Waking up in der Nederlands
After a 10-hour overnight flight and two quick train rides we arrive in Zwanenburg, Netherlands and our Airbnb apartment for the next six nights. We are just a 15-minute train ride from Amsterdam. What does one do on the first day living in the Netherlands? Well, you go for a bike ride along canals and into the nearby forest. Check that one off the list!
After breakfast at home, we walked 5 minutes, caught a bus, and zipped into the city of Amsterdam. We walked to the weekly Noordermarkt on Westerstraat and browse through the mind boggling array of just about anything you might need, or think you need, in toiletries, clothes, shoes, purses, and on, and on. It’s a bit overwhelming particularly if there is nothing you are shopping for. The stalls go on and on, are packed full of people, and once you enter the narrow passage at one end, you are out of luck if you want to exit before the very long other end. Our reward was the apple cake/pie at the nearby Winkel 43 café. It seems to be a favorite stop for locals as well as visitors, and the cake is out of this world good.
We head over to Dam Square as Amsterdam’s major sights are all within walking distance from this area, and because we are DaMclarks we must check out Dam Square. Then we work our way to the Red Light District to see the ladies posing in their glassed-in rooms with their red curtains pulled aside to entice people in for a visit. For those who do not know, prostitution is legal here. At one time there were approximately 300 rooms spread out over a network of alleyways. Note that these alleyways all fan out from the local church! It’s still morning and for us it is the best time to see this rather interesting tourist sight. Night, of course, is the popular time to visit as there are more ladies available, but then there are a lot more people ogling. The entire neighborhood is full of legal weed and drug shops (not the prescription kind), and sex shops displaying an array of well, I’ll just let your minds wander but you are probably not even close to imagining. When I was here 13 years ago the entire neighborhood seemed more rundown and seedy. Things look a bit more up to date now days and anyone traveling to Amsterdam generally takes a look-see in the RLD because, well, it is a bit hard to imagine. I found the people milling about rather interesting. There are the usual guys setting terms with their ladies, groups of guys, groups of girls, couples young and old, and people from all nationalities. No photographs are allowed, and there are actual red fluorescent lights over each of the girls (shall I say, studios?) when they are available.
We covered a lot of ground in Amsterdam and walked over many canals. We viewed the beautiful Dutch homes and enjoyed our lovely day. We wrapped up with a quiet, late lunch at Greenwoods Café sitting at a table alongside a canal. We enjoyed the food and beer, and talk about what we will do tomorrow.
Today we head west on the train to the old city of Haarlem only 10 minutes away. Having stayed here 13 years ago, I almost didn’t recognize the place. There are many upscale shops now, and there is a new face on old town Haarlem. St. Bravo’s gothic cathedral (built 1390-1540) still dominates the city center. As we toured the cathedral we were fortunate to hear the giant pipe organ play (from 1738 with more than 5,000 pipes and over 100 feet tall). Throughout the day you can hear the carillon (bells) on the quarter hour. It lends a magical feeling to the city as we walk around. The Grote Markt (market square) is the center of Haarlem as it has been for 700 years and it bustles with restaurants around the edges. On a sunny day like today it is full of tables as the restaurants flow out onto the square, and the people enjoy lunch, drinks, sweets, and the warmth of the autumn sun. During the mornings on Mondays and Saturdays market stalls fill the center. We spent the day wandering the streets, enjoying a walk canal side and dinner at De Lachende Javaan for de Indische Rijsttafel (Indonesian rice table with rice and several side dishes served on something like vented candle chafing dishes) – a must-have when in Holland. Why Indonesian in Holland? In the 1600s the Dutch colonized Indonesia and today the rice table is considered one of the national dishes.
Dennis begins his day in Haarlem with salted herring - the local favorite.
Vincent Van Gogh Museum
This museum is a modern facility in Amsterdam housing 200 Van Gogh paintings that Vincent’s brother owned. It depicts the life of Vincent (born in the Netherlands) in a thoughtful presentation. After spending a couple of hours at the museum we grab a tram to the main train station and go back to our little village of Zwanenburg, as I am a bit under the weather. The next day we planned a day at home as we saw rain was forecast plus we like a down day before a big travel day. Good plan on our part because when the rains come in off the North Sea it can rain hard.
Leaving der Nederlands
One sight we will see next time will be the Rijksmuseum, where the Dutch Masters live (just recently re-opened after a long renovation). There’s always something more to see and we like to leave the places we visit that way. From the rather eclectic Red Light District, to the intellectual museums in the SW neighborhood, a day trip to Haarlem, a bike ride along the canals, and the welcoming hospitality of our Airbnb hosts, the Netherlands impress. With the bike friendly atmosphere, Dennis was ready to move. A stop at the local grocery store had me at the €3 average bottled wine price! Proost (cheers or good health)!
Thanks for joining us on our journey.