XXX is not always a bad sign. At Amsterdam it is part of the city coat of arms.
The origin is not clear. It could point at 3 shallow places of the river Amstel, where people could get across walking. Another explanation point to three plagues that hit the city: water, fire and pestilence.
Explore the city and you will see the XXX everywhere.
I guess we all agree on this on; there is nothing more exciting than going travelling - exploring another country, experiencing a different culture, travelling around in new ways, sampling the local cuisine and chatting to the local people for a different perspective on life.
However during our travels we learned that there is one certain thing that you should be aware of and prepared for to make sure that the trip is as easy and enjoyable as possible. We always try to see everything once we're there, but this is not always an act of responsible travelling. We always talk to the locals and we know that they have the information about just the right spots to visit and how to undertake them. It will not only enhance your experiences but also avoid any unnecessary hassles.
For me the travel tips I have written down in this section made the most of mine travel experience and I came home in the same happy, healthy state that I left.
A new way of transportation is the so-called "brommobiel", a covered moped.
It looks like a small cars, but legally is considered a moped, what opens a whole range of possibilities for creative parking and accessibility.
When the vehicle is smaller than 1.10 meters free parking at the walkways is allowed, so don't be surprised to see some pedestrian areas cluttered with these "cars".
When wandering the city you can't help but notice how narrow the houses are. This is due to the fact that as the city became a prosperous port in the 17th and 18th centuries the city council decided to tax new properties according to the width of their frontages. The income from this tax was used to develop the canal network.
Thus the houses were built tall, with minimal frontages. Internal staircases were necessarily steep and narrow (as anyone who has stayed in a cheap central hotel will attest) and so the only way to get furnishing and other goods onto the upper floors was by hoisting them up through the windows. This pic, from a side street just off Spui, illustrates this perfectly.
I didn't have this Dutch staple on my first visit in 2010. But, having seen it served to a friend in Leiden, I decided to try it. It was absolutely delicious and I ended up eating it on two occasions...and I'm very tempted to try making my own version now I'm home.
'Uitsmijter' , it's said, used to be served to cafe (i.e. bar) patrons just before closing time (uitsmijter means 'bouncer'). It's still a popular dish for breakfast or lunch, although it's served at any time of day in cafe/bars.
There are different versions, of course, according to where you are eating. but the basic ingredients are fried eggs, ham or bacon, cheese and bread. My first version was fried eggs on ham on bread, my second ((cooked to order in the really excellent 'Dutch Pantry' in Schiphol airport) involved the eggs being fried, turned over, slices of cheese laid on them, then the ham ..forming a sort of omelette which was placed on the bread.
Both versions were absolutely delicious although I found that the second, with its egg yolks fully-cooked and being much more solid, benefited from the addition of some tomato ketchup.
Uitsmijter may not be particularly healthy but comes very highly recommended as real comfort food, excellent in cold weather, easily available and very reasonably-priced indeed.
Thanks to Swanet, I started to notice these....and to know what they are for.
Amsterdammers mostly live in apartments/flats. So they often have a small mirror near the window, angled so that they can see who is knocking at the door or ringing the bell. It saves going all the way downstairs only to find that the person at the door does not want you.
It also lets them know exactly what is going on in the street without making it too obvious!
MAY 5: BEVRIJDINGSDAG (Liberation Day)
The Netherlands has its own way of commemorating the Second World War and sets aside two days in May to remember and celebrate the country's liberation from five years of occupation. The first day: May 4th, is a day of solemn commemoration (rememberance). After a day of looking back at the past, the nation turns its hopes to the future.
The second day (May 5th) is a day of public rejoicing with the young at the center of attention. On this day, the liberation from the German occupation is celebrated. Usually, there is a flea market and ongoing festivities throughout Amsterdam (but on a much smaller scale compared to Koninginnedag).
I don't think May 4th or 5th is an official holiday in the Netherlands (perhaps fellow VT member Piet can help me out here). In fact, it's business as usual in Amsterdam, and many stores are open for regular business hours (but I do believe they close early on these days).
I was glad to be in Amsterdam on these two days, and got to observe first hand how the Dutch commemorate these events. The photo above was taken just after the ceremonies held in Dam Square (downtown Amsterdam). I am wearing a poppy on my shirt which is the Canadian symbol of wartime remembrance.
MAY 4: HERDENKINGSDAG (Commemoration/Remembrance Day)
I was particularly glad to be in Amsterdam on this day and was very moved to see and observe how the Dutch pay homage and respect to the fallen heros and victims of WW II. It is a very simple, but moving ceremony.
Herdenkingsdag (Commemoration Day) is the Dutch version of "Remembrance Day" (Nov 11th in North America). Since the end of the Second World War, the Dutch have observed May 4th as a day of reflection, a day to honour the victims of war; and I was fortunate enough to be in Amsterdam on this day to observe this poignant little ceremony held in Dam Square.
Herdenkingsdag (always observed on May 4th of every year) is not really an official holiday, but an official ceremony is held in Amsterdam with a memorial service in the historic Nieuwe Kerk, followed by a two-minute silence that is observed all over the country (at 8:00pm traffic comes to a halt, cafes stop their music, etc.). It is at this time the country unites in commemorating the civilians and members of the armed forces who lost their lives in the Second World War. And unlike most countries, Holland does not mark the occasion with large military parades.
People all over the country gather at war memorials in their own communities, and at the stroke of eight the entire country observes a two-minute silence. Then comes the laying of wreaths at the foot of the national war memorial in Dam Square by Queen Beatrix, members of the Dutch Parliament, and people from more than 100 organisations representing the different groups in society who were affected by the war. The ceremony is broadcast live on national television so that millions of people all over the country can take part in the solemnities.
