Navigating the Netherlands (July 22nd - July 26th, 2011)

July 22nd, 2011 - Happy Birthday Mom
We arrived to Amsterdam on the afternoon of the 22nd. We took a short flight from Copenhagen on SAS airlines. We had reservations at the Barangay B&B in Amsterdam for the Masters Triple room, and the owners, Wimmo and Godwin, had sent great directions for getting to the B&B via the train.

The train leaves every 20 minutes for Central Station (which was right near the B&B) and only cost about 4 euro per person to ride. We got on, had plenty of room for our luggage, and got to Central Station without mishap.

Following our printed directions, we were at our B&B in record time (even lugging our suitcases behind us). We had the best greeting I have ever encountered at a B&B or hotel anywhere whenever Wimmo greeted us. He put on some nice music, got us nice cold sodas (with ice), and pulled out a map which he proceeded to highlight and write on so we'd be prepared to navigate Amsterdam. He told us the pitfalls to avoid, places to go, highlighted the flower/flea/Saturday market, talked about "McDonald" Street -aka tourist row-, and was able to secure us tickets to the Van Gogh museum. He also told us they were upgrading our room to their new Budda Temple which had accommodations for three but was on a lower floor and had a private bathroom! It was great! They provided shampoo, conditioner, fabulous toilet paper, towels, cloths, a mini fridge, tv, and etc. He showed us where we could get breakfast in the morning - the kitchen was fully stocked and on the floor above us. It was a help yourself system. Worked wonderfully.

Bathtub and shower! There was good water pressure and temperature, and an extra surprise when you turn the water on!

We got settled and the headed out to explore since the weather forecast for the rest of our trip was calling for rain, and it was currently nice outside.

The Jordaan section of town was really rather nice. There was a city feel, but I loved all of the houseboats.

And I was confused by the crooked church and other crooked buildings.

Every once in a while, you would actually see inside of a home as you were walking along the canals. I didn't take any photos inside, tempted as I was, but I did get a few interesting pieces of street art and lots of doorknobs, buildings, and building art.

Walking back to the B&B after dinner, we saw the outside of the Anne Frank House, the statue of Anne Frank, and some other pretty sights.

Oh...and bikes. There were bikes everywhere we went this trip, but the sheer mass of bike quantities in Amsterdam beat them all. It was rather insane! You don't have to worry about the vehicles running you is the bikes you have to watch out for!

There were also some rather interesting public urinals prevalent more and more often as you approach coffee shops, McDonald street, and the red light district.

Dog and cats are widely accepted and allowed in Amsterdam. In fact, several restaurants we went to had cats belonging to the restaurant. There was even a cat scratcher set up where we had dinner on the 22nd. What we ate was actually a local traditional food - pancakes. The ones in Amsterdam are more like actual pancakes...less like crepes. They were tasty. I had chicken soup and an apple and honey pancake.

Walking back to the B&B after dinner, we saw the outside of the Anne Frank House, the statue of Anne Frank, and some other pretty sights.

(For those who don't know, the outside of the Anne Frank house - far left building in photo above - has always just been an ordinary office building. It was the building of Otto Frank back in the day. He owned a business that made a gelling agent for jams and jellies. The Secret Annex was always meant to be hidden away and unnoticeable from the street.)

Our B&B looked nice at night too (two photos below). The local supermarket on McDonald street was not as nice had lots of nudie playing cards on display. Not exactly what I expected to see as I went to get a Diet Coke for breakfast.

July 23rd, 2011
Today was Bruges, Belgium. Make sure to check the Beautiful Bruges blog entry.

July 24th, 2011
It was raining already when we woke up today. We knew we were going to go to the Anne Frank House and to the Van Gogh museum to get away from the rain.

We had breakfast at the B&B. They have interesting things to put on toast.

We walked to the Anne Frank House and waited 30 minutes in the rain to get inside even though we were there when it opened. (Do yourself a favor and buy tickets online before you go. You have to have a printer or we would have purchased them online.)

