Saturday, 20 July 2013

Amsterdam, Dykes, Bikes and Beer

Craig Writes;
13/07/13 Landed in Amsterdam after a 7 hour train shuffle involving five changes. But we got here and also managed a very memorable stop in the magnificent train station that is Antwerp.

Antwerp, possibly the most beautiful train station in the world
We met Roeland and Leah at the apartment. It's great but it's a bit of a goldfish bowl. The Dutch aren't big on curtains, at least in the main rooms so don't walk out of the bathroom into the kitchen/loungeroom in your birthday suit unless you're feeling buff. 

Our lounge room, great spot for a nudie run
14/07/13. Got an email from Roeland offering to give us a free bike tour of the city. How can you say no. We arranged to meet him at 3pm at the bike rental place an easy 20 minute work from our place. Our main concern was Charlie who currently has some sort of bike phobia. We thought we were good when the assistant gave him a bike to try and he said "yep that's fine". We signed the agreement, paid and went to go when we hit the brick wall. No money or bribe was going to get him to get on that bike. So with eyes tearing up the only alternative was for Christina and Charlie to make the 1.6 km walk back home and Callum and me to head off with Roeland. I offered to take him back and let Christina and Callum go but Christina took the bullet. The three of us headed off but the traffic got a bit too much for Callum and we headed back to the apartment to drop Callum off with Charlie and for Christina to take his bike. Soon enough, Charlie and Callum were safely locked up in the apartment with food , drink and entertainment and Christina, Roeland and me hit the road.

What a great place is Amsterdam. I love it.  Only 600,000 people, Roeland calls it a village. Damn big village but it definitely doesn't have the big city feel of where we've been. I love the canals full of house boats with their bbq's, their deck chairs and their potted gardens of miniature fruit trees and roses, I love the tall and narrow houses with their window boxes full of herbs, red and white geraniums and plush bunches of blue petunias.

The Michael Jackson Day Care Centre
They don't just hang pots over the side here
 I love the parks full of lazy people lounging in the soft sunshine in the lush green parks. I love the friendly pubs and the 9.5% beers and the fried pub food. I love the heavy smell of "oregano" as you ride past the Cheech and Chong and Mellow Yellow cafes. 
I'll have a cappuccino, choc muffin and a spliff thanks
Thank you so much to Roeland for his very generous offer to guide us and his early patience with getting started.  We did get settled into a very nice little pub for a few tasty ales and some tapas but alas time was running out and even though with every delicious gulp the boys were becoming more and more capable of looking after themselves, fortunately I had Christina there to remind me of my parental responsibilities. We climbed on our bikes and wobbled our way back home.
Not only a good host but pours a mean beer

It  would have been rude off me to win
Well I had to beat someone
15/07/13 Today another lazy start, just because we can. A short walk to the local bakery for outstanding apple strudel to enjoy with some home brewed coffee before Christina and I head off on the bikes for a bit of reconnaissance work. We're trying to find the place to hire the drive yourself canal boats but we're being given a bit of a runaround. 
So pretty
Everyone rides their bikes in Amsterdam and while it is not in the SE Asia category of dangerous it is up there. Today I saw a waitress miss being completely run down by nothing more than the thickness off her apron  by a cyclist who thought he was in the Tour De France time trials. Next, I was waiting at a set of lights when another speedster ran the red light and zipped passed me only being missed being completely splattered by a BMW because they both happened to swerve at the same time and in the right direction.  While I personally don't have any problem with the legalised pot smoking here I can see how dropping into the High Times Cafe for an espresso and a quick bong or two then hopping back on your bike may have a little to do with the gung ho attitude of some of the two wheeling fiends. Having said that, if you are vigilant and stay off the main roads, the back streets are an absoloute pleasure to cruise. We didn't find the boat hire but we found a great little corner pub to have a beer in the balmy afternoon sun. 

Now this is outdoor furniture
16/07/13. Would you be surprised if I said another lazy start today. I took the boys out to this awesome local park just a few minutes walk from where we were staying. It had a flying fox and an obstacle course that we all had a go at. A lot of fun. I'm amazed at how nimble and athletic the two boys can be when they want to. Callum and I then hopped on the bikes to take them back to the rental shop. Hopefully, come Berlin we can convince Charlie to hop on one. The cities here are very bike friendly with dedicated bike ways and dedicated traffic lights just for cyclists. It is a great way to see the place and get around. This is just a big village and now that we've been here a few days and gotten around a bit, I can really see it. It is so quaint with the narrow streets and the meandering canals with their colourful house boats and the small electric pleasure crafts filled with tourists and locals enjoying platters of cheese and accoutrements a beer or a wine.

This was Roelands fave pub. I can see why
Callum and I then enjoyed a quiet stroll back to the apartment to pick up Christina and Charlie to walk down to visit Anne Franks House. Probably the most famous fifteen year old of the 20th century. We read her diaries before we went and it made SO much difference to the visit. All I knew before hand was that she was a young dutch girl hiding in an attic during the nazi occupation of Holland who kept a diary which was discovered after she had been captured and sent off to the concentration camps never to be seen again.
That naive description doesn't even begin to capture the full measure of her experience.  

The scene of a gut wrenchingly honest account of  a courageous attempt at survival. 
She was a remarkable young person. Surprisingly articulate and an astute and deep thinker. Her writings captured the complicated relationships entwining the eight people hiding in the two small floors of the Annexe and the hardships they endured with a maturity far beyond her years. There is no doubt that had she survived she would have surpassed here wildest dreams of becoming a famous author. Her insight into not only her own character but those around her and her ability to express it with courage and a raw authenticity are the hallmarks of great contemporary writers. For me it was truly one of the most interesting and "real" experiences of our trip.

17/07/13. The four of us took of for a bit of a walking tour this morning. It is a great place to stroll around.
Did someone say icecream
My happy little leaning post
Picture perfect
Back for lunch of ham and cheese crepes then Christina and I headed down through the city to the train station to look at booking some more of our European leg. Took a ticket because the guy handing the tickets out said, "one hour". After 20 minutes it became very clear that he actually meant to say "three hours". We bolted and seeing as we didn't have the kids headed to the Red Light District". Now, I know there are younger readers who are enjoying the blog so I feel it best not to go into to much detail. Needless to say, I enjoyed it very much and Christina a little less:)).
Off for a big juicy rib eye and an early night before we hit the rails for Berlin.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This looks like a fantastic place Craig.