Saturday, November 17, 2001

Exploring Amsterdam with a Little More Light

Exploring Amsterdam With a Little More Light

Finally, a Dutch breakfast, what a nice change. It is served at a traditional Dutch restaurant around the corner. Our tickets provided us with coffee, cheese, a freshly baked croissant, a multigrain roll, lettuce, tomato (uncooked), cucumber, jam, and butter. The breads here and in Germany are the best I have ever tasted, so I know that when Ron said they were delicious, he was sincere.

Off we went to get the tram down to the Central train station, where the VVV is located. In Holland, the tourist office is called VVV and I am not certain why. It was very crowded and they don’t have tons of brochures like other tourist offices do. We did purchase an Amsterdam Pass, which will give us admissions free to some things, substantial discounts to many museums, and three days transportation on the buses, trams, and subway. It cost 63.59 gilders each, but we think we should get our monies worth. There are 2.50 gilders to the dollar, so our money does go a bit farther here than it did in the U.K. The coupon book is good for up to a year, so there is no pressure to use it all in three days.

Now being more oriented, I was able to show Ron some of my favorite areas. We booked some tours for outside of Amsterdam and others we will take the train for. One of the tours we booked was a night canal cruise boat ride with wine and cheese. I had done this once with my friend Kim when I was here last time. We had so much wine; we laughed for the entire two hours and did not hear a thing of the commentary. It didn’t matter at the time; she and I both had a great time. As we do the trips, I will give you a run down.

We roamed the streets looking in stores and enjoying the mobs of people. After an hour, we decided to use one of our coupons for our free canal ride. The ride would have been 11.50 gilders each, so we started to recoup our investment already. A commentary is offered in five languages as the cruise boat passes through the waters. Since I have done this so many times in the past, I tried to alert Ron ahead of time of interesting things to see. He found more on his own and pointed them out to me. There really is something new to see no matter how often you have done something.

At the end of the canal ride, it was time to redeem our coupons for five free postcards. They had to be retrieved from a coffee shop in a shopping plaza. The plaza is a converted building, but I am not sure what it was prior. Inside it is really too pretty to be wasted on shoppers who are only looking in store windows and not at the surroundings. From the ground floor to the top, it is three levels. Some of the shops were interesting, like the children’s toy and book store. Ron spotted an ABC book in Dutch. We learned that there is no Y in Dutch, but there is a Jj that replaces it. I will have to go back and get a copy, since ABC books are the primary focus of my children’s book collection, though I do have lots of others. The postcards were artistic renditions of Amsterdam sites, but in an impressionistic sense. We will probably just use them for our album. Naturally, this was an excuse to have coffee and go through our Amsterdam Pass book to make plans on what to see and what we really don’t care about seeing. Apple cakes, strudels, tarts, and other baked goods are very popular in Holland. I don’t know why they have a thing for apples, but they do. Ron was smitten by the apple tart with whipped cream and had to try it out.

Across the large cobble stoned square out the front door of this plaza is one of the Royal Palaces. Holland or The Netherlands has two capitals, one in Amsterdam and the other in The Hague. Queen Beatrix, the reigning monarch resides most of the time in The Hague. The is capitalized when referring to The Hague. This palace is not used very often by the royal family, so it is open to the public most of the time. I have never been in it, so we will have to do a tour. Next to the palace is the Niewe Kirk church, which just means new church. Currently, it has an exhibition of the royal wedding history from Willem I to current and beyond. Beyond, because the Crown Prince and heir to the throne is getting married in February 2002. His bride to be is from Argentina and I think the hype is to get the populace to get to know her and to accept her as their next Queen.

Now for a bit of Dutch history for satisfying your curiosity before it starts to act up. If you remember from the London journals, England stole away William and Mary from Holland in order to continue the Church of England in the British Empire or they would have been stuck with a Catholic King, which was not going to happen. The Royalty in Holland was the House of Orange. We will start with King Willem I who was married to Queen Wihelmina. After forty-six years of marriage, she died and the old goat re-married one of her Ladies-in-Waiting. That solves one mystery as to what those ladies are waiting for. There was a public uproar over this marriage, because the Lady was Catholic. The King abdicated as a result making way for his son, Willem II.

Willem II was married to Queen Anna.

