Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Amsterdam

I had a chance to spend the day in Amsterdam recently. I had an idea of what I wanted to see in a brief visit, but my plan quickly fell apart on a cold, foggy, windy day with an inadequate map... so I fell back on plan "B" and just wandered around...

I took this train from the Amsterdam airport which was pretty painless except for the color - I image that green makes it an unappealing ride for the hung-over!

I'm sure James Bond has been in this train station...


I was struck by the number of bicycles - they're everywhere. All kinds of bikes from cool freight haulers with the front wheel ahead of a wooden wagon and the wheel steered by a chain from the handlebars to modern-looking mtn bikes but most of them were plain single speeds with an upright seating stance. All kinds of people were riding them - young, old, elegantly dressed ladies in heeled shoes and kids and women riding sidesaddle on the rear rack. They brazenly cruised though intersections seemingly regardless of traffic (I've decided you can ID the tourists in Italy and Amsterdam because they pay attention at intersections). Not a helmet in sight either.

Just wandering about...

One thing I wanted to really see was the Anne Frank House, and I made it there. They didn't allow photos. It was pretty impressive, but depressing. They had a photo of Jews being led down her street and her room is still decorated with magazine pictures she pasted up.

I blundered into the red light district ... accidentally, yeah that's it :-) and it was pretty interesting. Prostitutes in bathing suits behind glass windows and weed (and occasionally psychoactive mushrooms) for sale in the coffeeshops. I wanted one of the marijuana menus I've heard of but was embarrassed to ask - also I wouldn't go in when I could smell dope because my boss said 2nd hand smoke will trip our drug testing limits.

I'm also embarrassed to admit that I really didn't realize how many canals there are - I know... windmills, below sea level, duh, but I didn't know that Amsterdam was just full of them. Most of these houseboats were lived in I think.


Some of the houseboats were clearly too tall to fit under the bridges, but they have these locks that look like they can lower the water level to let them through.


I came upon a playground where they prohibit dogs and sperm...

From a distance I thought this was war-era VW (if there even really is such a thing...) but it was an old Citro├źn.

IMPOUND DAY?

I don't know if it was impound day or what, but there were a couple teams using a gas powered rescue saw to cut the locks on bikes...

And then loading them into a truck..And these guys were looking for sunken boats still tied to the canal wall, cutting the locks and loading them onto the barge with a big claw. It seemed a shame - the boats were intact (until the claw got them) and some still had motors. They took a Polaroid of it sunken before they raised it.

The Amsterdam airport had an awesome observation deck. It spanned 3 terminals and you could see almost all of the airport. There was one of those 'plane spotter' guys there with binoculars and a notebook. They keep lists of planes they've seen (like bird watchers).


This would be a great place to come back to... in the summer :-)


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