Amster-dam this is a nice city!

Trip Start May 22, 2005
Trip End Aug 09, 2005

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Friday, June 10, 2005

June 7
This day began with us joining the Busabout tour for the first time. Busabout is a bus service that works in much the same way as the Eurorail, but has more limitations on stops. It is, however, convenient because you are travelling with like-minded people and quite often the Busabout stop in the evening is at an affordable yet reputable hostel. The bus also is non-smoking and plays DVD movies during the trip, so it is quite comfortable. We stopped along the way in Brugge, Belgium, which is quite a lovely small city and had some lunch. The countryside was interesting because interspersed with the old fields and farmhouses were wind farms -- a neat blend of old and new. Upon arriving in Amsterdam we split with the Busabout group and headed to our hotel which was across from a scenic park and canal. Amsterdam has been called the "Venice of the North" and its many canals make the city both beautiful and unique. One of the first things we noticed was the prolific use of bicycles -- apparently there is one bicycle for every person in Holland. Bicycles have right of way over every other vehicle except trolleys and even pedestrians have to watch their step. An interesting story we heard on the way into the city was that people with really old and ugly bikes take great pride in the fact that the Germans were not able to steal their bike after WWII (which was apparently how many Germans got home after the surrender).

June 8
After sleeping in until late in the morning we made our way to the Red Light District, which was a lot less seedy than we expected it to be. The whole area is a little surreal as, when we walked around the Oude Kirk (Old Church), we saw prostitutes in the windows across the street wearing only their underwear and beckoning passersby. There are many fabulous churches and old buildings along the canals in Amsterdam and overall it was a beautiful city. We wandered throughout the historic sections of town and eventually arrived at Anne Frank's House, which is now a first-rate museum. This building was where Anne and her family along with another Jewish family (8 people in all) hid in an annex at the rear of Anne's father's warehouse. They lived there for 2 years before being discovered and arrested and taken to concentration camps where all but Anne's father died. Some of the interesting artifacts were Anne's original 3 diaries which were kept by her father's staff until the war had ended and they were sure that Anne was not coming home. The museum makes use of all the original rooms in the annex and, though they are not furnished, you could still get a sense of how confined their lives would have been. After much walking it was back to our room for the comfort of North American television (R: classic Zorro!!).

June 9
We slept in again but once up we were ready for another day of walking. Our first stop was the Van Gogh Museum, which is a good size for an art museum -- enough works to fill three floors, but not enough to make you detest paintings. It was also educational in that neither of us knew a great deal about Van Gogh and, though we are not experts yet, we feel we better understand why he is considered such an important artist. His genius was not so much in the quality of his works, but in the innovations that he employed, especially in his colour use and brush strokes. It was also interesting to find out that he lost his job at age 27 and then just decided to become an artist with no previous training. His first few years, he did not even trust himself with paints, he only sketched to develop his abilities. A constant theme in our trip up to this point has been searching for good curry, and we found the best chicken Vindaloo ever at the restaurant Madras. We walked off our dinner and enjoyed simply being in such a lovely city. Of the cities that we have visited so far, we felt that Amsterdam could most easily feel like home.
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