Amsterdam, Netherlands – September 25th

Ahhhh, Amsterdam. My first time, and all kinds of expectations, including windmills, the red light district and legal smoking houses, etc. But, not really. We were assigned to Bus #20 for this excursion, and Vera was our guide.

Minor point, but one of the things I noted during this cruise was an increase in the number of excursion outfits that provided emergency numbers when you are in-country. Hey – just in case. Vera also passed out a local candy – a coffee and a butterscotch toffee hard candy that were wonderful. In fact, we ended buying some in a store at the end of the day.

A word of caution: respect bikers and the bike paths! The most striking fun fact I learned was that Amsterdam has 800,000 residents and 650,000 bikes! They are everywhere, and the bikers are not sympathetic to pedestrians or cars. In total, the Netherlands have a population of about 16.5 million. Bikes are everywhere, and innovative, and pragmatic. Many are modified for carrying of infants and toddlers – safely. They are on racks, bullpens, ferries, etc. Everywhere.

Amsterdam is the capital city of the Netherlands. I always thought that Amsterdam was in Holland. Yes, but Holland appears to be the name of two provinces in the Netherlands, North Holland and South Holland, and Amsterdam appears to be part of both. OK. It is, in fact, a low-lying country, with many canals and dams, or dykes.

We have seen a large number of on and off-shore modern wind mills and wind farms throughout the region, and Amsterdam was no exception. We saw only one “traditional” windmill that is really a monument to the old days, in Amsterdam.

It’s a beautiful city. They were not bombed during WW II, which meant that a lot of their buildings remain standing. Many residences actually lean forward and have the arms extending from the top of the building – used to raise items to the upper floors. The town hall is known as the ugliest building in Amsterdam. Taxes were based on the width of the buildings, so it was not entirely unusual to see houses with few, or at least, narrow windows.

The primary objective of our particular excursion was the Ann Frank House (Haus). I have to admit that I did not fully appreciate the story, nor am I going to try to recite it here, but touring the house where the family built a business, then hid in that very building for over two years before being turned in – then, Ann dying in a concentration camp only a month before liberation of that very camp, was striking. She was quite an amazing young girl. Well worth the visit.

The famous Red Light district was not on our tour, unfortunately; however, we passed the suburban version (at somewhat of a distance, in a moving bus). The real deal seems to operate in the evening – after 9pm, but the suburban version starts on the 2nd floor and operates from 8am to 6pm or so. Oh, well. Not much to talk about.

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