10.12.2014 - 10.17.2014 55 °F
5 days in Amsterdam just flew by! It’s an amazing city and it took us quite awhile to get our bearings. (Maybe we're not quite as adventurous as we used to be??) The city is very densely populated, with comparatively few cars and lots of walkers and cyclists. We knew it is one of the biggest bicycling cities in the world - and we came prepared with bike helmets and gloves, looking forward to the free use of the hotel bikes. However . . . after seeing how FAST people rode bikes on the rough cobblestone streets, alongside cars and motorcycles dashing every which way, not to mention pedestrians not looking and stepping out in front of cyclists . . . we turned cowards and changed plans. It is a VERY busy city - lots of traffic congestion and one-way cycling lanes that aren’t heeded -- so we put a lot of miles on our feet, walking very carefully to keep from getting hit by cyclists; and we found found the Tram system quite calm by comparison.
Amsterdam is full of tourists = as many tourists on any given day as locals. So we did the #1 Amsterdam tourist thing and visited a few museums. We found the “Resistance Museum” the most memorable; it is the story of the Dutch resistance to the onslaught of Hitler’s socialism and ethnic cleansing prior to and during WWII. Anne Frank’s story is part of this, so we also visited the house where she hid inside with her family for 2+ years. It is all very challenging - and sobering. I finished re-reading the book the night after we visited ‘the secret annex”; I was glad to have a fuller perspective.
They say the average Dutch person consumes 20 kilograms (44 lbs) of cheese annually. We didn’t make a dent, but we sure enjoyed some wonderful cheeses both in taste-testing at little shops, and at our hotel breakfasts. The 30 Euro/person ($38) breakfast was included with our room so we had wonderful breakfasts each day, and kinda filled in with snacks and a late evening meal after the 5-7pm complementary wine-n-crackers in the hotel “Library” every evening. Fortunately the hotel was almost free to us because of some well-placed hotel-chain loyalty points. We visited with other tourists who had fascinating travel experiences to share. Ironically, many people we visited with were on an Amsterdam stopover, headed for interesting cruises: Cross-Atlantic cruise via Scotland, UK, Ireland, Spain, ending in Maimi; Nordic Cruises through Denmark, Finland, Sweden, and into Russia; and The Viking River Cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest; we have several friends who have done that and have enjoyed it so much.
We had some time left on our Tram ticket yesterday, so we just got on and started riding. I had read about the free ferry cruises to some little islands east of Amsterdam, so we headed for central station, then selected the longest ferry ride (15 min or so) and made a fun little jaunt to a place unknown to us. There we enjoyed a nice waterside restaurant and our first taste of Dutch beer = Amstel (subsidiary of Heiniken).
Our first 3 days in the hotel were nice and quiet . . . and then The AMF (Amsterdam Music Festival) invaded the city and every hotel – and our hotel lobby and restaurant was a nonstop zoo. We never did quite figure out what the AMF was all about -- but there certainly was a lot of 'networking' going on there with mostly young, ambitious men from all over the world, connected in various ways to the music industry.
The sinus cold I picked up in Romania has subsided and I feel pretty good after really pacing myself and trying to get lots of rest. Unfortunately, now Dave has a zinger of a cold and he has been pretty miserable for a couple days. We were concerned about exposing friends from the north who came to fetch us today for a couple of days – but it turned out they, too, are hacking. Misery loves company, I guess. The connection with these fine Dutch folks is John & Janet Spomer – they hosted AFS exchange student Karin, from northern Netherlands, in 1991. The families have stayed in touch every since. Karin came to stay with us once on Roatan, and Dave has worked with both Karin and her father Ben a couple of times on Spomer’s Honduras dental-and-building projects. Ben and Gerda kindly invited us to spend a few days with them and drove 2 hours to fetch us this morning! Together we enjoyed a “castle” tour of the former king of Germany who was ousted after WWI and fled to safety in the Netherlands. Kathryn Hepburn’s mother (grandmother?) sold the mansion to him; and he arrived some time later with all his belongings in 57 rail cars. We thought we were overpacked . . . ! Years later, Kathryn was selected to play Anne in the Ann Frank movie, but she declined the role because she felt she would be exploiting the tragedy of the holocaust. Character shows.
I’ll get some pix posted maybe tomorrow when I have a stronger internet connection . Time for some zzzs - and to turn the light off so Dave can sleep better.