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Amsterdam, Holland

​Amsterdam is the capital of Holland, my birth country.  The city originates back to the 12th century, and was the seat of the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century.  It is built on wooden pillings along the many canals, which contain the many gabled houses of the rich of that era.  Many buildings have a decided lean because of the settling soil and water table.  Now, it still houses international corporations, and many wealthy individuals live alongside the canals— ans some in houseboats.

Famous Amsterdam residents include Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Spinoza and diarist Anne Frank. The city houses the world’s oldest stock market, has significant museums and cultural attractions, and a world famous concert hall.  It is also well known for its red light district and cannabis coffee shops.  It draws some 5 million visitors annualy.

We visited the the newly rebuilt Rijksmuseum, home of many famous paintings and artworks.  We toured the streets in a hop on hop off bus, and the canals via boat.   It’s a great place to visit, everything is accessible.  But be prepared to share everything with huge crowds… the city is very popular.

Keukenhof, Netherlands

Holland is well know for its tulips.  And one of the best places to see them is at the Keukenhof Gardens, about 20 minutes outside of Amsterdam.  The Gardens are laid out in themes, with flower placement by individual tulip growers of the area.  It makes for a very impressive display!   And you can tell it is enjoyed by the huge crowds that stroll through the grounds.

Our cruise had a one day layover in Amsterdam, a great opportunity to visit the gardens.  A quick train and bus ride from the port (which is city Center Amsterdam) brings you to the gardens.  Here are some random images from our walk.

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Amsterdam, 2015

September 8, 2015 1 comment

Instead of just walking around, this year we took a guided walking tour of Amsterdam.  That worked well, we saw things we never saw on our own, and received a history lesson at the same time.  The guide (Michael, of Free Walking Tours) did a great job, mixing facts and humor.

We started in the red light district (yes, girls were working at 3PM) followed by a visit to the Jewish neighborhood that was devastated in World War II.  We reviewed the history of the Dutch East India Company (Holland was the most powerful and rich country in the world during the Golden Age), and how that influenced the building of canals.

We learned about drugs in general (the Dutch have the most liberal laws, yet have one of the lowest drug use rates in the world).  We then traveled to the wealthy part of town, including a visit to one of the very expensive court yards.  We also visited a traditional cheese house and tried some samples.

As you look at the pictures, note how many buildings are leaning.  Amsterdam is on mainly reclaimed soil, which is unstable, and requires frequent maintenance.  So we learned a lot and were entertained at the same time.  A great afternoon!

The Royal Palace

The Royal Palace

A very fancy shopping center in an old building

A very fancy shopping center in an old building

Inside the shopping center

Inside the shopping center

Some government buildings and churches

Some government buildings and churches

Of course, a canal with typical bridge (and bicycles)

Of course, a canal with typical bridge (and bicycles)

Grandma with grandchild enjoying a break at a stoner coffee shop

Grandma with grandchild enjoying a break at a stoner coffee shop

Some impressive residential buildings

Some impressive residential buildings

Inside one of the private courtyards

Inside one of the private courtyards

More canals, more bicycles

More canals, more bicycles

Classy buildings along the canal

Classy buildings along the canal

Canal, and old church

Canal, and old church

Walking one of the shopping streets

Walking one of the shopping streets

Fashionable footwear

Fashionable footwear

Smallest house in Amsterdam (the red building), 39 inches wide and occupied too!

Smallest house in Amsterdam (the red building), 39 inches wide and occupied too!

Sail Amsterdam

August 23, 2015 Leave a comment

When we arrived in Holland we found out that Sail Amsterdam was in progress.  What is it?  Well, it is one of the largest maritime events in the world.  It was started in 1975 in celebration of the 700th anniversary of the city of Amsterdam, and was so successful it was repeated every 5 years.  So we were invited by family to take in the fun.

You could tell how busy it was when we got to the Utrecht train station.  People everywhere, the train was standing room only.  But a short 20 minute ride got us to Amsterdam.  And then the crowds really started!  Not only people, but we were amazed at the number of boats…. and the variety.  everything from rowboats to 5 mast sailing vessels, and even a car!

The events takes place in Amsterdam, on the river IJ.  It is a big river, and lots of room for moored boats.  But the spectacular part was the continual parade of boats, with no seeming logic by what type or where.  Each boat was on its own to go upriver, turn around, and come back down river.

Check the pictures….

Crowds at the station

Crowds at the station

Look at all those boats!

Look at all those boats!

A real flotilla of boats on parade!

A real flotilla of boats on parade!

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No boat? No problem… take your car.

Even had musical accompanient, her a Dixieland band

Even had musical accompaniment, here a Dixieland band

And even a one man band!

Even a one man band!

Replica of a Spanish galeon,reminicent of Columbus

Replica of a Spanish galeon, reminicent of Columbus

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View of the bow.  Don’t think I would cross the Atlantic in one that size!

Captain's quarters

Captain’s quarters

Bowsprit

Bowsprit

Reefing the sails

Reefing the sails