Tuesday, January 21, 2014

From Here to There

Amsterdam...Part Twee (Dutch for the word two)

I am committed to wrap up my travelogue today....yes, I am sure you are eager for me to get back to my normal nonsense (with the word normal being used in the most broad spectrum sort of way).  The problem for today is whittling down this last post as I still had a number of things I originally planned to talk about. Things like cell phone usage in Europe, acquiring health care coverage for when you are overseas and buying media minutes for your tablet and/or computer.These things have changed considerably since our last trip abroad. BUT...I sense that it is time to wrap this up.  

 For the sake of expediency, I have opted to talk about lodging and transportation to and around Amsterdam.

Thought Number One:  Getting TO Amsterdam

We went to the  Andernach train station early for our 9:00 AM train anticipating arriving in Amsterdam around 1:00 PM.  What is the old Robert Burns poem about the "best laid plans of mice and men often go awry"? 

Although...just a quick sidebar:  Are we sure that is what he was saying?  That Scottish brogue being more than a tad indecipherable doesn't exactly say that. 

But Mousie, thou art no thy lane, 
In proving foresight may be vain;
The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley
And lea'e usnought but grief and pain
For promised joy!

But, as I was saying, our plan was to leave Adernach and arrive in Amsterdam in time for a late lunch.  But...in a far less poetic rendition..Our plans went to shit.

We arrived at the Andernach Bahn station with time to spare, only to find out that the Regional Express train was running 20 minutes late.  No problem (yet) except for the fact that train stations in Germany aren't heated and that left an extra 20 minutes of freezing out bums off.  

Tick, tock, tick, tock....20 minutes comes and goes.  

After 40 minutes, it became exceedingly clear, that we would  miss out Dusseldorf connection for an ICE train into Amsterdam.  

Last one on is a rotten egg
Sorry...but I have to have another sidebar:  There are several types of trains in Germany. The smaller towns like Andernach have either  Regionalbahn or Regional Express trains to service their commuters.   (there are other types, as well,  but for the sake of this discussion...we were waiting for a Regional Express train.  The Regional Express train was to take us to Dusseldorf to catch an ICE train.  ICE trains are the super-fast trains that have fewer, if any,  stops between the larger cities. They reach speeds up to 320 MPH.  

Dusseldorf station..looking for a heated place to hang out

OK...back to the train.  The Regional Express train finally showed up in Andernach about an hour and 20 minutes late thus getting us into Dusseldorf around 12:30.  Needless to say the ICE train was long gone. We make our way to the Bahn counter to find out that the next ICE train out to Amsterdam is at 5:00 PM which would put us into Amsterdam at around 8:00. 

Despite the set back, we found a cafe  in the station and bought some Wifi for our Ipads and settled in for 4.5 hours. (I had bought European plans for our Iphones but not our IPads.) The 5:00 train was right on time, letting Bahn earn back a portion of my lost respect for them. 

Once we finally made it into Amsterdam it was raining, but thankfully, Hubby had picked a hotel that was less than 5 minutes from the train station.

The Sint Nicolaas...If you ever have occasion to travel to Amsterdam there are a lot of lovely hotels, but you would be hard pressed to find one as charming and as friendly as the Sint Nicolaas.

Looking toward the train station
from our window.

The building was once a harbor office that sat on a point where two canals met.  The canals were filled in at some point in the 19th century, leaving it in the heart of the city center and within walking distance of most of the major tourist destinations.  We booked the top floor room where the original hoisting beams remain.I am sure it is probably one of the smallest rooms in the hotel but it is the only room (out of the 27 rooms) that has a little Juliette balcony. This would be where the freight door would open as cargo was lifted into the harbor office back in the day.

After we got checked in we went out for a late supper at an Argentinian Steakhouse and walked around the city center for awhile

I was surprised to see how nice the Amsterdam Christmas Market was.  I expected that the German Markets would be superior as they are more widely advertised. but while the Amsterdam market is considerably smaller, the booths had things that I hadn't seen elsewhere.  With just 2 weeks before Christmas there were a lot of holiday shoppers out in both the Christmas Market and the Amsterdam shops.

