October 21, 2022

During the night we completed the last leg of our ship’s journey and arrived in Amsterdam.  While most of our shipmates (and half our family group) disembarked for the airport, we had an extension that began with a tour of the canals of Amsterdam.  We took a short walk to our tour boat to navigate the canals.  We did pass the Anne Frank house, although it was covered by tarps as it was undergoing restoration.  Frank was a Jewish girl who kept a diary which documented her life in hiding in an Amsterdam attic under Nazi persecution.  Following their arrest, the Franks were transported to concentration camps, and Anne and her sister were transferred to from Auschwitz to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where they died (typhus) a few months later.  We wound our way along the three main canals of the city, making intricate turns and passing under bridges hardly big enough to squeeze through.  Our guide informed us there were 65 miles of canals and 1300 bridges.

When I looked online, I found Amsterdam (lit. The Dam on the River Amstel) is the capital and most populous city of the Netherlands and is colloquially referred to as the “Venice of the North” due to the large number of canals (a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The city originated as a small fishing village in the late 12th century but became one of the most important ports in the world during the Dutch Golden Age of the 17th century.  Amsterdam’s main attractions include its historic canals, the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum among many others, memorial sites like the Anne Frank House and the Royal Palace of Amsterdam, as well as the red-light district and cannabis coffee shops.  The city is well known for its nightlife and festival activity and several of its nightclubs (Melkweg, Paradiso) are among the world’s most famous.  Cycling is key to the city’s character, and there are numerous biking paths and lanes spread throughout the entire city.  We were warned by my brother and sister (been there previously), to steer clear of the bike lanes as the cyclists’ ride at great speed and with little attention.  We found that to be true.

The bus ride from Amsterdam to The Hague was one of the memorable parts of our tour.  The ride was intended to be around 45 minutes and covers around 35 miles (57 km).  This follows the A4 motorway (Rijksweg 4), that speeds traffic along most of the western portion of the Netherlands.  About 20 minutes into the route the driver was notified an accident had completely shut down the motorway.  Our driver was born in a town along the route, and he confidently swung off onto the sideroads to complete the journey.  We passed along on roads so small I did not think the bus could make it.  When we arrived in his hometown the main throughfare was clogged so we took to even smaller side streets.  We wound our way through the city until we reached another impasse.  The tiny lane was under construction, and we could not pass.  This is where the excitement began as he slowly backed our 50 foot (15 m) bus four blocks until he reached a road large enough to turn around.  Even though he had gotten us into the mess, the driver received a round of applause for getting us out.

THOUGHTS:  Our tour dropped us at the Rijksmuseum to explore several hours on our own.  While my brother and sister-in-law toured the Rijksmuseum, Melissa and I decided to check other available sites.  We found the Van Gough and other museums around the square were sold out.  We decided to eat and found The Burger House, which boasted the “best burger in town”.  On entrance we found a Wizard of OZ theme for both the décor and the burgers (including Munchkin sliders).  Melissa decided on the “Over the Rainbow” because she wanted a chili burger.  It was indeed over the top, including chili, grilled onions, salsa, tortilla chips, guacamole, and cheddar piled on two 180 ounce Angus burgers.  She barely made a dent and the owner insisted we take the rest “to go”.  We did not.  There is too much of a good thing.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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