AMSTERDAM & DEFLT
DATE:3-18 May 2009
Ramadan and Eid are over, but our next planned trip will only take place in late September. It is therefore a good time for me to dig up old notes and photographs for another blog entry.
In May 2009, Nik attended a short course at the UNESCO-IHE Delft Institute for Water Education, Netherlands. As usual, I tagged along to be his cook and companion. We arrived at Schipol airport, Amsterdam, on Monday morning around 6.40 am. It was 5 C outside, but later it turned out to be a bright and sunny day. To get to Delft, we took the train and changed at Leiden.ARRIVING IN DELFT
4 May 2009
8.15 am: The Unesco-Ihe building is only a few minutes’ walk from the train station. We collected our keys to the hostel and was driven in a taxi to Mina Krussemanstraat, where the hostel was. The room was quite big for one person. It was equipped with a kitchen and shower. Utensils were provided, but they were minimal.
The trees looked lively, somewhat vibrant and refreshing in the spring sunshine with their bright apple green leaves.
10.30 am: Nik and I walked to Delft town to find lunch. We found a halal shop and had some kebab and chicken satay. We then took the tram to a shopping area to buy beef and chicken plus other provisions for the next few days.
The return journey took us quite a while because we made many stops. The food stuff we bought were quite a load, not to mention that we were pretty worn-out from the long journey. Later, we discovered there was a much shorter route to our place.
You hardly see an obese person here because most of them cycle. Outside the train station there was a parking area for bicycles. There were probably thousands of bicycles parked there. On the road there is a bicycle lane, a tram track and the left-hand drive traffic. So, when I was crossing the road especially at a junction, I’d be looking in all directions because I’m not sure what is coming and from which side. Sure I look a bit comical, but then the motorcycles also share the bicycle lane.
DAY TOUR OF AMSTERDAM
5 MAY 2009
The train ride from Delft to Amsterdam took only an hour. The water features (canals, canal houses and boat houses) plus the odd windmill made the Dutch countryside far more interesting than the farms in England. There were also more trees surrounding the farms.
We headed to the tourist information office just outside the station. It’s the usual hop-on, hop-off stuff except that we were doing it on a boat instead of a bus. There was an extensive network of canals around the city, some 100 miles or so. The canals are an important means of transport since two hundred years ago. The brick buildings had flat facades with gables, some of which were quite decorative, serving as the family emblem or coats of arm. The bricks were small as compared to those buildings in Paris and came in a variety of colours. Some were dark coloured, while others were red or of lighter shades.
We got off the boat to go to van Gogh Museum. We gave the Rijks Museum a miss for obvious reasons (we are not art enthusiasts). En route to van Gogh Museum, we came across a diamond factory and made an impromptu tour just to admire the sparkling carbons.
Although I’m no arts enthusiast, I found van Gogh later works rather appealing. The colours were brighter and the brush strokes were more subtle as compared to his earlier pieces. This guy must have nothing to do other than paint since in such a short span of life (37 years), his works filled up an entire museum.
We were back on the boat for our next stop, the Anne Frank House. Unfortunately the queue was long, so we skipped it. We returned to central station in a drizzle. Unprepared for rain we decided to go back to Delft instead of exploring the red light district.
8 May 2009
Delft is a city and municipality in the province South Holland. To its north is Rotterdam and in the south is the Hague. This beautiful little city is known for its historic downtown area with its canals.
3.00 pm: I ventured out to Delft town on my own. Made my way to the town square, but before I could tour the area, it had started to drizzle. It was a heavy drizzle, the kind that only golfers would put up with. I waited for it to die down, but it was taking a long time. So I returned to the hostel walking in the rain. It stopped raining soon after, the sun came out and it remained sunny for the rest of the evening. Just my luck!
DAY TOUR OF ANTWERP & BRUSSELS
9 May 2009
Nik and me took another train ride to Amsterdam for the day tour to Antwerp and Brussels in Belgium. The double-decked tour bus was full .The countryside landscape changed as we travelled further into Belgium. No more canals, but, we came across larger wooded areas or forests. It took two hours to reach Antwerp, a port city.
Our tour guide took us to the town square, Grote Markt or Great Market Square, where we sampled some chocolates for which Belgium is well-known. We had 75 minutes to discover the place. Throughout the city, the buildings have a mixture of Dutch-like and Paris-like designs. There were many side-walk cafes and open stalls selling antiques and collectibles. The coffee and hot chocolate we had at one of these cafes were good. They were served with fresh cream and a tiny muffin at the side.
It took only 45 minutes to reach our next destination, Brussels. A trip to this city is incomplete without a stop at the Atomium. This was my second trip to Brussels, which was, of course unplanned. The globe structure still looked very much the same as it did some 26 years ago. Not an ‘atom” has moved since. On our way to the town square we passed by the palace, botanical garden and church. The square was crowded with tourists, and we soon lost the guide and the rest of the group. Here, we came across a Lebanese eatery selling halal kebabs. There were a few more Muslim restaurants round the corner. This was indeed a good sign of our Muslim brothers’ prosperity in their adopted country.
In the middle of the square there was a piece of some kind of art laid out, though I couldn’t really make out what it was. As for the shops, a lot of them were selling chocolates and those lovely, fine, delicate laces. Oh my, they were so beautiful, some white, some in cream and one or two in black. They were very pretty, but unaffordable. A few shops displayed lovely tapestry works. And finally, we found the Manneken Pis, the landmark and attraction we were looking for. It is a small bronze sculpture of a naked boy peeing into a fountain’s basin. It’s perhaps worth mentioning the fact that these town squares (Antwerp and Brussels), despite being tourist hotspots, lack public amenities such as men’s rooms.
10 MAY 2009
A trip to the Netherlands in the spring is incomplete without a visit to Keukenhof, the tulip garden. The article on our day trip to Keukenhof had already been posted some time ago. (See “The Tulips of Keukenhof, Holland)
LAST DAY IN DEFLT
15 MAY 2009
I met Nik at the Unesco-Ihe building around 3 pm. We made our way to town where the shopping area was. It was a small place with familiar stores like Curry’s, C&A, Etam, etc. Then we walked to the older part, the town square. There were three churches nearby but, the one facing the town hall was a bit different. It was a narrow building with a tall rectangular spire. Souvenir shops lined both rows of the square. A few of them were selling the blue porcelain for which Delft was well-known. After a snack of fried fish fillet, we headed to the bus stop. Rather than let the ticket go to waste, we decided to make one last trip to the mall. It was drizzling and we took shelter under store entrances a few times. By the time we were about to leave the mall, it was raining heavily. Not the kind that is typical to this part of the world. It was the torrential type, the kind of downpour we get at home. Perhaps it was to remind us of home or may be it was just a soaking wet good-bye. The rain took a while to die down.
16 May 2009
We took the train from Amsterdam to Frankfurt. It was a high speed train or ICE (Inter-city Express). The train left Amsterdam at 2.34 pm and along the way stopped at several stations such as Utreicht, Kuhn plus a few others. At times it reached a speed of 300 km/h. Arrival time as printed on the ticket was 6.30 pm. It was early evening when we pulled into Frankfurt. As soon as I stepped out onto the platform, I looked at the clock. It was 6.30 pm. How precisely on time can one be?