Wednesday, 5 October 2011

The Netherlands- continued

We had a smooth run from Den Haag to Amsterdam which took just under an hour. Our hotel Park Lane was easy to find and very pleasant. This time we were on the second floor, the first flight of stairs was OK, but the second flight was the ‘stairs of death’- very steep, shallow steps and a spiral near the bottom. These are typical of many Dutch buildings, the building is narrow, and the stairs are steep.
As this wasn’t our first visit to Amsterdam we took a more relaxed attitude to sightseeing. Our first day consisted of catching up with some friends for lunch and then spent the rest of the day with them. It was very pleasant and good to see them now they have a baby.
The following day we wandered around to familiarize ourselves with Amsterdam again. It attracts more tourists than Den Haag. The red light district and the cannabis cafes are more of a feature here. Again we caught up with our friends for lunch going across to north of the harbor which was a nice change of view.
Afterwards we took a short canal tour which was very interesting. Amsterdam is known as Venice of the north with its hundred canals and a thousand bridges. It was an extremely prosperous and important city in the 18th Century which went from nothing to nothing in about 100 years.
 For the first time since we left home it looked rain and it actually rained just as we got close to our hotel. The little cafĂ© Smit & Voogt at the corner of our street turned out to be a great find and was definitely out of the tourist area as there was no English menu, the waiter was happy to translate for us.


The next day we left the city for Haarlem, the train conductor told us that the town is often used in films to depict Amsterdam. The market square is dominated by a magnificent church (aren’t they all). The construction of the present church was from 1370 to1538. There are many interesting features in the church, which incorporate the history of the town. A magnificent Christian Muller organ which consists of 5088 pipes and was almost 30 metres high was played by Handel and in 1766 by the 10 year old Mozart.

Windmill at Leiden
We visited Leiden for the day, an old university town. It was unusual as it didn’t have the usual market square. There was a marked trail you can follow which takes in the various interesting points in the town.
The weather was perfect and as we wandered around we discovered the local market on the banks of the main canal. Here we had lunch sitting by the canal enjoying the passing parade of people soaking up the sun and atmosphere.
We visited the Franz Hals museum which was a small interesting gallery. Then off to the Leiden Museum which was both an art gallery and displayed information about the cloth manufacturing industry of the past.
Back in Amsterdam that evening we went to a wonderful small restaurant called ‘Marius’. The chef goes to the market everyday and chooses the freshest produce then cooks and 5 course market menu that night, so each day the meals will be different. The food was delicious and not heavy like so much of Dutch cooking .
On the last day we went to the Rembrant Haus. This house help bankrupt the artist as it cost him 130,000 guilders at the time and he had to borrow a great deal of money which eventually he was unable to pay back.
This museum had a range of paintings from various artists who worked in Rembrandt’s studio as well as some of Rembrandt’s work. The house and studio were set up as it would have been then and we had a demonstration as to how his etchings were done as well as information about the type of materials used.
We left Amsterdam that night for Vienna. 


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