Thursday, 9 June 2011


Minen Damen und Herren is the phrase that begins every announcement since we arrived in Amsterdam 2 days ago having been unable to resist the lure of this enchanting part of Europe. Every time we decided we were too short of time for Amsterdam we saw an article or had a first hand report on how charming it is and so we had to go. And well worth the trip it is.

We had a bit of a turbulent introduction to rail travel in Europe getting to Amsterdam when the second of our 2 trains broke down one stop out of Brussels. We got on another train and then changed trains again as planned. However this train was so full it was standing room only even in first class and we found ourselves wedged into the overflow section of our carriage along with 8 other travellers and the kiosk for at your seat service – and that was not going anywhere on that trip. The kiosk operator told us that if we got off this train at I forget where already and wait for the second train going to Amsterdam to come to platform 16 we would have a more comfortable trip and also arrive before the current train as our new train would not be stopping everywhere.

We decided to take her advice, spent a sort of anxious 15 minutes feeling a bit stranded in the middle of somewhere but not knowing exactly where until the predicted train arrived and was everything she’d promised, and so we finished our trip in first class comfort.

The Dutch desire for canal frontage property  combined with the inability of most to afford very much of it resulted  in rows of very narrow very tall houses which over the centuries have leaned this way and that to an alarming degree. This is the place where the crooked man built his crooked house.

Somehow they manage to prop each other up and stay standing with the aid of some modern engineering – every house has metal bolts through the walls. Each house is equipped with a built in crane at the roof so furniture can be hauled up the outside and through the windows as no space was allowed between or within for such things. The stairs are also extremely steep and narrow to save space. (see photo of our Hotel stairs to reception).

These rows of tilting architectural wonders fringe a network of canals lined with numerous boats and house boats of infinite variety. Between the houses and the water are narrow streets lined with parked cars and bikes. Every block has a bridge over the next canal and every bridge railing is lined with bikes.
We decided that half the bikes are abandoned since they had flat tires or rusting frames but there never seemed to be any fewer bikes parked anywhere no matter how many cyclists there were. The overall effect was to me one of a ramshackle and easy going place. Amsterdam was blessedly free of queues and crowds and despite having an incomprehensible (to me) tram system we really appreciated instant access to everything once we found it. Between the bikes and the trams and busses there is not much traffic and the single lane roads seemed enough for easy driving.

As we had no reservations the first thing was to find a room and we did this easily through matching a Lonely Planet recommendation of Nadia Hotel to an entry at the automated info booth in the station. Unable to phone we hailed a cab and just turned up – the stair case was indeed precipitous and the energetic staff did haul our bags up it for us cheerfully informing us on the way that exercise was included free of charge. 10 minutes and a complementary welcome drink later we had a charming room on the third floor with a stunning view of the canal and Westkirke – which meant our bed-side clock was on a clock tower just out the window and we were treated to discordant chimes every 15 minutes and a lengthy melody with the hour bells every half hour – Listen though we did we could never figure if it was the same tune twice and I was relieved that it faded into the background at night and did not wake us once.

Thus provided for we headed out to downtown Amsterdam where surprisingly we found a beach volleyball tournament in its final stages in the city square and a stall selling proffetjes with strawberries. (tiny pancakes) YUMMMM and would you believe one of our favourite buskers from Rundle Mall Lindsay Buckland was providing the ambiance. After a short walk down the main street to the station we hopped on a canal tour just like that and set off to see the sights and then finished the day with schnitzels and gypsy sauce the closest we could find to a local cuisine. The next day we found a lot of even quirkier aspects of Amsterdam including this wonderful shop – get your head around this pic.

As I write we are rocketing through Germany at 298kph on the ICE train very glad we went to Amsterdam and there I will leave you til next time as once again time has run out.


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  2. What a great read! Thanks, Herr Sandy & Frau Anna. I was salivating when I read 'poffertjes' on this blog. Your train & accommodation adventure reminds me of this wonderful quote from Wilferd A. Peterson: “A man practices the art of adventure when he breaks the chain of routine and renews his life through reading new books, traveling to new places, making new friends, taking up new hobbies and adopting new viewpoints.”