“Where coffee shops are not for drinking coffee.......”
Sep 24, 2011
|We lingered a lot longer than planned in the Netherlands, but to good effect. We are both captivated by the place.
The Netherlands has been unique in a number of ways, for example:
• VISA cards are not usually accepted – even if there is a VISA logo on the cash register or on the door of the restaurant.
• If a bank machine “eats” your card, the bank cannot give it back to you. Yes, this happened to us.
• There is way more bikes than people. At least 50% of the bikes are chained to railings with flat tires and / or significant parts missing such as wheels. Oh yes, we have not seen one bike helmet so far.
• Everyone speaks English.
• The dishes are ALWAYS done by the guys at the campsites.
• You have to “Pay to pee”.
• There are no deals – trust me, I’ve tried.
We have been amused by the liberal nature of the people, moved by the heartrending stories from the occupation (especially visiting the Anne Frank House) and been inspired and awed by the Van Gogh museums. We have camped and hiked in sand dunes and in the wonderful National Parks and developed a new street sense for avoiding bicycles from multiple directions.
During our time in Amsterdam, we did visit some of the ubiquitous “Coffee Shops”. As marijuana is legal here, it is sold to anyone over 18 in coffee shops. If you just want the coffee without getting high on the rarefied atmosphere in the coffee shops you need to visit a “cafe” - a subtle, but important distinction. Another unique feature of Amsterdam is the red light district, where the oldest profession in the world is not so much legalized but corralled into a fairly small area close to the station so that it can be “controlled”. It is an enlightening stroll through this area after dark.
We have wrapped up our week in Holland in the Arnhem area which is famous from WWII for “Operation Market Garden”, an attempt to land airborne troops by parachute and gliders behind the German lines and to secure key bridges across the major rivers into Germany. An operation that was well conceived but which ultimately failed saw casualties close to 75% among the British paratroopers. I rented a bicycle and visited the main sites, including the wonderful Airborne Museum at Oosterbeek and as luck would have it exactly 67 years to the day when the fighting was taking place. The Airborne cemetery had fresh flowers and wreaths on the graves as evidence of the continued support of the Dutch people. It was especially moving to cycle along the river path towards the bridge at Arnhem the same route as the British paratroopers took 67 years before. The end to a perfect day of WWII nostalgia was a beer at the Moortgat bar in Arnhem, which boasted 120 beers on tap.
Our last day was spent in the Hoge Veluwe National Park where they have free bikes for use. Liz broke a personal record by cycling 26KMS on her own bike - breaking her previous personal best by 25 ½ KMS. Working towards getting her cycling with the group on a Wednesday night..............................not much chance I think. The park was a real surprise. It extends over 5,000 hectares and offers a great diversity of landscapes from sand hills to moorland and forests to grasslands. The highlight of the morning was seeing a magnificent red deer buck complete with antlers bound across the bicycle trail about 50 ft in front of us. The park also boasts the excellent Kroller-Muller Museum and Sculpture Garden. The heart of the collection of paintings consists of a significant number of Van Gogh’s.
Must go and slip into my Lederhosen - Germany next stop........................
Ian & Liz