Thought Number Two:  Getting Around Amsterdam

The following morning, we were excited  to wake up and  see sunshine...at least for the time being. It not only rained from time to time but at several points, it snowed.

As for getting around Amsterdam...you can walk just about anywhere but if you need or want other options there are trams, water taxis, (car) taxis and bicycles.

Yes, the bicycles are the normal mode of transportation in Amsterdam.  Depending on the website, the numbers vary but I've read articles claiming everything from 80,000 to 881,000 bikes are in the city. (click here for Amsterdam a City of Bikes )

a portion of the bike parking in front of the train station

 You probably would never need or want  a car (thankfully) as parking is a hassle. Our hotel offered a valet service if a person opted to drive into town,  but I never quite figured out where a person would park, even for that. 

On our first morning, we decided to walk to the Anne Frank House.  It was a lovely walk and was less than 15 minutes to the museum. The lines are usually lined up around the block so it is a good idea to buy your tickets online. 

Yet another sidebar:  As with all things dealing with the atrocities committed and  endured in WWII, visiting the Anne Frank House isn't meant to be cheerful.  It was interesting and informative and heartbreaking.  It had been years since I read her diary, but it was gut wrenching to see the actual diary and walk through the hidden annex. I re-read the book when I got home and found it more meaningful with an advantage of seeing the actual location. 

Upon leaving the museum there was a canal boat station within just a few yards from the museums exit. We had purchased 24 hour passes prior to our arrival so, it was just a matter of boarding one of the boats.

The boat tours are a wonderful way to get around Amsterdam.  You can buy boat passes for various lengths of time.  Within whatever time frame you purchased, you  can get on and off the boats as often as you like to visit museums, or any of the cities districts. The boats will pretty much get you to any part of Amsterdam. BTW...all the different companies follow pretty much the same route.

Because of time and space limitations as far as this blog post goes,  I won't give you a play by play of every museum, church, monument, shop etc. that we toured.  (I hear you collectively sigh the sigh of relief). We managed to see most of the districts with enough time to go back to Dam Square and hit a couple more shops for souvenirs before it was time to retrieve our luggage from the hotel. (We checked our bags at the hotel after checking out earlier in the day.)

On the day of our departure, we were scheduled to catch a 5:00 ICE  train into Cologne.  Once we were back in Cologne we would catch a Regional Express back into Andernach.  Again...Gang Aft Agley.  That Robert Burns really knew what he was talking about.

This is the second part of the video that is a compilation of photos from  my husband's 2 prior visits and my visit into Amsterdam.  The first video that includes the hotel and Anne Frank House pictures was on my last post  Two Sided Guilder.  

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Chubby Chatterbox said...

The Anne Frank House is very sad, but important if we want to prevent atrocities like this from happening again. I was more moved by my visit there than I expected to be.

Cheryl P. said...

Same here. I thought I would have a lesser reaction because of the intensity of visiting Dachau but no...I was tearing up two minutes past the front door. Horrible...

Wendy said...

Ah, a wonderful choice of music for the video clip. It has charming light hearted sound, which certainly accompanies well the feel of the more 'quaint ' historical buildings. Surely people must engrave their names on their bikes? I am unsure how I feel about traveling at the speed of those ICE trains. I know, I know, planes travel faster. But, then, you don't see too much. I would be very aware of traveling that fast on a train, I think. It would take getting use to. With ALL those Christmas markets that you visited, did you need to purchase an extra bag to bring all those souvenirs all home?

lisleman said...

After reading this phrase on one of those silly witty digital picture sayings, I always remember, "Normal is just a setting on the dryer dear".
The canals were not frozen over? I believe that was common once.

Robyn Engel said...

What a different world. Biking is very popular in my hometown (Chico, CA), but we're not nearly as reliant on it as they are in Amsterdam. I'm curious as to what's in that Sexmuseum. But it would likely shock me.

