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Published: September 10th 2011
In front of Rauls Windmill - between amsterdam and Volendam.
Our first treat of the day was breakfast, muesli, fruit and bit of yoghurt and fruit juice – feeling much better for it –never thought I would say this but the old body could only handle so many Full English Breakfasts!
Next stop on the agenda was a visit to the Gassan Diamond factory, where a wide range of diamond jewellery is made. The Dutch don’t have any of their own diamonds but are recognised as the best diamond cutters and finishers in the world. They buy diamonds from all around the world but only through Antwerp where they are guaranteed their purchases are legitimate (no blood diamonds).
We got a demonstration (using plastic models) of how the diamonds are cut and polished. We were then able to watch a tradesman at work. The diamond he was working on was just a small on with a value of around $2,500. From there were taken to a more secure area (definitely no photos) and were shown 3 diamonds – the largest worth $75,000 because of its size and very rare colouring (although that came down to about $66,000 for us because we wouldn’t have to pay tax – bargain!).
A Gassan Diamond Cutter at work
Needless to say the tour group weren’t knocking down the door, although a few bought rings.
Needless to say I wasn’t one of the few!
It was all very interesting and some of the jewellery Gassan produced was absolutely stunning, won’t be going back in a hurry though, could prove VERY expensive.
We then had a bit of a wander around the centre of Amsterdam. Beware, there were bikes everywhere (and I mean everywhere!), and they stop for no one. You really need to be very careful and look both ways – in Amsterdam cyclists have all rights. There are bike tracks that run alongside the roads so when you avoid the cars and cross the road you are only half way to safety – BEWARE THE BIKE! All the bikes are old crappy ones and people are always having them stolen. No one wears helmets; we’ve even seen mums with young babies strapped to their fronts happily cycling away no helmets for either and not a care in the world. There’s a multi story bike park in the middle of the city which can take 2500 bikes – and its full.
There are an unbelievable number of bikes in Amsterdam - and they own the roads, paths and everywhere else!
with all of Holland (or the bits we have seen) there is lots of water, both canals and rivers in and around the city centre. Lots of people live on house boats – that look more like houses than boats on the canals. Living space is at an absolute premium in the central area. The canal side houses in particular are very narrow and very tall. There is a lot of character in the city centre but also a huge amount of graffiti, there seems little effort is made to clear it up. Obviously this spoils the view somewhat.
At 11am we all piled back onto the coach for a trip to the country and the small fishing village of Volendam. We’ve said it before but its a very flat country – no hills at all that we have seen. 60% of the Netherlands is actually below sea level and as most will know the dykes keep the sea away.
We stopped at the traditional seaside fishing village of Voledam. Off of Volendam they have built a massive dike about 30km out to sea which has enclosed a huge area of sea. Over the years this
has become a fresh water lake and full of eels (which are a major food in Holland). The Dutch now have the option if they decide to drain the water and reclaim a big chunk of land. Volendam is lovely and well work the 30 minute trip from Amsterdam. Traditional wooden homes line the beachfront and the town is full of interesting shops, bars and restaurants. Heaps of really fresh seafood – I had a Prawn Roll and Jeanette had a Salmon One –delicious! We picked up a few souvenirs and had a stroll around the beachfront and shops before heading back into Amsterdam.
On the way back we stopped at a Windmill where we were lucky to have the owner Raul explain to us how they worked and what life was like as a Windmill owner. His Windmill was used to take water from one level (below sea level) to another so it could go into the canals and avoid flooding the low land when the rains came or the water table was high. When working at full capacity the Windmill could move an Olympic size swimming pool of water per minute-amazing. They are extremely efficient and a
Head for Heights
Jeanette climbing up the stairs of the Windmill
brilliant design/engineering feat. Jeanette climbed up the ladder to the top to see the mechanisms in the head of the Windmill working which she found very interesting.
A bit of R&R at the hotel then it was off on an evening canal cruise which dropped us at a top restaurant for tea, for our main we had Hotchpotch a traditional local dish of smoked sausage, meat balls on a parsnip and mashed potato base with a side of vegetables, extremely tasty.
After tea Brendan (tour leader) took us on a walk around of the Red Light District for half an hour or so, it was different with the girls in the windows and the smell of dope everywhere – the Dutch have a very liberal society. Not so much our thing but couldn’t go to Amsterdam without having a look at this famous part of life here. We then headed back to Movenpick to prepare for our next travel day to Germany.
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