Thursday, January 02, 2014

Amsterdam by train

Taking advantage of our central European location, we boldly took the overnight train to Amsterdam. While adults had flashbacks to hard train travel in the Ukraine days, the kids were super excited. All clamored into their bunk beds, put their heads down and promptly fell asleep. Tori lifedt her head off the pillow for a moment to say how exciting it was and that she wished we could do this every night. I hushed her, locked the door one more time and laid down on my little cot and tried to see things her way.

Amsterdam however was exciting. We hit the major museums, including the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank House. At the Rijksmuseum, the kids surprised me by gravitating to the Rembrandt rather than Vermeer, until Adam reminded me of a book about Rembrandt that we used to read. We also ran into someone we knew from Munich in the crowded Rijksmuseum, making us all feel that Europe was a small place indeed. According to the kids, the Van Gogh was great and sad and Anne Frank was inspirational and sad. While a little simplistic, there is nothing to add. They got the meaning as we all did. The alternating rain and sunshine outside just underscored our emotions.
We stayed at a little hotel just outside of Amsterdam in a place called Zandaam. We quickly figured out the daily train ride in and out of Amsterdam (about 10 minutes) and enjoyed the feeling of leaving the big bustling city for the smaller and slightly less bustling littler city. Phil, always the avid cyclist, found a bike rental place for us. We rented bikes for just 5 euros for the day. We learned that the shop made most of its money from the city. The city paid them to park bikes inside, rather than have the bikes crowd the sidewalks and block storefronts. Who thought of this idea? Peter the Great of course on his tour of Europe over 300 years ago. We rode our bikes out to the windmills, walked through a windmill that was grinding chalk to make paints and dyes and generally stood in the mild sun and took in the scene of multiple windmills along the river. A nearby chocolate factory added a nice essence to the air and we lingered and lingered and lingered.
A favorite part of the trip for us all was the international flavor of the city. We ate at a fabulous Mexican restaurant, ordering things as spicy as they made them. We wandered through multiple English language bookstores. Adam got caught up in the spirit of it all and, using his Christmas money, bought an entire series of books. He ran back and forth between two bookstores getting the best deals. To have Adam mesmerized by books, enough that he mostly forgot about the Packers vs. Bears playoff football game, was enough for us parents. Amsterdam is a city of culture and enough English language to keep 10 year old boys interested. A repeat visit is already being planned!


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