Amsterdam is the last leg of my trip. We got here just in time too 'cause our Eurail pass expires today. No more roaming around Europe, and back to work for Charles! It's a sad occasion, but at least I still have a couple of days to live it up.
Amsterdam is a city of contrasts, and one of my favorite cities in Europe. There are no windmills or tulips in this large Dutch city, but it does have lots to offer. First of all, everyone here speaks English, and it's a good thing too 'cause there's no way I can pronounce Dutch. Even though it looks a little like German, it doesn't sound the way you think it would.
Anyway, the first things you notice about Amsterdam are the crowds and the canals (called grachts). The best way to describe how to pronounce this word is to turn the "gr" into "hw" and make a deep hawking sound as if to cough up some phlegm. Unlike the random canals in Venice, these canals lay in a webbed ring pattern like a spider web.
The art in the main museums (Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum) by Van Gogh and Rembrandt are incredible, but you can also visit the Hemp Museum and the Sex Museum as well. (See what I mean about the contrast?) The Amsterdam people have a very casual live-n-let-live attitude. You'll see Europe's classiest hookers in display-case windows in the red-light district, and then turn around and see a businessman in a three-piece suit on a park bench smoking pot during his lunch break.
You'll also feel the pain of the Jews during WWII as you tour the Anne Frank Huis. Or you can enjoy a bird's eye view of the town from the top of Westerkerk's clock tower. If you like pilsner beer, the Heineken Brewery tour allows you to see how it's made and lets you sample as much as you want. Then, you can walk off your buzz in the huge gardens of Vondel Park. In short, Amsterdam has just about everything.
As most people are aware, Marijuana is legal in Amsterdam, although there are strict consumption and production quotas. (Not that I parttook of the wacky tobacky...) The Hemp Museum is dedicated to this habit and shows all aspects of the industrial and recreational uses for cannabis. This is a photo of the in-door growing lab in the Hemp Museum. They even offer starter kits complete with seeds and planting directions!
Heineken no longer uses its brewery in Amsterdam for brewing. Instead they've turned it into a museum with displays built right into the huge fermentation vessels. This is a display inside the museum showing a craftsman making kegs.
In the olden days, Heineken used to pour the boiling wort (part of the brewing process) into a huge room and open the windows to allow the cool Amsterdam air chill the beer before sending it to the fermentation flasks. If you were swimming in this room full of beer, this is what you might see out the windows. The big building with the towers is the Rijksmuseum.
Cool looking beer brewing equipment inside the Heineken Brewery Museum.
Here's me sampling all of the different brews made by Heineken at the conclusion of the museum tour.
Inside the Rijksmuseum you'll find masterpieces such as the "Night Watch" by Rembrandt.
Here is a pretty panorama of Amsterdam taken from the Westerkerk clock tower. Man, getting up to the top of this tower was an experience in and of itself. I had to walk up spiral staircases no wider than two and a half feet across!
Westerkerk is a church next to the Anne Frank Huis, which has been turned into a museum commemorating the Frank family. If you've ever read the Diary of Anne Frank, this place will make it come to life as you see where the Franks and van Pels hid from the Nazis for several years, locked in a tiny attic. Too bad they didn't allow photos!
A nice picture of a mansion against the setting sun.
Picture of a swan swimming in the canal during my boat tour of the Amsterdam canals. This beast is vicious! He tried to attack me shortly after I took this photo.
During a nice stroll through huge Vondel Park, I came across a statue of Vondel himself in a garden area of the park.
While gazing at the gazebo in the middle of a pond in Vondel Park, I caught this crane mid-flight over the water. Nice wingspan and even nicer reflection in the water. This picture just typifies the natural beauty of this park.