Cycles, Canals and Coffeeshops
Arriving to the Hook of Holland by way of overnight ferry, Tarin and I took the first train headed in to Amsterdam. The trains became more and more crowded the nearer we drew to the city and we found ourselves having to separate in order to make room for our gigantic backpacks. We landed at Centraal Station in Amsterdam just after 11am. Yes, that extra ‘a’ is supposed to be there, according to the Dutch.
This would be the fewest days we were to spend in any one of our destinations on this entire trip and the time flew by. We found the city itself easy to navigate, but the transit system didn’t necessarily make it very easy to understand which bus/tram/train connected with one another so we did quite a bit of walking. Our apartment was fairly close to the Anne Frank Haus and just far enough away from the Red Light District that we didn’t hear the raucous crowds. Given the good fortune we’ve had with the places we’ve stayed, I suppose the universe has now balanced itself; the apartment we stayed in while in Amsterdam was, how do you say… a bit of a polished turd. Let me expand just a little: the kitchen lacked the basics needed to cook a meal, the washer smelled like Humphrey Bogart’s trailer & looked like a science experiment and we were awoken every morning at 6am to the sound of Tram #10 whirring by our front window. We ended up eating out for every meal which we ordinarily wouldn’t mind, except the extra cost and the time lost to the entire process of finding somewhere – “what do you want?” I don’t know, what do you want” – but we did enjoy nonetheless. All was OK!
While killing some time before a reservation, we wandered up a street thinking we were headed to a park when bells sounded, lights flashed and two barriers swung down in front of a bridge; moments later, the bridge rose to let a couple of house boats pass through.
Tarin took great pleasure in the ability to not only peer into someone’s home but also to view this wonder of engineering.
One late afternoon was spent at the famous brewery Brouwerij’T Ij (now you pronounce it) connected to the iconic windmill design associated with Holland.
I fumbled along trying to order with the bartender and a couple of flights of the haus brew magically appeared at our table.
Their amber was by far the best, characterized by it’s hazy color, a creamy head, with a taste of malt and caramel hints. Smooth and easy to drink!
After our libations we enjoyed dinner at one of the many Mediterranean restaurants in town. I had a huge plate of meats – lamb, chicken and beef – and Tarin had a baked, whole sea bass. Full and happy bellies carried us through The Red Light District and back to Centraal Station where we caught a ride on a canal boat for Amsterdam’s Festival of Lights. The nearly 90 minute boat ride was surely the height of our experience in Amsterdam.
The diversity of the people in Holland was also something in which we took great pleasure. As nearly professional people watchers, we can assure you that a walk through the Red Light District provides a viewing populous like no other. We walked over a ridiculous amount of bridges, dodged countless bicyclists and passed by multifarious coffee shops. Some of the coffee shops had this awfully strange but familiar odor emitting from their doors – they were certainly roasting something, but not coffee beans. Hmm.