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Published: August 16th 2009
Saturday 8th August
A day in the Dutch countryside and Amsterdam
We needed to be earlier today than yesterday as Diny has a day travelling through the countryside to Amsterdam and back.
Wim organised breakfast and our packed lunches and we were on the road by just after 9am with Diny in the co pilot’s seat as navigator while I enjoyed the ample leg room in the back seat of RR with Wim.
We headed west along a network of roads that travelled over the reclaimed island of Flevoland.Reclamation took place during the late 1950’s and provided a huge area of land for new settlements and farms.Diny explained that initially people didn’t want to live there because it was seen as isolated compared to other established towns and cities.However over time the population grew and today there are several modern small towns dotted around the large island.
We took the N302 which travels for 30km over what is the inland sea of Ijsselmeer.Some years ago the Dutch closed off the exit to North Sea to stop flooding during storms by building a 30km dyke which also forms as a road from the northern province of Frieland down to Amsterdam saving
a huge amount of mileage in doing so.
Wim and Diny explained that they cycled the road across the inland sea and it had been tough going as there is virtually no shelter against the wind which always blows at least as a breeze and often as a strong wind.
We made a stop at the half way point where a cafe has been built to give drivers a break and do some sightseeing out over the sea.
Before we knew it the 30km had passed and we were back on the mainland again heading for the inland seaside town of Volendam for a lunch break.We joined holidaymakers along the quay with a large number of cafes and restaurants and stopped for a coffee.The place was a hive of activity and as we waited for the coffee to arrive we did some people watching.
We approached Amsterdam from the north and Diny was looking for the way across the main transport canal that runs through the city so that we could use the park and ride at one of the stations close to the city on the southern side and make our departure later in the day easier.
a turn that found us in a street with the water ahead and a ferry crossing to the main city railway station.Diny went to check the parking and ferry information with locals and came back with some great news.!!Parking was FREE! And so was the ferry!! Diny was immediately admitted to the BBA!!!
With RR safely parked we were soon on a ferry over to the central city area with the plan to have a walk around the old city and canal area,visit Anne Frank’s house and also take a stroll through the red light area.Diny told us that the plan,should we become separated and lost,was to make our way back to the main railway station and wait there.
We soon realised why she had made this arrangement because as we crossed from the where the ferry delivered us to the number of people,mainly holidaymakers on the streets went up dramatically.We were also prepared today wearing our money belts again as pickpocketing is rife in this city,just ask Cormac!!!
The architecture of the old city is very much old world Dutch with the odd modern building thrown in every now and then.The old city doesn’t have any high rises as
such so you don’t have that closed in feeling that happens in some big cities.
The city has numerous canals all radiating around the central area and in fact there seems to be as much happening on the water as there is on the roads.
We joined the queue at Anne Frank’s house which was probably going to mean an hour wait before we paid for our admittance into the historic house from the Second World War.So Wim and Diny went off to find a cup of coffee and do some window shopping as they had been to the house several times before.
It didn’t actually take an hour to get in and during our wait time we were kept entertained by people watching at the edge of the Prinsen canal.
The story of Anne Frank is well known and we had both read her diary and seen films made about her 3 years cooped up in the house with her family and others avoiding the German occupiers of Amsterdam and what would have been inevitable transport to a concentration camp as European Jews were being exterminated in the Final Solution conducted by the Nazis.
However our walk through the
Hen party hits the canal,Amsterdam
Hey Rin,shame there wern't any canals in Auckland for you to organise Leighs,Hen part on!!These girls were having fun!!
house which has been well preserved bought to life the words and passages in her diary of her experiences as she grew through her teenage years in confinement.It is a harrowing story and you cannot help but be moved by how she survived so long only to be betrayed by someone whose name to this day has never been discovered.
As you move through the house her story unfolds as to how her family had a need to hide from the Nazis when Jews started to become more persecuted in occupied Europe and in particular the Netherlands.How they managed to hide for so long while the world continued around them outside is quite remarkable.
We left the house with a rather stunned feeling but glad that we had waited in the queue to have had the experience.
We met up with Diny and Wim and they led us to the red light district to overcome the sombre feelings we had after our time in the Anne Frank house.
Prostitution has been legal in the Netherlands since the mid 1800’s so the oldest profession on display is nothing new in Amsterdam.
The crowds pick up substantially as you cross a canal
Red Light area,Amsterdam
The guy on the left blocked the young woman in the window just as Gretchen took this photo
to where the district starts with sex shops selling all manner of toys etc that were quite vividly on display.Its not that we haven’t passed a sex shop window before but what we are used to are painted out front windows with an inviatation to go inside to see what was on offer.Here in Amsterdam it’s all right in your face!!!
We felt we were coming near where the women offer themselves for business as the number of bars with young men tanking themselves up increased.The women stand in windows or in the doorways of what essentially are ‘front rooms’and gesture towards males walking by.They are clad in only panties and bras.Diny explained as it was relatively early in the evening,around 5.30pm,the more expensive women were not yet showing themselves off for business.Occasionally we came across an attractive woman but generally they were rather overweight and not particulary glamorous.
Before we finished our’tour’of the district Diny led us down a very narrow alleyway supposedly the busiest and bawdiest part of the area.There was a guy in his late 20’s who was in a wheelchair and Diny noted that under Dutch law he could claim for a benefit to pay for
Adjacent to the Anne Frank house,Amsterdam
We left the house after our tour feeling very sombre and Diny had to get us to the Red Light area to cheer us up!!!
him to have sex twice a month because of his disability.!!
It had been an eye opening and interesting 3 hours spent in the old city of Amsterdam but we needed to be on the road for home.
As we arrived back at RR Gretchen found a piece of paper under the windscreen wiper and it turned out to be a parking fine!!!Would this mean that Diny’s short history as being part of the BBA be over as the ‘free’park that she had found earlier in the afternoon has turned out to be a very costly one with the parking ticket being for €60!!!A real blow to the BBA!!
We checked the area for parking restriction signs and couldn’t find any and after taking photos of where we were parked ,resolved to challenge the ticket by writing to the Amsterdam City Council with a protest.
Diny plotted a different course home through small countryside villages that meant we had completed a full circle by the time we arrived back in Zwolle.
It had been a long day and after dinner and more conversation about the day we headed for bed.
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