Saturday, September 12, 2009

Living in Amstelveen (Temporarily)

After lazing for a day with Ruth and the grandchildren, which was more fun than anyone who is not a grandparent can imagine, John and I took off on the bus to find Amsterdam. The first day we tried it, we got hopelessly lost. We got the man who was probably the only mean bus driver in the city. All he would say to us when we asked for help was "On or off, on or off!"

Like idiots, we got on, but didn't stay on long enough, then decided to try walking home, since we thought the amount shown on our bus passes was the amount spent, not the amount left. We didn't think we could afford to get back on the bus to go home. We walked for hours. Luckily Ben called to check on us, got on his bicycle and rode from work to find us and got us on a bus home.

While we were lost, we found some buildings we didn't recognize...

And even one that had a big name on it, making it easy to recognize as The American Hotel. And wow! It had a bathroom they nicely let John use free.

And I loved the tower.

In case you're not aware, and I may not have mentioned this before, it's very difficult to find a restroom in Europe, and when you finally do, you must be prepared to shell out some cash to use it. There's nothing quite so amazing to the American mindset as to pay for a meal and then go to the restaurant's bathroom and be met with a 50 euro-cent charge to get in. I wasn't going to use that much paper!

By the next day, Ben and Ruth had written instructions for which bus to get on, which stop to get on, how to find our way to where we wanted to go, and a plan of action. I really don't think we would have braved it without them pushing us back out of the nest, and I'm so very grateful. We saw so much. We walked so far and had so much fun together. As we gained confidence, we started leaving the main paths that we had planned. John was much better at finding his way around than I was, but I depended on him and it was probably good for his ego.

We went to the Rijksmuseum, which I wrote about extensively at the time of our actual visit. I was so impressed.

It will probably be an annual event, although I've been told I need to see Van Gogh and others, as well. Also, I missed the M. C. Escher museum, which was top of my list for this trip. I just about got there, but a wrong-way street and a GPS giving us bad directions to a parking garage that didn't exist had John so mad we left Utrecht without seeing anything. I do mean anything.

Going back to the day we were lost and walking though, I want to show a couple of photos that show how much fun you can have while you're lost. I don't want you to get a mental image of a couple of sixty-something retired people trudging down the street wailing and moaning. Far from it. John posed with a little "Smart Car" that someone must love.

And then I finally took a photo of a bicycle grown into a fence. We saw many of these, and never figured out why they would get overgrown like this. Ben told us (with a straight face) that it happens in about three hours. Thanks, Ben.

Now, the following day, when we had directions to get places, we went and bought more time on our bus passes. That took us to Central Station, the Amsterdam train, bus, and metro station that is built on ramps and pontoons, I believe. It's pretty interesting. I was sure I wrote about it, but I can't find it anywhere.

Homes in The Netherlands, and I'll admit I'm most familiar with Amsterdam, are tall and thin. The stairs are narrow, and you don't want to be trying to get furniture up the steps. Nope. Can't be done. Here's a typical (gorgeous) row of homes.

And if you look really carefully, at the top of each home, or at least most of them, you will find a hook. (In my house, growing up, we'd refer to it as a sky hook.) They throw a cable or rope over the hook and winch up whatever needs to be hauled up a floor or three, taking it in through the windows. If it's going up there, that's the only way it's going to happen.

The sky hook doesn't look bad at all. We never got to see one in use, though.

I went to four different free online translation programs to figure out what this sign says. I just knew it would be profound. I think it probably is, and I have a fairly accurate translation, but maybe somebody can clean it up for me a bit? It seems to say something to the effect of, "Those who give in to tyranny will lose not only their life and property, but their light as well."

It took several days, but we finally did find the I amsterdam sign. I got John to pose at each end. There were people climbing all over it, and many of them were making rude gestures, so I used a little judicious cutting. If you only knew how hard it could be to get John to pose for a photo. You'll notice he isn't smiling in any of them, I don't think. He looks pleasant, but he's not thrilled. Just tolerant.

What a guy. What a city. What a trip!


sherrie said...

Nice day. I remember you writing about Central Station, and you had pictures of a bicycle parking lot and you could see the pontoons at the bottom . . . I think.

Kathleen said...

I remember that. It must still be here somewhere...