Amsterdam to Zagreb

Day 10, Thursday September 14, 2017

The alarm went off at 5:00 am this morning, as we needed to catch the 6:00 tram to the train station and then take the train to the airport. All went well and there weren’t many people out and about so early in the morning.

The Amsterdam airport is very large. We took a five minute bus ride to get to our plane. There were dozens of KLM Planes were parked in rows, waiting for passengers.

Soon we are on our way. These were our last views of Holland and I loved the interesting shapes of the farm fields.

And these are the sights as we head towards Croatia. The bottom photo is just before we land in Zagreb. Can you tell I love looking out plane windows?

The Zagreb Airport is very new and not very big. There were only two luggage carousels, and a big empty space where more can be added at a later date. We catch the waiting bus into town and then a taxi from the bus station to our apartment. It is only 48 Kuna, or $12 Canadian which is a bargain. We have discovered how nice it is to have someone else take us right to the door of our new accommodation. It is money well spent.

There are lots of stairs up to our third floor apartment, 78 of them!  We were both definitely puffing by the time we reached the third floor. Our host was waiting for us with maps, brochures and lots of information about Zagreb. It certainly helps to have a host who speaks English.

We went out for groceries and walk through a nearby park where a film festival /burger food fair is taking place. Seems like a strange combination. We find a grocery store and pick up a few groceries and a cooked chicken for only 22 kuna ($4.50 C). We then both crashed and we have a nice long nap before going back out for more groceries. We need to visit two stores, but we find what we need for the next few days. Here is the park where the film/burger festival is taking place.

We climb those 78 steps one more time and settle in for the evening. We only have three days to explore here because we lost one day with our flight cancellation.  Too bad, there is a lot to see and do here. This is the view of the street from our apartment windows.

Rijk Museum and Travelling Challenges

We spent more than six hours at the Rijk Museum today and although we didn’t see everything we did manage to see lots of fantastic art.  Image 2017-09-12 at 11.12 PMWe saw some of my favourites. It is always exciting to see, in person, paintings that I have admired in books for years…and I found some new favourites.  There were so many great Dutch artists that I have never seen before.This is the Gallery of Honour and at the far end is Rembrandt’s Night Watch.  Both Bob and I remember this painting from our last visit to the Rijk Museum over forty years ago.

Bob had downloaded a museum app so we had a bit of a treasure hunt following their 90 minute guide to see what the museum considered their top works of art. It was a bit of a whirlwind trip through the museum and we retreated to the gardens outside to have our lunch. Bob also had a little cat nap…DSC08917and I checked out the playful fountain.
Any idea what all these doors are?  Check at the end of the post for the answer.The museum is a nice mix of paintings, sculptures, furniture and other historical objects. I always like to look in the museum shops although I seldom buy much.  This book was pretty amazing though. The white gloves at the top of the page give an idea of its size, and only a bit more than €6,000!On the way home we are surprised at how few cars are on the roads.  It is after 5:30 and everyone is coming home from work, but so many people ride bikes that there just aren’t that many cars on the roads.But there are so many cyclists, of all ages.  Notice that no one wears helmets. Parents often carry two children on their bikes, one in front and one behind. I also saw several children standing up on a carrying rack above the back tire, holding on to their parent’s shoulders!  I tried to get photo of this but they fly by so quickly I wasn’t able to get one.  Now that didn’t look at all safe to me.Here are some more parents with babies in front. No helmets anywhere to be seen. So different from home.  Even the motorcyclists here go bare headed.

When we get home there is an email waiting for us that KLM has cancelled our flight tomorrow. Bob thought I was joking when I told him about it.  I don’t know what is going on but that is the second flight that we have had cancelled this trip and we have only been gone a week! Apparently there is a big wind storm expected tomorrow so they cancelled all their flights.  After a rather stressful three hours on the phone we manage to get rebooked but not until Thursday, so we have to stay another night here in Amsterdam and we lose one of our days in Zagreb, Croatia, which is our next stop.Too bad but that is the way it is.  We were lucky though as our current Airbnb host says that we can stay here one more night so we didn’t have to try to find somewhere else to stay.

Answer to the earlier question about the hallway of doors.

It is the women’s washroom.

 

Quiet Rainy Day in Amsterdam

Monday, September 11, 2017

We were going to go to the Rijk Museum today but I needed a down day and it is windy and raining, so we decided to stay home have a quiet day instead. Yesterday we walked almost nine miles, and the equivalent of 25 flights of stairs, or so my Fitbit tells me!  No wonder I am tired.

