Paulien Wijnvoord, who shepherded us to the appropriate bus so that we could get to her son’s finely appointed and spacious condo in the heart of Amsterdam, met us at Schiphol, the Amsterdam airport. Paulien, who has homes in Bonaire and in The Hague, was house-sitting in Amsterdam while her son was away, and we had been invited to join her. We took full advantage, and saw a lot of the vibrant city. We walked a bunch, and immediately were struck by the ascendancy of the bicycle. They were everywhere! Almost all streets had a bicycle lane, often adjacent to the pedestrian sidewalk. After several near misses we learned to look both ways before crossing a bicycle lane, because they had the right of way. Most sidewalks were cluttered with parked bikes. But what was really mind blowing were the huge – nay, giagantic – bike parking spaces near public attractions and more traditional transportation centers, such as train, bus or ferry centers. Some of these were actually multi-story! We have no idea how an owner could relocate his or her bike after returning. The other striking, but actually concomitant, feature was the level of fitness of the average person in Amsterdam. Almost everyone was slim and trim. Quite a contrast to what we see in America.
We also used extensively the enlightened public transportation system that utilizes electronic cards that can be loaded with a sum and then is appropriately deducted by being held next to sensors as one boards and leaves trams and/or buses.
And we took a ride on a canal boat that was piloted by a congenial and informative fellow from New Zealand who at one point asked if anyone wanted to take the controls for a bit. Barb and Bill each had turns that were undoubtedly extended when he learned of their boating experience.
We visited the Anne Frank Museum, where we avoided the long long lines of would-be ticket buyers by having pre-purchases made by Paulien. The experience was as moving as one would expect, even though the attendees were packed in elbow-to-elbow.
We spent a lot of time in the Rijks Museum, where I think we were all especially impressed by the works of Vermeer and Rembrandt and Van Gogh. But the best Van Gogh experience was at the Van Gogh Museum itself, dedicated to the artist and his contemporaries.
We took a (daytime) stroll through the Red Light District, where scantily-clad ladies were indeed to be found in doorways and behind large windows. Many of them were surprisingly good looking.
On the recommendation of the New Zealander, we spent some time in the architecturally spectacular Nemo Science Museum. He gave warning that it was slanted toward youth but we decided to go anyway. We found some interesting displays but eventually fled from the crowded chaos of too many parents and children seeking not only stimulation but also respite from crummy weekend weather. One section of the museum warrants comment. As many readers probably already know, the Dutch are not particularly squeamish about sex. The purpose of the section was to inform teens and pre-teens about social, psychological and physical aspects of sex, and this was done via a large number of frank and detailed illustrated posters. Perhaps the most striking example of the difference between Dutch and American attitudes was the inclusion of a large collection of actual flexible stick figures posed in the (labeled) positions of the Kama Sutra.