Thursday 18 October 2012

Amsterdam: History, Water and Sex

The Rijksmuseum
One of the things the big K and I share is the love of history. Far from being history experts we do appreciate the stories that go behind it. So the first thing we do when we hit a new place is to visit the local museum(s) as it offers us the opportunity to get to know the history of the place. 

First stop, the Museumplein or Museum Square. In this big square you'll find three major museums, the Rijksmuseum (State Museum), the Van Gogh and the Stedelijk museums. You can also find here the Diamond museum, House of Bols and a concert hall, Concertgebouw. The big K and I were only interested in visiting the Rijks and Van Gogh museums. For these two museums, we exchanged our Tulip coupons from the Holland Pass for entrance tickets.   

Renovations on the museum started in 2003 and is expected to be finished in 2013. Only a small 
portion of the museum is open to the public, even then it is still worth a visit. 

Next stop, the obligatory canal cruise. What is a visit to Amsterdam without going on a cruise of the canals for which the city is known for? There are several boat cruise companies to choose from and their docks are scattered all over the city. We chose the Blue Boat Co. since their dock was just a short walk away from the Museum Square. A windmill coupon with the Holland Pass is equivalent to a little more than an hour's ride in one of their boats.

The name Amsterdam, in case you didn't know, comes from "Amstel dam": a dam on the river Amstel. The city was founded in the 12th century as a small fishing village. My, how she's grown.  And she used to be quite a bit bigger, too. Anyone remember the Dutch East India Company?

The Blue Boat Company (so named because the boats are, strangely enough, blue) at Stadhouderskade
Apparently this is the uppity side of town.
A big house with boats parked in front. Can you imagine someone actually lives here?
Along the canals you'll see all kinds of boats. Old, new, big, small.  Some quite nice and obviously
lovingly (and expensively) maintained, others half-submerged. The city has stopped giving new 
mooring permits and owners would hold on to their berths by mooring anything that remotely 
resembles watercraft. This somehow qualifies.  
Nemo at the background. No, not the fish but Amsterdam's Science Museum.

Last stop for the day, De Wallen otherwise known as Amsterdam's red light district. A major tourist attraction near Dam Square it is the city's largest and best known red light district. It is also located in the oldest part of town.

This is the best picture of a near naked girl the big K could get. Taking pictures of live girls inside
their windows is NOT allowed in the red light district, and the locals enforce this very vigorously. 

Many avid picture takers have been chased by prostitutes and their cameras thrown 
in the canals. Imagine tearing through the back alleys of old Amsterdam, middle of winter, 
Nikon protectively cradled, with a 'working girl' in a leopard-skin thong, feather boa and
stillettos hot on your heels, screaming, "no picture! no picture!!" or somesuch. 
It's enough to give anyone pause. 

Oude Kerk (Old Church), the oldest building and parish church in Amsterdam sits right in the middle 
of the red light district. Oh, well. Churches have to go where business is good, right?

Bronze relief on the cobbled stones outside of the Oude Kerk. Not exactly sure what it's supposed 
to symbolize, but we know at least one person decided it's important enough to chain to the sidewalk.

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