Trip to Amsterdam - June 1999

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Monument on DamWe started our vacation on the 4th of June 1999. I was pretty stressed up cause I had been to a course the 2 weeks before we left. And we were also pretty late with the visa application so we only got our passports back the day before we left *phew*. But on this Friday (4th of June) we were ready to go. We left from Stavanger and went to Amsterdam. It was a weird feeling going on vacation and coming there so soon. Normally when we have travelled it has taken quite some time to get to our destination. But this time we were there after just 1 hour and ten minutes. Trains run from the airport itself and it only takes about 20 minutes to go into town. So we were at the hotel ready to check out the town by 2 pm. I think that half of the fun is looking forward to the vacation itself and I had prepared myself by reading a travel guide. I bought the Eyewitness travel guide and I like this series cause it gives fair enough information about what is worth seeing.

We were staying in the museum quarter of Amsterdam but the town itself is not all that big and I like that. That means that you can walk around to the different destination. The first thing we did was to walk around town to get a feeling of where we were. The guide book also included a map and thank god for that cause I think we would have been lost without it *grin*.

On one of the many bridges and surrounded by bikesAmsterdam is beautiful with the combination of canals and roads everywhere. And because of the fact that Holland used to be a great nation back in the 17th century Nikki and Gard in front of one of the many canals(not that they are not a great nation anymore but they had a Golden age back then) the town is filled with old houses with great architecture. I think what I will remember best from Amsterdam is the sounds of the bells on the bikes and the bells ringing on the trams. People back home here don’t bike that much but in Amsterdam there were bikes everywhere. And I’m talking old bikes, new bikes, worn out bikes, self painted bikes and so on. But they all seemed to have a little bell on the steering wheel to be able to indicate to the pedestrians that they were coming :-) And they had lanes on most of the roads that were dedicated to the biking and they didn’t seem happy when we used this lane for walking.

Madame Tussaud in the backgroundThe trams worked on the same principle. They rang their bell to get people to get out of the way. The drivers seemed to be a bit fed up with all the people that were in their way. One day we saw one guy that was sooo close to being run down by a tram and of course he was angry as hell after that. It rained a few times while we were in Amsterdam and it looked like the rain turned the tram tracks into lethal weapons for the bikers. We saw several people who fell pretty bad as they were biking fast over the tracks.

Yes, that is a windmill in the backgroundThere were lots and lots of restaurants around the area in which we stayed. We tried different cuisines actually. We had Italian one day, Indonesian the next and then Caribbean food. And of course we stopped by Burger King for a fast meal :-) But the general impression of the places we went to were that the restaurants were kind of small and the service was not really great. The food was served slow and we had to hunt down the waitress to pay the bill. They seemed more relaxed than I’m used to at least.

We went into a coffee shop at one stage. I don’t know where the term came from but at some coffee shops you can buy hash if you want to. We went into a coffee shop near Leidsplain and there was a big sign behind the bar saying “We don’t sell joints, only bags”. We went into the place because it had an internet cafe as well.

A park in AmsterdamAccording to my guide book the Dutch men are “famous” for pissing everywhere and because of this the smell of piss have become more of a problem than dog shit in the streets. Well, I don’t think that there was that much dog shit around but we did smell piss on various locations. They have even put up more or less public urinals to get rid of some of the problem.

There was one problem for me in the museums that I visited: the information was often only in Dutch and that made it very hard for me to understand anything. In some places you could rent audio guides but I have tried that before and most of the time you get fed up by listening to the voice and then you just carry the equipment around.

We stayed in Amsterdam from Friday until Tuesday morning. In that period we checked out the following:

Nikki outside Anne Franks houseAnne Franks house: we had to see this “attraction” of course. I have read the book and seen plays about it so it was a bit special seeing the place itself. But it also seems unreal when you are there to think that this is the place where she actually wrote her stuff. But there is not much left in the building when it comes to furniture. More or less all the rooms were totally naked. It seems like they are working on making this a major attraction cause they were reconstructing the entrance and parts of the house when we were there.

Outside the  rijksmuseumRijks Museum: The museum is located quite close to where we stayed and it is listed as one of the attractions in Amsterdam so we decided to go there. It is like the Louvre in Paris but a smaller edition. The museum was interesting enough but it is a bit much when you walk around and look at paintings for hours. I enjoyed the section where they had displays of everyday stuff on board ships belonging to the VOC (The Dutch East India Company). Some of Van Gogh’s paintings had been transferred to this museum because they were renovating the Van Gogh museum itself. So I got to see the sunflowers :-)

The Royal Palace seen from the outsideThe Royal Palace: The palace is located on a place called Dam. This palace was really nice. The great hall inside the palace was just fantastic. It was about 30 meters up to the ceiling and the floor was made of marble and it included maps of the world as they knew it when it was built. And there is also an astrological map on the floor. There maps were round and they must have been about 5 meters in diameter. The Royal Palace insideAnd there were figures carved in stone above the different entrances. Of course it is hard to explain how all of this looks but it was quite a sight. I guess they had also thought about which rooms being used for what before they built the whole thing. Walking inside the Royal PalaceA nice example of this is two rooms that were right next to each other. One of the rooms was the insurance room and above the entrance there is stone carvings of the Greek poet Arion being saved from drowning by a dolphin. The room next door was the bankruptcy room and above the door here one can see Icarus as he falls towards the sea after coming too close to the sun. There are also small details like carvings of poisonous plants, rats crawling over empty money chests and so on.

Nikki with Nelson Mandela at Madame TussaudMadame Tussaud: Yes, Amsterdam also have a Madame Tussaud wax gallery. This is located right next to the Royal Palace in the middle of town. I guess we went on a bad day (I think we went on Saturday) and the place was really crowded. It made it hard to see all the figures and to hear all the information that was given. But it was a cool layout. First we got to hear about the history of Holland/Amsterdam and they had created different scenes in the past with wax figures. And then we moved into a more conventional gallery where there were figures of different well known people.

Oude Kerk: The church is located near the red light district and it is kinda strange to walk through this area to get to a church. But the church itself was beautiful. The were “testing” the great organ when we were in there and it sounded great. I love to hear organ playing in churches like that. The church also has some nice paintings in the ceiling. According to the guide book these paintings were covered up with blue paint a long time ago and when they found out about this in the 60s they had to do a lot of work to restore it back to the original look.

Outside the Maritime museumScheepvaart Museum: The maritime museum has lots and lots of models of ships and it takes you through the history from sail ships to steamboats and so on. There were also displays about the world wars. There is a full size sail boat on the harbour of the museum called the Amsterdam and it was fascinating to get on board this ship.

The hash museumThe Hash Marihuana Hemp Museum: The “museum” was a real disappointment. According to the guide book it was a thing that we had to see. OK, so the subject is controversial but the displays of pipes to smoke hash in, things to make out of hemp and the green room filled with hash plants does not change that fact that the museum was small and pretty boring.

Canal boat ride: We took a canal boat ride one day and it was not very expensive. The trip lasted for about 1 hour and a half and took us around on some of the most important canals and even outside in the main harbour.

Waiting for the tram early in the morningOn Tuesday morning we got up at 5 am to get ready to go to Paris. I had already booked tickets back home to get on the speed train from Amsterdam to Paris called Thalys. The trip started at 7 am and by 11.30 we were in Paris. The train went kind of slow through Holland and Belgium but it sure speeded up when we came over on the TGV lines in France. I guess the train did 250 to 300 km/h when we were going full speed. Read more about the stay in Paris here.


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