Amsterdam and ‘t Zand part 1
After our escape from Bruges, we arrived in Amsterdam and wanted only one thing: a shower. We figured a bit late that the map in our guide was wrong or out of date because the hostel we booked was way further than we initially thought. So, after half an hour of walking with our backpacks and almost getting run over by bikes, we made it to the Jordan Shelter.
The hostel was a Christian shelter and contrasted very much with our previous night. After a very much appreciated shower we surfed the restricted web for a while. Later that night, I met, in my girls only dorm, two Quebecers that were also traveling for 4 months, had left a week before us and had visited the same countries. One of them even had the same backpack as me, but the smaller size. It was funny but pretty nice to actually talk with people from back home. In the morning we had pancakes and really enjoyed having a warm breakfast for once.
Failed night out
But before we get to Thursday let’s talk about our failure of a night out on Wednesday. It started fine with our walk to an Italian pizzeria and a nice supper followed by an amazing sunset. But then we dressed up to go clubbing and, having taken a good look at our guide map, headed for the supposed spot. The problem is we never did find the club. So after an hour and a half of walking around we gave up and headed to an Irish Pub to get Félix his Guinness. That part was nice though, they played Beatles songs and we sang along pretty loud. Afterwards, we headed to a McDonald’s that we had seen a thousand times from walking back and forth and ordered some food. The nuggets took forever to cook so this was another “fast” food failure. We also think we saw a mouse or a rat run across the floor… Beaten, we then walked back to the hostel in the cold night.
‘t Zand and the best host one could hope for
Thursday we left A’dam (as they shorten it) and headed for Schagen, a small village up north where we were scheduled to meet up with a friend from Quebec that is vacationing in his home country right now. Peter drove us to his house in ‘t Zand and we settled in the very cute room at the back. Peter’s house is everything you would expect an old traditional house to look like. It’s really comfy and on the outskirts of the village so there is a big field in front of it where we see a horse most of the time.
That night, Ed, Peter’s friend, came over and we all had a few drinks after the amazing supper Peter cooked. He’s one good chef! We tasted a local beer which is sweeter than Heineken and is very good to my taste. It’s called Amstel.
After a late morning, and a sore throat for me, we headed back to A’dam. We stopped shortly in the Vondelpark to eat our lunch and then walked to Museumplein, a place surrounded by at least three museums. In the middle is the famous “I amsterdam” installation and we saw someone jump on the top of the “I” when we got there.
After the usual pictures we headed to the closest museum that we knew would close early. We went there first because it was already half past two and we had to get back to ‘t Zand early. So we had a Year Museum Card made (which is cheaper than paying for every museum) and visited the Stedelijk museum. It was half in renovation so we didn’t get to see their permanent collection but we had a few nice modern art pieces. These included a room with huge text by George Orwell printed all over it and a piece called “Measuring the Universe”. The artist decided he would measure every visitor to the museum in the way we measure the height of children when they grow up. We are therefore part of an art piece in Amsterdam. Try to find my name in the picture above 😉
After that we headed for the old Heineken Brewery to live the Heineken Experience. I’m sure this would have been more interesting if we hadn’t already been to the Guinness Storehouse and the Jameson Distillery but they gave 2 free beers with the entrance ticket. We also rode in another cheesy 4D “movie” that brewed us. It makes me sympathetic to the the bottles. At the end we sat to watch all the previous Heineken commercials and when we got to the bar the time was running out. We drank our 2 beers in less than 20 minutes in the way we had been taught a few minutes earlier: quickly in big gulps. Otherwise, the foam disappears and the carbon dissipates and no one likes flat beer.
Quiet night in
After hurrying to the station half drunk and singing we got to ‘t Zand alright and decided to stay in and go to sleep earlier so we could make more of our next day in A’dam.
Amsterdam’s Historic Museum
Saturday morning we woke up earlier and headed back to the city. We quickly noticed we had to get up much earlier if we wanted to visit Anne Frank’s house because the queue was halfway round the block. So we headed to the Historic museum instead. The museum had a very nice exhibition on men’s fashion which was somewhat funny. But the graphic presentation was really good and there were some nice top hats and vests.
The rest of the museum was a historic retelling of the city’s history starting in 1300. There were a lot of old maps and miniatures and paintings which made it all the more interesting. We learned how for a while Amsterdam was a very wealthy port and how its colonies helped it prosper. We also learned how the well-to-do left the city in the summer because of the stench of the canals. We saw an funny story about how this guy invented a way to pull up the horses that fell in the canals and how if they didn’t survive, he bought them to sell them as steak the next morning in his butchery. We even saw models of the houses that were planned for the expansion of the city in the 20th century.
Next we headed to Begijnhof which is a small enclosed part of the city, with very old buildings. It used to be a place where women who did a lot of charity work, but didn’t enroll as nuns, lived. We didn’t understand at first why there were so many people but we found out pretty fast when we came face to face with the bride and groom coming out of the chapel. We stumbled out of the way and quickly decided we were out of place and turned around.
Then, as were pretty hungry, we tried finding a spot to eat our lunch while walking towards our next stop. It took a long time to find a bench but we did and enjoyed our sandwiches. Then we entered Rembrandt’s house which is the highlight for me up to now. It’s one thing to see the paintings and another to see where they have been made. The place was completely furnished according to drawings made of the place and the list of auctioned items from when Rembrandt went bankrupt.
In his Atelier, we got a demonstration how to make oil paint from oil and pigment and at the top floor in the pupils atelier was an exposition of Rembrandt’s etchings.
Lost and found
After this visit we still had some time left before heading back to Schagen to meet up with Peter so we tried walking back to Anne Frank’s house but the queue was still as long as in the morning so we decided we’d go only on Monday. Then we headed for the train station.
Now the part I skipped in the morning is that I realized that I had lost my phone on the train Friday night so I was pretty bummed, and when I tried calling it it was closed. We had planned to fill the lost and found query to get it back but this could have taken up to 3 weeks. The lady at the Schagen station told us the bureau for lost objects was in Utrecht, a city pretty much out of our way.
When we got to the A’dam central station early we decided we’d at least try to see if they might have it there. So when we got to the bureau, they tried calling the phone again and I really wasn’t expecting it to work but someone actually answered. We agreed for him to leave it at a station between A’dam and Schagen. We were on time to catch the train to stop there, get it, and catch the next train for Schagen and still be on time to meet up with Peter. This totally made our day and I will now carry the phone in my bag and no longer in my pockets.
‘t Zand Kermes
That night we decided we would head out to have a look at the Kermes going on in town. This is a celebration that came from the end of the summer farm work and it usually goes from village to village. We were lucky enough to be in ‘t Zand at the same time as the Kermes. It included games to win plushies, candy, a ferris wheel and a few other attractions. There were also a few older parties in the local bars and soccer games. We just walked through the main part though because we knew we’d have to wake up early the next day to get to Breda.
And so ends our first part of the Netherlands. My cold is going strong, but we found the lost phone. As they say here, Doei! (Pronounced Doo-e)