Friday 14th September
More canals than Venice, the only difference is the buildings are built on land.
The train in proved easier than we thought, about 20mins and the fact the carpark is a free overnight park made it all the easier.
Getting off the train in the Massive Centraal Station and wandering outside we are surprised at the lack of tourists (it is only 10 oclock though), catching our first bus we pass the dock area on our way to the Albert Cuypt Market area. Once again the wharfs are taken up with massive tourist ships along with several of the canal/river hotel/boats.
Before the market there was a stop outside Gassan Diamonds, one of the worlds leading Diamond cutting houses, a free tour on offer so who are we to refuse.
Quite an amazing if not funny experience we had a Japanese guide ( so you can guess where most of the tour trade comes from here) with good spoken English but no idea at our level of humor especially when it came to our intensity of looking and trying rings on etc without any intention of making a purchase. These free tours are actually all a carefully veiled attempt at selling either the cut diamonds or various pieces of diamond enhanced jewelry.
I had no idea that so much diamond is “wasted/lost” in the cutting process, up to 40% of the rough stone, also of interest (from the sales room) was the fact that stones with color are actually now more valuable than clear, the other thing I was surprised about is they cant actually tell you where the stone comes from. Perhaps I have read too many Wilbur Smith books but I was under the assumption that was the whole point in slowing the illegal diamond trade.
The market once we got there was the pretty standard European Street market the only difference being the sweet smell of “dope” in the air and several stalls selling various forms of weed and its paraphernalia.
The joy of these markets is also to be able to free lunch, by the time you have taste tested cheese, humus, dried fruits and nuts, salami’s and the odd other thing lunch is done, however we did treat ourselves to a plate of the “world famous” Amsterdam Pancakes, 10 mini pancakes cooked in front of you normally smothered in Nutella and other sweet coverings, neither Susie or I like nutella so it is Maple Syrup for us. Pretty unimpressed I must say, not sure what all the fuss is about, definitely our home pancakes are better.
We have also pre-purchased tickets for the obligatory tour of The Anne Frank House for 3.15pm so its back on the bus and head in that direction. Arriving early and seeing the huge crowd milling around waiting for there spot we wander “down canal” a bit and attach ourselves to a English Walking Tour, (not sure if this one was free or not), the guide was busy talking about the canals and the number of a, people who fall in, evidently you get a medal and a free dinner if you rescue somebody, and b, bikes, over 15 thousand bikes are dredged from the canal’s every year, and also bike theft is a major issue, but you don’t worry about insurance evidently you just find a “crack head” and offer them 20 euro for a bike and you will get one back.
Talking of bikes Amsterdam is extreme when it comes to numbers of bikes, it gets quite a game as a pedestrian as to watching out for cars , busues, trams but more importantly the quiet stalker the bike.
Anyway the time is getting towards 3.15 so we make our way back to the tourist bunfight and prepare ourselves to join the 3.15 queue. Getting our tickets scanned we are told we have tickets that include a 30 minute presentation about the full story, a bit of a bonus but not sure how that came about.
Anyway this was an excellent decision in hindsight as it was an incredibly informative talk and photo show describing the European conflict from 1933 through to the end of WWII. Starting with how in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s many Jewish Families had already escaped Germany into Neighboring Poland, Belgium and The Netherlands where they carried on with their business’s.
The Netherlands had been a neutral country in WWI but where never given the chance to even declare in September 1938 when Germany surprise bombed Rotterdam almost into Oblivion, with further troop invasion the country surrendered to Germany 4 days later, (on the premise that the threat of further destruction was not worth it). The Nazi persecution of “non-desirable’s” started soon after.
The Anne Frank story is one most of us of our generation probably have read at some stage in our schooling but to hear about the lives behind the story and to see the house and rooms themselves certainly bought those 25months of hiding into perspective.
It was Otto Frank ( Annes Father and only surviving member of the family) who started this museum/memorial and it is now a huge part of the Amsterdam city, particularly as a tourist destination , but if you by mistake have the opportunity to hear the presentation as we did there is way more to it than that, and once again another reminder to Humanity what atrocities 1 crackpot dictator can get away with false public beliefs. The one fact that stays in my mind about the whole thing is that Hitlers size and Stature was almost as far removed from his supposed Aryan Race as possible.
From here we had a catch up date with another kiwi, working as head chef in a restaurant in Amsterdam so a bit of a walk through suburbia to meet up with Adrian at his work for a beer and chat. He is living the dream for a young guy, Amsterdam is basically the meeting point of Europe for the young traveler now and is so multicultural and alive. It was funny but after months of hearing very little English spoken if any, as soon as we got of the train here at Centraal Station the English language was everywhere with so many different accents.
By now the sun is going down and Amsterdan By Night is getting ready to awaken, continuing on our walking theme we head back to the central area through various streets of suburbia, shopping and tourist stuff. The air quality is starting to change with a distinctive dope smell starting to be around and the streets are filling.
Lots of different types of people, the local set of all ages filling their favorite bar or restaurant, the very noisy arrogant and drunk “British” stag or hen do, then the older tourist set either escaped from their tour group or visiting on their own.
Obviously no trip to Amsterdam is complete without the “red light district walk” actually good fun and before 10.00pm on the Friday night relatively calm, in fact the police presence was only starting to ramp up when e left.
It is basically exactly as you think of it as, 2 streets each side of a canal with an assortment of sex shops, live theatre (not the West End Broadway Type), bars, weed shops and residential. The famous red light curtains where just starting at this stage but yes the girls do sit on a chair in the window waiting for their customers. No photos allowed here.
It was fun and the funniest part was our involvement is a “rescue”, story below:….
If you can picture this,
The street either side of the main canal in the red light district is pretty much only pedestrian traffic come night-time with the odd scooter and pushbike thrown in for pedestrian inconvenience.
Next minute this rather loud Harley bike starts to push its way up the other side of the canal to us, blipping his throttle continually (straight away our thoughts are “you f#$@^ng knob, some middle age man trying to be seen. So anyway it carries on up the other side of the canal over a bridge and starts coming back down our side still burping away on the throttle, about 3 metres away from us he pulls into park on the canal edge, with a few extra throttle burps for good measure. By now we can see it is exactly the sort of knob we thought it would be. Some silverhaired 60 year old playboy who has more money than he needs.
Anyway as he goes to park up his foot obviously misses the stand on the bike and “nek minut” the bike is lying on the pavement and he has gone arse over tit and into the canal.
Rescue 101 kicks in and I lean over to see him in the water absolutely soaked, he is about chest deep so not sure about whether he is standing on the bottom or his designer jean jacket is acting as a flotation device, so myself and some other chap pull him up onto the sidewalk, where he proceeds to spend the next 20 minutes or so trying to get his bike to start. Obviously Harley’s don’t like lying on their side. It was actually very funny and in reality so deserving for the guy. its only a pity that in the excitement Susie forgot all about the camera so we have no record of it.
So on this high we made our way across the main harbor and went to the top observation tower to look out over Night-time Amsterdam before the train ride back to Miss Stella.