Heldhaftig, Vastberaden, Barmhartig

Trip Start Sep 07, 2010
Trip End Aug 21, 2011

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Flag of Netherlands  , Noord-Holland,
Monday, December 20, 2010

We hit the train station in the morning to ride up to Amsterdam in Nord Holland (North Holland). It is only about a 30-minute train ride, which in London, you'd still be in London after a 30-minute train ride.  Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands and one of the largest metropolitan areas of Europe with around 2 million people.  It is a true metropolis, complete with an underground metro for suburban transportation and above ground trams for local transportation.  The rumors are true, literally everyone rides their bicycle around town, especially in Amsterdam.

Amsterdam retrieved its name from the river Amstel that ran through the original settlement that created a dam at the mouth of the river.  Originally named "Amstelredam," the town eventually became known as Amsterdam.  The area where the dam was originally built is today’s Dam Square.  It is a large open public space that has served the city for centuries.  This area has housed many different buildings and monuments over the years.  In the center today is the National Monument, built to honor those who served in World War II and subsequent conflicts.  The old city center is surrounded by multiple semicircular canals that made the city famously beautiful.  Most of the structures in this area are centuries old and impervious to demolition, protected by modern historic preservation laws.

The flag of Amsterdam is black and red and features three white X’s all in a row (XXX).   Now, because of Amsterdam’s modern reputation, you may jump to conclusions about the meaning of this, but the X’s actually represent Saint Andrew’s Crosses.

The first stop off the train was a little shop in downtown that sells ridiculous condoms known as the Condomerie.   I think most of the products in the store were for comical effect, and I wouldn’t rely on them in any contraceptive way.  We tried to visit the Westerkerk, a 17th century church and tallest in Amsterdam, but we didn’t know that it is closed on Mondays so we weren’t allowed to enter.  However, adjacent to the Westerkerk is Anne Frank’s house.  The house has been preserved and set up as a museum that displays the original hiding place of Anne Frank, her family, and the others during World War II until they were discovered after two years of hiding.   My friend had already been to this museum previously, and I had heard mixed reviews about it and couldn’t justify spending the money on it.  Being in the same spot and seeing the house was enough for me.

Down a side street in Amsterdam, further out from the main canals, are seven houses in a row that are built in the style of seven countries.  The countries represented are England, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Russia, and the Netherlands.  The arrangement was really interesting, and all the countries’ names are displayed in Dutch above the front door.

I’m glad I saved the money though from not going in the Anne Frank House because the Rijksmuseum was about to take it from me.   We had the option of the Van Gough Museum or the Rijksmuseum, and we decided on the Rijksmuseum because it has art and artifacts from Dutch history.  Unfortunately, the museum is still under renovations and will be for some time so only some selected works were on display of the museums over one million pieces.  The museum houses many works by Rembrandt van Rijn (namely The Night Watch) and Johannes Vermeer (The Milkmaid).  The Night Watch is a very large painting that was commissioned for the new Musketeers’ Meeting Hall in Amsterdam.  The painting was so big that part of it was actually sliced off so that the building could accommodate it, which almost seems ridiculous considering how famous the painting is today.

By the time we exited the museum, it was dark outside, and it was time to return to the train station.  However, we were going to make a few detours on our way back.  First, because it IS Amsterdam after all, we took a stroll through the red light district.  I didn’t take many pictures of the area because I thought that it might be a bit inappropriate.  I would like to mention that as we neared the end of the red light district, there was a girl (slightly overweight, I’ll say) in one of the windows wearing a bikini sitting down with her feet propped up on the chair in the next window over eating a McDonald’s Big Mac and fries for the whole world to see.  Exactly what you’re looking for when you want to pay for sex?

We also headed out to the Amsterdam Bibliotheek (Lbrary) next for a great view of the city and the adjacent NEMO, an interactive science center.  You could see the hold city city, as well as modern structures off in the distance.

Amsterdam is a beautiful city, even covered in snow.  The city center (Centrum) is wall-to-wall 17th century homes and glorious buildings.  I will definitely try to visit again in the spring or summer when there are tulips to be seen and much less snow to slip on.

P.S. The title of the blog comes from Amsterdam's city motto, Heldhaftig, Vastberaden, Barmhartig, meaning "Valiant, Steadfast, Compassionate" in English.  I thought this entry could use a bit more Dutch in it.
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