While visiting Thomas in Holland I took a slight detour to Amsterdam. I had planned on perhaps seeing a few cities in the Benelux (Brussells, the Hague, Antwerp, etc) but because of the delay in my flight I really only had time to visit one before Thomas and I were to go to his home village of Altengeseke.
I had no pen in Amsterdam, so I was unable to keep a travel log while there. I did however take notes on my iPod Touch, which I will flesh out into more descriptive passages:
* “Awesome.” Of the places I’ve been so far in Europe, Amsterdam was by far my most favourite city. Gorgeous weather, gorgeous buildings, gorgeous people. Wonderful. Totally not a depraved haven of slimy British tourists, coffeeshops or brothels. These elements do exist, but they are not focal points for anyone who actually wants to see the city.
* “Amazing cyclits.” Everyone cycles in Holland. Everyone. Amsterdamers are particularly skilled in that they can text, hold umbrellas, and even hold hands while cycling. Unbelievable.
* “Not as many burn outs as expected, but women in kammers were a big surprise, even on the boarders of the Red Light District.”
* “Everyone is an average, middle size. No large people, no overly small people. Girls always complain back home, “Where are all these tall, lean women for whom all clothes seem to be made?” I’ve found the answer: they’re in Amsterdam.”
* “Loud German schoolgroups should not be allowed in the Anne Frank Huis. They ruin the visits of others.”
* “Important Dutch words/ones that I remember: snal, geen, winkle, dank u, straat, plein, bruiken, let op, stroop.” Dutch is a very tiring language to speak, especially long-words like Centraal.
* “Clothing is the same price as in Canada, but in Euros, not CND.” This is true of Germany as well. Really depressing.
* “What in any North American city would be a 4 lane highway, is in Amsterdam a canal.” People chill on the canal in the nice weather (which I had heaps of in Holland!).
I had two highlights for Amsterdam (besides just seeing the gorgeous buildings/people): visiting the Dutch East Indiaman Amsterdam and visiting the Rijksmuseen.
Beware: There be Boats Ahead
The Dutch East Indiaman Amsterdam is the modern reconstruction of an Indiamen built in the early/mid 1700s. Didn’t get very far from the Netherlands, though: on her maiden voyage she ran aground on the English coast, where she was later refloated and assimilated by the English into their flotilla of East Indiamen. The reconstruction is fairly faithful, or at least as faithful as a non-sailing replica can be. As with all reconstructions, the builders neglect to properly ballast the vessel: see the black strake closest to the waterline? That’s where the waterline should be, because of the stores/goods that the vessel originally would have been loaded with: today’s reconstructions don’t carry stores, so the ship sits higher in the water. Furthermore, much of the rigging is only for show and would not properly support masts/spars/sails, and the heights below deck have been skewed with the main deck favoured in terms of headroom at the expense of the captain’s cabin.
Since Amsterdam was one of the major ports of Holland, the city has a strong Naval/trade-based history. Among the many historic buildings on the bay is the former Dutch Admirality, now the Dutch Martime Museum (renowned for its massive collection of ship models). So excited to go visit!
I walked over to the building’s entrance, and what did I see?
Amsterdam, you break my heart.
But no matter, I didn’t let that get me down. I decided that I ought to drown my sorrows in culture, so I hoofed it over to the Rijksmuseem to get me a full share of art. All summer there had been an exposition at the Vancouver Art Gallery with pieces from Rembrandt and Vermeer, and I had a mild interest in going to see it but I reasoned to myself that it would be better to see a full collection of these guys in Amsterdam. Well, there was a problem: why do you think these works were able to go on a touring show to Vancouver? Because the Rijksmuseem was under renovation. Lame. Did manage to see quite a few pieces though in their reduced exhibit, and I tagged on along behind some German student-groups to hear their teachers’ discussions of the paintings. Massive highlight was seeing Rembrandt’s Night Watch, one of my favourite paintings of all time. You don’t quite realize how big it is until you actually see it, and it takes up an entire wall to itself (and this is after parts of it were cut off in the 19th century!).