Thanks for the tour, Cheryl. I really enjoyed it.

Cheryl P. said...

That is a funny line...I will no doubt use that in the future.

No, the canals weren't frozen and I don't think the weather there has been very cold this year. The weather was rarely at the freezing mark during any of my trip.

I asked my son if the canals ever froze when he was there and he said once in awhile some of the smaller less used canals would freeze but he never saw the main canals where tour boats run ever freezing.

Cheryl P. said...

I envy you...to live in a city that uses and encourages cycling. Here it is rare. In Amsterdam it is by far and away the most used form of transportation.

I didn't go into the sex museum nor the torture museums as I didn't think I would ever be able to sleep again. There comes a level that is "TMI". I am really a firm believer in "ignorance is bliss".

Glad you enjoyed the tour, Robyn. I always enjoys reading your comments and insights. Thanks!

Iluvbeingagrandpa said...

Loved your post....your husband is one lucky guy to have had you come all that way to keep him company and to enjoy all the fun Amsterdam had to offer. I agree it is well worth another trip.....start saving the penny's......maybe a kiddo or 5 could come along.....

Cheryl P. said...

You are a funny guy. Pennies?? Try Dollars...lots of dollars. But that is OK...my husband is generous. I am thinking the "kiddos" have to get much older to go on a trip like that with Grandma and Grandpa.

lisleman said...

thanks for checking the thin ice. I remember seeing pictures/painting of people skating on the canals. Probably before recreational drugs.

Pickleope said...

There are quite a few things that boggle my mind from this. Going over 300 miles per hour on a train, the sheer number of bicyclists and knowing how demanding of the road bicyclists are, and the thought of seeing Anne Frank's actual diary. It didn't even occur to me that her actual, physical diary still existed.
I understand that the limitations of time and space (this not being the Twilight Zone) prevent you from reporting further, I have enjoyed taking the journey with you. You've created travel goals and dreams.

Cheryl P. said...

I am always am fascinated when we visit places with a history or give me an opportunity to see things that I haven't seen/done before.

The trains are amazing. I would love to have a rail system that could travel between major cities with such speed. I took an Amtrak last year just to an Octoberfest in Herman, Missouri. It's at most a 3 hour drive from my house. I took the train with a group of friends thinking it would be fun. It took 5 and a a half hours because freight trains have right of way on Missouri tracks. Not as much fun as one would of thought.

The bicycle traffic in Amsterdam is interesting. There are bike lanes and bike-only streets but on the shared roads that have both bikes and cars the bikes have a distinct advantage. The laws there hold a driver of a car responsible if there is an accident. Always...if a car and a bike collide the car's driver is at fault.

Yes, the actual diary has always been on display at the museum but they also, have other things she wrote. She had started rewriting a diary in the event the German's confiscated the original. In her second diary she revised it, keeping in mind that others might read it. There are 215 pages to that diary. They rotate the pages as far as how many are displayed at any given time.

Thank you, Pickleope for following along on my travelogue. I appreciate it. I know that anytime we bloggers veer away from our usual style it can cause fallout. I haven't decided (yet) to start a Mommy Blog...but I never say never.

Riot Kitty said...

I imagine that would be really, really hard to see the Anne Frank house knowing what happened to that family and so many others. My family's Jewish roots are in Europe and I always wonder how many relatives we had there who died in the Holocaust.

Regarding Chaucer - I read something that likened patience to a mild form of despair, and that's much more like it!

Cheryl P. said...

It is horribly hard to see how cruel people can be to other people. A few years ago we went ot Germany and walked through Dauchau and it was like taking a punch to the gut. While I think these reminders of pure evil are important to acknowledge and be aware of...I, too think it would be heartbreaking if it was part of one's history. So sad...I was crying after seeing the first couple of pictures inside the door of the museum.

As for Chaucer, how is it that the same guy that came up with "nothing ventured nothing gained" thought up this little jewel.

