Next stop – and our last day together before I had to fly home, while he stayed there for several more weeks – was Amsterdam. Our hotel was near the airport which is actually in Schipol, so we took the train.
Like much of what we saw, the inside of the train station was very modern – concrete, tile, shops, electronic kiosks, etc. – but outside, it looked like this. If you click on the photo to enlarge it, you'll see that the "clock tower" is not a clock at all.
We immediately started seeing bicycles everywhere. This was apparently an entire parking ramp just for bikes. There were thousands of them, some new, some abandoned. I'd heard that a lot of people got around Amsterdam on bicycles, but I had no idea there would be so many.
Everyone told us that we should take a tour of the canals at night. Unfortunately, our schedule did not allow us to be in Amsterdam at night (which considering where we ended up later is probably a good thing), but a morning tour worked out great for us. The tour boats were all lined up and ready to take on passengers.
There's my happy Geek! Our tour boat had an automated voice "tour guide" that spoke in about five different languages throughout the tour.
I have no idea what this was, but I thought it was interesting how there is such a mix of modern and historic in this city.
And here's an example of the historic. I don't remember what the tour guide said this was, but I loved how this grand building sat right out there on the water.
This is what much of our tour looked like, with the canal following the road (or vice versa) lined with houses and the cars parked right up to the edge of the canal wall. Notice how that black house is leaning forward a bit. Some of these houses are very, very old.
The tour boats (and any other boats on the canals) are very low since they have to be able to fit under these bridges.
There were tons of these houseboats along the canals.
It's Duncan McLeod's barge! Hello, Highlander! What are you doing in Amsterdam?
Is that not just the cutest little Dutch shoe boat you've ever seen?
All the houses had these things (I'm sure there's a better word than "things" for them, but it's early in the morning and I can't think of it) sticking out of the tops of them with hooks hanging from them. (You can see the hooks if you click to see the larger photo.) These are used to haul stuff up to the upper floors since the stairways are too narrow to get anything through them.
Some of the houses had doors instead of windows, like this one. These were originally merchants warehouses. They would bring in their goods by boats on the canal, and then haul it up to these doors to be stored. I have no idea why, but that little bit of trivia just fascinated me.
This is pretty typical of what Amsterdam streets look like. There's train tracks, a car lane, a bike lane, and a pedestrian lane all in one road.
After our canal tour, we spent some time walking around the city and saw some rather interesting things that I didn't feel comfortable photographing. For instance, the guys huddled in the alcove that smelled so strong of marijuana you could almost get high just walking by it. Or the girl posing in the window like a mannequin in a storefront – and I'm quite certain she wasn't there to sell clothes.
Then we came to an intersection with what looked like a small stoplight, about 4 feet tall or so, with only red lights on it. Yes, that should have been our clue as to what we would find down there, but apparently we are clueless Americans. We were looking for someplace to get gelato (I never did get to try gelato!) and it looked like there might be some restaurants in that direction.
We no sooner turned down that street than we started seeing shops with logos that looked an awful lot like a certain kind of leaf. Yup, that kind. Pretty soon we were walking by shops with giant storefront windows and I noticed they were full of people. When I looked as we passed by one I realized that these people were all gathered around tables with pretty vases
on them. Some of them were dressed like businessmen who came straight from the office ... at 2 o'clock in the afternoon ... apparently to admire the pretty vases.
So, Amsterdam was an interesting place. I'm sorry I didn't get photos of the more "interesting" parts of the city, but some things are better left to the imagination.
I am glad we were there during the day instead of at night. But we had a good time and despite the less than savory places it was really a beautiful city.
The next day I went home while the Geek stayed on ... but wait, there's more! My European adventure isn't over yet by a long shot. I'll be back with more stories and photos soon!
Labels: Europe, vacation