Amsterdam was the only place I have been to that makes an attempt to disguise any building works that are in progress (and there is a LOT of renovation going on!")
This was one example of a creative way of making a messy building site look pleasing to onlookers – and more to the point, the suffering neighbours!
Other examples I saw were huge advertising pictures spanning the whole front of a building top to bottom, one was of a beautiful beach scene (promoting Turkey!), a bright pink mesh cover, and even a cheerful bright yellow covered front of a building!
This is one of my favourite things about The Netherlands! Hagelslaag is chocolate sprinkles ( a bit like vermicelli) that you can eat for breakfast on bread. It comes in different flavours of chocolate, my favourite is plain. It's also great on toast, as it melts slightly. It's available on the breakfast section of major supermarkets like Albert Heijn, for around 1 euro 70 a box. I imagine that it is really intended for children, but 'big kids' shouldn't miss out either!
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.
Thank God there are Amsterdammerkes (little Amsterdammers). Those little brown iron poles are a blessing for every pedestrian.
Amsterdammerkes are installed to keep a safe distance between motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. As long as you stay between the Amsterdammertjes and the houses, you are safe from being run over.
Every Amsterdammerke has the symbol of Amsterdam XXX marked on its pole.
Little by little these poles are disappearing. Where sidewalks are being elevated to mark the border between the road and sidewalk, the Amsterdammerkes are disappearing.
You can find them in pancake places or in shoping mall cafes or in certain eetcafes.
They're not just mini pancakes - they're stylish and absolutely delicious small bites. The best time to have some poffertjes would be early in the afternoon, however they taste great at all times, even with your morning coffee.
When walking around admiring the buildings you may see some unusual wall tablets.
This was how Amsterdam identified their houses before street numbers were introduced, usually they depicted something about the profession, origin or religion of the resident.
In the attached photo taken in the Jordaan district the inhabitant would once have been a writer of sorts.
A wall tablet displaying a mail wago at Singel 74 commemorates the start of the postal system in Amsterdam in 1660. Further down the street there is a tablet with Eve tempting Adam with the apple - this was when that part of the street operated as a fruit market.
Make sure you try a Pannekoeken, which is the Dutch version of a pancake. It's actually more like a French crepe, except that it's served flat on a large plate and sprinkled with either powdered or regular sugar, jam, jelly, syrups, fruits or maybe even a hot ginger sauce. Most places have an enormous selection of toppings so you can have it just the way you like it.
The post boxes in the Netherlands are bright red and hard to miss. Post offices are open Monday through Friday, 9 am to 6 pm. Postage on a postcard is roughly .50 Euros to anywhere, although if you are sending one across the ocean it can take roughly a week to get to its destination. Make sure you mark your envelopes "air mail," "par avion," or "per luchtpost" or it probably won't get there! To send an international letter or postcard, drop it in the overige slot of a mailbox.
This is a classic Indonesian multicourse meal centered around rice, hence the Dutch name "rice table". It has much of the Chinese banquet or family-style meal only everything is brought out at once ( or so I have experienced it in Holland or elsewhere). It is quite HOT, but the rice and some of the condiments temper the heat.There are many fine Indonesian restaurants in Amsterdam and many that are less expensive that serve this meal. Be sure to be hungry and sober before you start a meal like this. Expect to eat and drink a lot.To eat, place a heap of rice in the center of your plate and take a SMALL spoonful of many of the courses on the hot table(not the condiments around the edge). Have a liquid quencher of choice handy. (You may be told what each dish contains by your waiter if he is good and you can understand him/her).Now try each one until you have sampled them all. Remember which are most appealing or interest you. Now go back and take another spoonful of the ones you like and also appropriate condiments to supplement the taste. (Again your waiter may help). If you are not full, pick the one(s) you like the most and fill up on that. You are not required (are not able) to eat it all. If dessert is not included pour peanuts over the remaining banana. Be aware of how much alcohol you consume with your feast. Bon appetit!
The rule of thumb for shopping is 'self serve' & bring your own bag!
Shops & markets that cater to tourists will wrap and bag items. If you go to a regular grocery store, it's do it yourself. No carry out, no baggers, and they are more than happy to sell you a bag if you didn't bring one.
While this usually isn't a major problem, it can be an inconvenience. Like the day I went to the open market in Amsterdam and bought several cheeses. After I paid him, he handed me several chunks of loose cheese. Of course it wasn't going to fit in my purse, and I didn't wish to walk around town carrying a half dozen pieces of cheese... Several minutes later he was able to find someone who had a plastic bag.
It seems not only is friendliness invited, it's rewarded in Amsterdam.
In booking a hotel room one night, we started up a conversation with the receptionist and were told the room was 100 Euro. We looked at the room, and decided it was a go. As we were moving our luggage, we noticed another couple looking to stay there who seemed a bit upset and stressed out. They were fairly rude and demanding. They got the same size room as we did for 150 Euro. My fiancee and I noticed a sign by the receptionist stand that said "Prices of your rooms may vary depending on your Attitude."
Also, as we stayed in Amsterdam for 9 days, we found a few places we enjoyed eating...and ended up eating at them fairly frequently. By the last day, we were paying significantly less than the first day for the same food! It pays to be nice! (And there's no reason not to, everyone is incredibly cordial in Amsterdam)
Amsterdam is a busy city, especial centercity and the Leidseplein, Rembrandtplein and the Red Light District.
At times things can be really noisy, like stag parties coming by or football fans celebrating their victory.
Queensday and New Years Eve are also two special days with more noise than normal.
Nou nou (pronounced like the english word ``now`` is something dutch people think in their mind or say when for ex. there is a big piece of cake and they would like to get it all but they better choose the smallest peace.
``mmh...nou-nou, i get the smallest...``
It is like they force themself to some limitation because it is not proper to ``exceed``. This is for food or for whatever else.
In Amsterdam you can find several Surinamese restaurants as Suriname was Dutch colony in the Carribbean. The Surinamese cuisine is very special and it is characterised by its spices and simplicity. One of the most popular dishes is pom, a casserole of chicken and vegetables covered with a puree of tajer. Another dish is roti, a mixture of vegetables and chicken or meat served with a hearty pancake. You eat this without cutlery by using pancake pieces to scoop up the food.
You can find cheap and great Surinamese restaurants in the Cuypmarkt.
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