On our second day in Amsterdam (Easter Sunday) we had a prearranged two hour Viking walking tour in the morning. This allowed us to stroll the streets while listening to our guide tell us many interesting stories and facts about Amsterdam. We walked along the many canals that the city has and marveled at the thousands of boats that are in the canals. Some of these are house boats where people live and we were told that most of these cost at least a million Euros and yet are less than one thousand square feet in living space. The apartments (condos) where most people live cost around $450,000 Euros for 800 square feet of living space. It is hard to imagine how people can afford to pay for this while living in such a small area. We are certainly spoiled in the United States! While walking along the narrow cobblestone streets you constantly have to be aware of bicycles speeding down the roads and bike paths. It is very easy to get in their way and many of them will just race on by you while just missing you by inches. There are tens of thousands of bikes in Amsterdam while cars are not nearly as prevalent. In the afternoon we took a train and bus to Keukenhof Gardens. We had traveled on this specific cruise to see Holland’s famous tulips in bloom. Mid-April is their peak season. Although you can see some in Amsterdam, this is nothing compared to what you see at these gardens which is about 40 miles outside of the city. Everyone in our group was blown away by the quantity of tulips there along with other similar types of flowers. In addition we were impressed with the many flower colors that could be seen. Equally amazing was the creative way in which they had designed the garden and different areas to present the various flowers that are grown there. It is difficult place to describe and the pictures can’t fully capture how amazing this garden really is. If you ever visit Amsterdam or Holland in late March, April or early May don’t miss this experience!
On our third and final day in Amsterdam, each couple did their own thing. Two couples had Anne Frank tickets and wanted to go to the Van Goh museum. One couple wanted to just take the trams and see different areas of the city. We walked the city like we always do when we visit cruise ports. We visited some new areas we had not seen in our previous visits to Amsterdam and we went back and viewed areas we previously had enjoyed. We like just walking and looking at the things that make each city unique from one another. Looking at the canals, locks and bridges in Amsterdam is always enjoyable and provides some great photo opportunities. The architecture and shape of the roofs on the many buildings is unique in Amsterdam. Looking at the buildings leaning to one side like the leaning Tower of Pisa is also very fascinating. After walking for several hours we took a break and found a pancake house that Sharon had heard about in one of our previous trips here but had never had an opportunity to try. These pancakes were like none that we had ever tried before. They were paper thin and you could fill them with fruit (apples, raisins, pineapples, cherries, etc.), meats (bacon, sausage, ham, etc.) or other things (cheese, nuts, seeds, etc.). If you wanted to use syrup they had a large bowl on the table with a large wooden spoon to scoop it out and pour it on your plate. The pancake was delicious and is certainly one of the Dutch specialties that you really want to try (The Pancake Bakery, near Anne Frank’s home). After taking this break we went off to walk some more until we eventually decided to board our ship. This was the first river cruise ship that we had ever boarded and it was certainly different than our ocean ship experience. There was no outside check in building to enter and go through the boarding process. Our luggage had already been picked up at the hotel and had been taken directly to the cabin. No one even meets you on the ship or prevents you from boarding. All you have to do is find the Customer Service desk, give them your passports and you are fully checked in two minutes later. Our cabin was not too much different from an ocean going ship and there certainly wasn’t any more storage area for our luggage that we had brought but we managed to find a home for everything. After going to the lounge for a brief overview of our cruise we went to the dining room that fits all 190 passengers. After dinner we went back into the city with two other couples in our group that had just flown in that morning (there was a third couple but they decided to get a little sleep). These couples wanted to see the famous Red Light District which is a unique area that attracts a lot of people at night. You can see the prostitutes in their small booths with their picture window (and their red light above it) trying to coax men to join them. You can walk the streets and see the clubs that offer various sex shows, coffee shops or the many bars along the way. There is even a church in the area built in the 1300’s for the prostitutes and sailors to help them be forgiven for their sins. It is just part of unique color of Amsterdam that some people like and other people do not. After our Red Light District tour we looked for a “Coffee Shop” where they sell marijuana but we couldn’t find any open at that time of night nearby. Amsterdam is one of the few cities in Europe that allow people to buy, smoke and sell marijuana. You can smell the very distinctive smell when you walk on almost any street at any time. After that we headed back to the ship where it departed at 11:30pm.
Our trip to Amsterdam was certainly enjoyable and we look forward to telling you more about each port we visit on this cruise with Kinderdijk being our first port that we stop at. After logging more than 80,000 steps in these three days we felts we covered a lot of territory to see as much as we could!
Sharon and Greg