Tuesday 18 October 2011

WT - Amsterdam

The first thing's that we noticed on landing in Amsterdam were the  bicycles, hundreds... no, thousands of them, literally lining many of the streets. Holland being flat for the most part, makes for great bicycling on contraptions of almost every description (The Australian Transport department would freak out if they saw some of these contraptions for taking the whole family on one bike). The complete lack of "Lycra", and helmets was so refreshing as was the lack of overpriced ultra modern bicycles. The great majority of bicycles were of the style ridden by my mother and father and us when we were going to school. It was no great surprise that the cycling population would be very fit, what was surprising was that the great majority of people were slim and very attractive.

I love the way they take responsibility for their own actions and so enjoy many of the freedoms that have been removed from Australian society.  For example; There are no speed camera's, the authorities educate the general populace to be considerate, safety is still common sense and not over legislated - you can drink alcohol in public and many do (Responsibly). Alcohol related issues are almost non existent and invariably involve foreigners (mainly Brits). The lanes and roads are very narrow, bicycles have clear cycle-ways. Where cycle-ways are scarce they (Bicycles) rule the roads. What really stands out is how considerate and patient everyone is and they have a population of 7 million, Incredible!

Of course Amsterdam is very famous for it's "Red Light District" and it's "Cannabis Coffee Shops" and whilst Ronnie and I are practising Christians we are not one eyed prudes (No offence to the prudes or one eyed Christians intended but you should have stopped reading at "Red Light District".) Since we had no desire to participate and or embarrass others who did wish to participate under cover of darkness, we visited the area during daylight hour's. I can confirm that the oldest trade in the world is a little brighter in Amsterdam but the district is considerably smaller than most of those I have seen in my travels. The big difference is that it is a tourist attraction here as opposed to everywhere else. Interestingly, the ladies of the night on show in their parlour windows (highlighted by the obligatory red fluorescent light) actually surround one of the oldest churches in Amsterdam by no more than a few metres and in fact as close as 3 metres in some places.

Ronnie wanted to enter the Church but there was a funeral in progress but it is a big church, so I suggested she look for another entrance on the canal side whilst I looked on the brothel side and we decided on a point to meet should we get lost or not meet up for whatever reason. Ronnie later advised that she was convinced that we had agreed to meet elsewhere and that we were going around the block in different directions... if it were not Bonnie Ronnie, I'd have my doubts about this one. Well it only took 10 minutes (and that included waiting for the funeral procession to move a little distance to allow access to the street) to circumnavigate the Church.... but no Ronnie, she may have had to duck off to the ladies I thought and so waited at the designated spot..... almost beside myself with worry 40 minutes latter as I was leaving the spot to hunt for her, around the corner came that unmistakable waddle.... Bonnie Ronnie without a care in the world claiming to be looking for me because clearly, I'm lost!... What can I say, alls well that ends well.

Later that evening I was trying to finalise our transport from Amsterdam to Paris from our Hotel room via the internet but ran into the same problem I had experienced in London. I told Ronnie that I was going to resolve the issue and would do whatever by starting downstairs at reception. The desk directed me to the central railway station so I walked round to the rail link on the other side of the block, asked directions and jumped on a tram and went to central station, collected a queue ticket and waited my turn for assistance. In the meantime I called Ronnie's mobile to let her know where I was and left a message on her message bank.

60 minutes later I walked into our Hotel room with Hi-Speed Rail tickets in hand to find a very worried Ronnie, her phone was not working and she had no idea where I got to after leaving the lobby. I had to remind her that I had offered to take her to dinner while trying to resolve Hi-Speed Rail booking and that she had declined because she wanted me focused on fixing the booking. I thought I did pretty well 80 minutes from go to woe in a foreign city after 20:00 making a booking at the ticket office and getting back to the hotel and all on public transport. Still in trouble with a Hungry Ronnie, sometimes a man just can't win:), I suppose I should have popped upstairs and told her I was going to the Central Station though.

During our stay we managed to get onto a 24 hour "Hop on Hop off" river cruise and had a wonderful time touring the city and learning a little of it's history and culture, loved visiting the museum's which gave Ronnie a chance to rest her feet as they are giving her a little trouble if she stays on them for too long.

What a different culture, the general populace is empowered through education, no graffiti to speak of, very clean, not obsessed with food, enjoy working, take responsibility for their own safety, fit, friendly and happy...WOW! I could definitely live here.


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