I quite appreciated the photos/videos/placards, the literature given when you walk in, and the fact that the Secret Annex is kept unfurnished per Otto Frank's request (after all, the Nazis did empty the annex and hauled all of the furniture away).

To those of us who have read The Diary of Anne Frank (and even more if you've read Anne Frank, Her life in words and pictures from the archives of The Anne Frank House), the Secret Annex almost felt like it was breathing secrets. It was eerie to see the attic where Peter and Anne spent so much time, the postcard collection Anne pasted to the walls of her bedroom shared with Fritz Pfeffer, and the marks on the wall showing Margot and Anne's heights during their two years in the Annex. Seeing the bookcase that hid the stairwell almost made me cry...hearing Miep Gies speak on a video about the hidden really choked me up...and seeing Otto Frank, father of Anne and Margot and only survivor of the Nazis crimes of those in the Secret Annex, admit how he didn't know how deeply his daughter thought and felt made me break a bit more inside.

It's insane how even though I have read the Diary and other literature, I still hoped that the eight residents of the Secret Annex would survive. However, Otto Frank was still the only survivor (even though he was sent to Auschwitz). Hermann van Pels was gassed. Fritz Pfeffer, Edith Frank, Margot Frank, Anne Frank, Auguste van Pels, and Peter van Pels all fell sick while at various concentration camps and passed away. I hate that someone betrayed these people after they stayed hidden for so long.

Regardless of my words being inept here, it was a somber experience and certainly worth going. (No photos allowed inside.) I just really hope that we get past judging others. Nobody is religion, no race, no sexual orientation. It doesn't matter who you love or what you believe...people are people. It seems like so many of the world's problems have stemmed from people believing their religion (or beliefs) are superior than another's. I hope the world learns tolerance.

After the Anne Frank House, we went to the Delft shop for souvenirs, gifts, and Terri's charm.

Then we dropped stuff off at the B&B and got a great lunch recommendation from Wimmo. We also had fresh towel animals waiting for us!

We went to a little Italian food restaurant just around the block called Ristorante Pizzeria Toscana for lunch. It was wonderful!

Then we got on the Tram to go to the Van Gogh Museum. While on the 2 or the 5 tram (can't remember which), a guy tried to make Kris a victim of pickpocketing. Luckily, Kris's wallet is attached to his belt. Kris pointed the guy out to me with a warning to be careful. I passed along the warning to Terri. I wish the guy would have tried to pickpocket me. He would have gotten wet, used tissues.

We got to the Van Gogh museum and enjoyed it. It was a good break from the rain. We couldn't take photos inside. I got one of a sign and bought a postcard I photographed. We saw Sunflowers but not Starry Night. Also, there is oddly no mention of the chopping off of Van Gogh's ear.

We walked around a bit more and went to a local grocery store for soda and local flavor, but we spent some time back at the B&B today. It was just so very wet!

July 25th, 2011
Before leaving home, I booked a Dutch Countryside Tour with GrayLine Tours. (This is the same company that brokered our Bruges tour.)

On our way to get to the tour, we stopped for incredible pastries from a great little bakery around the corner from the B&B called Stadsbakker Jongejans. It is at the corner of Haarlemmerstraat and Single. These pastries were amazing!!! We also got small loaves of bread for just .40 euro. We went back for more the next day.

We had a little time to kill before the tour, so we got photos in the museum district.

(Sometimes Kris and Terri try to get some interesting shots. I prefer getting photos of them trying to get the shots.)

Our tour guide today called himself "our friend with the cigar" but I later learned his name was Eric.

Our first stop was to a clog factory, cheese farm, and active oil mill windmill at the town of Zaanse Schans.

At the clog factory, we saw many clogs for sale, many examples of clogs, and got a demonstration on how they are made.

