Trip Start May 31, 2008
Trip End Jun 01, 2009

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Flag of Netherlands  , Noord-Holland,
Wednesday, May 6, 2009

We took an extremely early morning flight to Amsterdam from Birmingham on one of Europe's budget carriers - Ryan Air.  The flight was actually cheaper than our train ride from Amsterdam to Berlin!

We went straight to the tourist information centre from the airport, and bought tram tickets along with a collection of brochures and maps that would function as our Lonely Planet guide for the next few days.

On our way to our hotel, we got to see the city, canals, and tonnes of bikes.  So cool.  I also noticed how multi-cultural the city is.  And there are so many ethnic restaurants - yum!

We had the whole day ahead of us (the benefits of the early morning flight), and decided to go to the van Gogh museum.  The museum was excellent!  Probably one of the best museums of the whole trip.  The displays were set up as a progression of van Gogh's work with pieces by his contemporaries also showcased.  I love how he played with the farm sceneries.  The main exhibition downstairs displayed van Gogh's night and portrait scenes.  The famous Starry Night was there of course, along with The Potato Eaters.

We are here in May and were told to see the famous Keukenhof Tulip Gardens while we can.  It is one of the most photographed places in the world.  Good thing we have two cameras and multiple memory cards.  I think you can see by the number of pictures we took that we really enjoyed the gardens.

We went to the Anne Frank house.  It's hard to visit a place like that and no be utterly horrified and shocked by what people can do to each other.  I found the stories of the workers in Mr. Frank's shop quite remarkable - how they helped hide a family and the bravery that takes.  The most heartbreaking part of the story is that Anne dies just a few days before liberation.  There was an excellent "What Would You Do?" interactive session at the end to get people thinking about the role of the state, minority rights, and individual liberties.  eg.  Is it right for the American government to collect information from airlines about customers?  particularly food restrictions which in some cases is an indicator of religion?  Should neo-Nazi groups be allowed to demonstrate in front of Synagogues?  Definitely made you think.

There was an exhibition for the World Press Gallery in Oude Kerk (literally Old Church) that we checked out on our last day in Amsterdam.  More great wandering and eating ethnic food before our last stop - the Heineken Museum. 

The museum was great - brewery machines to play around with, commercials from the 60s, 70s, and 80s.  We were slowly sipping our beers, when the most amazing coincidence happened.  We hear "so, you guys come here often?", turn around, only to find our friends Lana and Ben smiling!  They moved to Toronto last year, and were in Amsterdam on vacation.  We had a great time catching up with them, and had  beer at a nearby pub.  An excellent way to end our stay here.
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