Monday, November 24, 2014

Amsterdam

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We flew from Copenhagen to Amsterdam in mid-July 2013 (whoa). It was chillier and rainier there than it had been further North in Denmark, but after so long chasing the summer, we were more than happy to be able to don jackets and scarves. We definitely felt a wry sense of humor in Amsterdam. From these giant clogs out in front of our hotel, to the strange giant horse wallpaper above our bed in our hotel room.

We stayed in the Vondelpark area of Amsterdam, which was near to the canals, but far enough outside of them to be able to afford our hotel. The location proved to be great one, near the freshly completed renovation of the Rijksmuseum.

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We enjoyed the Rijksmuseum, which had a massive collection of detailed ship models, and a fun miniatures exhibit.

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The museum also had a gorgeous research library with a spiral stair leading to the four floors.

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Aside from the museums, we spent a lot of time casually exploring around the canals and not doing all the things people come to Amsterdam to do. We didn't smoke hash, or anything else for that matter. We saw the legal prostitution, but didn't partake. We didn't even take a canal boat tour.

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We did a lot of walking around, photographing bikes, stopping for coffee and smelling the flowers.

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We visited the Anne Frank house and museum; the front of the house looks very similar to those above (it’s a different street).  It was amazing to walk through the secret door into the hidden annex, and walk through the rooms she described.

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Another example of the interesting sense of humor; this was built in the 90s, and is pseudo Latin.

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One of the other things we were fortunate enough to be able to do was to catch up with a very old friend of Lana's, who she hadn't seen since 1993. Rianne had been an exchange student in Lana's high school and they had kept in touch for several years. They had lost touch over the years, as you do when you live on different continents. Say what you will about the evils of Facebook, it allowed us to reconnect with old friends and stay connected to new ones that we met along the way.  Rianne lives in Eindhoven with her husband and son, but she was kind enough to come into Amsterdam and have dinner with us. It was so good to see her and catch up on each other's lives.  One interesting facet of Amsterdam that Rianne mentioned is that it's very diverse, with a large non-Dutch population.  When she called our hotel, and started speaking to the receptionist in Dutch, the receptionist had to inform her (in English) that she did not speak Dutch.  

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Rianne took a final photo of us in front of the I Amsterdam sign.  See what we mean about that wry sense of humor? 

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Aside from trying not to fall into any canals, the main hazard in Amsterdam is hell on wheels.  The cyclists will cream you if you happen to step onto the bike lane, but then of course they're also riding on the sidewalk, the opposite way of traffic, with earbuds in, and likely high as a kite as well, or just wearing nothing but a speedo (that particular rider was in his 70s).  Coming straight from Denmark, we were particularly ill-prepared for such bike anarchy.

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And as you can tell by the vast amount of bikes--the cyclists are everywhere.

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This is the triple-deck bicycle parking "garage" in front of the Amsterdam Centraal, the train station, which was as full of people inside.

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By the time we got to Amsterdam we were really over touristy things. We went to the Rijksmuseum, but we also went to the Tassenmuseum, which houses an impressive collection of bags and purses. We also took a wine and cheese tasting class at Reypenaer Tasting Room, and as we've previously stated, we don't buy souvenirs, but we sure as heck buy cheese. We got some to take with us on to Scotland, where we were renting a cottage in Glasgow for a week. 

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We learned a lot about Dutch cheese, goudas and the like, and we tasted a great deal more of the cheese than the wine, but hey, we didn't need to spring for dinner that night.  

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We enjoyed our few days in Amsterdam as much as two travel-weary people could, knowing our next destination (Scotland) would mean that we could cook for ourselves, curl up in our cottage for a few days and not have to play tourists, and even take a final road trip or two. 

We had remained travel-excited longer than we otherwise would have thanks to meeting friends in Croatia, and then traveling with Nicole through central Europe.  After that, Denmark had been welcoming and refreshing, but we were starting to wear down.  Our enjoyment of Amsterdam was definitely muted by the onset of travel fatigue.  In hindsight, we think it needs a second chance, however, possibly with a few days of cycling around the lowlands.