Touring #5 – The Netherlands -2

We are home again but I feel as though our blog would end abruptly if I did not finish off the story of our trip and our final days in Lithuania. It has taken a week of dealing with re-entry into our usual life so I am just now able to find time to complete it.

On May 7, we took the train into Amsterdam for the first time and the first thing we did was take a canal boat tour–it was conveniently located near the train station and seemed a good place to begin–an overview of the city.  Amsterdam has several canals in rings around the center city.  We learned a few things on the tour–about one car each week ends up in a canal–there are 100 kilometers of canals in the city and 1,000 bridges–there are about 750,000 people in Amsterdam and 850,000 bicycles (we saw most of them)–the houses along the canals are mostly very narrow and tall because taxes used to be figured on the width of the building–because the houses are so narrow, it is difficult to get furniture in and up stairways so houses lean slightly forward and have a large hook at the top so furniture can be hauled to the upstairs windows by ropes over the hooks and won’t bump against the house.  Some houses look slightly askew because of the shifting ground underneath also.  Many people live on houseboats which line the canals.  Some of these are regular houseboats and some look like old freight boats–not too nice.  Rents are very high in Amsterdam (saw ads for two bedroom apartments ranging from $2,500 to $4,000 per month) and some of the boats are illegally there but most pay some fee–apparently cheaper than apartment rents.

Amsterdam is an attractive city but it is so crowded that it is not so charming as I had thought it would be.  The buildings are nice but their beauty is obscured by so many cars and bicycles–it is even difficult sometimes to  find a place to walk and the old boats tied up everywhere detracts from the view of the canals.  However, it certainly makes for a very interesting city–very busy that’s for sure.

Canal boat similar to the one we took tour on.

Notice skinny houses.

Notice crooked houses.

Those hooks for moving days.

Someone’s home on the canal.

Another home.

A little decoration on the front of this boat.

This seems to be some neighborhood group or civic club cleaning up the canal as we do the highways.

We watched this little lady bird and her “husband” for awhile. He would swim about the canal picking up bits of trash and bringing them to this tarp-covered boat where she had prepared this lovely nest. I can’t see how this will work at all for the eggs will surely fall right down among the trash.  Anyway, a nice supplement to the civic group noted above.

Looking at statue of Anne Frank near the building where she and her family hid for 2 years. I took the tour and it was very moving–it has been a long while since I read Anne’s diary but I think I’ll read it again now.

Bonnie visits Rembrandt in the rain.  We did a LOT of visiting in the rain.

They gave us so many delicious samples in this cheese store that we didn’t need lunch.

Shop cat sleeps beside wooden shoes.

Same kitty next day perching on cash register.

Some Delft china pieces in a very expensive shop. I liked these cows.

In the Dom Square, in front of the palace, visitors watch a  street  performer.

Carriage drivers visit while waiting for customers–Dom Square.

The Floating Flower Market — a long block of flower shops which are partly on the side of the canal and partly on floating platforms.  Flower shopping is big everywhere in Europe. In Klaipeda, flowers were appropriate for almost any occasion.  One only had to be careful with odd or even numbers of blooms, depending on the occasion.  A serious social faux pas would occur if the number appropriate for a wedding showed up at a funeral, or vice versa.  (Ed. note – Bonnie just informed me that the same custom prevails in the US.  In 69 years, I had never heard of such a thing!  Travel sure is educational.)

Floating Flower Market –street side.

One of the many pretty “tops” on the narrow houses–spoiled by the block where a hook should be attached.

Sometimes I even take pictures of modern buildings! This one is in the harbor area of Amsterdam.

This building, called Nemo, was designed by the same architect who designed the Centre Georges Pompidou museum in Paris.  Shows that bad taste knows no borders.

We visited the Rijksmuseum with its large collection of Rembrandts but were disappointed to learn, after we had paid our 14 Euros each ($19+ ) that only a small part of the museum is open–the rest is undergoing a major re-haul that has taken 10 years so far. We were able to see everything in about 1.5 hours even though we often had to wait for the crowds to disperse before viewing the more famous paintings such as The Nightwatch above.

Pretty tulips outside the Rijksmuseum.

Interesting advice on this sign in a shopping area.  Given the astronomical prices, thinking is probably counter-productive.  For any of you thinking about a visit to the Benelux countries, take plenty of money and debit cards.  For instance, a simple personal size cheese pizza can set you back $12 to $15, or more.  For a simple stew with a slice or two of bread in Antwerp we paid $17.  McDonald Value Meal will run a bit north of $10.

One thing I will definitely remember about Amsterdam is the bicycles.  Old ladies and men, young moms and dads with children on board, and dressed-up office workers–all pedaling away, rain or shine.  With gasoline at $8 a gallon and parking at $6 per hour, it is understandable.  At least their land is flat so no hills to contend with.

A bicycle parking lot near the train station in Amsterdam.

A bicycle parking garage near train station in small town.

This sort of scenario shows how exciting it is to cross the street as a pedestrian. I imagine collisions are not uncommon.

This is how you take the kids along.

A bike with covered kiddie seats.  Notice all the bicycles parked along the canal on both sides.

After two long days of walking about the city, we are off to the countryside and then back to Kiel and the ferry to Klaipeda. I’ll shortly post again on that part of the journey.

No more viso gero.  Now it’s goodbye.

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