Saturday, 9 June 2012

The Netherlands

Once we entered the Low Countries you notice right away how flat the entire place is, canals here and there, barges transport goods instead of long haul trucks, very green, lots of cows, sheep, horses and geese everywhere in fields. Small little brick houses with steep roofs and large windows with lots of flower boxes. The roads are narrow and everywhere roads for bicycles only, so do look left and right before crossing any road for bicycles coming and again for cars. It seems everyone has a bicycle, from the young to the old, an official statistic says that there are 6 bicycles for 7 people in Holland. It is the way to transport yourself, from home to work and for shopping or visiting friends and family. We have seen lots of large bicycle parking lots, around schools, government buildings and shops. We were told by our taxi driver to keep in mind bicycles have the right of way, pedestrians have narrow sidewalks. In Amsterdam you have to be very mindful of this fact when walking along a canal or street, pedestrians keep close to the buildings, then you have the bicycle road and then the car road but sometimes it is only bicycles and pedestrians who share a common area the street itself being too narrow for cars. You also have lots of tramways who pass in the middle of a busy road or have their own corridors, so listen for the bells as they approach to signal they are coming. What we saw was basically an understanding amongst the people, everyone really, you have to share the road and be civic minded. Civics as the basis for democracy in a small country.

On our final leg into Amsterdam on the ICE train, the announcements were in Dutch, German and English, always on a jovial tone, the conductor and the personnel of the DB Train believe that you are here to enjoy the ride so lets make it enjoyable. Am impressed by that sort of spirit, none of the baloney of what we see back home with the ''you are a valuable customer'' nonsense, when you know they don't mean it.

The weather is cloudy and sunny and warm but not hot and a little rain drizzle falls her and there but again you have to remember that we are on the seashore and subject to ever changing weather patterns because of winds and currents. The people seem not to pay too much attention to it all.

We are staying on Brouwer Gracht (canal) at the intersection with the Singel canal, all the buildings in the area are at least 400 years old, all brick with large windows because this is the only way you can move furniture or goods in or out. The staircase in the 3 floor building where we live is so steep about 80 to 85 degree angle, we needed help to get our suitcases up, though they are not large by any means. You have to climb the stairs sideways to gain a good footing on each step and grab the handrail to steady yourself, but that is Amsterdam standard feature in buildings.

There are lots of shops selling food and cheese and drinks of course, so many restaurants for all budgets. We visited one shop where all they sold was Dutch cheese or KAAS as it is called, of various types and flavours, from the famous Gouda to others with names I cannot remember, all good I am sure a beautiful display.
cheese shop on several floors
Kaas huis, cheese house

Tomorrow we will explore some more, take a boat on the canals and visit the RIJKSMUSEUM.
the museum is under renovation until 2013 but can still be visited in part.

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