Last week, DD and I finally managed to get ourselves over to Amsterdam - this little jaunt has been a few years in waiting!
The weather was not brilliant, but it didn't stop us doing all we'd planned. Visiting the Anne Frank Museum on our first evening proved a success - going out so late in the day we avoided having to queue for too long. (the pouring rain may have played a part in keeping some of the crowds away.... ;-p)
The Museum gives an insight into the claustrophobic life of Anne Frank and the other people incarcerated in the tiny upper rooms of her father's office building as they attempted to hide from deportation on the Jewish transports from occupied Holland in WW2.
Afterwards, we walked back alongside the Singel canal towards our hotel, stopping off at Café Van Zuylen mainly because we wanted to escape the rain and also because they were still serving food late into the evening!
We can recommend this establishment - the service and food was excellent. So good, in fact, that we decided to return there for a meal on our last night before travelling home!
Day 2 saw us heading towards Haarlem - we braved the trains and managed to find our way to the right platform (eventually), listening out for 'Haarlem' amidst the announcements in Dutch. It was only a short train ride, about twenty minutes - not a windmill in sight.
The weather was still inclement but we only had a fifteen-minute walk to the centre of the city from the station and made our way to the Corrie Ten Boom Museum
Again, echoes of WW2, similar to Anne Frank; the Ten Boom family of watchmakers took in Jewish people trying to escape the Nazi holocaust. Both DD and I have read the books written by Corrie Ten Boom describing the 'Hiding Place' that was created to conceal their Jewish 'guests' if the house was ever searched, so this was a very special visit for us.
The tour guide had some willing 'volunteers' to show how tiny the space was!
For those not familiar with the story, the family was eventually betrayed and arrested, then deported to various concentration camps. Corrie was released from Ravensbrück women's camp in 1944, due to a clerical error (some say a 'miracle'!) - shortly afterwards, women her age were routinely executed.
This little sign in the window was used as a signal to the Dutch underground - if the sign was in view, it was safe to enter; if it was missing then there were German officers or police in the building! On at least one occasion, someone forgot to move the sign - leading to some 'close calls' for unwitting Resistance workers!
Across the Grote Markt stands the magnificent edifice of St Bavo's Cathedral - which the Ten Boom family visited.
Apparently both Handle and Mozart, as well as Mendelssohn, have graced the keyboard of this magnificent church organ
With the weather improving slightly, Day 3 saw us venture onto a boat and take a tour of Amsterdam's canals.
Watching a boat do a three-point-turn through the various inter-connecting canals is fascinating. (and slightly alarming if you're actually ON the boat at the time!)
More foodie goodness was to be had at Villa Zeezicht, across the road from Van Zuylen's:
This has to be THE best apple cake in the world, accompanied by cinnamon ice cream - it's to die for! (and yes, we HAD to return there on our last morning....!)
Avoiding the famous, yet less salubrious, areas of Amsterdam (no, let's not go there!) we managed to cover most of the city on foot, leading to the Dam Square overlooked by the royal palace:
Day 4, and another cultural landmark we wanted to see was the Rijksmuseum:
Having been warned the queues for admission were horrendous we still decided to brave it - surprisingly, we arrived about 10.15 am and just walked straight in! (but the queue when we left some hours later was truly astounding, skirting the entire length of the building).
We duly viewed the magnificent Rembrandt paintings, including his famous 'Night Watch' - as well as other 'old masters' and enjoyed seeing the amazing collection of porcelain and ceramics.
More interesting architecture - and canals!
Now - about those bicycles.....!
High running costs for cars coupled with a hefty duty or congestion charge means many people opt to use bicycles. Quaint, you might think - but a word to the unwise: they go at one heck of a speed and most have no visible brakes! (to say nothing of safety gear - ne'ery a helmet or hi-viz jacket in sight!)
Pedestrians are right to attempt to cross the streets with caution, riders in the cycle lanes will not even attempt to avoid you - the almost silent approach may (or may not!) be heralded by furious bell-ringing if you impede the cyclist's progress!
.....and almost everything is carried on the bike - be it shopping, the dog.....or even the kids!
(these images I pulled off the internet, but we saw these everywhere)
For anyone interested - here's a short clip from the film of 'The Hiding Place' :
A birthday present earlier this week was a DVD of the Alistair McLaine novel, 'Puppet on a Chain' - set, of course, in Amsterdam. I hadn't seen this film for years and we settled down to watch it last night - DD and I playing the 'we were there' game! ;-p Yes, it's a bit 1970's-'cheesy' in places, but it has a great alternative to the usual thriller car-chase.......