To burn up everything that burnt can be.
You say that just as worms destroy a tree
A wife destroys her husband and contrives,
As husbands know, the ruin of their lives. ”

oldereyes said...

It's interesting that you should bring up the Anne Frank House, because as we've been planning a river cruise with our friends, I've been putting Germany farther down the list because I know I'd have to see some of the Holocaust sites, yet having been to the Holocaust Museum in DC and the Museum of Tolerance in LA, I know that those are educational but not joyful visits. On the other hand, everything else you've posted (well, except, perhaps, late trains) has made a river cruise with a post-cruise stop in Amsterdam very attractive. I for one have enjoyed your travelog.

meleahrebeccah said...

"things like cell phone usage in Europe, acquiring health care coverage for when you are overseas and buying media minutes for your tablet and/or computer." --- Those would be THE FIRST things I looked into before traveling. Especially the health care situation.

"But...in a far less poetic rendition..Our plans went to shit." --- You never cease to crack me up!

"Once we finally made it into Amsterdam it was raining, but thankfully, Hubby had picked a hotel that was less than 5 minutes from the train station." --- Oh good!

"Yes, the bicycles are the normal mode of transportation in Amsterdam." --- Wow. I had NO IDEA.

And now that I subscribed to your YouTube channel - I will be spending the rest of my afternoon watching all of these incredible movies!

Cheryl P. said...

I understand your concern and reluctance to include Germany, but while there are plenty of historical sites such as the Anne Frank House, for the most part you would have to seek them out. The general public is very hush, hush about that part of their history. While there are laws with criminal penalties and bans to prevent anyone from denying the Holocaust, it is generally ix-nay on the alking-tay as far as that part of their history. Most of the landmarks that are tourist oriented deal with much older conflicts such as the Thirty Year War or the Nine Year War.

Still..there are plenty of options for cruises that wouldn't include Germany.
I enjoyed Amsterdam immensely, I would like to get back over there. I didn't get to all the sites I would of liked. Hubby's family lives in the Friesland area of the Netherlands, and we didn't make it up there.
On our last trip we based in Munich and went to both Switzerland and Austria. Both of those countries were fun to visit as well.

As for the trains...I enjoyed riding them but was disappointed with the scheduling. I don't know if that is the norm or if it was a fluke. The people are very friendly and I had nice visits with other passengers. I sat with the winner of last years American Idol (the German version) winner. She was a wealth of information.

Cheryl P. said...

You are the sweetest blog reader on the planet, Meleah!!!

These health care changes are making everything harder. It used to be you could call American Express and take out a short term health care plan so if you got ill or hurt, they would pay for immediate care and pay to get you back to the states. That is no longer an option. There are some private companies that do that, but I ended up calling my US health care insurance company and they would cover me out of network. But this is a big deal to be aware that if you had to be flighted somewhere...it's going to cost. I friend of mine got sick over in Europe and it cost a fortune to have emergency transportation back in the US.

In Amsterdam bikes are EVERYWHERE...I have never seen so many bikes in one place in my life.

Thank you so much for being such a good friend and looking at my pictures. We aren't very proficient photographers so it's real hit and miss as to the quality.

Linda R. said...

Cheryl, thank you for the tour! It looks like such an interesting city to visit. It is quaint and charming, the architecture is beautiful. I've never been, nor have I read or seen much about Amsterdam, so I was surprised at all the canals and their use in public transportation. I can see why there is little need for a car.

What was the food like? I know you don't drink alcohol, but were there wines on the menu...local or otherwise? Travel for us is not only about what we see, but food and drink, too.

Cheryl P. said...

The canals are so interesting. They loop into every neighborhood and lead out to the Amstel River. I thought the boats were great fun.

As for the food. Our first night in Amsterdam, we went to an Argentinian Steakhouse because it was close the hotel. Everything was delicious. During my time there, we ate at a lot of cafes and most of our lunches were at Christmas Markets so we only ate in 3 or 4 nicer restaurants....never had anything that wasn't good from any source. Hubby is on his 17th week there and has had many great meals.

