Where bikes stop for no one
23.09.2008 - 23.09.2008 15 °C
For some, thoughts of Amsterdam conjure up images of a carefree life and lots of lots of bicycles. The cute little "bbbrrriiiinnnnggg" of the bicycle bell seems charming and serene and, dare I say, as the sound of hopefulness to those who are worried about global warming. Yet, actually being here . . . . I must admit that I am starting to loathe the bicycle. Cyclists stop for no one — NO ONE! And, there are so very many of them. The train station in Amsterdam has a three-story bicycle garage! The photo does not do it justice, but it will give some idea of the size of the thing:
Plus, there's plenty of bike parking outside too. But, around town they stop for no one, except to chat with friends. So, it is with some trepidation that we explore. Crossing streets means checking the bike path first, then the bus and/or tram line, and then the car lane. It's rather complicated!! And, the intersections with the "LGM" (little green man), who signals that it's okay for pedestrians to cross, aren't much help as the "LGM" often lasts about long enough for us to get only half-way across and we are walking at a pretty good clip!
Anyway, we were off to Amsterdam yesterday. After trying to figure out the transit system (the system itself is not so difficult, but the ticketing seems overly complicated), we wandered about some. We found the main square, after walking through a pretty tacky part of town. Then, we took a tram to the Van Gogh museum.
The museum is really very, very nice. The kids are big fans of Van Gogh and the museum was a great place to learn more about him. In mid-September, we found that we could walk right in, but there was still a pretty good crowd inside. After the museum, we grabbed some lunch at an outdoor cafe (the drizzle had stopped), where our dining companions were a large group of aggressive pigeons. Ah, the city life!
After lunch, the kids played in a park and then it was off to the Rijksmuseum. Here's Margaret in front of the giant I amsterdam slogan/statue across the street from the Rijksmuseum:
And here's john playing on the climber in that park:
Most of the museum is under renovation, so some highlights have been crammed into a small area in one section of the museum. The museum did feature a very good kid activity, which helped Margaret and John learn a little about Amsterdam and the Netherlands, and about famous Dutch painters (Rembrandt, Vermeer, etc.).
Both kids really liked the display of the elaborate doll houses at the Rijksmuseum. They learned that the doll houses were not for children. They were put together by wealthy ladies to show off to their friends.
At the Van Gogh museum, John learned that the crow painting that everyone says is Van Gogh's last painting may not actually be Van Gogh's last painting. No one really knows which one was his last painting.
During our wanderings, I read in our guidebook that the central church in Haarlem hosts free Tuesday evening organ concerts. So, we headed back to Haarlem. We found a grocery store and stocked up on a couple of nights of dinners (we are very proud of ourselves that we managed to negotiate the Dutch on the food labels). Then, we went by the church. The concert listings showed every Tuesday, except the 23rd of September! But, before we fell into despair, we found a separate listing and discovered that the Tuesday night concert for last night was a special one (with Thomas Trotter, organist at St. Margaret's Church, Westminster Abbey) held at the local music hall. Still, free!
On the subject of "free," let me offer the comment here that Amsterdam is very expensive. Everybody and everything is looking to separate us from our money! Except for parks (and I wonder if the Dutch have considered finding some way to charge for them too!), everything has an entry fee — and often a pretty hefty fee. Even at the rail station, if you have a question, they charge a fee! And, at the Rijksmuseum, which is showing only "highlights," they are still charging the normal 10 euros per adult admission fee (thankfully, the kids go in free, although the kids activity was not free) So, it was a real treat to go find a free concert. London is expensive too, but there is a nice mixture of sights that charge a fee and sights that ask for a suggested donation.
After dinner, we went over to the music hall where we were given tickets. We had good seats to this lovely concert. One of the best aspects of the concert was that they had set up a camera/projector system so that the audience could watch the organist at work — hands and feet! Very cool.
Then, it was off to bed. We will likely go back into Amsterdam today. The weather should be a bit better today. We'll try to post photos tonight or tomorrow (because of the on and off drizzle yesterday, we didn't get many).
But, before I sign off, the kids have asked that the "Rules" of our adventures be posted:
1. Paws off! (Keep your hands, and all other appendages, to yourself.)
2. Stay on the BUS (Butt Upon Seat)
3. No swatting Dad on the butt
4. No turning off the lights in the bathroom when someone else is in there.
5. Don't be an insufferable know-it-all.
6. Don't be a mindless buffoon.
7. No snarky insolence.
8. No calling Daddy unflattering names.
Please note: rules only get made after they have proved necessary (Note that there are no rules about calling Mom unflattering names or hitting her). In public, we can refer to these only by number.
The church bells are chiming, so it's time to move this adventure along!