Canadians have a long-standing bond with the Dutch, as it was the Canadian army that liberated the Netherlands, and it was to Canada that Queen Juliana sent her two daughters for safety and exile during the war.
Let’s make no secret of it. We both like a nice cold glass of beer. Being at our travel pace is always a challenge to find a beer we like, which reflects our taste of having a beer. At Alkmaar (and this probably counts for our entire home country) it was rather difficult. We found out that there are a few local beers, only known in the particular area. But anyway nothing really special, which was a bit of a disappointment. Therefore we finally bought the same beer as we drink back home, Grolsch!
Grolsch Brewery (Grolsche Bierbrouwerij) is a Dutch brewery founded in 1615 by Willem Neerfeldt in Groenlo (Grolle). The beer from Groenlo gradually became better known in the surroundings of Groenlo. Through the years the demand for Grolsch beer shifted from a local to national and eventually international level. It is a bit bitter and has a pale colour. You can taste the hop flavour, and has a alcohol content of 5 percent. You should try it!
Packing light usually means doing some laundry on trips longer than a week. The nice folks at our hotel directed us to a self-serve launderette just a few blocks away and a nice trundle with our bag of grubbies across the famous skinny bridge. The attendant there didn't speak much for English but cheerfully sign-languaged us through the routine and we trudged back across the bridge a little over an hour later with clean togs for another week.
This one had GREAT dryers: everything but the heaviest stuff was practically dry in one cycle.
If you're staying at or near the Bridge Hotel, this is the place we used:
1017 HW AMSTERDAM
A list of other laundries, both self-serve and done-for-you, can be found here or ask at your hotel.
Haarlem is just 20km West of Amsterdam. A short 15 minutes train ride will get you there for 8 euros or so.
It has an impressive church with a pipe organ but that`s not why you should go there.
I have only 3 words for you: Sauna Van Egmond.
26 euro per person will let you in and let you stay in for as long as you wish (up until midnight when it closes).
Reservation (by phone) is advised, but we were able to get in without one.
The website is in Dutch, but I`ll give the link anyway :)
Before you dial the number, have in mind that it`s mixed and nude. If you have a problem being naked in front of opposite sex, don`t go. But, please, try to go beyond your comfort zone, after 5 minutes it`ll feel normal and you`ll have a great time. I know we did. For 7 hours! :)
No need to bring anything with you. Shampoo/soap/salt scrubs are free. You can rent a robe, towels, slippers. And you can buy food/beverage in the restaurant there. It`s the only place where you should be dressed - in robe that is.
BUS: 3 or 5, from Haarlem train station. Ticket costs 1.60 euros one way.
TAXI: would be about 10 euros.
Zaanse Schans. An outdoor museum well worth a visit. Here you can see windmills and traditional houses for this area. You can also see a demonstration of how they make wooden shoes.
For more info try this link:
Some of the best known DIY shops in The Netherlands are:
GAMMA - http://www.gamma.com/home.html
Praxis - http://www.praxis.nl/
Formido - http://www.formido.nl/
Hubo - http://www.hubo.nl/
In a big city like Amsterdam there are usually more than 1 of each.
If you give the address I can get you the appropriate locations.
However, if not, you can choose yourself:
Gamma shops: http://www.gamma.com/zoeken.html?naar=Amsterdam (there are 5 shops)
Praxis shops: http://www.praxis.nl/bouwmarkten/locatiezoeker?plaats=amsterdam&selpraxis= (there are 8 shops)
Formido shops: seems there are none in Amsterdam
Words you may need:
wood = hout
wall board = eh... I guess that's wood too?
door = deur
wall paper = behang
paint = verf
tools = gereedschap
window dressing = raamdecoratie
building materials = bouwmaterialen
Lighting = verlichting
Floors = vloer
The Dutch family that I stayed with ordered a bit of everything when we requested Chinese food for dinner. To begin the meal, everyone had a spring roll. In the States, spring rolls are roughly the length of a pen (about 4”) and about an inch in diameter. In Amsterdam, the spring roll is about 7” long and about three inches round. Filled with fresh cabbage and veggies, the roll on its own was quite filling! I was nearly full after eating just that.
The table was covered with containers of food: pork with a sweet sauce, chicken with veggies and noodles, egg dish with chicken and vegetables, sticky rice, and rice with vegetables. All of which was amazing! The food, in comparison to the US, is more fresh and less greasy. Even the spring roll didn’t show any signs of greasy texture on the outside. Each dish was fantastic and was average in pricing. J
When we first arrived in Amsterdam in Rembrantplein (staying in the Schiller hotel for two weeks...another tip on that one to follow..) we found a HEMA food store and besides it was an OKTOGO store where we got our groceries and brought them back to the hotel.
We found everything to be a bit pricey but it was convienient and we just thought maybe it was hiked up a few cents or so...
After we moved out of centraal area and into an urban area we went shopping at the local 'DIRK' supermarket only to find that little salad we bought in Rembrantplein for £3 eUROS was £1 euro here...what a difference in everything!!!! Take my word for it , its worth spending 2 euros 60 cents to go outside the Centraal area to grocery shop...you'll save hundreds over a two week period.
Dirk is a mid range grocery store open usually till 10 pm, the food is good quality and plenty of specials you can even pick up items like BBQ briquttes for the park and such. OKTOGO is a limited express store that imo , is a complete rip off that doesnt get you into a heart of the Dutch cuisine which I find to be one of the best in the world.
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