Thursday, 7 June 2007

Amsterdam and Delft

This post covers our time in Amsterdam and the first two days in the beautiful country town of Delft.

Leaving Hoenderloo we headed towards Amsterdam, just over an hour away. We stayed at a campsite on the edge of the city, close to a metro station. This campsite operates the most bizarre pitch selection process we have seen so far. Usually you are told either to go to a marked pitch number on a map or find one yourself. At this campsite you had to wait for a lady on a bike to get you through the barrier then you had to follow her as she cycled madly through the campsite and chose a pitch for you! All very strange. Sarah thought she looked like my mum but I think it was just the hairstyle.
Above and 2 photos below: Amsterdam

We headed into the city and went to visit Anne Frank Museum. This canal-side building was a warehouse for a jam-making business, Otto Frank was Managing Director. With the help of a number of trusted employees, the back-annexe was converted into a hiding place for the Frank family during the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam. We ventured through the house, walking through the rooms where the families stayed until they were betrayed. All very interesting and very moving!

We headed back into the city and then walked through the red light district towards Centraal Station. Talk about from one extreme to another! This area is full of sex shops and live shows, druggies and pimps. We saw the famous windows where the ladies of the night ply their trade. Of the dozen or so we saw, the majority were not in the least bit attractive. There were quite a lot of windows to rent, it looked like just anyone can pitch up and try their luck!

The next day we headed back into the city and visited a photography exhibition in a canal-side mansion. I know I've talked about cows, but one photographer was obsessed. All his images were of cows in the Netherlands. The other exhibition was quite arty and surreal and not to our liking.

We then walked to a very serene group of houses which surround a small green. The Begijnhof is where members of a Catholic sisterhood have lived for hundreds of years. It was then back to Centraal Station to the metro and back to Ace where we packed up our things and hit the road.

Above: The Begijnhof, Amsterdam
Below: Cheeeeseee! Delft

An hour to the west of Amsterdam is the town of Delft, a very pretty country town just south of The Hague. The town has a number of canals and dozens of historic buildings. We had a lovely walk around town last night in the sunshine and bought an ice cream. The town is famous for Delftware, blue and white ceramics.
Today it was beautiful and sunny again, we went back into town where a busy market was taking place. We had lunch along a canal, I had pate on brown bread and Sarah had a 3 cheese pancake. She was horrified to discover Gorgonzola was a blue cheese so I helped her finish the pancake off!

We then climbed the 370 steps (Sarah counted) to the top of the Nieuwe Kerk (new church) which afforded us of glorious views over Delft and to The Hague and Rotterdam in the distance. I love going up towers for the view, but I must admit, I get a bit nervous being so high up (100 metres) looking down at the streets below with only a small railing in front of me! The spiral staircase taking us up to the spire was very narrow and in our opinion, dangerous in several places. I thought there might be a different staircase for people going back down but there wasn't. We were glad it wasn't too busy!
Above and below: View from the Nieuwe Kerk, Delft

Once back on terra firma, we bought some strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, potatoes and eggs in the market then headed back and lazed around all afternoon. We've just finished eating Stewwwww Baaastard (chicken stew) - a culinary delight that our mate Dave taught us how to cook, with a little help from Mama Sita's spice mix he buys in an Asian supermarket in London. We have changed the recipie slightly, we add a whole packet of dumplings into the mix, yum! Help Dave, we need more Mama Sita's!

Amsterdam was the first big city we've been to our our trip so far and was an interesting place to visit. It had an eclectic mix of attractions to say the least! The area around Centraal Station is chock full of tourist crap, money exchange places, souvenir shops, canal boat tours. You have to expect that to a certain extent but it's very over the top near the station.
Delft is a beautiful town, it will be interesting to see how it compares to Brugges in neighbouring Belgium, our next destination on Saturday.

Tomorrow we're planning a trip to Gouda and we're on the hunt for some tulips too if they're not all dead yet...

Left: Nieuwe Kerk and cafes, Delft. I love my wide angle lens!

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