Do you watch the popular television show The Amazing Race? My husband, daughter and I enjoy watching it together. If you aren't familiar with the show, it's a reality competition in which eleven teams of two contestants, race to reach a finish line, while travelling around the world and facing all sorts of physical and mental challenges.
The contestants receive clues, navigate foreign areas, and interact with locals. They travel on airplanes, boats, taxis, cars and buses on a limited budget. Teams are eliminated at the end of each leg, and the first team to reach the final destination, wins the bragging rights and a grand prize of one million dollars.
My husband and I often talk about what it would be like to be a team on the show. Would we be able to accomplish the challenges? Would we fight a lot? Would we always be close to the last to arrive at the final leg, only to be told by - I'm sorry Rick and Jill, you are the last to arrive, and be sent home?
We booked an adventure bike trip through Tripsite a travel website, a family owned travel company by the van den Hengels, originally from the Netherlands. They offer bike and barge trips throughout the world. Little did I know, that for one week, I would feel like one of the Amazing Race contestants.
We flew to Amsterdam and rode in a Tesla taxi before boarding a comfort plus class boat with an array of multi-speed bicycles, and a few electric bikes on the roof deck to start our seven day Amazing Race adventure.
Boarding the Anna Maria Agnes, we discovered the blue and white, mid-sized river cruiser had 57 guests onboard. The ship offers 34 cabins, each with a bath offering a sink, shower and toilet. In fact, one could sit on the toilet while showering. Our room offered a bunk bed and single bed. There was a small closet, a few shelves and hooks. It was basic, yet clean.
Daily we explored various cities in the Netherlands by boat and bicycle. Onboard were 7 Americans, 5 Italians, 20 Germans and 12 Dutch passengers.
The spacious salon had large panoramic windows in the dining area, lounge and circular bar. After riding all day, many passengers relaxed on the large and partially roofed sun deck to sit and enjoy a beer, glass of wine, cup of coffee or tea.
Every morning we woke up by 7 am for breakfast. The food was pretty basic and filling. Bread, cheese, meat, cereal, yoghurt, hardboiled eggs and canned fruit. We were encouraged to make a sandwich with the above items for lunch. At each place setting was a bottle of water and apple to take along our daily 30+ mile bike ride.
By 8:15 to 8:30 am we were all on bicycles riding along canals, past bucolic farms with dairy cows and multi colored sheep grazing near the bike path. There was a leader who led at a fast pace, if we stopped to take photos, we fell behind and were on our own. Many of the guests were serious bikers who didn't stop to take in the scenery. They pedaled to keep up with the leader and be one of the first back on the boat. They almost smiled when they rode past us to get to the next destination. Some took out the pedal assisted electric bikes and zoomed past us. I always felt we were lagging behind.
How was this similar to The Amazing Race? The cruise visited a variety of towns each day. Each leg ended with a Pit Stop usually around noon to give cyclists a chance to rest and eat lunch in the center of a larger town. Unfortunately, we never had enough time to see all the attractions in the city, because we were told to leave at a designated time, to make sure we cycled back to the boat before it departed for the next city. If cyclers arrived late, instead of being eliminated from the "race," cyclists had to find a train to get to the boat. Luckily, everyone made it back to the boat, before it pulled away from the dock, however the Captain left promptly.
The average length of each "race" was approximately 25 to 33 miles a day. On The Amazing Race, contestants are given route information clues with detours and roadblocks. On the cruise, cyclists received route maps every evening after dinner. They were marked with numbers in circles to follow. Each city or town had at a list of circles to follow. There were physical elements to look out for too, such as a canal, bridge, former fortress, tunnel or windmill indicating a turn to the next destination.
Each day we had at least three tourist stops. My favorites included visiting Haarlem, Gouda and Breukelen. We toured a dairy farm to learn how farmers makes and sell cheese. We also visited the Delft factory to learn how they create the beautiful blue and white china pieces. Visiting the Sint-Janskerk cathedral, we appreciated the unique and famous stained glass windows. I also enjoyed touring the inside of Holland's historical windmills.
