Saturday 29 June 2024

Amsterdam #9

 June 28th. Fine, blue sky but slightly windy so much cooler

Today we went for brunch and spent the rest of the time packing suitcases. 

I’d heard that the rubbish collections are automated, in that the receptacles are in a weight system and the computer tells the HQ when it is time to empty.   Today I saw this one being emptied but wasn’t quick enough to take a photo.   

The truck with a large crane on the back grabs the top of the “steeple” and lifts the receptacle clean out of the ground places it over the truck and then voila ! the rubbish is deposited in the dump truck.  Back goes the receptacle on its spring loaded weighing platform, all set for the next time.   

Near where we had brunch we saw one out of the ground as the controls were being repaired.   There are different colour codes on the front for refuse, recycle, cardboard and textiles.   Seems like an efficient system.

The packing has gone well and I’m impressed that everything still fits well into the case although I suspect it will be some kilos heavier than the 17.5kg with which I left New Zealand.  In making the NZ Immigration online declaration I made certain to tick the confectionery box but be assured it does not contain these “lollies” which are cannabis and widely available over Amsterdam.   

So in an hour or so we will leave for the airport and begin the homeward leg bringing this Epic Adventure to a close.

Friday 28 June 2024

Amsterdam #8

 June 26th.  Clear blue sky, no clouds at all and Very Hot

Today my nephew took us on a walking tour of The Nine Streets.   

These are a grid of 3 x 3 streets and four canals in the middle of the UNESCO World Heritage Canal Area.  We saw many different styles of architecture and lots of different boutique stores and intriguing signage.  Sadly there seemed to be many which had closed, perhaps due to the competition from on line shopping.  

 He pointed out a Silent Protest.   When the Russians invaded Ukraine and the war broke out these signs on yellow tape were placed on many of the blue street signs.   Not only were the words a protest but the blue and yellow was a nod to the Ukrainian flag.

We went to Blue Amsterdam, a cafe/restaurant at the top of a glass tower in the middle of Amsterdam.   Here we sat sipping a cool drink and enjoyed spotting the places we had visited in the city.   It was interesting too, to view the Canal Houses from above and see that although the canal facing facades are maintained to strict historical standards out the back it is possible, within limits, to make additions in the garden space.

Lunch was at De Bijenkorf, a huge department store in the ilk of Selfridges.   The restaurant was a very upmarket cafeteria style where first you picked up a tray and then from the various delectables on offer selected and strolled to the Kassa.   When I said I was paying for all the three the affable gentleman on duty said “that’s very kind” and tapped his keyboard.   Everything is very electronic here!  Many shops will only accept payment by card.   

 I alone had chosen a lemon meringue cake for dessert so I generously shared with Little Sister and Nephew.

Back home for a rest before Little Sister, Nephew, Nephew’s wife and I all went to The Secret Garden for a meal.   According to the website it is Japanese Peruvian Fusion.   The charming waiter explained the menu, advised on volumes and made recommendations.   We had an Experience.   Part way through the meal Charming Waiter, followed by his equally Charming Manager came to explain that there was a problem in the kitchen and our tempura and grilled food would not be available.   All four of us decided that we were ready for dessert and so skipped the mains altogether.

First up was guacamole made in a stone pestle at the table, and some edamame with black salt.

Next was Sea Bass Ceviche with Sweet Potato, Corn, Yuzu and Chilli.  Also Salmon Tataki with Honey miso and passion fruit.

Followed by Roasted Beetroot with Yuzu and Umeshu.  Also Watermelon with Avocado, Feta and a citrus Jus.

Desserts were this delectable ensemble of Mochi Icecream and fruits.

Well filled we strolled out into the twilight at 10:30pm.

Little Sister and I finally managed to wear our Tulip shoes in Amsterdam!!

Amsterdam #7

 June 25th. Warm+cloudless blue sky = Hot

Today my nephew took us, at my request, back to the Rijksmuseum.   I had missed seeing the Library and the Dolls Houses, both apparently worthy of a visit.   As it was just one week since I had visited on my Trafalgar Tour it did feel like meeting an old friend and i noted several spots I’d seen previously as we climbed up to the level where the Dolls Houses were.

There were three intricately furnished and detailed dolls houses but I doubting either of them were really made for playthings.   Two were from the 17th century and everything was made exactly to scale.   The third was from the 18th century and it was the exterior on display - a replica of the houses of the time.  If I understood correctly the wealthy  Petronella Oortman “collected” these and I wonder what sort of wealth would be needed nowadays to have this hobby!

