Wednesday, October 05, 2005


With only a few hours in Amsterdam, I wanted to go for a walk in the city and then go for a canal ride. Then, if time permitted, go to the Rembrandt museum. As it turned out, I never got to the museum. I spent the day walking mostly, along with a very nice canal ride.

When I go to a city for the first time, I get a feeling for the place, an overall impression. Often my first impression is not entirely accurate, and changes over time. Still, I cannot help getting that first impression. My first impression of Amsterdam was one of canals, bicycles, and grunge. The buildings are dark. The water in the canals is dark. The clothes the people wear were dark. More than dark, however, I would describe their clothes as "deep grunge". In addition, there was trash all over the place, perhaps because the night before was Saturday night (we were there on Sunday). Small gangs of young men seemed to roam the streets, making noise, many of them drunk. So my overall impression of Amsterdam was not one of beauty, but of grunge. I was very surprised because I expected to see flowers everywhere, even in the Autumn. I saw only one flower seller all day. Amsterdam is night and day from Copenhagen or Paris, both cities of light and joy and beauty.

One cannot help but be overwhelmed by the bicycles. There are millions of them. Everywhere. It is amazing to see so many bicycles -- on the streets and parked. Most of them are old and beat up, and I was told that the new ones are stolen quickly, so most people want old ones that are not attractive to steal.

I also wandered into the famous red light district; I had not been there before, but I have read about it, of course. It was a Sunday, so not many ladies were on display, but some were there, in their windows, on display, inviting the passersby. It was interesting, but not enticing. The ladies who were on display were not attractive; perhaps the attractive ones had made enough money on Saturday night that they didn't need to be on display on Sunday afternoon. I was surprised that most of the women were Black and quite overweight. Still, it was interesting to see the women in their windows, dressed only in brief bras and panties, smiling, waving, inviting.

I am attaching several photos of Amsterdam. One of a walking, shopping street. As you know, most European cities seem to have these walking, shopping streets, and I enjoyed this one in Amsterdam. A second photo shows a bicycle parking "garage". People seemed to take ferries from other places and pick up their bicycles at this parking garage to pedal on to their offices. I noticed that few of the bicycles were locked; they were just leaned against something all over the city, waiting for their owners to return.

The Italian fashion company, Diesel, is known for provocative advertising, and is evidently very prosperous. For the canal tour, the sides of the boat were plastic, which had at one time been clear, so that the tourists could see out; however, the plastic was now foggy with age and weather. As the boat turned a corner, suddenly, I saw a large billboard on the side of a building advertising Diesel. I quickly took a photo of the billboard before the boat passed and turned another corner. Unfortunately, there was a pole interfering in the photo, but I could do nothing to take a different photo; I was stuck with the photo that presented itself, with a pole and with foggy plastic. I tried to clean up the fog from the plastic, but could not remove the pole. I am attaching the photo because the billboard was so wonderful. If I were a woman, I would definitely want a pair of those boots! And evidently, that is precisely the reaction that women have to this ad!

After returning to the ship, and just as the ship was about to leave the port, there was a knock at my cabin door. It was my missing luggage being delivered to me. It turned out that the concierge had been working continuously with Virgin Atlantic Airlines to get the luggage delivered to the Amsterdam airport and then to the ship. She was really wonderful and perfectly effective. I took her name and made sure to give her special compliments in my final cruise evaluation questionnaire.

Tomorrow, Belgium.

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