Hello from the train tracks! We just wrapped up our final 2 days in Amsterdam. Tonight, we’re headed out to sea on an overnight ferry from the Hook of Holland to Harwich (England). We are spending 2 more days in London before we fly out of Heathrow on Saturday morning.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Amsterdam. Yesterday, we toured the church where Rembrandt is buried. We actually stumbled upon the building on our way to the Anne Frank House. It was a Protestant church, which (perhaps under the power of suggestion) made it feel more familiar than the other Catholic cathedrals we’ve visited on this trip.
Touring the Anne Frank House was one thing I was most looking forward to on our trip. When I was in third grade, my Mom started reading parts of Anne’s diary out loud and then convinced me to finish reading it myself. The majority of the story came flooding back as we toured the rooms of the secret annex. The house is now a museum and a large and persistent crowd tours the space every day. The bookcase that hid the entrance to the secret annex is completely intact. The magazine pictures that Anne glued to her bedroom wall were also preserved, along with a map where Otto Frank had tracked the progress of the Ally invasion. At Otto’s request, the rooms were left empty of props or furniture to signify the mass extinction of Jewish life and culture that occurred. Certainly, the horrors of the Holocaust are not lost on many, but what is difficult for me to wrap my mind around is how recent the events actually were to my lifetime. Did you know that (if all were still alive today) Anne Frank, Martin Luther King Jr., and Barbara Walters would all be the same age?
After the tour, we grabbed some pizza for a late lunch (we eat meals at the oddest hours, and rarely make 3 meals a day — eating in restaurants takes a lot more time in Europe — their service is purposely slow and relaxed. It’s nice, but sometimes it’s a little stressful when you’re hoping to make it to the next site before it closes. On this particular occasion, we didn’t make it to our next site — the Gassan diamond polishing demonstration. Oh well! We took a detour through the red light district instead. This particular neighborhood is quite small — in fact, we checked our map a few times to locate it. The district hosts prostitutes, who rent out store windows and solicit business — one of the world’s oldest professions. I wasn’t sure what to expect of this neighborhood. I ended up feeling a little startled by the women knocking on the glass as we walked by. It was awkward and neither of us was really sure where to look. Curiosity brought us there and after 3 blocks, I think, I was glad I could check this item off my list as done, saw it, won’t need to see it again.
Today, we booked a day trick to see the Holland countryside. We boarded a double-decker motorcoach at 9 am and headed towards our first stop in, Zaanse Schans, a small town that still operates windmills from the 1600s. We were able to tour the interior of one of the windmills where peanut oil is still produced today. The windmills were beautiful and the town had a real storybook quality with cute little houses, Dutchman riding bikes, and the cleanest looking farm animals I’ve ever seen — sheep and goats — happily chomping on grass.
Our next stop was Volendam, a fisherman’s village with several sea-side eateries and a cheese factory. We toured the factory and sampled several different varieties of fresh cheese. We had lunch in a gorgeous little cafe and we had the place completely to ourselves. I had a salad with fresh goat cheese which was made right in town — delicious!
After lunch, we boarded a boat to Marken, another small seaside village. Here, we toured a clog-making factory. I thought this activity looked kind of hokey in the tour brochure, but our tour guide was very engaging. She demonstrated a pair of clogs being made from a block of poplar wood. She also told a story about how clogs used to be used for marriage proposals in Marken. When a man went out to sea, he would bring some wood along with him on the boat. He’d carve the clogs by hand and then put his name on one foot and the name of his sweetheart on the other. Months later, upon his return to the village, he would leave the clogs on his sweetheart’s doorstep. In the morning, if the clogs were taken inside, the proposal was accepted. If not, the proposal was declined. The tour guide shared that her father proposed to her mother 3 times with clogs before she accepted (the third proposal included a diamond ring from Amsterdam:)) The tour guide admitted that she wears clogs every day with a pair of thick woolen socks. Suddenly, I wanted a pair of these ridiculous wooden shoes too! Luckily, i held strong and the moment has officially passed!
We returned to Amsterdam on the motor-coach and decided to check out The Art of the Brick exhibition right next door to our hotel. This exhibition actually highlights a New York artist’s work with lego blocks. I think these pieces speak for themselves! The exhibit was so fun and it was nice to be inside — it has been in the 50s and raining throughout these past 2 days. Isn’t it July? Brrr!!!