Actually, we drove down here yesterday, after we left Pingjum and Zurich (Netherlands). The trip was not a long one. We drove south, across the long causeway that crosses the mouth of the bay where Amsterdam is situated.
Amsterdam is moving, frenetic, crowded. (I imagine this is partly due to high tourist season, but I'm betting it is like this to some degree all the time.) This is the city of bicycles--you must keep constant look out for cyclists zipping by, in the street, on the sidewalk, through the alleys. Sidewalk cafes, fruit stands, cheese shops (man, those were great--they give all kinds of free samples!), bakeries, and clothing shops line the avenues. The city is criss-crossed by canals. They, too, are always busy. Boats of every size are plying the waterways day and night.
Seems like this is a major party town. Totally different from Berlin--the party there was somehow more diffident. The party in Amsterdam is in your face. "Coffee shops" (also called "smart shops" and occasionally the old-school "head shop") are where you buy your cannabis supplies. The "Red Light District" is clearly delineated on the city map. Street musicians (some actually quite good) are on every corner. (We saw one trio made up of guitar, accordion, and trombone. They were very smooth, kind of a jazz rendering, if you can imagine. I could see some possibilities for my next career move there.)
Today, we went to the van Gogh museum--one of the things you do in Amsterdam. Not a huge fan of van Gogh in general, I nevertheless marveled at what he accomplished in a brief ten years of his painting career. I was also fascinated by his story (you know, he at first intended to go into ministry. Then he went insane. Then he became a painter. Hmmm . . . . .) I learned that art therapy does not always heal a troubled soul.
In the afternoon, we went to the Floating Gardens--a long string of flower shops stretched along one of the major canals. The front of each shop is on the street; the back part of the shop is actually floating on its own barge.
This was one of the places where we found some wonderful cheese. I don't often use the word "divine" to describe worldly things, but this cheese will definitely be on the table at the great banquet in heaven.
So, today was fun, interesting, and gave us a good sampling of life in Amsterdam. A touristy kind of day, although I can never walk through the streets of a big city like this, look at the people--so many nationalities, so many different walks of life--and wonder where and how God is at work . . . . .
A canal at every turn . . . some people live full time in house boats on the canals.
Lovely walking paths, quiet repose away from the busy streets.
Of course, you can rent a paddle boat if you want . . . .
Speaking of busy streets . . . .
The street is shared by crowds on foot and bicycle, trams (tracks down the middle) and cars, taxis, and delivery trucks. Every man for himself.
At the Floating Gardens. There were tulips, but this is not tulip season, so not the abundance one might expect.
There are no van Gogh photos in this set, as you might have realized. Can't take photos in the museum, of course. So, I did the next best thing: took photos of sunflowers at the Gardens.
I could have indeed spent a lot more time in the cheese shops. This young woman (in the classic Dutch cap) made sure we got all the samples we wanted!
More cheese . . . and the ubiquitous speeding bicyclist.
We did avail ourselves of the sidewalk cafes as often as possible! So easy just to stop about anywhere for a cappucino. We walked by this one on the way to and from the hotel. It was much larger than most--many are just a few tables and awnings. Nevertheless, it provided a good stopping place. (Do you see any familiar folks in the crowd?)