I missed out a few points in the earlier post. Contrary to what a reader mentioned I did not see naked people around but Amsterdam is also famous for sex tourism as prostitution is legal there and opium I was told can be bought in super markets. I did not have the chance to visit a supermarket but did notice opium candies being sold in the pavement shops. So the group decided to check out the red light district and we walked along the canals.
|The entrance to the area|
I realized that the term red light area is literal for in some houses a red light illuminates a glass window behind which stand women in lingerie waiting for clients. What is different is that it can be part of a normal shopping street or just another avenue and people stroll by. There was a club offering live shows and some of the group dropped in, the others including me were exhausted and we stumbled back to our hotel for a well-deserved before another action filled day.
Day 2: The day started off on a very happy note for the group when they noticed that among the continental spread at breakfast in one remote corner was sambar and medhu vadas. The vegetarians in the group were thrilled and ensured that they indulged themselves. There was another group from India in the hotel and so the vadas seemed to be a very good idea. I must add that the range of cereals, cheeses, meats, fruits and teas was extensive and it was quite sad to see most of the group members skipping them. I sampled the cheeses and found that they are an acquired taste, you either like them or you hate them and Amul cheese is a distant memory. The thin cuts of meat were quite good and since meat in Europe is either beef or pork this counter was also avoided. I took the salmon with some reluctance as I am averse to frozen sea food, but it was fresh and melted in the mouth.
So well fed we boarded the bus to the Tulip gardens made famous in many movies and now on Facebook. We reached Keukenhoff crossing many fields of tulips that looked stunning.
From the crowded parking lot it was obvious that this was a very popular attraction and as we entered the gardens we understood the reason – tulips.
Tulips of all colours and shapes carefully tended welcomed us and the time of 90 minutes allotted for this park seemed grossly inadequate but it was to be a repeated feature of this trip. Despite the fact that my aesthetic sense which limits flowers to roses and non roses only I could not help admiring the flowers that lay before me. With one eye on the watch and another on the view finder attempting to take a small part of the park back with me I managed to snap a few pictures before the enormity of the task overwhelmed me and I decided to just soak into the beauty in front of me.
A windmill that was open to visitors was a notable attraction and the view from the top was truly spectacular.
|View from the windmill|
There was a small part of Japan with the cherry trees in full bloom (I did not find the connection) was another beautiful sight.
Then a short visit to the pavilions named after the members of the royal family took up more time, these pavilions appeared to be nurseries where saplings were displayed (I am not sure if they were for sale).
|Inside the pavilion|
There was one beautiful flower installation of the Big Ben & London bridge to commemorate the visit of a member of the British Royal family (I forget who) was the last stop before I left the park comfortably exceeding the allotted ninety minutes.
After apologies to the guide we moved on to the next stop of the day the Madurodam.
The Madurodom is Europe in miniature and is quite popular for visitors can get a bird’s eye view of some of the most famous monuments and buildings of the land in one place. It is a miniature world of bridges, trains, castles, buildings, ships, football fields and much more. I loved the installation at the entrance of the boy and the dyke.
Since we did not have time I could not read the legends below each exhibit and so this place failed to strike a chord. There is not much you can relate to a doll house no matter how beautiful it is. But for those who understand the exhibits it is a great experience for the scaled down models are perfect replicas of the originals. The scale of the display was staggering and again time was not on our side so we just had a good look around with few photo ops.
Lunch was served at the cafeteria where they prepared an European version of Indian rice, curry and vegetables but the highlight of the meal were the chicken satay sticks (not Indian) which disappeared in no time.
The next stop was Madame Tusaauds near Dam Square the famous square of Amsterdam. This is a very popular attraction evident from the long lines waiting to enter but being a group we got inside quickly due to the fact that Kuoni tours are regulars there. The usual display of politicians, world leaders, rock stars, sportspersons and the popular film stars meant that there were many photo ops and consequently bottlenecks formed very quickly.
I posed for a few photos but it is not exceptional. It was a little jarring to see people posing with their arms over the wax statues of Mahatma Gandhi or other leaders, but it is just wax.
The last activity for the day was a cruise down the canal network of Amsterdam. This was relaxing and also informative as the guided trip down the clean canals took us through the beautiful city.
|A maritime institute designed like a ship|
|Replica of the historical ship called Amsterdam|
We saw homes, churches and many other beautiful buildings on the land and on the water there were many houseboats that were inhabited. One of the memories that stayed with me from the cruise is that of Amsterdam’s narrowest house that is only 1.5 metres wide. I really wish I can visit that house which was around 200 years old if I am not mistaken.
|Note the building with white balconies, 1.5 mts|
The cruise made me realize that there was so much more to explore in Amsterdam and we had no time for the same. The cruise started and ended near the Amsterdam Central railway station a magnificent building that was somehow reminiscent of our Chennai Central but far more impressive and one which I really wanted to visit after watching a flashmob on Youtube but it was another miss. Nearby was the cycle stand the largest of its kind in the world which showed that this city has its priorities in the right place.
|The famous cycle stand|
We ended with dinner at another Indian restaurant that had Dosa in its name but served us rotis, dal and rice. Another exhausting day ensured that I gave up plans to do any more sightseeing and we managed to grab a few souvenirs from the souvenir shops on Dam Square.
Incidentally we were in Amsterdam shortly after the abdication of the earlier queen and coronation of the Prince and Princess and it was the anniversary of Van Gogh so the entire city was in a celebratory mood with museums offering several free entries part of a campaign called I Amsterdam. Wish we had another day there.