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Day 3 and 4: Ticket to Ride

Sunday the 7th was museum day in Amsterdam. Before that could get hopping, though, I needed to find an alternative to my failed walking shoes and the blistered heel they'd given me. Luckily, I had decided to bring my sandals for "wearing around the hotel." They are the one other pair of shoes I can fit my arch supports into, so with a hermetically sealed blister pad and "moleskin" padding, I could wear them out walking. 

[profile] zargon10 (AKA Kathleen) came over from Utrecht with a 24-hour iAmsterdam pass for both Deborah and I that included free admission into museums and other tourist attractions, a canal boat tour, and passage on the street cars. We started out at the Reikjsmuseum, which is the national art gallery that includes Rembrandts and Vermeers, among other things. We visited the city museum after that, which is mostly modern art. Finally, we finished our museum trek at the Van Gogh museum, which is four floors of some of his most famous works. There were a couple notable omissions, including the Starry Night, which I had already seen at the Met in New York in 2005. 

That took up the morning. We had lunch at the Van Gogh museum cafe, then hopped on the street car to visit the city palace, which, it turned out, was not one of the sites we had free admission to. Instead, we visited an old cathedral that is being used to house exhibitions. The current exhibition was the history of the ruling familes of the Netherlands, including the recently crowned King and his wife and daughters. Kathleen has lived in the area for ten years and was full of information and anecodotes about the city of Amsterdam, the country of Holland, and what it is like to move to a place like this from the United States.

One of the things I was curious to see in Amsterdam is the legal, open marijuana use. Although they sell pot in "coffee houses," if you want to have a toke, pretty much all you need to do is walk around for a while and breath if you're in the city center. We caught a whiff several times a day.

The other legal activity of note is prostitution, of course. We wandered down the canal on the street that makes up the "red light district", but it was 5:30 or 6 pm and light out, so there was nothing to see there but a few gals who were not yet "advertising their wares."

Before the RLD, though, we took a boat ride around the canals. The part of the city we were staying in is just on the edge of the concentric rings of canals that cradle the center city. The boat ride took us up and down many of these canals, along which we saw many old houses dating back to the 1600's with their unique gables. There are many gorgeous bridges as well, and house boats of folks who live on the river. 

Our day ended with dinner at a Chinese restaurant, the Sea Palace, which floats on the Amstel river. I had made reservations for the three of us, but we were half an hour early during a time of day that is not really the dinner hour for Europeans in the summer, so we walked right in. They seated us at a table overlooking the water, and we had a number of delicious courses. Kathleen accompanied us back to our hotel, then headed back home to Utrecht. 

Somehow, between one thing or another, Deb and I have not gotten to bed early yet a single night we've been here so far. And since this was our last night in Amsterdam, we spent it packing and getting ready for the next leg of our trip--Berlin, Germany. As I type this, we are on the train headed there. We had a direct high-speed train to Berlin, but because of flooding, we had to get off at Hannover and switch to an ICE (Inter City Express) train for the remainder of the journey.

So far, we have seen lots of countryside--trees and fields, and a few villages where the train stations are. Holland is very flat and green around the Amsterdam area--a marshy delta that drains into the English Channel, land originally squeezed from water using windmills to power the pumps. The parts of Germany we have seen have had more hills and trees in comparison, and the land appears cultivated.

The first train we were on had no food available--due to the food staff not being onboard? I never got the details of that. The good thing was, Deborah and I had not planned on buying food on the train because Kathleen had warned us it was expensive. At the breakfast buffet at the hotel, I had grabbed bread and cold cuts and cheese and slapped together two sandwiches for us. That turned out to fit the bill because, y'know, good Dutch cheese. We have also lugged along crackers and trail mix and fruit. This second train has food, but we just got drinks.

No food on the other train meant no drinks, too. At the first Germany stop, we were there ten minutes and I leapt from the train to buy a coke in the station. The line was too long so I bought a soda from a machine, then got back on the train and made my way to our back car through all the other cars. They were each interestingly different from the other--a cattle-call coach car full of young people, a uber-modern design bistro car, a car with little sleeping recliners, and our first class car with Hogwarts Express-like compartments that seated six people. Having to change trains put us back twenty minutes, which isn't too bad. Our only plan when we arrive in Berlin is traveling to our hotel and relaxing. Tommorow we have a city tour.

ETA: plan accomplished, along with a delicious Thai dinner.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 9th, 2013 04:41 am (UTC)
ooo definitely sounds like fun
Jul. 9th, 2013 06:02 pm (UTC)
Berlin has been fun so far, especially after the wine.
Jul. 9th, 2013 09:51 pm (UTC)
Jul. 9th, 2013 08:27 am (UTC)
You are welcome to drop by here, it's only 7 to 8 hours driving north of Berlin.
Have a continued nice trip
Jul. 9th, 2013 06:02 pm (UTC)
Wish we could but we'd have to rent a car and change our itinerary, maybe a future trip.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )