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Trip Report Springtime in Holland & Belgium

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We are back early May from a river cruise...Springtime in Holland & Belgium. Were we lucky...sun shining every day till the end. What a feast for the eyes, strolling in Keukenhof Gardens! Surprize...many other blooms besides tulips. More on that.

First days on our own in Amsterdam. Our hotel right on the harbor...Movenpick, next to music center. Not far from busy Central Station. BTW, much impressed by the passenger train system. Love the canals and narrow streets and narrow houses. Watch out for bicycles though! Very dangerous in those bike lanes. This city bustles with people. Getting around by tram is a snap...the two of us had a three day pass.

Some musts of course: Rijksmuseum to view Dutch masters like Vermeer, Rembrandt, Steen. Special Vermeer reunion: "Woman Holding a Balance" and "The Milkmaid" with others side by side. Nearby is the VanGogh Museum and what a treat. I didn't realize how many of his works from different years they had. Also didn't realize how many self-portraits he did. And the special exhibit here was Colors of the Night showing many ways artists feature dusk and night scenes...with the star of the show being "Starry Night" on loan from the Metropolitan in NY. A little ice cream (and rest) along the park.

Then on the tram to Old Palace stop (Raadhuisstraat) and #17 tram crossing three canals over to the Anne Frank house around the corner from the huge Westerkerk. At the Anne Frank house only a half hour wait in line. This is a simple but moving climb up those secret stairs into bare attic rooms. Many are moved...and I was just seeing the diary displayed. Was anyone surprised by Otto Frank's comments on video about how little he really knew his daughter, even though they were close? I remember visiting Auschwitz where Otto was imprisoned, the only family member to survive. A stroll back with stop off at Panorama Cafe on the canal...best calzone ever tasted, with salad and Heiniken.

Several day trips out of Amsterdam...Leiden and Zaanse Schans. Don't know how many Americans realize many in those 1620 Pymouth Rock immigrants tarried for some years in Leiden which was once a busy port, now a lovely little town. They embarked back to England thence to America because their children were getting to be too Dutch! But this was a country of tolerance. Anyway there is a Pilgrim's House here dating back to that era with many unearthed artifacts...coins, pottery, etc. You guessed it...many came from the privy. Several Americans are involved in a research project. Did you realize folks carried their spoons with them (and knives) for dining? You could tell your rank by whether you had a wooden, pewter or silver spoon. Also in this house a small bed...people slept sitting up it seems! Plus an authentic 14th century kitchen hearth.

Zannse Schans is a bit touristy but a delight. In the settlement are preserved various watermills once used and some still used for grinding and mixing...not only flour but also mustard and paint and such. (No peanut butter). What a great cheese shop...we couldn't resist. One negative...while strolling a pathway a dog peed on my pant leg.
But the bathroom attendant had the right cleaning stuff as if he had done it before...was this dog anti-tourist I wonder?

More on Amsterdam and the rest later.
Ozarks Bill walongman@yahoo.com

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