Willem III was married to Queen Sophie. She was a Prussian princess. This was an unhappy marriage, but Sophie died in the palace to escape the marriage. Per her instructions, she wanted to be buried in her wedding dress to signify that her life ended with her marriage. Royals have it so hard, not being able to marry for love, but instead for diplomatic reasons. At least that is the way it was. Willem III still having some oats to sow married Emma of Nassau. When she became Queen Emma, the House of Orange became the House of Orange-Nassau. Now here is the question that no one in the museum could answer. Willem III had two sons by Sophie and the refused to attend his wedding to Emma out of protest. So why did not either one of them succeed their father as King? Who did? Keep reading!

Wilhemina, the daughter of Willem III and Emma, succeeded her father to the throne and became Queen. She married Prince Hendrik.

Juliana, the daughter of Wilhemina and Hendrik, became the next Queen and married Prince Bernard. From what I understand from the questions that I was able to get answered, Juliana abdicated in favor of her daughter and is still alive, but ‘mentally ill’. I think that she may have Alzheimer’s. When I asked why she would abdicate, the response was simply to give room to her daughter.

Now Juliana’s daughter, Beatrix, is the first royal not to marry a royal. Let’s face it the pool is getting pretty thin, so she fell in love with Claus, now Prince Claus, who was a member of the German Diplomatic Corps.

Juliana and Claus have three sons and the oldest is Willem Alexander who will be marrying Maxima Zorreguieta in February 2002. When he becomes King, he will be the first one for four generations.

Much of the wedding regalia was on display including most of the wedding dresses, the grooms outfits, some of the gifts from the people, the invitations, marriage certificates, etc. Sophie’s dress was copied for the occasion since it went to her grave with her in it. It was really quite fascinating since the Dutch really love their Royal family and it was beautifully displayed. The church where the exhibit is will be converted back into a church for the wedding of Willem and Maxima. By Dutch law, a couple must first be married in a civil ceremony for it to be legal. If they choose, they can then get married again in a religious ceremony. This is what all of the royals have done. By tradition, all of the brides wore orange blossom in their veil to signify the House of Orange.

At the very end of the display, there were twelve wedding cakes that were created by each of the twelve provinces of The Netherlands. They were competing against each other for a first prize, which I hope is not to make the cake for the wedding. One from the southern province was green lily pads with frogs on them. Some were even funnier looking. There was only one that looked like a traditional wedding cake. As we entered the exhibit we were each given a token and we were to vote for our favorite. We were instructed that this was very important in choosing the winner. Another words, don’t keep the chip as a souvenir.

Later that evening, we went out after eight for dinner and to walk around at night to see the Christmas lights. Ron had decided that he wanted a bowl of soup for dinner. By eight at night or later a lot of the regular budget travel restaurants are closed, plus in the area that we were looking has only a small percentage anyway. After going to a couple of places, no one had soup. We finally found the Garlic Queen Restaurant, which did have soup. The price did not look too bad, so we decided to go in. We each had left our wallets in the room safe, since we were going to go to a bar afterward and the pickpockets here are slick. The restaurant was lovely, and decorated in tons of bulbs of garlic and garlic themed murals on the walls. There was only one waiter and it took us forever to get waited on. This turned out to be fortunate since once we had the menu, we realized that the prices we were looking at outside were in Euros, not Gilders. In Gilders, the prices were a lot higher and I had only brought a limited amount with me.

The waiter gave us an indignant glance when we said we did not want any drinks then we received a snicker when we said we only wanted soup. We were feeling like too paupers who could not afford more amongst the rich who were able to order course after course, service without end. In fact many of the Dutch are late eaters. Some were working on their starters when we entered at 9:30 and were just ordering their main course when we were leaving at 10:15. The only reason we know this is because we could not get our waiter again due to his being busy serving the forty other real diners. When we left, it seemed like everyone was looking at us as if to say, “How could you possibly finish your meal so quickly.”

I had wanted to show Ron one of my favorite bars in Amsterdam. It was a place where I had spent many, many wonderful evenings interacting with the Dutch. It seems that I have always been able to go back to it like a homing pigeon each time I am in the city, but of course being with Mr. Map, I got turned around and lost. It did not take long to right myself and we walked down the street of this wonderful establishment. And we walked some more and we walked some more. The street was the correct street, but the bar was no longer there. Just to make sure, we walked the street again since it is not a large street, but it was not to be found. With all of the fond memories of this place, I was sad that it no longer existed. You leave a city for nine years and all of the changes you have to face up to when you return. We found an alternative on the same street, but it was not the same.

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