Wednesday, March 20, 2013

So in love with Amsterdam...

I wrote this about 6:00pm my time...
I’m sitting in an Indonesian restaurant in the neighborhood where I’m staying.  I’m waiting for a take-out order and they just brought me some of those puffed, foam-like, crispy things (I don't know what they're called...Thai Taste back home calls them rainbow chips) and a little bowl of peanut dipping sauce to munch on while I wait.  The sauce is to die for.  It’s warm and creamy, but has a little kick to it.  This bodes well for my dinner.  I’ve read, and had confirmed by locals, that Indonesian food is the "unofficial" traditional food of Amsterdam.  It must be true...there are Indonesian restaurants everywhere.  A guy I met on the tram said I should try the "table of rice."  It's a bunch of different little dishes, all served with rice.  I got a take-away version of that for dinner.   

This was written around 5 hours later...
Dinner was fabulous!  I got a beef dish that was a little spicy, a chicken dish, a mixed vegetable dish with a curry sauce, a dish that had a boiled egg sliced in half and covered in some sort of slightly spicy sauce, a satay with the previously mentioned peanut sauce, more of the crunchy puffed things, and a big serving of rice (fried with leeks in it).  Every bite was delicious.  I made a picture of it to share. 

Pictures - I have taken 72 pictures today.  Up to this point, ten days into my trip, I had taken 149 shots in the first 9 days.  That tells you something about the beauty of this city and the endless number of interesting things to see. I uploaded them to the tablet and started making a list of the ones I wanted to load onto the blog so you guys could see all the enchanting ways of Amsterdam, too.  I narrowed it down to 30.  There's no way I can load 30.  It takes about 5 minutes to upload 2 photos at the connection speed I'm getting.  Not the best wifi, but it's free so few complaints. 
Today I have been all over Amsterdam.  For the first time on my trip, today I took my tourist map of the area and penned-in my wanderings.  And boy, have I ever wandered.  Just before writing this blog, I took some thread from the little sewing kit provided in my hotel room and used it to measure out the distance I had walked from my map.  It was over 5 miles.  I left the hotel at 11am this morning (more on why so late later) with the intention of heading to Hermitage Amsterdam.  I knew the Van Gogh museum was closed and that his major works had been sent to the Hermitage for display there.  I assumed it was, you know, THE Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia.  What I didn't know was there is a little Hermitage here and that's where the Van Gogh's have been put.    

But in all my walking, I never made it to the museum.  There are just too many beautiful sights in this city.  I mapped out where I was going, but before long I would be wandering off down a side street or around a square because something caught my eye.  I spent 7 hours doing that before I finally got back to my hotel with my Indonesian food.  Tomorrow I will try again for the Hermitage.  I went back out for a couple of hours tonight and rode the tram to the an area near the red light district and then walked into it from there.  It was a short trip. 

I really, really love this city.  It's beauty is in its diversity.  The compelling architecture, the wide variety of shops and restaurants, the kindness of the people, the beauty of the's my favorite place so far.  I love it here.  But I'm torn on the red light district and legal prostitution.  Amsterdam has decided to take a tolerant policy, so in the red light district, girls are on display in full length glass windows.  It's only allowed in that one area, but there are hundreds of them in the 4 block by 2 1/2 block radius in which they're allowed to ply their trade. 

On the one hand, it makes me sad.  They're all beautiful, young girls...I would say mostly in their mid-twenties and astoundingly, let's say, fit.  It seems so degrading that they are for sale, displayed like half-dressed department store dummies in a display window.  Did I say half-dressed?  Let me rephrase that...they are about 90% nude.  On the other hand, all of them are licensed to carry out their "business," they are unionized, they get regular health screenings, and they pay taxes.  There are no pimps here (the women work for themselves, although they may have a landlord who rents them the space) nor is there any underage prostitutes or human trafficking for the sex trade here.  Only citizens can get licensed and because it's so readily available legally, there is no secondary market for sex traffickers. 

Soft drugs are also legal.  Coffee houses sell more than just coffee.  Well, some of them, anyway.  Some just sell coffee.  I'll upload pics of each, outlining the difference.

Which brings us back to pictures.  I tried posting, but it takes a crazy amount of time and then it wouldn't save or post.  I have to get to bed.  I promise to try posting pics again tomorrow.

And now a final word about last night's travels and why I got a late start this morning...

I didn't get to my hotel until around midnight last night.  My fight out of Stockholm was delayed...3 times.  First because the plane coming in needed to wait for a runway to be plowed so it could land (then it had to be emptied of arriving passengers and cleaned before we could board).  Second, because the wings had to be de-iced.  And the third time was so a runway could be cleared for our takeoff.  Thankfully, the actual flight was uneventful...but it did have me running an hour late. 

I arrived in Amsterdam to find that the hotel shuttle I had planned to take had stopped running for the night.  So, I took a train to the central station and then a tram to the "museumplein" stop I thought was closest to my hotel since it's in the museum quarter.   That wasn't the right stop and I spent about 45 minutes walking around trying to find the place I was supposed to lay my travel-weary, sore body down.  Needless to say, I slept in this morning. 

And, I will do so again tomorrow morning.  But I'm 5 hours ahead of most of you, so I may have some pics up by morning for you.  Be prepared to fall in love with Amsterdam...just as I have.

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