WARNING !! There will be pictures of food in this blog. So, if you're feeling weak today, you might want to save my blog for another time. ;)
I haven't officially sorted through all 500+ pictures I took while in Amsterdam, but here is a small selection I grabbed with a card reader. Luckily, it's quiet in work today. phew...
I stayed at a wonderful little European style hotel in Amsterdam about a five minute walk away from the Anne Frank House. This was a very simple room that many Americans might consider "roughing" it. No TV, no radio, no clock, no phone, no desk... yes, I did have a small bathroom with shower, but no shower curtain. There was WIFI, but it wasn't working. boo.
The room was 50 euros a night during the week and 95 euros on the weekend. That was the lowest price I found. Many hotels were routinely 90+ euros a night. They did serve a hearty breakfast. For those of you who've never been to Europe, smaller hotels don't have shower curtains. they have a drain in the floor and a big squeegie to mop up afterwards.
About five minutes from my hotel was the Westerkerk. That's one of several old churches (some built in the 1300s) in Amsterdam. This one is famous because it's the resting place for Rembrandt. It's also a few feet from the Anne Frank House. For those of you who remember reading the book, Anne wrote about hearing the bells from the Westerkerk. She said how hearing those bells helped remind her there was a world outside their hiding place.
Let me tell you about those bells, they are famous. Inside the church is something called a clavichord. That's a musical instrument that chimes bells instead of strings like a piano. They occasionally have clavichord concerts.
Well, when my co-worker recommended the hotel to me, he didn't tell me the bells of the church chime REGULARLY. The big bells chime on the hour and half hour. The little chimes ring on the quarter hour. The bells are quite lovely. UNTIL you have to listen to them 24 hours a day. So, there I was laying in bed, jet lagged, trying to sleep... and there go the bells. I'm sure they are white noise to the locals. And eventually, my body learned to ignore them too. but the first couple of days, I spent the evening listening to the bells chime every fifteen minutes.
Here are a couple of pictures of lovely canals. These were near my hotel in an area called the Jordaan. It's just a beautiful area with lots of art galleries, antique shops, funky stores, etc...
This is a photo of Centraal Station. Every single tram, bus, train or subway train starts or end up at Centraal Station. If this were NYC, Centraal Station would be a combination of the Port Authority and Grand Central Station.
This is a photo of a small section of the DAM. The Dam is a major square in Amsterdam. That's where you'll find the Royal Palace, Neiwe Kerk, Madame Tussauds and several major department stores. It's more like Trafalgar Square than Times Square. The photo is a picture of the Royal Palace and part of the Neiwe Kerk.
WARNING !!! This is where I'm going to talk about food !!!
When I was talking with people about my trip to Amsterdam, every single one of them said I had to try the Vlaamse Frites (Flemish fries). People think that French fries are French. Nope, historians will tell you these types of fries originated in the Belgium/Holland area. And they are absolutely amazing.
I'm going to go back in the Way Back Machine for a moment. When I was young (and those of you of a certain age may remember this), my mother would take me to Woolworths to eat at their counter. I'd usually get a hot dog with a small crinkle fries. I remember this meal. The hot dog bun was buttered on both sides and then pressed in a grill until toasty. When you broke the fries in half, you could hear the snapping sound they made. When you bit into them, they'd crunch. And when you continued to eat those fries, once you got past the crunch, you'd taste the smooth creamy center of the potato. That is a memory of mine from over 40+ years ago.
Now, the reason I'm talking about those fries is because in all the times I'd had fries since Woolworths, they've never tasted as good. Sure, I ate some great tasting fries from really great restaurants, but they never gave me the same sensation I had as when I bit into those crunchie fries from Woolworths.
Well... let me tell you that when I bit into those Vlaamse Frites, I immediately remembered sitting at the Woolworth's counter eating those fries. They were absolutely delicious ! The only difference ? When I was a kid, I dipped the fries in ketchup. In Amsterdam, I dipped them in home made mayonaise. YUM !!! Oh and the picture is a small. You wouldn't believe how big the big was. You can get different types of topping. You could do mayo and ketchup. You could even have curry sauce ! As you can see, they come in a paper cone with a wood fork to stab them.
As for this... you don't want to know, your cholesterol will go up just looking at it. The picture speaks for itself.
Now, let's talk cheese. Amsterdam (Holland really) is cheese heaven ! There are wonderful cheese shops all over the city and they all have samples. The cheese is wonderful. It was so fresh and tasty. I tried dozens of different kinds of cheese. Here is a small selection.
Now, you would think that with all that cheese and Vlaamse Frites stands all over the city, you'd see a lot of overweight people. You know what ? Holland does not have the obesity problem that the United States does. While I did see a few people who carried a couple extra pounds, I did not see anyone who was morbidly obese. Even the folks who carried a few extra pounds were still pretty healthy looking.
How do they do it ? Their portions were certainly smaller (on average than ours) AND they ride lots of these.
There are bikes everywhere ! Millions and billions of bikes ! Everyone owns at least two bikes. One piece of crap bike they ride around the city and one nice bike they keep at home. AND... the piece of crap bikes are still locked with two locks ! That's how bad bike theft is in Amsterdam. What's more, they don't wear helmets. The only guy I saw wearing a helmet was also geared up and riding a road bike fit for the Tour de France.
Not only do the Dutch ride a bike everywhere, they also climb lots and lots of stairs to stay fit. I had to climb 48 steps to get to the third floor where my room was in the hotel. No elevator. Many of the old buildings (like the Rembrandt House as well as the Anne Frank House) have some very steep flights of stairs you have to climb to get from floor to floor.
Somewhere in my photos I took a picture of an electric car battery charger port. Electric cars are becoming popular in Amsterdam.
I have more pictures. I even have a few "naughty" pictures from the Red Light District. Don't worry, it's very safe there during the day and even into the early evening. Getting towards the later evening, you might want to head to your hotel. All in all, I felt very safe in the city. Amsterdam has one of the lowest levels of crime in all of Europe. The only thing you really need to be aware of are pick pockets. But, you have to be careful of them everywhere.
So... some random thoughts on my trip to Amsterdam. oh and no, I didn't gain weight. In fact, I lost. While I wasn't riding a bike. I did lots and lots of walking and climbed lots and lots of stairs.