Category Archives: Netherlands

Clogs and Cannabis

The stereotypes of the Netherlands are not entirely accurate however that is not to say that we didn’t spot many of the stereotypical symbols of the Netherlands. While driving through the country side we saw our fair share of windmills. Some of which resembled the typical Holland image while other were the slender moderns ones that we have seen in Canada.

An traditional windmill seen in the country.

An traditional windmill seen in the country.

The cheese was overwhelming. Visiting any regular grocery store it is clear how the Dutch attained their reputation for quality and variety of cheese. The display featuring rows and wheels of cheese of all kinds is found in most grocery stores, usually with an employee assigned exclusively to this section, and puts North American cheese sections to shame. The stereotype of the grandeur of Dutch cheese proved to be true. Clogs, however, were unseen during our time in the Netherlands. Part of this may be due to the nature of stereotypes but a small reason may also have been the weather. While we were in Amsterdam the climate was often cold and wet. This weather did not promote the growth of tulips, another image of the Netherlands.

A modern windmill.

A modern windmill.

 Amsterdam as a city also has a world recognized reputation. Part of this is the country’s tolerant policies that thrive in the capital city. Recreational drugs, prostitution, LGBT rights, euthanasia and abortion are all accepted in Amsterdam.

The cannabis display at the museum.

The cannabis display at the museum.

This is evident throughout the city, especially around the world’s most well-known red light district. The area is near to the oldest parts of town and maintains one of the oldest industries. Even during the day, the district is busy. Burger joints, complete with escorts, are opened for lunch in the area.

The street outside the red light district.

The street outside the red light district.

 Other lunch options are available in the nearby, Cannabis coffee shops. We did not dine in either types of establishments. Rather, we enjoyed a few slices of pizza on our way to the Amsterdam Museum. At the museum we learned about the history of the Netherlands and founding of the city of Amsterdam. The exhibits were nicely arranged. We enjoyed some of the interactive parts of the museum, such as trying on the old Dutch armor.

Siobhan listening to commentary at the museum.

Siobhan listening to commentary at the museum.

Seamus trying on the armour.

Seamus trying on the armour.

A statue in the museum.

A statue in the museum.

We left the Amsterdam enlightened. The Netherlands was wonderful to visit and so much more than just clogs and cannabis.

 – Siobhan

The Buildings of Amsterdam

Amsterdam is an old city seeped in history. One of its major historic attractions is an ordinary house standing among others equally as ordinary along the canal. The reason this house draws in visitors from around the world is not because of the building itself, but rather its last inhabitant.

A small statue of Anne Frank.

A small statue of Anne Frank.

The house of Anne Frank, the young author that wrote history’s most famous diary. Inside the house we saw the closed and secret areas where Anne and her family had lived, shut-off from the rest of the world. The text inside the house included a biography of Anne and excerpts from her

Seamus outside the Anne Frank House.

Seamus outside the Anne Frank House.

diary. As we climbed the steep stairs to the hidden attic we read about the progression from a normal, happy family to a broken down group of people living in unnecessary conditions all as a penalty for being Jewish. During this time, Anne, an aspiring journalist, found small comfort in recording thoughts and experiences in her diary. The museum’s information of Anne and her family carried on past the last pages of the journal.  Watching an interview of one Anne’s friends, we learned that Anne and her sister Margot died from typhus in a concentration camp only weeks before the liberation. The house is very much worth visiting. After we left, we boarded a boat on canal and listened to commentary several other noteworthy buildings in Amsterdam. The canals gave us access to pretty much everywhere because of the city’s unique designed in the 17th century. Many of the houses have the same date of creation and have had a few famous individuals pass through them, painter Rembrant’s house for example.

The Floating Sea Palace restaurant.

The Floating Sea Palace restaurant.

Not all the buildings had such a history, however. Amsterdam has also built several contemporary pieces to bedazzle the canals. The floating Sea Palace is an example of this. Borrowing from the Chinese culture, a replica of the Hong Kong celebrity magnet, Jumbo Kingdom, featured in several films, hangs on the canals of Amsterdam. According to the commentary when constructing the copy, the planners failed to accommodate for the difference of salt levels in the water and now there are some issues about the restaurant’s buoyancy. Sinking is an issue for other structures too.

On the canals.

On the canals.

Wanda on the Amsterdam canals.

Wanda on the Amsterdam canals.

The swampy earth that holds up Amsterdam rots the slits which many of the houses rely on. We had noticed that the houses leaned against each other in different angles. This issue and heavy housing regulation leads many to live on the canals in floating houseboats. We passed by neighborhoods of houseboats as we floated down the canal.

The buildings of Amsterdam.

The buildings of Amsterdam.

The people of Amsterdam love their boats but alternative methods of crossing the canals are available. One remarkable way is the Magere Brug, translating to the Skinny Bridge. Its name is derived from its original design which was so narrow two pedestrians found it a challenge to pass each other. Not up for the challenge, we returned near to our hotel via boat.

– Siobhan