See our album of photos from Amsterdam.
Friday, Sept 23
We had a lovely breakfast in the hostel featuring cold cuts, cheeses, and hard boiled eggs as well as fresh pastries (which I carefully avoided, just in case), cereal, and an espresso machine that made 10 different drinks perfectly.
We tackled the Rijksmuseum first, home to many of the Dutch masters' most famous works as well as many by the impressionists and expressionists. After lunch, I went back to the hostel for a short nap before joining Jessie at the Van Gogh Museum. The special exhibit was about "The Verge of Insanity" and played up the role that Van Gogh's mental illness had in his artistic career and personal life. Since this was the topic of Jessie's undergraduate thesis, she was captivated!
By the time we were done with the two museums, Jessie's feet were quite sore, and we wound up stopping for dinner on our way back to the hostel at an Italian place called Pompe.
Saturday, Sept 24
At breakfast in the hostel, we met two filipino women who had moved to Norway years ago while working as performers and got their Norwegian citizenship. We had a good time comparing notes about various countries and cultures!
We repacked our luggage and made our way by tram (streetcar) to the condo of Kaj, our Couchsurfing host for the next 3 nights. We chatted on his balcony for some time, and when he found I had not yet booked transportation to Paris, he helped me find a good deal on a German economy bus line. He also let me use his MacBook charger, so I was back in business!
We decided to rent bikes so that Kaj could show us around town by bicycle. He had a good rental place in mind, but they were out of stock, so we went to a less reputable place a block away. My bike turned out to have a broken saddle which became progressively less rideable as the day went on, so I just rode standing up... making a sight the people of Amsterdam are not used to seeing!
Kaj had asked if there were any Dutch foods we wanted to be sure to try. I asked about the puffy "pannekoeken" or "dutch baby" I remembered having at the Pannekoeken Huis in Bartlesville and at home from Mom's oven, but this turns out to be an American creation that, unlike pizza, has not made its way back to the old world. Instead he took us for poffertjes ("little puffers"), which are tiny buckwheat pancakes made in a special mold. I went ahead and indulged, and for the rest of the trip I ate gluten with no reaction.
I had been told by friends who had visited Amsterdam that Albert Cuypmarkt was not to be missed, so Jessie and I checked it out while Kaj went to a bar. It's a street market much like ones we saw in Italy, but many blocks long, and most of the vendors also have storefronts behind, since the market is all day, every day.
Kaj then took us to the Ĳ (the river/canal/lake that forms the city's north border), where we saw the Mediamatic greenhouse and Shaffy's Tuin garden. It was clear to me that someone had had some permaculture training, but I was too shy to ask the people who were having a party in the garden.
By this point it was getting toward sunset, and Kaj recommended we take the ferry across the Ĳ for a view of the skyline. Unfortunately the ferry was delayed, so by the time we got on board it was quite crowded and dusk was well underway.
Kaj felt our tour would be incomplete without a stop at the Red Light District. Having been to Las Vegas, Jessie and I were underwhelmed. It seemed downright restrained having the licensed prostitutes exhibiting themselves fully clothed in their storefronts rather than (strippers) dancing mostly naked in the street!
We passed by the Anne Frank house but did not try to enter, since the lines were quite long for those without reservations, but we took a few photos of the iconic church tower that Anne described seeing from her window.
We made a stop at a grocery store to buy food for breakfast, since Kaj subsists on coffee and alcohol when at home. We were tired and hungry and had trouble making decisions, but we were happy with everything we eventually bought! Red currants are one of the crops that grow well in the Netherlands, and we'd already enjoyed currant flavored soda, so we bought some fresh currants, local yogurt, cheese, and granola.
Our last stop for the night was at an Indonesian restaurant that Kaj frequents enough to be known to the staff. We ordered an assortment of 15 different dishes and were only able to finish about 2/3 of it. One does not ask for a doggie bag in the Netherlands, so we had to leave it. We got back to Kaj's condo after 10.