Ok, so I didn't mean to go almost an entire week without updating the blog over here, but cookies kinda took over my life last week. Not so bad as last November's Cookie-palooza, but I made about 275 cookies in 4 days for some event at Lee's work. He said they were a big hit (the Oreo cheesecake and regular chocolate chip were gone in minutes, and not much were left of the white chip macadamia nut and the double chocolate cranberry cookies). So at least all my time spent baking was appreciated, though this blog got sadly neglected.
So anyway, we're done with Spain and now on to Holland/the Netherlands, specifically Amsterdam for today's post. Did you know that Amsterdam is a city of canals like Venice? I didn't know that before we got there, but Venice still seems more canal-intensive to me because the islands are smaller there, and in Amsterdam you can have small cars in the city and zillions of people ride bikes, which would be impossible in Venice with all the stairs everywhere.
So anyway, our flight to Amsterdam was ridonkulously early in the morning and then we couldn't check into our hotel for a while after we arrived, so we dropped off our luggage and headed out to Dam Square (they pronounce it "Dom") and took a free walking tour of the city. Our tour guide was both informative and entertaining, so that was pretty cool.
Unfortunately I don't remember what most of these buildings are now. It's possible I took some notes on them in my travel notebook, but that's in my backpack in the shoe closet and I am insufficiently motivated to go dig it out at the moment.
But I can tell you we had some beautiful weather...still on the cool side, but hey, nary a cloud to be seen!
Because it's Holland, you have to get a pic in a giant wooden shoe. Well, it's supposed to be a giant wooden shoe but I bet it's really made out of that stuff they use to make playground equipment.
Monument in the center of Dam Square. So our tour guide explained to us that the Dutch are highly imaginative when it comes to names: they put a dam on the Amstel river and called the city Amstel-dam (which turned into Amsterdam), and we also got to see things like Old Church and New Church ("new" being a relative term because this is Europe).
And the Old Church is in the Red Light District (which we did go through several times). So back in the day when Amsterdam was a maritime powerhouse, sailors would go visit the Red Light District on their last night in town before shipping out for a year or more, but being good Catholics they felt guilty for visiting prostitutes (but they weren't such good Catholics that they'd abstain from visiting the prostitutes, of course). So they'd buy indulgences from the church to be forgiven, but the church wasn't open really late at night or very early in the morning (since most ships left at dawn), so they'd go buy indulgences *before* they visited the prostitutes. And the church in the Red Light District got really wealthy.
Lee took all of today's pictures, I just picked the ones I thought were cool.
This is a courtyard in a school but I forget what school. I do remember we sat here for a few minutes and learned lots of Dutch history which I have since forgotten.
Back in Dam Square. See the orange banner on the left? When we were there, it was like a week before Queen Beatrice abdicated her throne in favor of her son (so basically, she was retiring as queen) and they were preparing for a big hoopydoo for that.
I kind of seriously love European architecture.
Our guide told us a funny story about how Napoleon conquered the Netherlands and made his little brother Louis a puppet king. Louis had to address the Dutch people and *really* wanted to speak Dutch to them, but he was kinda terrible at it so his advisers finally agreed he could say one sentence in Dutch and then the rest of the speech in French. So he said "I am your king" but he messed it up and in Dutch he said "I am your RABBIT."
And also, the French insisted that the Dutch have last names (prior to Napoleon they only had first names, not family names) so the Dutch said FINE and made up their own last names, thinking that this wouldn't last long. Unfortunately for their descendents, they had a sense of humor about their names and picked lots of silly ones and now all their descendents are stuck with them unless they can convince the queen (well, king now I suppose, but it was the queen when we were there) that they should be allowed to change their last name from something like Poo. I forget the specific examples but they were pretty hysterical. (Only because none of them were MY last name.)
See the red building in the middle? It's the narrowest house in Amsterdam. The guy who lives there is taller than his house is wide and has no patience for tourists asking him about living in his narrow little house. Apparently he needs to smoke more pot to mellow out more.
Oh yeah! Marijuana is not technically legal in Amsterdam, but it's kept more or less discrete, it's profitable, and the Dutch government opines that it doesn't hurt anyone, so it's allowed in the Netherlands. If you see a "coffee shop" in Amsterdam, then it sells marijuana. If you want a hot beverage and not weed, find a place that sells koffee spelled the Dutch way with a K (though I can't remember if it's just one E or two on the end).
Another pic of the canals. Oh yeah, they have some most excellent food in Amsterdam--after the tour, we ended up at a pub and they had THE BEST tomato soup. Karen and Laura said the split pea soup was fabulous as well. We had dinner at an Italian place and also YUM. Last thing of the day we went to the Anne Frank House about an hour before closing and Rick Steves was right, so much less crowded at that time of day.
That's Karen and Laura with me in front of the Anne Frank House (no pics inside). Maybe we shouldn't look so happy to be at there considering how sad the story is? Interestingly, the Dutch were the only non-Jewish people in German-controlled Europe in WWII who protested the treatment of the Jews. The Germans came in with tanks and squished them for it, but at least they tried to stick up for the Jews instead of just rolling over.
Anyway, just a few more random shots of Amsterdam for today, and next time I think we get into tulip pictures!
And let me take this time to rhapsodize about Dutch syrup waffles. YUM. They're like two flat little waffles glued together with syrup in the middle and I think the secret ingredient is crack. I got extras to take home with me and sent some to both our moms for Mother's Day. Wanna see what it looks like?
Vader was sadly disappointed that he did not get to taste the syrup waffle in my hand. In order to see him in the pic, I had to use no flash but then he was blurry. If I used a flash, then you got pretty much disembodied dog eyeballs!
Slightly creepy pic. But trust me on the syrup waffles, they were delicious!
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