Chilling in the ‘Dam.

Considering that Amsterdam is the place in the last two weeks where I’ve spent the most time, I have relatively little to say about it. Certainly not for lack of enjoyment, I had a delightful time wandering about with two friends who go way, way back with me. One of them is my travelling friend who first started going on intrepid adventures with me 20 years ago.  We look exactly the same in all our photos, happy, drinks in hand, great scenery …. he takes the pictures, not me.  We’re just a little bit more squashy in the face now.

Basically what I  did for three days was eat, drink, sleep in, go for long walks around the different districts of Amsterdam, stop approximately once an hour to sit at an outdoor cafe to enjoy a refreshing drink, feel relieved that I elected not to go to Anne Frank house (queues were enormous, wrapped around the entire building), looked at art and quirky things, talked non-stop, and narrowly escaped death by bicycle.

During the course of our perambulations we wandered through the red light district, largely for my benefit, being a newbie to Amsterdam. I was expecting a seedy, grotty network of tiny alleyways, but instead I got very pleasant squares and canal side emporiums decorated with cool, funky signs. There was a cosy looking church in the middle of all of it, and a chocolate emporium.  Hasar!  The stores were brightly lit and full of intriguing gadgets, providing ample opportunities for tourists to have an educational experience: “Excuse me sir, what does this do? No, not that one, I can see from the picture that is clearly a cock lock, wait, what did you call it? A cock cage. Right sorry, my mistake. But what’s this one, with the half dozen circles and the screws….I am using my imagination as hard as I can, but I am utterly flummoxed.”

Walking into Joordan, was a welcome relief from the crowds, and home to a number of quirky shops. One of those quirky shops had chocolate tasters out, too late I realised the white chocolate was actually banana chocolate, meh.

My pals spotted a shop that sold nothing but an inventive array of rubber ducks. Rubber duck astronauts, rubber duck Big Ben, rubber duck cartoon characters, rubber ducks in army gear, Duck Vader…. and just round the corner, a shop that sold cows, lots and lots of cows, and a discreet selection of owls for the discerning consumer.   Oddly, the cows looked vastly more expensive than the ducks, luxury cows, glamour cows.

We took night time walks and pictures along the Amstel river and admired the prettily illuminated bridges.  Now here’s something I don’t understand, you’ve got all these big old house boats parked in canals that are next to teeny tiny roads, in between bridges that have teeny tiny tunnels… how exactly do the houseboats get there?  If they’re too big to go under the bridges, and they’re too big to fit down the roads, then what gives?  Are they constructed on those sections of canal and never move again?  Did they wait for really hot summers when most of the water had evaporated and they could squeeze through?  If anyone knows I would genuinely appreciate an answer, and not the one about the bridges being able to open  – those aren’t the bridges I’m talking about, I mean the very low, firmly in place, stone ones.

After all of this easy charm, and my bites sexily turning into curious red – sore- blisters I was ready to get on a train and go to Venice.  It was a bit of a shame then that all the most direct routes through Germany and Austria had been closed, due to the German-Austria border being a bit of a sticky wicket in this time of refugee crisis.  Ah well, back through Switzerland we go!


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