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Published: June 10th 2017
Geo: 52.3738, 4.89095
Sailing along on our way to Rotterdam from Kinderdijk, I have some downtime to read, sleep, write, or just think, so it seems a good time to write about Amsterdam before impressions all run together and I forget the uniqueness of each place we visit. Every day after lunch I go walking on my own, exploring whatever town or city where we are docked, but unlike other days when the boat sails at night, today, since we are sailing down the river right now, I am captive onboard. The trees are not yet in bloom, but it is so gorgeous seeing the water flow by, the other boats, houses along the shoreline, and living things starting to blossom. Such a gentle, sedate way to travel!
On Thursday we were in Amsterdam. It was cold, as it has been every day so far, but not so windy, and not so much rain as earlier on this trip. Still, I wore 7 layers, plus hat and gloves. This Holland is a cold place indeed! Holland, by the way, is not what this country is named. The Netherlands is its proper name; Holland is in the northern part of the country, and over the years people just began calling it Holland instead of its true name. In the morning we had, as usual, a walking tour of the city, and then time was ours, so every afternoon I explore wherever we are until dinnertime. My roommate, who I just met last Sunday onboard, also likes to walk, but she stops every few feet to photograph or video things that catch her attention. If I wait, I get cold, so after awhile we split up and she stays and takes photos, and I head off on my fast warming walk, both of us content to meet later at dinner. Happily, we are compatible roommates.
Amsterdam is so full of bicycles it is somehow surprising. It reminded me very much of the ubiquitous scooters buzzing through cities in VietNam, only it's much quieter here. In Amsterdam, any walker needs to pay careful attention to where s/he is, as s/he could very easily be run over by a bicycle. There are cars and trucks too, of course, and their Metro system, but the bicycles are most dangerous, so we've been told. After lunch yesterday we headed off to the red light district. How can anyone visit Amsterdam and not check out the red light district? Such an orderly city, but seeing the middle-aged prostitutes in the windows displaying their truly hefty selves was not the most pleasant thing. Directly across from some of their rooms is a church. Perhaps this was planned. We tried to go into the church afterwards, but the doors were locked; what help could this be to a prostitute in trouble? In this area we also saw a couch being lifted up to a fourth story window on a pulley; this is a common practice as buildings here have no elevators. Passersby stopped to watch and cheer when the large couch was pulled inside. Out of curiosity we also went into a few stores; everywhere we found cannabis cookies, cannabis tea, cannabis chocolate! Cannabis is also openly sold in coffee shops; natives just know that. It is not as prevalent as it was in Cambridge in the early 1970s; as I wrote earlier, just walking past Cambridge Common one could get high simply by breathing. Amsterdam seems to be a gentler city, but these are gentler times here.
One day in this city is not enough. I did get to see the Anne Frank house, and Rembrandt's house, the National Monument in Center Square, the narrowest house, the flea market, Binnengasthuis, Dam Square, the wonderful canals that weave through this whole city, and I walked through the beautiful huge train station building twice on my way back to the ship. But I did not get to the Rijksmuseum or to the Van Gogh Museum, nor to many other parts of this wonderful chilly city. Tonight we "sail" to Kinderdijk to see the old windmills. Unless I came here on my own and stayed a month or two (making sure to bring winter gear), there would not be enough time to take advantage of everything this extraordinary city has to offer.
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