08.06.2016 - 10.06.2016
Today’s entry is not going to be in chronological order – rather, I am going to attempt to group our recent activities by theme. This way, even though we had fluctuating hilarious and sombre experiences, you can have a slightly more stable emotional experience. Let’s start with the fun times, shall we?
• Waffles! (Wed) Completely and utterly drowning in Nutella. Excellent afternoon snack option. And the highlight of this experience was managing to keep my light-coloured shirt completely Nutella-free. Not making a mess of oneself while eating is pretty much adulting at its finest.
• Cheese! (Wed) The Amsterdam Cheese Museum contained sooooooooooooooooooo many delicious cheeses and we tried all of them. Twice. The most visually striking cheeses were bright blue, green and pink – very reminiscent of playdough in appearance, but not in taste. They were lavender, pesto and capsicum flavoured, respectively. Our favourites were the honey flavoured and the smoked. And also the garlic. And the goudas were good too. Downstairs was a museum room type thing with a little information about the history of cheese making in Amsterdam – I enjoyed the references to ‘caddle’ farming nearly as much as the opportunity to pose for photos with fun cheese props. And the experience was all the more interesting on account of one staff member who told us he was from England (but his accent and persona told us otherwise) who was very fixated on Instagram and asked most customers at least three times to tag @amsterdamcheesemuseum in their pictures. He also asked us questions relating to our clothes purchasing tendencies because he and his friends are setting up an online clothing store…
• Dinner! (Wed) Wandering around Amsterdam, wondering what to have for dinner, and then we got A Sign. An Italian restaurant located under Hotel Di-Ann – how could we ignore the obvious reference to Simon’s parents? And so it was that we enjoyed seriously scrumptious tortellini and lasagna. Not very Dutch, but very delicious.
• Boats! (Thurs) We caught the Zaanhopper to Zaanse Schans, which was a feat in itself. Not only did the internet and the published information vary hugely in terms of running times, the price was incredibly ambiguous. We decided to try it anyway, and figured if the boat didn’t come or was too pricey then we had the bus as a viable back up plan. We ended up calling the Zaanhopper on one of the available phone numbers, which confirmed to us that it did actually exist, so that was a good start. When the boat arrived, we jumped aboard with the driver and one other couple and then the driver promptly walked away from the steering wheel and asked if anyone else wanted to drive. So Simon did. With the occasional direction from the actual driver, he managed to navigate the Zaan without running into any other watercraft or any bridge structures. Success! And all for the bargain price of 2 euro each. Absolute ripper. The boat ride home was the Zaanboot, which was slightly larger and more commercial, which meant Simon had to be a passenger instead, but it was only 3 euro and still a splendid way to travel on a balmy spring day.
• Zaanse Schans! (Thurs) This was a beautiful area – peat bogs, fields, windmills, waterbirds, goats, chooks, sheep, canals, and, of course tourists. Busloads and busloads of them – this was definitely an area frequented by your organised-day-trip-on-a-bus kind of tourist. Understandably so – it offered all the clichés of the Netherlands in one convenient village locations. We enjoyed more cheese tasting, watching clog making, trying on some clogs for size (more comfortable than expected), and checking out the old bakery, coopery, grocer, and chocolate shop. There were plenty of nick-nacky souvenirs on offer, including a photo of every tourist as they crossed the gate. There was little to no notice that your photo was being taken, with the result being that Simon was snapped mid-conversation and I was snapped mid-smile. We didn’t feel the need to purchase this snapshot, but are happy to recreate our facial expressions for anyone who is interested. Highlight of Zaans Schanse was The Best Chocolate Milkshake Of All Time – I feel that the Dutch are a people who are on the same page as me in terms of Dairy Appreciation. Love me a good milkshake.
• Burgers! (Fri) At the suggestion of Enya, we headed to Burger Bar for our pre-ferry lunch and had some jolly good burgers, jolly good fries with joppie saus and a jolly good milkshake. Nice culinary way to end our visit to Amsterdam.
• Americans! (Fri) While waiting for our bus transfer to the ferry, we ended up talking to Kenneth and Natalya about life, the universe and everything and they wholeheartedly approved of our adventures to date. Natalya grew up in Russia, but had lived in America for the past twenty years. The two of them came from a background in finance (in a big way…) and now Natalya was gathering research to help her write a fiction novel based on the involuntary euthanasia/eugenics program in Germany prior to and during the second world war. Deep. They ended up inviting us for dinner at the more expensive on-board restaurant, at which point we figured we had just enough in the budget to make that work. And when they INSISTED on paying for our meal? We definitely had room in the budget for that! So the evening involved lots of interesting conversation about medical ethics, travel, life in Russia, America and finance – as well as a free meal. Totally #winningatlife.
On a more serious note…
• Resistance Museum (Wed) This was a museum dedicated to the events in The Netherlands (including its colonies) in World War 2. It looked at whether people tried to adapt to, collaborate with or resist the German invasion and did this in a thought-provoking and interesting way. We were particularly taken by the section focusing on the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) and the relationships between all the nationalities there (Dutch, Indonesian, Chinese, Japanese) before, during and after the war. The other highlight was looking at the experience of four children who lived in Amsterdam during the war – particularly hearing them talk about it now, with the benefit of hindsight and reflection. The main message was that nobody wins from war, and it seems that this message is easily forgotten.
• Anne Frank House (Wed) Simon managed to score some of the last tickets available online, which was very lucky as the queues to buy tickets at the venue were long, to say the least. We had heard stories from other tourists about queueing for 3 ½ hours and still not getting in, so we felt very fortunate to be able to walk straight in at our allotted time. I don’t think Anne Frank House is the kind of thing that you can describe as ‘good’, but it was certainly informative, enlightening, and moving. Well-presented. It felt quite authentic, as Otto Frank (Anne’s father) had decided what was to be displayed and where, and the black and white photo of him standing alone in the house just before it was officially opened to the public was what got me the most. While Anne Frank’s experience was by no means unique in those times, it was unusual to have had the experience so well documented and preserved. Sobering stuff, but I’m glad we went.
So farewell Amsterdam – thanks for your excellent museums, your brilliant sunshine, your friendly people, and your delicious foods. Hope to see you again sometime, we know there is still plenty more to explore!