Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Prior to arriving in Amsterdam the forecast predicted rain and strong winds, so we were delighted when the sun appeared soon after we checked into our apartment.  Booking another Airbnb property, we had found a place located near tram lines to facilitate our movement around the city.  Wanting to take advantage of the clear weather, we took a tram to Rembrandt Park and then walked to a nearby canal to look for a canal tour.  Within short order we hopped on a boat just as it was pulling away from the dock, so perfect timing.  Narration for the one-hour trip was in Dutch and English and was crammed full of facts about the area.  Known as "The Venice of the North," there are 100 km of canals in the city.  Interestingly, around 35 cars and over 12,000 bikes a year find their way into the waterways.

One aspect of the city which immediately jumps out is the large number of bikes.  Figures varied when I researched the actual number, but in this city of 850,000 there are somewhere close to 1,000,000 bikes.  So it is no surprise to see Amsterdam listed as one of the top bike friendly cities in the world.  Crossing the street in the city requires constant vigilance since many streets have 2 bike lanes, 2 tram lanes and 2 lanes for cars.

Tulips are a crop the Netherlands have long been known for, and following our boat tour we wandered down to the Bloeenmarkt (Flower Market), which is the world's only floating flower market.  First established in 1862, the market sells gorgeous tulips, plus a wide variety of flowers, houseplants, gardening supplies and souvenirs.  A local cheese shop was our next stop, and we purchased some Gouda, considered the Netherlands most important and best known variety.

With cold, rain and wind in the forecast for the following day, we scheduled a full day of museum visits.  Several hours were spent in the Van Gogh Museum, which houses the world's largest collection of his works.  Also exhibited are dozens of his letters to family and fellow artists which help reflect on his life.  He constantly strove to improve his drawing and painting.  Though he suffered from an unidentified mental illness, his focus on improving his skills was always paramount in his life.

Later, we visited the Rembrandt House Museum  which focuses primarily on the print making skills of the artist.  He created around 300 etchings, and some of his methods are still used in etchings produced today.  During our visit we saw demonstrations on how he made the prints and also how his oil paints were made.  As a successful artist he tutored a number of young artists, and his students typically made his paints for him.

Vermeer's The Milkmaid
The next day brought another forecast of crummy weather, so we planned a visit to the Rijksmuseum.  The Dutch national museum is the country's largest and most visited.  It is massive, and after several hours, we had completed only the second floor.  We finished the visit with a quick walk through the first floor and skipped the 3rd floor altogether.  A long overdue lunch was now a priority.  After a traditional Dutch lunch at Restaurant Haesje Claes, we walked to the Ann Frank House.  We had assumed that by 5 PM there would be no line.  We were wrong.  Hundreds of people were waiting for entry and they had stopped selling tickets for the day.  So we decided to call it quits and returned by tram to our neighborhood.

The next morning we headed to the airport for our flight to Dublin.
At the Rijksmuseum
Along the canals
Narrow houses along the canals have hooks at the upper level
to allow furniture to be lifted into the building.  Houses are narrow but deep
due to taxes based on the property's width.

At the Van Gogh Museum
Early morning rush hour
Rembrandt's The Night Watch
At Rembrandt Park
At the Flower Market
Print made during demonstration at Rembrandt House.
Lesson on how paints were made in the 1600's

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