Some friends and family are curious about our Airbnb apartments so I thought I would include a link to each one we stay at. If you are interested take a peek.     Airbnb

Here are a few photos that never made it into previous postings.This little sculpture was in the street right outside the Oude Kirk. Bob thought it a strange placement right outside a church and asked me what it meant.  How am I to know?Our apartment host is an artist who makes tiles that are for sale in museum shops. The kitchen ones are playful takes on antique tiles and they are mounted in her bathroom and kitchen. She also very generously gave us one as a gift.We saw this couple walking Saturday and as they passed by everyone started to cheer and clap.Now, we saw this fellow with his brand new tattoo two days ago at Dam Square and the strange thing ( other than why anyone would want this tattoo on their head) is that we saw him again two times yesterday, once in the afternoon and again in the evening.  What are the chances of that happening in as big and busy city as Amsterdam? I almost felt like we should say hi! I love people watching and Amsterdam is a great place for that.  I just wish I had a chance to draw or take a photo of some of the interesting faces we have seen.

Amsterdam’s Red Light District

Sunday, September 10, 2017

I don’t suppose a visit to Amsterdam would be complete without checking to see what the Red Light District is about. Because we were going to be out late tonight we had a nice relaxing morning and finally headed downtown early afternoon.  Our first stop was the Oude Kerk, or the Old Church, which is the oldest building in Amsterdam. This church took shape in phases from 1300 on. Over the centuries this church has functioned as a public space where citizens could meet, close transactions of any kind and listen to beautiful organ music.    

Today there was an art installation by Sarah van Sonsbeek, Check out the link to see more information about the show.    https://oudekerk.nl/en/programma/sarah-van-sonsbeeck/ The painted pillars lead your eyes up to the ceiling which is made of wood and was built by shipwrights. It looks like the upside down hulls boats. 
I loved this winding stairway which led high up to a little tiny door right near the ceiling.  Wish I knew where it led to.. Although most of the floor was cover with the gold blankets we were able to see some of the old tomb covers in the floor. Note the dates, 1590 and 1596.  I wondered about the family crest of a bird leg and wing. It seemed rather strange.

After a brief visit to a Buddhist shrine in China town we visited De Waag.  This building is only open today for a Open Monument Day which is held once a year.  It turns out that this building held the Anatomical theatre where  Rembrandt painted his famous ‘The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp’ in 1632.  

We were in the Anatomy Theater that was built just above where Rembrandt worked! That was quite amazing.

There were a lot of stairs to climb to get up to the theater…which was in the old watch Tower which used to be a gate in part of the wall that protected Amsterdam.There was a flea market outside so the bottom of the building is hidden. We were in the centre tower where the little yellow windows are. Rembrandt painted in the room below.We had a bite to eat and wandered about waiting for it to get dark and we were very surprised to see two huge Hudson Bays Stores, each four stories tall.The houses along here were old and beautiful. The Red Light District, not so beautiful.There are sex shows along both sides of the street.

Where ever there are red lights along the street, as in the right hand side of the above photo, there are very small rooms with doors opening onto the streets.  Inside each rooms is a chair or stool, a bed and a washroom, and a woman selling her body. The women stand or sit in the windows so that the men can inspect them and choose the woman they want to have sex with. You can just see the edge of one of these rooms at the base of the stairs.  The streets were packed with people, the majority of whom were men. We saw several men enter these little rooms, and then the curtains were drawn.  I found it all very sad, and felt for the women who were in this profession.  It is hard to believe that anyone would choose this line of work if they had other choices or opportunities available. The views of the canals gong home were much nicer than the streets of the Red Light District.

Wandering through Amsterdam


Saturday, September 9, 2017

The rain kept us home until after lunch, but when the sun finally peeked out we took a tram towards the museum district.  We had packed a picnic lunch so we sat in the sunshine near the Rijk Museum, people watching as we ate.  Seems like everyone was trying to get their photo taken on the ‘I am Amsterdam’ sign, but we passed right on by. I wasn’t sure I could manage to climb onto one of those letters.We wandered through the Rijk Museum gardens, admiring these great Dubuffet sculptures…before heading towards the Bloemenmarkt, or the Flower Market, which was our next stop. I couldn’t believe how many bulbs were for sale and some of them were absolutely enormous.   Right beside the Flower Market there were several cheese shops, which had samples for tasting. We tried several and they were all delicious so we bought a little pack  of several different cheeses for snacking later.I wasn’t joking when I said there are more bikes than cars. Here’s a view of the sidewalk near an intersection.  This is a normal sight, the sidewalks everywhere have rows and rows of bikes parked on them. Sometimes there is barely room to walk!
This is the view from one of the bridges over a canal. we are surprised at how long some of the houseboats are.  Most of the canals are lined with these houseboats, which are permanently parked and hooked up to water, sewer and electricity. Strangely, we never saw anyone actually on one of these houseboats.  Maybe they were hiding from all the tourists?We spent a couple pleasant hours walking up and down the side streets and canal streets, mostly just window shopping but we did pop into a shop or two, including this antique shop which was huge and packed with all sorts of interesting items.I couldn’t resist a photo into this shop, everything was piled all over. It was quite a jumbled mess.
Do you notice anything strange about this street of houses?

On our way towards the train station we stumbled upon Dam Square, a popular gathering place. There were people sitting, and walking everywhere, there were also cars, trams, horses and buggies, and little rickshaw vehicles being pulled by bikes, In other words, complete chaos! Sure was interesting people watching though.