Even though they are now mostly made by machine (some elements are still required to be done by hand), they have to dry for a long time before they can be sold. They are mostly made from cedar. (Terri is holding the one made during our demonstration.)

They have pretty clogs, work boot clogs, wedding clogs, and roller clogs. There were just too many to photograph. You wear clogs with thick wool socks and should be able to fit your thumb in the back.

After the clog factory, we were off to the cheese factory. There was a young Dutch lady who gave the information to our group in both Spanish and English. (The group before us was Chinese, and they gave the info in Chinese.) All of these multi-lingual people were sure giving me an inferiority complex!

We learned how cheese was made, then we got to try a bunch. We bought some tasty Gouda and thought we were surely getting hosed with the price. We found out later, however, that we did not get hosed. They were quite good prices...especially if you compare it to US prices (thanks to import taxes).

We even were told all about curds and whey and got to see it. (There is a jar on this table filled with curds and whey. In the cheese making process, milk is separated into liquid (whey) and curds (solids). The whey looks like cloudy water and is filled with nutrients. Sometimes whey is made into ricotta, cottage cheese, or fertilizer.)

After tasting a bunch of cheese, we were off to De Zoeker, a 1676 oil mill windmill still in operation on the Kalverringdijk.

We got to go inside the mill and even got to go upstairs for a view of the town.

There were quite a few windmills around the area. There used to be 1000 in the Zaan district alone, but only about 50 windmills were left in 1920. There are now 12 industrial windmills protected by the Windmill Society in the Zaan district. Below is a photo of a building that used to be windmill.

They really are quite lovely to see in action.

I saw a crane too.

After our visit to Zaanse Schans, we were off to Edam. Edam probably shouldn't exist. Pretty much the entire town is built under sea level. Due to dams built on the Zuiderzee, the town was able to exist. In fact, about 300 years ago, half or so of what we recognize as the Netherlands was underwater. It's a complicated process...we saw a video.

The outskirts of Edam might be one of the prettiest places I have ever seen in my life. Everyone's driveway is their own little bridge and they seem to take so much pride in their flora. I wish I had photos, but we were viewing from the inside of a bus and the photos just don't do the area justice.

We did get to stop in the town center of Edam where we found out that even though there is a cheese named after the town, Edam has never manufactured cheese. They actually just got the name due to a very active market that took place in Edam. People were selling cheese on the very spot shown in the photo just below, and later, when others wanted to know the name of the cheese, people couldn't remember. They just said the town they bought the cheese in, and the cheese got its name.

While strolling about the city, we saw a drawbridge in action. There are two in the town, and they are operated by hand.

This guy, pictured below and above, is a very important man in the town.

I thought Edam was quite pretty.

The guy in this photo below did not like us being there (check out the right hand side). When we started coming toward us, we made a break for it.

Our next destination was Volendam, an old fisherman's village. Due to the damming of the Zuiderzee, Volendam and Marken (which used to function as fisher villages) are now surrounded by fresh water.

Volendam was not our favorite place. It was packed with tourists. While there we watched a short film where we learned about Holland and the dams. We also saw a shark.

We grabbed lunch there before taking the Marken Express to Marken.

Marken was a lovely little sleepy village on the coast. We didn't get nearly enough time to explore this friendly and charming place. We wanted the residential area as much as possible before grabbing ice cream for the bus ride back.

The flora and fauna were plentiful. Check out the horses...



huge rabbits...

kitty cats...

party dogs...

strange lights...

strange people...

fisher people...

people riding bikes and carrying saws...(yes...he was riding a bike and carrying a saw)...

and other sights...

After this lovely town, we had an hour ride back. They dropped us off at Central Station and we walked around. I found this bike on the way to dinner.

Great trip!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad
1 Response
  1. Anonymous Says:

    Wish we could have been with you for all your wonderful post cruise experiences. I visited the Anne Frank house back in the 70's. I'm glad it remains just as I saw it. You expressed your feelings about the visit so eloquently.