TLDR: After visiting some friends (all of you are amazing), we are traveling again! We flew business class to Frankfurt, Germany, stayed for a day, and then hopped on a train to Amsterdam, the Netherlands, for a two-week visit. It was primarily chilly and overcast with occasional rain. In Amsterdam, we biked through the city and visited museums, the Albert Cuyp market, the NDSM (graffiti area), Zaanse Schans (windmills galore), and the Kasteel Keukenhof gardens. Jyn went to the “catboat”, we ate cheese in the town of Gouda (yes, the cheese originated there), paid a visit to the Anne Frank house, and found multiple yarn stores. Jyn had numerous near accidents while riding a bicycle. What we liked: lots of people could speak 4+ languages, the people are friendly, the cars are small, and our hotel included free laundry and bicycles. What we didn’t like: unfortunately, many people in Germany and The Netherlands smoke cigarettes (maybe even worse than China!) No place is perfect, but we throughly enjoyed Amsterdam.
And so it begins… Again.
After visiting some of our friends in Los Angeles and Denver, arguing with the turds at Singapore Airlines call centers, we prepped and packed to resume a new version of the trip that we started in December 2019. Since Jyn was fed up with having limited amounts of clothing, she opted to switch to a suitcase that holds more than her 65 liter travel pack ever could.
We headed to the airport to resume the traveling fiasco. After a few bits of additional paperwork and minor mishaps, we managed to get on our business class flight to Germany. Business class is still amazing, but due to the timing of the flight, neither of us could sleep. We landed in Frankfurt around 945am, uber jet lagged, but decided to power through the day.
Since we only had about ~26 hours, we walked a small loop around the city to see the Grand Tower, Römerberg, Café im Liebieghaus, MOMA (closed for renovations), St. Paul’s church, tiny cars parked every which way. We ate schnitzel, searched out yarn shops, and enjoyed the old town buildings situated next to mammoth modern glass skyscrapers. Römerberg was particularly charming. It was much colder than we expected and needed to put on additional layers shortly after arriving.
After a 7-hour bus ride from Frankfurt on the autobahn, we arrived in Amsterdam. Amster-dam it’s cold and rainy in the summer! With a name like Amster-dam, you would think that it holds back lots of water 😉 We stayed in Amsterdam for two weeks.
We loved getting around on bicycles. Amsterdam has an enormous amount of infrastructure for bicycle commuting, and it is fantastic. The sidewalk has designated areas for cycling, complete with separate traffic lights. Cars are very aware of people on bicycles because if an accident occurs, the cyclist is considered to be “in the right” even if they broke a road rule that caused the accident. Luckily, our hotel included free bicycle rental. For the first few days, Jyn narrowly escaped death because the bicycle brake is engaged by peddling backwards, not by a hand lever that she is accustomed to using. Her natural instinct is to squeeze a hand lever and put her foot down. Well, if you do that with these bikes, you will need to brace for impact. She would tell you that the risk was worth it because of the beauty of the city center.
Fun fact: All buildings called the ground floor “0,” and floors below 0 were labeled with appropriate negative numbers. We appreciated the clarity.
In Frankfurt, we saw tiny cars, but in Amsterdam, we saw even tinier cars. The vehicles were so small that they were allowed in the bicycle lanes. They seemed to be powered by an equivalent of a lawnmower engine and have wheels the diameter of dinner plates. Mildy comical. Jyn’s favorite was an electric tricycle-mobile.
The city center is packed with character and has a cafe culture. After a few cafe visits, we noticed that many of the wifi passwords were fairly simple so Jyn made up a game where we try to guess the passwords. Impossible right? We got the first one we tried within a minute!
We stopped at many picturesque locations (most of the city), walked the streets, admired the canals, and buildings that lean, and the flower-decorated house boats,. It’s impressive that those crooked buildings are still standing and inhabited. One boat was filled with shelter cats waiting to be adopted!
We went to Stephen & Penelope’s yarn shop, bought some yarn, and knitted at a nearby cafe. A couple days later, we went to Hooks and Yarn in the Jordaan neighborhood. The Hooks and Yarn shop was well priced, carried a solid selection of yarn, and is owned by a very nice woman. She told us that we were the first American tourists that she has seen in a year and a half. We heard a similar story from a cheese vendor at the Albert Cuyp Market. NOTE: cafe and coffee shop are VERY different here. A coffee shop is a weed store. A cafe is a coffee shop but can sometimes be a bar instead.
Being in Holland, of course, we had to see the windmills. A report that I did in first grade was about Holland and basically only mentioned windmills and wooden clogs. Until recently, that was most of my knowledge about the country. We spent half a day walking through Zaanse Schans, located about 15 minutes north of Amsterdam. The windmills are cool machines, but we were most surprised by an intense aroma of chocolate after exiting the train station. That thick delicious scent was worth the trip all by itself!
One of the other famous attractions in the Netherlands is the tulip festival where hundreds of acres of multicolored rows of tulips blanket the grounds near Kuekenhof Gardens. The gardens themselves are open to visitors only in the spring, but they’ve been closed for 2 straight years now. Covid wilted our original plan to see them in April 2020 and again dashed our hopes of seeing them in April 2021, so we went to the area to see the summer dahlias in the gardens of Kasteel Keueknhof instead. I rode the hotel’s bicycle 18 miles to the gardens and Jyn took the train (with her bike). The dahlias were spectacular. We have waaaay too many flower pictures.
After the flowers, we biked another eight miles to the sand dunes next to the beach. It was a pleasant ride through forests where the signs warned us of “wildrooster”. Much to our dismay, wildroosters were not wild roosters at all but actually metal cattle grates on the road.
Almost all of the food and coffee has been fantastic. Many cafes here use Illy coffee. My favorite food may have been the stamppot. Jyn loved the overnight chai oats and stewed beef (two different meals eaten at separate times). The cheeses are excellent as well. Did I mention the stroopwafel yet? The stroopwafels are soft but crispy thin cookies pressed together with a caramel-like syrup center. Highly recommended! Another fun discovery is that the yogurt and salami are about 1/3 of the cost versus in the US.
We went to Gouda and ate Gouda cheese! (pronounced “How-duh” with a phlemy “H”). The town is great as well. About 45 minutes south of Amsterdam.
Most of the world is familiar with the Anne Frank story. The actual house has been preserved and is in Amsterdam. We walked through the secret bookcase passageway into each room of the house where the Frank family spent nearly 2 years in hiding. We were able to see height marks on the walls tracking the growth of the younger ones and even Anne Frank’s actual diary. History comes to life when you are in the place where it happened. The story becomes part of your life instead of something that you just read about in school. Wild.
Our trip is still going well. The next post should be about Austria, Croatia, and the beginning of Greece. Wish us luck! Auf wiedersehen!