Next we went to see the Library.   Very rarely nowadays does one see Silence Please on the door of a library.  In New  Zealand they are more likely to be community hubs!   But here it was absolute silence in this amazing library designed by a Dutchman named Cuypers it has certainly achieved his stated aim of “a space with a sense of grandeur that appears larger than it is”.   This library is used as a research facility and tucked away in a discreet corner at the base is a photocopier!  

Then I wanted to show my nephew my ‘small Van Gogh’ and as we went there, the triumph of the day occurred.  Just one week prior I had seen the jewel of this museum! Rembrandt’s The Night Watch hanging on a wall in the main 17th century collection area.   Then, the wall at the end of the room was blocked off and painted in a sign which said that behind the wall a glass room was being prepared where conservators would begin the lengthy project of restoring and conserving this masterpiece.   And….today when we went the glass room was complete, the painted wall gone, The Night Watch safely moved and I was able to see the beginnings of this project.   The information lady standing by seemed astounded at my enthusiasm and at the fact that I, a tourist, had come a week later to see the painting again!   She told me that a team of 20 specialists will confer on each step of the conservation and will use the 12,500 extremely high resolution photographs to assist them.

Next we walked through the beautiful gardens of the museum and made our way to the Jewish Quarter.  Here we saw the National Holocaust Monument.  Constructed of 102,000 alphabetically ordered red bricks inscribed with the name, birth year and age at death of the Jewish Victims in The Netherlands who were arrested, deported and killed by the Nazis at Auschwitz or Sobinor Death Camps.   There are also 220 Roma and Sinti people, treated the same way by the Nazis commemorated here.   

The red bricks form a labyrinth which viewed from above spells out the לזכר  Hebrew word for In Memoriam.   The highly polished stainless steel mirrors the surroundings and the sky.   It is  a truly memorable monument to this sad history.

Further along the neighbouring canal small plaques are inset with the names of those Jewish people who were arrested and deported from the canal houses opposite.   I only photographed one such pair from House number 68 but this silent reminder stretched for some distance.

By this stage the temperature had risen to the high 20s and the energy  had sunk to basement levels so we made our way home for some rest and a drink of iced water.

Wednesday 26 June 2024

Amsterdam #6

 June 24th . clear blue sky and hot.

Today we left mid morning to catch a train to Haarlem, just West of Amsterdam.  The station there is a beautifully preserved old building with up to date technology and trains.   

The signage and much of the facade is in tiles and there is also a lot of polished wood in the Art Deco style. Built in 1910 as a replacement for the old building it was used in the movie Oceans Twelve to depict Amsterdam Station - presumably because it is more photogenic.

From the station we walked up quaint cobbled streets to Queens - a tea shop whose British owner is an avid royal fan and serves British teas in the Dutch manner.   She also offered “authentic scones” which Little Sister and Nephew ordered.  

The small jars of clotted cream and strawberry jam were definite made in UK but the scone wasn’t up to British Standard!

In central Haarlem is the Grote Kerk of St Bavo.   Originally a Catholic Church, during the course of Dutch history it became Protestant and is now classified as a Reformed Protestant Church and has a Rooster Weathervane on the top.   Apparently Rooster vanes denote Protestant, a cross denotes Catholic and a swan denotes Lutheran.   

The church has a huge and wonderful pipe organ which although recently renovated dates back to 1735 and has the distinction of having been played by Mozart and Handel - at different times.   

To the right of the organ there was the Dog Whipper Chapel where the Dog Whipper kept the animals brought to church from being unruly.   

Then to the left was the Holy Ghost Bench where the Ghostmaster distributed alms to the poor.  Further down the church was The Brewers Chapel!   

The floor was interesting too.  Approximately 1500 tombstones - well worn over the centuries by all who’ve trod on them - some with holes still visible, with which they would be lifted to add bodies.   I can only imagine that churches were ‘fragrant places’ in those days.

We also walked past Corrie Ten Boom’s house which is now a museum but was unfortunately closed on a Monday.

Haarlem is a picturesque city, with fewer canals than Amsterdam but it does have a working grinding Windmill right in town which fortunately had a shady cafe near by.

It was a hot day so we wandered the shady streets where we found more of the strange numbering system.  Some houses have identical street numbers with the difference denoted only by colour eg a red 10 and a black 10.   How one addresses correctly and delivers mail correctly under this system I do not know.

Having spent a full day in Haarlem we returned home late afternoon, hot, tired and happy.