As with the television show, there were detours: A choice of two tasks. Cyclists can take the long or shorter route at each daily leg of the "race." We all rode the longer route to take it all the sights.
We also had Intersections where we often had to work with other cyclists to get to a destination.
With rows of bicycles lined on the top deck, coming back after a day of pedaling, we'd ask the staff if we were the last to arrive? Not that we would be sent home, we were guaranteed another night, yet it was fun to imagine what those contestants must feel.
On our last day, we rode from Zaandam to the edge of Amsterdam. A German couple from our boat passed us on the path and didn't acknowledge us. It was easy to identify the passengers from our boat, because the ship's bicycles had a yellow key chain and a bright red side bag that said Boat-Bike Yours.
As we neared the ferry to cross over to our boat, the German couple took a different path. When we arrived stood on the ferry, we looked to see if they arrived arrived before us. They weren't onboard. As the ferry lifted its gate and sailed over to the other side where the Anna Maria Agnes was docked, we spotted the couple just arriving and missing the transfer. Wow! We made it over before they did. As we walked up the metal bike ramp with our bicycles to the roof of the boat, we were told by staff member, Elmer that we weren't the last to board the boat. I felt like a winner.
Taking a Tripsite tour not only provides a great work out (we rode over 160 miles), but a wonderful way to see a country, meet its people, taste the food and bond for 7 days with strangers from all over the world. It also prepared us for an audition for The Amazing Race, because my husband and I realized we work well together to cross the finish line.
On my previous visit, in 2007, I much liked what was then called the Amsterdam Historisch Museum.
I wrote several reviews:
in accordance with what I found most essential for the Dutch history, culture and arts. Actually this is for me the Gouden Eeuw 17th c. period.
On this new visit (May 2013) after the renovation I felt curious to see why the word "historical" had been removed from the name of the museum.
The curator wrote somewhere "Nu zijn de bezoekers soms al uitgeput als ze bij de twintigste eeuw aanbelanden" = "Now visitors are already exhausted when they arrive in the twentieth century".
Before there was a grand tour that took several hours and a short one of the highlights.
The things now have been more divided. There is an "Amsterdam DNA tour" of about 45 minutes with films; a compacted exhibition on the Gouden Eeuw. The displays are more recreational than before and accessible to children.
Trying a complete chronological visit was a bit confusing for me on my recent visit as one has to go in different parts of the building.
It seemed to me that the previous organization of the museum was more historically structured (and more tiring to visit). A larger and younger public is now targeted with more recreational displays.
Photos are allowed in the museum so that I gathered some pics of my favored Dutch paintings.
This building was the Civic Orphanage in another life but the orphanage closed mid 20th century and in 1975 the Amsterdam Historic Museum was moved from the Waag in nearby Newmarket to its present home in the Civic Orphanage complex. .
Here you can trace the history of the city dating back several hundred years and the history of the orphanage is depicted in detail as is the prison complex that stood there hundreds of years ago. this was know as the Rasp House and this is where the prisoners were put to work making sawdust out of timber.
The displays are many and varied and well worth seeing if you like history of this kind. Of special interest is the David and Goliath sculptures in the foyer of the building. Goliath is 5 meters high and is really quite confronting when you first see him.
On my last visit I spend more time in the museum department about the city during WW II because during my visit the Liberation of Amsterdam on 7 and 8th May 1945 was remembered.
The Netherlands were invaded on 10 May 1940 and after a heavy and very destructive bombing of Rotterdam the Dutch forces surrendered on May 14th.
Amsterdam was not bombed, what explains that in this city there are still many old houses when there are only very few left in Rotterdam.
During WW II Amsterdam suffered of two major disasters: the deportation of more than 60.000 Jewish residents and the famine of the 1944-1945 winter called the "Hongerwinter". All this is shown in the museum by documents of that period. I must say I was the only visitor of that part.