This is the view looking back towards where we were sitting when I took the first photo from right beside the monument. Oh, and just a few more bikes.  Did I say they are parked everywhere?We decided to take a canal boat ride, so we spent an hour actually on the canals looking at all the buildings from another viewpoint. The tour also took us out into the harbour which was interesting.  It was just getting dark as our boat ride ended.We were both rather tired so we caught our tram home about 9:00 pm.

Van Gogh Museum

Friday September 8,2017

After a lazy morning we finally headed out about 2:30 to try to find the Icelandic Air Office and sort out our cancelled flight.  It was raining off and on all day today so we got rather wet walking from the tram to where the office was located.  We found it but we were informed that Icelandic Air had moved their office to Germany about a month ago!  Of course the phone plan we got for our cell phone does not allow international calls, so we now have to figure out another way to be able to talk to them.  I don’t think that this will be easy to sort out by email.

Next on our agenda was a visit to the Van Gogh Museum. It is open until 10:00pm on Fridays and we niavely thought it wouldn’t be as busy during the evening.  Well, the line up was about 2 1/2 hours long, standing out in the rain, I might add…so we headed to the Rijk Museum Restaurant to see if we could get a nice hot cup of tea and order our tickets online. We did get our tea and the website to order tickets gave us all the information needed but didn’t have any place to actually order and pay for the tickets.  After much effort and trying a different browser I noticed a little order box at the very bottom of the screen that was so dark  we could barely see it. We ordered the tickets only to find out that we needed to download them and guess what, for some reason my phone doesn’t want to download!! and now our battery is getting very low.  We finally figure out a work around way to get the tickets and head over to the museum. Seems it is just that sort of day.
No pictures in the museum but there are a couple of places to take a photo with some oversized reproductions.There are a lot of paintings and drawings, many more than there were when we visited the old museum almost 40 years ago but I liked the old one better. Here is a photo of that building. When we were there so many years ago, I was in a large room surrounded by paintings with only a handful of other people. I had the feeling that if I could only turn around quickly enough I would find Vincent standing there, brush in hand.  It’s hard to explain but his presence was palpable in that room.  I have never forgotten how I felt that day, and I definitely didn’t experience that tonight.  The rooms of this very large modern museum were packed with people, it was noisy and we could barely move.  I looked for Vincent but he was no where to be found.  I guess I should have known that what I had experienced so many years ago was an amazing once in a life time experience. Here are a couple shots I was able to take in the museum just before we left when the crowds had thinned out.  It is huge, five floors all spread out with many flights of stairs. I thought it felt rather sterile. We had a bite to eat in the little restaurant there to break up our visit and finally left just before 10:00.  It is supposed to rain tomorrow morning but we are hoping for nicer afternoon.

Amsterdam

Tuesday September 5, Wednesday September 6 andThursday September 7, 2017

We are excited to be beginning another extended holiday.  We left home on September 5th and arrived in Amsterdam on Wednesday September 6th.I love sunsets viewed from a plane window. This one was somewhere over northern Canada on our way to Reykjavík, Iceland, where we had a short layover before catching another plane for the second leg of our trip.The clouds look so amazing when seen from above.This photo is for my friend Pat who recently tried to ride on a Segway and didn’t care much for the experience.  Well these security officers absolutely flew around the Amsterdam airport, at least they did until one of them fell off his Segway in a rather loud crash!
Just a few of the bikes near one of the train stations where we found a taxi for the last leg of our journey. The taxi driver informed us that there are more bikes in Amsterdam than there are cars!
Thursday morning we heard a commotion outside our apartment and we were interested to see how construction materials are moved into the apartment next door, up and over the balcony.  This is also how people move furniture into their apartments when the stairs are too steep and narrow for anything but small items.
We went out for a walk this afternoon and these meringues in the window were enormous. I really can’t imagine eating one, they are so huge.The first canal we cross on our walk is the only one we saw that did not have houseboats lining both sides.This electric two passenger car is probably the tiniest car I have ever seen.They are so tiny that they are allowed to park on the sidewalk along with the bikes.We decided not to visit the Anne Frank House as we both remember it from our last visit to Amsterdam almost 40 years ago…and the lineups stretched over two blocks long. Take a look at the sign on the door.  Too funny..The main train station in downtown Amsterdam, which is currently under construction is where we arrived on our visit to Amsterdam so many years ago. We wondered if we would remember any of it, but we didn’t.  It is enormous, and includes both wings on either side of the construction area.  I couldn’t get it all into one photo and there is now a mall on the backside of the building with stores and restaurants.We caught a tram home as we were both a bit tired. My fitbit informed me that we had walked over 15,500 steps which is almost seven miles! This is the main street near our apartment.  These apartment buildings stretch block after block as far as we can see.Many of their doorways have decorative tiles on either side of the doors. I thought they were quite beautiful. We returned home to an email from Icelandic Air informing us that our flight home from Reykjavík has been cancelled!  I guess we need to sort that out tomorrow.  Travelling isn’t without its challenges, and it certainly isn’t boring.