the way along with The Hague, which has the Dutch capital and the Peace Palace, which is home to The World Court. This is where folks such as Slobodan Milosevic get tried for war crimes. Kind of a modern day Nuremburg.
Again we got to laugh at ourselves. After doing some research we learned that there were three different trains to Rotterdam. We were told to take the slow train and that it would stop at The Hague and at Delft. As it turns out
There are quite a few of these along the many canals
we accidentally ended up on the fast train heading for Rotterdam but we didn’t realize this for about 40 minutes. All of the announcements on the train are in Dutch naturally, and the reader board on the train was broken. We saw that we were coming into a city and thought that we had finally reached The Hague. Dave just happened to ask a passenger getting off the train which stop we were at and she said “Rotterdam”. Yikes! We were already there! We jumped up and got off the train. We had already missed The Hague and Delft and were about to miss Rotterdam. If we hadn’t asked someone, we might have ended up at the Belgian border with some explaining to do. Sometimes good planning goes a little awry. At this point the only thing to do was to explore Rotterdam and take a look at the other towns on our way back to Amsterdam.
Our visit in Rotterdam was great, and we are glad we did not let the concierge talk us out of going. We took a boat cruise of the harbor and learned that Rotterdam is the largest port in the world. Most of
Cute.....but a little big for the feet.
the goods that come into northern Europe pass through this port. Now we have lived near Seattle, which is a busy port city, but we were not prepared for the enormous numbers of containers on the docks here. There were tens of thousands of them spread over a very large area.
We took some time and took a stroll on the downtown streets, going in and out of the shops and stopping in a couple of pubs for a beer and some lunch. The streets of Rotterdam are scattered with sculptures along the canal. They have art for all tastes even in this working port city.
On our return to Amsterdam we managed to get on the correct train and stop to visit in Delft and the Hague. Delft is well worth a look. It is a quaint college town with some great history. One of the focal points of this town is a church built in the 1700’s that leans toward the canal. It’s a beautiful building but reminds one of the leaning tower of Pisa. The canals are an integral part of this city as well, and the many shops were quite interesting to look at.
When we stopped in Hague we took a city bus through the central business district to explore beautiful churches, government buildings and Vrelpalais (the Peace Palace) which houses The World Court. The architecture in the Hague as well as the other Dutch cities that we have been to is very beautiful and remind of the wonderful style and designs of the old buildings that are rare in the United States. Europe has the historical buildings and many are well preserved despite a couple of world wars.
We made our way back to Amsterdam and the weather, which had been tenuous at best, took a turn for the worse. We took a bus and then a tram back to the center of the city and hoofed it with luggage and all to our hotel. When we arrived we were tired, cold and wet. Fortunately for us, there was a pub a minute from our hotel where we had some great Dutch green bean soup, a steak, and some Grolsch beers to help us warm up and relax. It was quite windy and stormy that night and we actually heard thunder a few times.
The next morning, we took
Leaning church in Delft
Look closely......this church is listing to the left!
advantage of our last day to visit the Anne Frank House, which reminded us again like Vietnam and Cambodia, that man’s inhumanity to man has been an awful chapter in our history. Most people are quite aware of the “Final Solution” that Hitler wrought on the Jews before and during the Second World War. Anne Frank and her family actually hid in this house for more than two years, never venturing outside for fear of their lives. In the end, the family was separated and only Anne’s father survived the concentration camps. Very sad……..
We also spotted an infamous “café” where cannabis is served along with a cup of coffee and took a quick walk in the Red Light District, where the world’s oldest profession is practiced quite openly and legally. The ladies are actually in windows, beckoning potential customers…..
From there it was off to the hotel at the airport. This was not one of the more pleasant trips we made. The weather had held most of the day, but then it started to rain and snow, the wind kicked up, and we were out in the elements trying to catch a bus out to our hotel.
In The Hague......a beautiful building.
After a few false starts and cold hands, we found a bus to take us there. Dave had asked the driver if the bus stopped at our hotel. He said no, but then dropped us off close to the airport where you could see the hotel. Dave thought it was a good idea just to walk over to the hotel. Immediately after getting off the bus, it was obvious this was a poor decision. 15 minutes later, two very cold and wet people made it to the hotel door. We walked through rain, sleet and snow.
The locals had told us that it was colder here than normal. We didn’t need convincing. After many months in the warm climes of Southeast Asia and Oceania, we had trouble adjusting to the cold months of March in northern Europe. But, the sights were great and we were glad to have picked the Netherlands as a stop on our journey.
We’ve been surprised in the Netherlands to frequently have to pay to use public restrooms. Sometimes we paid up to 75 cents. It wasn’t like visiting Harrods’s in London where you get linen towels to dry your hands with. These were
just basic public restrooms.
We forgot to mention that the monetary system in the Netherlands is the Euro. The exchange rate has never been any worse than it is now. The poor dollar isn’t worth very much here. One Euro is worth $1.50. Your dollar does not go far here and things are quite expensive to boot. It would not surprise us to see a rise in the number of Europeans traveling to the U.S. this year as a result.
More info on this grand city:
Amsterdam is the capital and largest city of the Netherlands. The city is divided by 40 concentric canals with about 400 bridges. The canals give the city its nickname, “ Venice of the North”.
The Netherlands has 12 provinces. Nearly 40% of the country is situated below sea level. The country is guarded by dunes, dikes, and drainage canals.
The Netherlands has a complex history that it would take us too long to summarize it. For you history buffs we will leave you to do the research. You will find it is rich in medieval lords, and had some issues with Germany and Spain over the years and well
worth taking the time to read.
And now we head back to the United States having spent over 6 months traveling abroad collecting a lifetime of memories. We will be in Maine visiting great friends!
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