The tragic fate of the Jewish community is well known outside Holland because of the Anne Frank diary.
The diary was published in the Netherlands as "Het Achterhuis" (= annex) in 1947, followed by a second run in 1950. If I remember well I read that book in the late 1950s. Anne Frank made me often think of a Jewish friend from Vienna who staid hidden in Belgium and survived (see my tip on Vienna "Survivors" ).
The "Hungerwinter" is less known outside Holland and was very tragic when you see that Belgium and the south of the Netherlands were liberated in September 1944 while Amsterdam was only liberated 8 months later on 8 May1945!
2.300 inhabitants died during that winter 44-45 for lack of food, heating, medicine. People were eating dogs, cats and even tulip bulbs. Electricity fell out.
Strange enough in the museum I found no mention of who liberated Amsterdam after the five years of occupation! I asked an attendant who did not know but came back later to me telling that according to his research on the web it were the Canadians.
Actually according to the commemoration plaque on the Berlagebrug it were British Recce's who were the first to enter Amsterdam:
THE FIRST ALLIED LIBERATORS
WHO ON 7 MAY ALONG THIS BRIDGE
ENTERED AMSTERDAM, BELONGED TO THE
BRITISH 49th W.R. RECONNAISSANCE REGIMENT.
ON 8 MAY FOLLOWED BY THE
I found a photo of them on their Brenguncarriers and a photo of that memorial plaque.
On my previous visit in 2007 I got very much impressed by the esthetical and cultural homogeneity of he "Schuttersgalerij" Civic Guards’ Gallery, a typical example of the Dutch identity as existed in the Gouden Eeuw (17th c. )
Since then the Gallery has been "renovated" and is now a mix of different things. My impression was that of seeing a souk!
In order to show the diversity of the present Amsterdam the floor is covered with a 40 m long carpet with the characteristics of all 179 nationalities present in the city.
From the Dutch press I read that artist Barbara Broekman designed the carpet from the idea that the diversity of cultures in the city is an asset rather than a problem.
I wonder if it was a good idea for the museum curator to get involved in the controversial Dutch politics about what is called "multiculti" but the esthetic consequences of his choice are somewhat traumatic for those who saw the "Schuttersgalerij" as it was before the changes.
The "Schuttersgalerij" Civic Guards’ Gallery of the Amsterdams Historisch Museum, called Amsterdam Museum since 1/01/2011, is a glass-roofed walkway with free access to the public.
Militia guilds were first formed in the Middle Ages by the civic authorities to be called out in emergencies. Members of the civic guard were well-to-do burghers. They had to buy their own equipment and arms. They held firing practice in shooting galleries known as 'doelen' (= targets). Each civic guard was named after its weapon. There were crossbowmen and longbowmen, and harquebusiers. The latter carried firearms, the harquebus or 'klover' in Dutch.
The militias regularly commissioned group portraits, so-called militia paintings.
Today some 125 militia paintings survive. Amsterdam and Haarlem were the major centre of production.
The famous "Night Watch" of Rembrandt is one among many but is unique because it shows a Civic Guard Company moving, marching on, while the others are mainly static.
The members of these civic guards had to pay to be portrayed. It is known that in Haarlem the price was about 60 Florin of that time per person. For the "Night Watch "the price was about 100 Florin per person. In the 17th c. a weaver earned about 200 Florin per year.
Ordinary guardsmen did not appear in a civic guard painting. Having to pay for their own weapons was enough.
15 huge paintings of the Amsterdam Civic Guards are on (free) display in the "Schuttersgalerij" Civic Guards’ Gallery which is a glass-roofed walkway (closes at 17 h). Best known is "De Compagnie van kapitein Joan Huydecoper" (1648) by Govert Flick.
Open: Monday to Friday 10 - 17 h
Saturday and Sunday 10 - 17 h
Price museum: 10 €, The "Schuttersgalerij" Civic Guards’ Gallery is free.
