We arrived in Amsterdam in the late afternoon on 25 April. No problems finding the accommodation which was located right on a canal in the Pjyp (pronounced pipe) district. Very close by tram to central Amsterdam, with the immediate area having lots of bars, restaurants and cafes.
The apartment was ok. Was clean but could have been cleaner. The worst bit was it was located on the second floor of what they call a typical old "Amsterdamer" built more than 100 years ago with winding stairs the steepest you would ever see... much like a ladder leant against the wall. Getting heavy suitcases up and down was a challenge. Given our early start for ANZAC Day, we did little after we arrived, just bought some food from the local supermarket and went to bed.
The next day we didn't get going until late morning. It was raining. We found the Albert Cuyp Markt, which is a street market that has been running continuously since 1905. It was as much a market for the locals as the tourists as it had a predominance of fresh bread, vegetables and fish. When the steady rain didn't ease we thought a visit to the Rijksmuseum would be the best. This museum had only just fully reopened after 10 years of renovations. Two weeks earlier Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands officially opened it and reportedly 12,000 people went through in the first couple of days. Well, locals and tourists alike were still lining up. The line was at least 300 metres long and this was early afternoon. We thought the best thing was to visit in a couple of days and get there at opening time in the hope the line may not be as long. We decided to visit a photographic Gallery called Foam; apparently recommended by a tourist guide books. Well wasn't that that was the biggest waste of €16.?? It consisted of 4 - 5 rooms of photographs that allowed "art" to get in the way of good photography and subject matter. I am no artist but I know what I like! We spent the last few hours of the first day in and around Dam Square and looking at the old buildings and monuments. Every other coffee shop was a cannabis cafe, The sweet smell of burning buds was everywhere. Jane expressed concern that she may test positive for illicit drugs when she returned home just through passive dope smoking. People were lolling around inside the coffee shops either smoking weed or drinking cannabis tea.
Being in the touristy area of town we thought that we might try and get some souvenirs. That wasn't very successful either as most of the items in the souvenir shops focussed on paraphernalia for smoking cannabis or sex novelties.
Now a little discussion about the local lingo. Unlike France everyone speaks perfect English in the Netherlands, even the Turkish guy in the kebab shop. It would appear you would be 40% there if you substituted a "u" for an "o". Let me demonstrate, pump becomes pomp and a cucumber (as I discovered in the super market) was a komkommer. Now you would be 50% in control of the Dutch language if you also added "en" onto words with the vowel "o". For example stop becomes stoppen. Ahh what a linguist I am!
Day 2 was a reasonably quiet day starting late morning (again). The rain had cleared and we went to a "proper" photographic exhibition. It was the World Press Photograph Awards 2012 held in De Oude Kerk or Old Church. The photographs taken by photo journalists were very good, but a bit confronting, particularly those taken in war torn areas such a Syria. There were also some photos from past awards going back to the 70's. It also allowed us to take a look around the old church. It is no longer used as a place of worship and sits smack bang in the middle of the red light district of Amsterdam. You can't get to the church without passing the "shop" windows where the ladies display what they have for sale. Jane instructed me to look straight ahead and not stare or take photographs. As if I would.... those ladies most likely had male minders lurking somewhere in the shadows. The scene was all a bit sad really.
I had downloaded an iPad App from Trip Advisor that gave ideas for itineraries and places of interest to visit in various cities. While having some lunch in the Amsterdam museum I looked for some places to visit close-by. One suggested idea was a walk around the houses called the Begijnhof. These were meant to be interesting and typical of some of the old Amsterdam. We never actually found the houses in Begijnhof. The Ipad app lead us on 2 km walk in a circle and tried to convince us that the place we were searching for was the Amsterdam museum Cafeteria. A word of warning to those contemplating using the GPS technology in an iPad..... It can be unreliable.
Our final day in Amsterdam started at 8.30am in a line up at the Rijksmuseum. Getting there early was a good idea as by opening time at 9am the line stretched another 50 metres behind us. The museum is certainly impressive and well laid out in different era's eg. Medieval, 1500-1600's etc. the only downside was the crowds. We decided to go after about 1pm. As the museum had just reopened and being a Sunday, a lot of locals as well as tourists were eager to visit the museum.
The day was quite sunny and we decided to take a boat cruise on the canals. We chose a smaller open boat which only held about 10-12 people. The driver come guide was very informative and gave you a better perspective of the canal system. An interesting fact was that around 50 people a year drown in the canals usually due to intoxication. Also every year the local authorities dredge and clean out the canals and retrieve around 80,000 bicycles. Apparently there are more bicycles in Amsterdam then people. My observation was that most bicycles were old and not in the best condition and that many people have a number of bikes chained up in strategic parts of the city so they always have one on hand. I suppose it's not worth having anything really good as they are left out in weather all year round.... not to mention a new bike would more likely get stolen. Given the cost of getting rid of a bicycle past its use by date in a place like Amsterdam, you can see why the canal is a handy place to toss it.
We left Amsterdam on 29 April, a day prior to the abdication of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands. On Tuesday 30th the Queen was handing over to her son Prince Willem of Orange (he will be the first King of Netherlands in 150 years). The whole of the city was preparing for the occasion with everything decorated in Orange. We understood that not only would the city be crowded, but certain public transport would also be affected. We got out just in time!!