Layover in Europe

Trip Start Nov 19, 2002
Trip End Dec 13, 2002

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Flag of Netherlands  , North Holland,
Saturday, December 14, 2002

Greetings from Europe!

One of the best parts about the trip has been the time warp.  The last international news I had heard was an oil tanker sinking off the coast of Spain.  Since then, the world's stood still!  My sister and her PC friends were planning a rafting trip down the Nile River.  The PC denied permission due to 'tensions' in Kenya.  So they went to Uganda instead.  On the way to Amsterdam, I switched flights in Nairobi.  It seemed a little unusual seeing ten personnel on the tarmac transferring luggage between the two planes.  But they were all very friendly and attentive.  After leaving Tanzania I got the real news:  the bombing of a popular Israeli resort in Nairobi.

At first I was disappointed to have a layover in Amsterdam.  But not after walking around the city.  I was fascinated by the architecture.

I really wanted to see Anne Frank’s house and the Van Gogh Museum.  Unfortunately, most of the main attractions had already closed.  So I walked through the shopping district.  Fashion, drugs, affluence and iced-over canals.  A big contrast from Africa but fun to observe.  I ended up in Dam Square, in the heart of Amsterdam.  There was a small rink with ice skaters having a ball.  Next to it was a small stand baking fresh doughnuts.  I warmed up over and over.  A picturesque European winter.  My next vacation is already starting to take shape.

The architecture was amazing.  Most of the buildings go back 600 years.  Not as old as the Lucy skull, but still more historical than anything back home.  Even more historical in Amsterdam is the oldest profession of all.  I had to walk through the red light district.  At the recommendation of a friend, of course.

It was kind of shocking - the legality and openness of it all.  I followed behind a group of guys down a narrow alley.  You can tell which alleys by the string of red florescent lights glowing over the doorways.  Each door is framed around a large window.  Voila!  Suddenly a lady in a bikini and high heels appears.  You can window shop just inches away.  If she’s interested she winks, if not she shakes her finger.

The Dutch have a pretty tolerant society.  The narrow alleys spilled into main streets lined with restaurants and homes.  People seemlessly mingled between the two.  Before I knew it the crowds were thinning.  The un-worked ladies began singling me out.  So…time to head back to the hotel.  But the mouse upstairs is already churning out ideas for the next trip.

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