6 - 18 yr 5€
Free with museum card (can be bought here).
The Amsterdam Municipal Archives have 35 kilometers of archives. It's a collection of millions of maps, paintains and drawings.
The library has next to books also a sound and picture/movies archive.
The archives are housed in the Bazel building; the former headoffice of the "Nederlandsche Handel-Maatschappij (NHM)".
Guided tours in Englisg are available, but have to be booked in advance at telephone number +31-20-2511619. The themes are: Power in Mokum, Young and old in Amsterdam, Art and Culture, Money and Trade or Religion.
Tu-Fr: 10AM - 5PM
Sa-Su: Noon - 5PM
“I swear that first and above all things I will maintain the constitution of the United Netherlands, and that I will promote, to the utmost of my power, the independence of the state, and the liberty and prosperity of its inhabitants.”
— The oath taken by William I, first sovereign of the newly united Kingdom of the Netherlands.
The Amsterdam History Museum is located in an old cloister, which since 1578 served as the city orphanage. It was enlarged by Hendrik de Keyser and Jacob van Campen, architects during Holland’s 17th-century Golden Age; it was then rebuilt in the 18th century following the NeoClassical style. In 1976, this beautiful historical monument was converted to the Amsterdam Historical Museum.
It is possible to visit the rooms where the directors of the orphanage met. The rooms is paneled in rich wood and the walls hung with portraits in the Old Masters tradition. These men, wearing their somber dark clothes accented with a white pleated collar, oversaw the running of the institution.
“Those Dutchmen had hardly any imagination or fantasy, but their good taste and their scientific knowledge of composition were enormous.”
— Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890)
The Amsterdam History Museum would not be complete without including an exhibit on the importance of the bicycle in the city. And this exhibit (see photo #1) is interactive! By sitting on the bike and pedaling a video monitor is activated, playing a video of the streets of Amsterdam, giving the rider the feel of riding through the city.
A more contemporary piece of history is the Coffeeshop (see photo #2); when spelled as one word, it can only mean that this storefront is meant for selling marijuana in all its forms, as cigarettes and in baked goods.
Pictured in this grouping are three examples of the city’s coat-of-arms that are on display in the Museum. Photo #3 is a Blood Sash. It was worn by the burgomasters, across their shoulders, during the delivering of the death sentence by the sheriff. The Blood Sash features the triple white crosses, forming the coat-of-arms of the city.
Photo #4 shows ceramic tiles from the chimney-breast from the 1909 Huize Dentz van Schaick, a private house in the city that was demolished in 1959. The city’s coat-of-arms looks quite grand here.
Photo #5 is the clay model created by the sculptor Artus Quellinus for the 1651 triangular pediment to new City Hall. The title of the work is “Gods of the Sea pay Tribute to Amsterdam” which is represented by a maiden holding a shield with the triple white crosses of St. Andrew.
“The famous Dutch cleanliness seems to me quite on the level with its reputation, and asserts itself in the most ingenious and ludicrous ways. A rosy serving-maid, redolent of soap-suds from her white cap to her white sabots, stands squirting water from a queer little engine of polished copper over the majestic front of a genteel mansion whose complexion is not a visible shade less immaculate than her own.”
— Henry James (1843-1916) from his travels of August 1874
Amsterdams Historisch Museum is located in the center of the city. A visit to this museum can help give the visitor an understanding of Amsterdam’s rich history. In addition to its permanent treasures of art and artifacts, the Museum presents interesting temporary shows, about Amsterdam’s recent history, as well as about its people, arts, fashion and crafts.
These Figures of the Court (now on display in the Museum) stood in the Viershaar of Amsterdam’s Old City Hall. The Viershaar was a gallery at the front of City Hall; from here the sheriff would deliver a convict’s sentence. The public would follow the proceedings from behind a rail.
