Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Day 9 and 10 - A Texas Two Step Followed By a Solo Act

Greetings from Amsterdam everybody.  Well, this will be my first post that covers two days rather than one.  Don't worry, I'm not slipping (I don't think), but the schedule has been a bit more compressed and staying at hostels is not real conducive to working late into the night on this thing. 

Another unfortunate thing, for the blog at least, is that most of Amsterdam looks very similar in my opinion.  There are not a lot of distinct differences between the parts of town I've seen so far.  And on top of that, all of the museums that I've gone to (The Van Gogh and The Anne Frank Museums) don't allow cameras, so I have nothing to show you there either.  

I'm fairly confident this is going to be the weak link in the blog so far.  Tomorrow will be better though because I'm riding a bike most of the day, so if nothing else, there is a 50% chance you'll get to see a shot of me in a hospital.

So, we're in Holland now, and I've been hanging out for a day and a half.  Amsterdam is a beautiful city.  There are canals running throughout the town, even more so than in Bruges, and they are much larger and more integral to the city center.  

Anyway, the highlight of my time in Amsterdam so far has been running into a girl who is from home, and by home I don't mean the US but Texas.  We were both staying at the same hostel and I overheard her say where she was from.  Her name is Kristen and she's from Austin and is finishing up her degree in Biochemistry at Texas A&M.  She is about to do a study abroad at Oxford for a semester and has been traveling around on her own for the last month.  

We started chatting and ended up hanging out most of the day I was there.  I know I keep using the same superlatives for all the people I meet, but it's only because it's true.  I've been extremely fortunate so far to have run into a bunch of folks that I would hang out with back home on a regular basis.  

She has a great personality and is extremely talented in her various endeavors in life.  She was on her way to Brussels the next day, but we had a blast while she was there and it was definitely a highlight of the trip so far.  Best of luck going forward, Kristen, and have fun in London.

Here's a shot of us in the hostel lobby before she headed out to Brussels.  

Turns out she is quite the pool player.  She claims I won the first game legit, but amazingly, when we played the second one for some money, she got really good in a hurry.  

Here is a shot of the canals in the city.  There are a ton of these and any of them would probably be indistinguishable from the other.  

This is one of the prettier shots I think I got of the town.  You'll notice the architechture is very distinct.  The whole inner town looks like this.  

Remember the bike racks in Bruges.  We'll they are even bigger here.  Kristen said she had heard that they find literally thousands of bikes in the canals from when they fall in the drink.  I read that 40% of all traffic in the city is via bike.  Just like Houston.

Here's yet another shot of the house lined canals.  See what I mean.  Same thing.  Beautiful, but the same.

We did quite a bit of walking as Amsterdam is very compact.  Reminds me of San Francisco that way.  I'm staying in the Jordaan Flower District,which is west, southwest of the hub of town, and I can make it all the way back to the Central Station in 20 minutes of walking.

This is the Royal Palace in Dam Square, the big meeting place in town.  It was built in 1648 and was originally a city hall.  Now it is the official residence of the Queen.  It was closed for renovations as you can see.

This is a shot of the Westerkerk Church near the hostel.    It has the famous artist, Rembrandt, buried under it's pews somewhere.  It's also the tallest steeple in Amsterdam.  It's hard to tell, but there are no tall buildings in the city center.  

The next day, I was flying solo again, and I decided to do the museum thing.  Weather was kind of bad (drizzle all day).  I hit the Van Gogh and Anne Frank museums in the morning, and thought they were both very impressive.

I found the Anne Frank Museum particularly moving.  Hopefully, you know that Anne was a young Dutch girl who was Jewish.  She and her family were in hiding from the Nazi's in a secret room in a house here in Amsterdam for over 2 years.  She kept a journal which was published and is, of course, famous the world over now.  In 1944, she and her family were discovered by the Germans and were shipped to concentration camps, where Anne died of typhus one month before the Allies liberated her camp. The museum is the actual house where they stayed during their time in hiding. 

Here is a shot of the outside of Anne Frank's House.  It is quite bare on the inside, but walking through the same rooms where her family hid for 2 years is quite an experience.  Really makes you think and realize how things could be much worse.

I'll leave you with the following. . .This is what I got from the Van Gogh museum.  

He Man not doing it for you?  Have I got just the thing for you. . .

A Vincent Van Gogh Action Figure!!!!  Comes with his very own easel and painting accessory.  And as an extra gift (Absolutely Free!!! if you order in the next 10 minutes with a credit card), you get an interchangeable head.  Want a beard?  Not a  big fan of your right ear?  Depending on your mood you too can mix and match to make the Van Gogh who best shows the inner disturbed you.  


Tomorrow, a tour of the Holland countryside by bike.  Say a couple of prayers for me. . . I think I'm going to need them to say upright.  Later. . .