Sunday, May 30, 2010

Amsterdam: Land of Canals, cycles, philosophy and carnality

Yesterday we took a day trip to Amsterdam. After a sumptuous breakfast at the hotel (wonderful filling spread) a bus picked us up. I was prepared that this trip would be an insult to Amsterdam, it would give us just a glimpse, actually only a peek. The commute was 6 hours to and fro Brussels. As soon as we entered Amsterdam we passed by "President Kennedy's Lane" to a boat trip. Most boats are covered with a glass canopy the reason being that the canals have very low clearance so to prevent accident they have canopies. A bus load of mostly old chinese joined us on the boat. What a ruckus they kicked up, safety advisories were brushed off, never kept the line, whipping out cell phone camera they ensured nobody else could have a decent shot.

The boat took us around Amsterdam's hundreds of canals. Amsterdam, like New Orleans, is under the sea level. Most construction is on foundation unique to the water level. Narrow streets, old houses, older cars, wide windows (used for many purposes like hanging your feet and having a drink). We cruised by the home where Anne Frank had lived in hiding prior to her capture. Anne Frank talks about Gandhi in her diary. What a life, what a diary!!! Rembrandt and Spinoza were other very famous residents. Rembrandt has a statue. No mention of Spinoza.

As we wove through the canals and I watched the steets I noted that there was ZERO posters or invitations to Amsterdam's most notorious area, "red light area". Prositution and drugs are legal. Drugs are sold in tea shops we were told. Yet the streets were clean. In NYC one could see taxis with advertisements for strip clubs and cards would be handed out brazenly at Times Square. I guess legalizing vice (adult pleasures) and cordoning it off keeps the rest of the city clean. No need of a Supreme Court to decide if an exotic dancer removing her G-string is protected by First Amendment right (expressing creativity).

Amsterdam moves on cycles. Cycles, cycles everywhere and they do not stop for anyone. Whether its Paris or Zurich or Amsterdam or Belgium one can safely assume a Pizzeria or some Italian variation will be within sight. Europe knows good food and good clothing. We have never been disappointed with food. Its extremely difficult for vegetarians though. Europeans love meat and sea food, chicken options are not much.

What impressed me most is Europeans are very stress free (excluding Greece for now). People take their own sweet time doing things, mostly smiling, enjoy food, enjoy leisure, put simply 'enjoy life'. On the other hand the dynamism of NYC, especially Times Square, is unmatched. Also the rich diversity of people is rarely seen in Europe.

A very curious incident happened in the courtyard before the palace. Suddenly some 'model' like girls showed up, they stripped down to their bikini's, started playing beach volleyball. Apparently they had a photo-shoot. No wonder the place got crowded in minutes.

On our way out we stopped by the only windmill within Amsterdam. Very picturesque. A Rembrandt statue was nearby. I really wished to see Anne Frank's home and some thing connected to Baruch Spinoza, well some other time.

The houses were all picture post card perfect. Most window sills were decorated with flowers. Homes in Switzerland were similar. I guess Europeans love neatly decorated homes.

This trip was only to give a tasting of Netherlands. Gotta go back some other time. Next day was a planned trip to Bruges.

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