The figures are William IV (1345-1417, see photo #2); Isabella of Portugal (1397-1471/74, see photo #5); Philip the Good (1396-1467, see photo #3) and Jacoba of Bavaria (1401-1436, see photo #4). They are the counts of Holland and their consorts. These figures represented the power of the ruling class in the judicial process.
“And so you wander about, with art and nature playing so assiduously into each other’s hands that your experience of Holland becomes something singularly compact and complete in itself—striking no chords that lead elsewhere, and asking no outside help to unfold itself.”
— Henry James (1843-1916) from his travels of August 1874
The Amsterdam History Museum’s (Amsterdams Historisch Museum) permanent collection presents the history of Amsterdam in chronological order. Spread out on three floors, the collection shows off some remarkable paintings and period interiors. This exhibition carefully includes different aspects of the city’s life, from religious traditions to urban folklore.
The armor (see photo #2) was made about 1580, most likely by Italian craftsman Pompeio della Cesa (1537-1610), based in Milan. This is parade, or show, armor, worn by the Civic Guard. The weapons (see photo #3) also belonged to this guild.
The items in photos #4 & #5 were also Civic Guard pieces, used for ceremonial purposes. One such ceremony was called Shooting the Parrot. It was a competition between Guard members. The birds on the chains are parrots.
The museum changed name on 1/01/2011 and is now called Amsterdam Museum.
This is a quite interesting museum especially now that the Rijksmuseum shows only one fifth of its collections.
The Historic Museum combines history and arts over 3 periods in 24 rooms of the former Civic Orphanage:
Period 1350-1550 at rooms 1-3 showing the story of the small settlement on the river Amstel.
Surprising are the excavated objects found in cesspits such as clay pipe fragments. The AHM has 200.000 archaeological objects of all kinds found in Amsterdam.
Period 1550-1815 is certainly the most interesting with rooms 4-12 who show a large number of art works of this period which includes the Golden Century.
Most interesting are models of shipyards and maritime paintings showing the Dutch maritime power of that age. Famous is the painting of Willem van de Velde the Younger "The Gouden Leeuw on the IJ at Amsterdam", (1686). This was once the former flagship of Admiral Cornelis Tromp.
Interesting is the model (1742) of an eastindiaman from the VOC (Dutch East India Company) being transported on a ship's camel. These were long caissons that encased the ship's hull. When full of air they raised the ship out of the water. The Amsterdam harbour was difficult for deep vessels to enter due to sandbanks.
From this period are also on display a large number of good paintings with landscapes, winter landscapes, town views, church interiors, still life and the famous civic guard paintings on which I will come back.
Period 1815-2000 with rooms 13-24 starts at the end of the French rule under Napoleon. The visitor will find here a beautiful doll-house as well as paintings from the very good Dutch Impressionist School.
It shows the happy times as well as the drama's (the terrible winter of 1944) of the modern Amsterdam.
There is a grand tour and a short one of the highlights.
Open: Monday to Friday 10 - 17 h
Saturday and Sunday 11 - 17 h
Price (2012): 10 €,
6 - 18 yr 5€
Free with museum card (can be bought here).
Photos are allowed.
Up until 2011 The Amsterdam Museum was called'Amsterdams Historisch Museum',it is a museum on the history of Amsterdam.Since 1975 it has been located in the old city orphanage between 'Kalverstraat and Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal'.The Museum exhibits various items from the Middle Ages to the present time.Many of the original furnishings of the city orphanage are on display,as are artifacts relating to the 'Rasp' House,the former house of correction in Amsterdam where the prisoners were forced to rasp wood to make sawdust.As of 2012 the museum manages 70,000 objects kept in various buildings and storage areas.There are plenty of paintings,photographs,models,archeological findings and other objects displayed all across the museum.Several headphones are located with video screens showing the history of the city and these are available in a language of your choice,there is also a museum shop,cafe and courtyard here.
Open everyday 10am till 5pm,Entry is 10 Euros per adult,5 Euros under 18's,Free for under 5's.