Thursday, 22 November 2012


 In my last post, I mentioned the threat a rail strike posed to our being able to get to Amsterdam as planned.

It ended up being rather anticlimactic, for us anyway.

The TGV and the Thalys (a high-speed line that runs through Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, and maybe somewhere in Germany) were shut down and replaced with inter-city trains.  We took the inter-city train we had originally planned on and faced no delays at all.  Hurray.

Above are the buildings over the Herengracht canal from the apartment where we stayed, which fronted onto a wee canal that runs perpendicular to the Herengracht and the Singel.  That row of delightfully cute buildings housed Baton, a fabulous cafe, and 't Arendsnest, a great pub.

Basically the first thing we did in Amsterdam was tour the Anne Frank House.  It was an amazing experience.  I've never read Anne Frank's diary but I know the story and I have a pretty good imagination.  For these reasons, I found myself very choked up on going through, knowing that the secret annex kept eight people hidden away for two years, that Anne's family and others could not go outside, that they had to be so quiet during the day, and that they were betrayed and taken out of that hiding place and shipped off to the death camps.  That they would have been dragged out of the door hidden behind the bookcase that is still there, that every visitor walks by.  The museum is very well done and was set up according to Otto Frank's specifications.  If you are ever in Amsterdam, I recommend you go.

This is the Westerkerk, just down the block from the house.  Apparently Anne could hear the bells ring in the secret annex and they reminded her of the world going on outside.

 The royal palace, formerly city hall, on Dam Square.

A church on a canal.

 Gorgeous mansions near the Rijksmuseum.

 The Rijksmuseum itself.  It's huge!  But we didn't get to go into the museum proper, which is closed for renovations until 2017 (!).  Instead, we toured the Philips Wing, which is sort of a greatest hits version of Dutch art, including things like giant, incredibly expensive doll houses and an awesome model ship.

 The sides of the museum are adorned with great mosaics.

After this, we went to the Hermitage Amsterdam, which is a satellite museum of the actual Hermitage Museum in Russia.  They had an exhibition on the Impressionists on (I do love my Impressionists), plus a Van Gogh exhibition, as the Van Gogh Museum is also closed at the moment.

And after all the art, we went to the Dutch Resistance Museum, which was absolutely fascinating and covered the myriad and inventive ways that the Dutch resisted Nazi occupation from home-made radios for picking up BBC and Radio Orange (broadcasted from London by the government-in-exile) to falsified identification to printing presses for underground newspapers.  It was a proud thing to see Canada's old flag hanging alongside those of the others countries which helped to liberate the Netherlands.

Here is Tim at 't Arendsnest, sampling Dutch beer very happily.

Next, our last stop - Bruges!

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