31 January 2016; This morning I left a damp cloudy country and I now sit by the pool wearing trunks and flip flops.
I wish…Amsterdam is not that far away! After the shortest flight I’ve ever been on (45 minutes) I am instead relaxing in a hotel room. Hotel is a converted tram station and bedrooms are behind bookcases. We followed instructions at airport tourist information and arrived at Amsterdam Central by train. Then we’re told by the information desk that we were in wrong place. Completed journey by taxi. Standard of driving is good but I’m confused by the cars and trams sharing the roads. I’m sure the Dutch know what they’re doing but I wouldn’t.
Today Terry Wogan died. I’ve missed him presenting Eurovision for some years, it was fun hearing him get irate at the voting. I also remember his chat show.
1 February; First impressions can be false impressions but after 24 hours here they are.
It’s flat, my family in Lincolnshire will feel very familiar with the landscape. Secondly, lots of bikes and cycling is a popular form of commuting rather than a leisure activity. You have to watch our for them as a pedestrian, they come from all directions and many have no lights and rely on lampposts. They also share same space as motorbikes which seems at first sight a little dangerous.
Today we visit Rijksmusuem and van Gogh Musuem. Van Gogh’s life was short, he died 37 years after he was born and his reputation grew after his death, thanks to his sister in law and nephew, and the Museum is a symbol of their efforts. It’s said he knocked out 75 paintings in 70 days towards the end of his life, which he spent in a mental health institution. He never had a formal diagnosis and 100 years later might have had a very different life.
Our hotel is opposite a mosque which helps us locate it. It is popular with young folk and I am easily twice as old as most of the other guests and staff. Some rooms have no toilet and they have to use communal ones, one of them is reserved for women, and I noticed the sign on the door when I came out. I did put the seat down so I think I got away with it.
Despite being famous for coffee shops I am drinking tea. I have to pay for it, then they give me a cup of boiled water, a teabag and I have to make it myself. If you order coffee they make it for you.
The Dutch are not a nation I’ve had much experience of, they like to have fun but they seem to take having fun a little too seriously.
Amsterdam, like many European cities has a diverse population and last night Penny and I had a curry. The owners advised that Indian restaurants aren’t as common as in UK but are becoming more popular.
2 February; On this date in 1991 Penny and I got married in Haringey Civic Centre and 25 years later the sun finally came out for the first time since our arrival.
A day spent walking into town centre, visiting Anne Frank’s house, drinking tea in a fine pub, doing some shopping, before having a meal and returning to hotel.
I must have been 13 or so when I read Anne Frank’s diary so to finally visit the house where she and 7 others hid from the Nazi’s for 4-5 years until they were betrayed and found and sent to concentration camps was a form of pilgrimage. Her diary had been translated into many languages so visitors come from all over the world. What can I say that hasn’t been said already? Ideologies that elevate one nation, or religion over another didn’t die with the defeat of the Nazi’s. I deliberately say Nazi’s rather than German’s because they also killed a lot of their own citizen’s if they were seen as an obstacle to their immature and illogical vision of the world. This girl’s story is a message to us all.
One thing that strikes me about Amsterdam, at least what I’ve seen of it is that there are no huge glass buildings and buildings are no more than six or seven stories tall.
I saw the first person travelling by mobility scooter today, back home in Hastings there are more people on them than on bikes. I think the Dutch must have a healthier lifestyle to us in UK.
3 February; Sometimes you have to listen to your body. Today was such a day. After a walk into town centre to see Stedelijk Museum I had to succumb to the need to rest so an afternoon doing just that before going out for our last meal.
Amsterdam compared to Istanbul is a very ordered city. The cyclists, motorists, taxi drivers and pedestrians pretty much do what they’re supposed to, where they’re supposed to. In one of the most densely populated countries in the world I guess the alternative would be high in terms of traffic incidents.
Almost everyone speaks English. It is startling to be addressed in English before I’ve even said a word, is it the way I dress? When you hear Dutch being spoken you can often pick up on half the words in any case.
You definitely feel you’re in a protestant country as opposed to Catholic and I need to work out why Spain and Ireland feel very different to here or UK.
6 February; Back in UK after short excursion to Amsterdam, it’s been nice to be off work and I hope it’s been uneventful with my caseload and i can pick up where I left off last week. One thing that did strike me about Amsterdam is the absence of cats and dogs, I’m sure there must be some in the city but apart from a few dogs being walked I didn’t see no strays like in Istanbul and no cats at all. I’ve since learnt that you need to pay for a licence to own a dog, like used to be the case in UK many years ago. This is not universal but depends on what city you live in, Amsterdam has just abolished this requirement but cities which do still require it include the Hague which charges £86 for first dog, £134 for second and £171 for third. Not sure what happens if you want four or more dogs.
This ends my journal, I’ve liked it here and look forward to further exploration in September. Where? I don’t know yet
Things I recommend,
Bikes with lights.
Good services to treat mental health conditions.
A diverse world where there should be room for us all.
Finding your life partner and sorting out problems as they arise and staying together. I know this isn’t always an easy thing but it’s worth the effort.
Things I don’t recommend, getting married in February if you like holidays in the sun. In Europe.
Ideologies based on racial, national or religious superiority.