We had enjoyed exploring a bit of Scotland during the first week of our vacation. For the next 3 weeks, our itinerary included several places on the European Continent: The Netherlands, Germany, and Paris. To begin this part of the journey, we boarded a flight in Aberdeen bright and early on Friday, July 26th.
Although Grace and Errin were excited about more adventures, they are not exactly ‘early risers’ so they soon fell back asleep on the airplane as soon as we were in the air. It’s only about an hour and a half flight; they were able to catch a few winks. After we arrived at Schipol Airport in Amsterdam and boarded a train to the city center, they were a bit more rested and raring to go.
It was a beautiful warm morning in Amsterdam and already bustling with activity when we first set foot on the square outside of the train station. We stood there taking in the delightful sights and sounds and to let it all just sink in for a few minutes. All of the trams, buses, bicycles, and people were coming and going in a steady stream.
We had booked our nights stay at a hostel called Statsdolen YHA, so our first step was to figure out how to get to it and stow our luggage before exploring this vibrant city. We noticed a Tourist Information Office across the square where we could possibly get an easy-to-read city map and possibly a little help in ascertaining the best way to get to our desired destination.
We were in luck. A very helpful young man at the Visitors’ Center did indeed set us up with a map, told us where to catch the Metro we needed to take, what stop to get off at and which route to follow on foot to get us to our destination. He also sold us an all-day bus ticket that would facilitate our adventures in this beautiful city for the rest of the day.
Armed with the necessary information, we set off navigating our way through new territory. None of us speak Dutch, nor are we regular users of public transportation, so it was an exercise that required our full attention and complete teamwork. Between the three of us, we did indeed manage to find the Metro, get off at the right stop and successfully followed the city streets to our hostel. Yeah!
It was still fairly early so we couldn’t actually check-in to our dorm room, so we stowed our carry-on luggage in a locker and headed back outside to start exploring the fascinating and electric atmosphere.
We were all ready for a bite to eat, so we set off to find a place where we could get a sandwich. We were in luck! Just over the canal and a couple of blocks later, a wonderfully delightful Bakery appeared, called “Bake My Day.” They even made any sandwich they offered with gluten-free bread! Grace was one happy camper we found something so easily and quickly to meet her dietary needs!
We happily walked to the nearest canal, sat down along its edge, dangled our feet over the water and enjoyed our freshly made sandwiches while we soaked up the scenery around us.
After replenishing our energy sources we started out on foot once again. Although I have been to Amsterdam before, I had not explored this particular section of town. Grace took the lead and we headed off for more exploration. Sometimes it is just fun to ‘follow your nose’ and her choices lead us to Dam Square where the Royal Palace, the National Monument, and the New Kerk (church) – built in the year 1408 – is located.
It was now mid-day and it had become quite warm! In fact, we arrived on the hottest day on record for Amsterdam! 106 degrees Fahrenheit! Phew! I remembered a fountain in the Rijk Museum Garden in the southwest part of the city that I saw the last time I visited. I thought it might bring some relief for us, so we jumped on a bus and headed in that direction. Sure enough, it was exactly what we needed and we all delighted in standing in the middle of the cool shooting jets surrounding its captives!
The Garden also had some interesting metal sculptures as well!
Who would’ve thought we would be roasting in an unprecedented heatwave in 100-degree temperatures in Amsterdam? When pigs fly, I guess!
Just beyond the garden is the reflecting pool stretched out in the Museumplein Park in front of Rijks Museum. That also afforded us additional opportunities for cooling off! Errin dowsed her head of hair and Grace waded to her delight.
In order to keep cool, we then decided it would be a great idea to go inside the Rijks Museum where it’s climate-controlled and take a look at the Masterpieces by the famous Dutch artists such as Rembrandt while we were in the neighborhood!
So many wonderful things to see there. Room after room on several floors to admire world-famous masterpieces by Van Gogh, Vermeer, and Rembrandt, just to name a few!
One very interesting display was seeing a camera that was totally digitizing Rembrandt’s Masterpiece, The Night Watch; every square inch from top to bottom right before our eyes. Fascinating! Its called “Operation Night Watch.”
Besides famous paintings, there are also innumerable items on display, from fine jewelry to huge boats!
The Cuypers Library is the largest and oldest art history library in the Netherlands. Here visitors, students, and art historians can walk in and delve into the Rijksmuseum’s collection.
It was so enjoyable viewing these incredible paintings. My favorite, by far, however, is “The Merry Fiddler” by Gerard Von Honthorst below. So lifelike – as if he is coming right out of the frame inviting us to join him!
Then, of course, there is the three-dimensional crying baby!
The Front Hall is a huge space with inlaid mosaic floors, and walls full of painted scenes and stained glass windows.
We really enjoyed ourselves. The day was coming to a close and we needed to head to the Central Station to activate our Eurail Passes in preparation for the next day’s travels. Normally, I like to rent a car to get around. This time, I thought it might be interesting to travel by train for the next section of our trip – following the Rhine River through Germany. We got the passes activated and figured out what train we would need to take in the morning to Cologne. Then we started heading back to the hostel to call it a day.
We enjoyed a picnic lunch dinner at the Newmarket right near the hostel and realized that the following day the whole city would be bombarded by the Gay Liberation activities planned for the whole next week! While we were there it was relatively quiet and uncrowded, but I’m sure that all changed dramatically as we headed out of town in the morning! Phew! That was fortuitous! You would have thought we had planned it that way!
We spent the rest of the evening sitting outside of the hostel enjoying the views of the canal and did a little people watching, as the boats floated past and people strolled along the sidewalks or pedaled their varied bicycles in the cooler evening air. It was a wonderful day.
We will return to Amsterdam in about 3 weeks’ time for some more adventures. Next stop and the next blog post will be Cologne and its’ magnificent cathedral… Until then!