As for wine...Everywhere in Europe is "wine country" especially along the Rhine River. It's crazy how they stick vineyards into every little patch of land. On the Bacharach slide show I did a few posts back, I showed some up on a very steep hillside. The workers strap themselves to a wall so they can pick the grapes off of the steep embankment. One of the wine shops we went into was bought by an American because of lot of European wines aren't able to be exported so, he bought a wine shop just to get his hands on the wines. My husband sampled some and said it was worth buying the shop for. (NO, we won't be buying a European wine store!)

Margaret said...

Those Christmas lights (and your little hotel room) were gorgeous. Also? 320 MPH??? wow!

Tracie Tom said...

I would love to visit the Anne Frank House. The world needs to remember. Sounds like an exciting trip and I would love to try that rail!

Cheryl P. said...

Hi Margaret! I loved that hotel room. It was so cute and cozy and those little French doors let me feel like I was up in a tree house. The trains in Europe are awesome, IMO. I know you have public transportation where you live but Kansas has next to NONE so I would even be thrilled with a subway system. It just doesn't take much to make me happy.

Cheryl P. said...

Hi Tracie...I am so glad you added Crack You Whip. I didn't recognize the Tom part. I was prepared to be "moved" by the Anne Frank House but each time I visit a site that so vividly exposes the autrocities that happened during WWII, it knocks me to my (figurative) knees. I, too, think it is important for everyone to remember.

ravenjanedoh said...

"Our plans went to shit" .... I literally laughed out loud! I can relate... OY! sorry the trains were what they were. I think its a thing there. - On another note, once we hopped on a train going from Utrecht to Brussels, then from Brussels to Bruges. Somewhere between Brussels to Bruges the train stopped in the middle of nowhere and everyone got off and milled around this field. We had no idea what was going on.. we don't speak-a the language. Then some train cop (no idea what the official term is) came along and started screaming at us. He chased us off. Just before we started hoofing it back to Brussels another train comes along and everyone gets on. We followed. We did end up in Bruges, but I have no idea what the whole departing in a field was about. - European rail adventures; I've never had a ride there I didn't remember.... so yes, I feel your train pain. -- And we saw a bicycle in a canal once. Some guy fished it out and off he went. Apparently they use them for water transportation as well ;)
I love hearing these stories. I'll be sad to see them go.

Katherine Murray said...

Not having a computer has made me miss a LOT! You went to Amsterdam?! REALLY! WOW! I am going to have to look back and see it all! What an incredible adventure!!!

abeerfortheshower said...

Wow, you really saw a lot during this whole trip, didn't you? I'm sad to see the vacation posts come to an end but look forward to your regularly scheduled shenanigans.
Also, as a guy who loves cycling, that's pretty awesome about all those bikes. Meanwhile, in Colorado (so called health capital of the US), when I go biking - on one of the state's largest bike trails, no less - I usually see one, maybe two other bikes during a two hour ride. I bet if people could Segway on a bike trail here, they would.

Cheryl P. said...

It was a great adventure...now getting back into the ho-hum routine that is real life is the tough part. It's so nice to see you back on line. I was on your site last night but got interrupted. I need to catch up with your post as well.

Cheryl P. said...

I am surprised about the lack of traffic on bike trails there. I guess there is a perception that people take advantage of the outdoors in CO. As far as bike trails go... Same here...we actually have some beautiful biking trails all through the Kansas City area. I did a post a year or so ago about the Indian Creek Trail that is really beautiful but I rarely see more than 5 or 6 other bikers, walkers, or joggers on the trails.

Lady Jewels Diva said...

Amsterdam does look great and I'd love to see some German xmas markets.

Cheryl P. said...

All of it was great fun. I think we will make another trip back to the Netherlands as we didn't get everything done that we wanted. We didn't make it up to the Friesland area where my husband's family is from.

chicken said...

I love all the little museums. Is Amsterdam known as the torture Capitol or something? What's with all the torture museums? Sounds like a great trip, enjoyed the video.