We’re in Bruges and have been here for three nights. We’re leaving for Paris today (!), but I haven’t put a post up on Amsterdam, so here I am. The rest of the family is still sleeping – I’ll try to type quietly.
The full photo set for this post can be found here.
I loved Amsterdam. Though when we first arrived, I felt overwhelmed. Enschede was nice, but fairly small, with a population of about 158 000 (thanks, Wikipedia). Amsterdam is far, far busier, and when we got there , it felt like it was probably 80% tourists. We figured out how to get to our flat, and hauled our possessions up 4 storeys. Our flat was great! Bright, and spacious, though a little short – Dr. Thingo had to be careful all the time not to whack his head on any beams. Except for the shortness, and the 68 very steep steps it took to get up there, it was perfect! I’d be in good shape if I lived here. Or only leave the house once per day.
The traffic is busy, and we learned quickly to lookout for bikes and cars – the cars come from the direction they should (the roads on either sides of the canals are one-way), but bikes come from everywhere, usually ridden by tourists who have rented them and are still a little wobbly (cobblestones are hard to ride on). Bikes rule the road here, just like in Enschede. Still no helmets.
It was nice to get into a place where we could cook our own meals. We did, only eating out for lunch. This made a nice change from heavy restaurant food, and saved some money. As in other places I’ve been, the food in supermarkets is quite inexpensive. Basically, as soon as somebody prepares it for you, the price goes way up. Which I guess is true in Canada too, but with less of a difference between the raw goods price and the finished product price.
We took a boat tour before dinner on the day we arrived. It made for lousy pictures, since the boat moved fairly quickly and we were pretty low down. But it gave a good overview of the city.
On our first full day, we went to visit the Tropenmuseum, which is currently showing an exhibition on Escher and Islamic Art (which is a good summary of Dr. Thingo’s PhD thesis…). The exhibition was great, and the rest of the museum was impressive. It used to be called something like the Colonial Museum. It felt a little strange – the theme of the museum is basically ‘stuff we took from places we’ve colonized’ – but the focus is shifting from ‘stuff they took’ to more of a historical and cultural focus. It was very interesting.
I also found a yarn shop, less than 5 minutes from the flat. Penelope’s Craft, it was called. The owner (I think she was the owner) was from Colorado. The selection was nice, but I didn’t end up getting anything. I had sort of meant to go back, but never got around to it. We also hit a couple of bookstores – the kids each got a book (in English…) to freshen up their reading selection.
The next day, we went to the Rijksmusem. The Rijksmuseum is AMAZING. For one, it’s huge! For another, it’s crammed full of art, furniture, textiles, model ships, jewelry. We split up, Vorlon and Dr. Thingo headed off in one direction and Zebula and I went in another. My favourite artists were Breitner and Rembrandt. I’d have liked to spend more time gazing at paintings. I could easily have spent two days in there. But the kids’ attention spans would not have allowed it.
Then we made our way back to the flat to catch the end of the Gay Pride parade. That was also huge. There were hoardes of people lined up along the Keizersgracht (Emperor’s Canal) to watch the floats. People were walking down the street, drinking beer, in a cheerful mood. Considering how much public drinking there was, and the fact that most people were not locals, I was surprised at how well-mannered the crowd was. Many stores were decorated with rainbow displays. And it was a beautiful day.
People were watching from windows (including us – we secured a ground-level windowsill). Float after shiny float went by. Lots of 80’s dance music. Lots of gold and silver lame. And feathers. And I’ve never seen so many buff, hairless abs in one place, both in the floats and in the audience. It was a lot of fun. Though I feel sorry for the street sweepers – the streets were a mess of confetti and empty beer cans after it was all over. The party went on for quite a while after the parade was done. We could hear boats playing loud music passing by our window for a long time after. Actually, there were party boats passing by the window every night we were here, but the noise would end by midnight every night (is that when they open the sluices? I should look it up). I liked it, actually – I liked having that much life happening just outside the window.
We left the next morning for Bruges (or Brugge, as is more appropriate – the official language in that part of Belgium is not French, as I thought, but Flemish (which is a dialect of Dutch)). But more on that later.
I was a little sorry to leave here. I would have liked so spend a little more time to get to know the city a little better. Though maybe in the winter, when there aren’t so many tourists.