Monday 13 November 2017

How to cross the road in Amsterdam

Take your life in your hands, hold it tight.
Step to the edge of the pavement; the red paved area is the bike lane. Check both ways for bikes. Motorbikes, and even very tiny cars, are also allowed to use the bike lane.
Cross the bike lane to the first island.
Check both ways for cars. They drive on the wrong side here, so just double check.
Cross to the next island.
Check both ways for trams and buses. They are bigger and more predictable, so this is the safest lane.
Cross to the next island.
Check both ways for cars, again.
Cross to the next island.
Double and triple check for bikes, they may come at you from unexpected directions and at unexpected speed.
Cross to the other side. Congratulations, you made it. Repeat as necessary.
If there are crossing light always, always, always wait for the little green man, even if the road seems empty. Still check for bikes. The little red bike lane lights don't apply to certain random cyclists.

We went to Amsterdam. We managed four days without getting hit by a bicycle. There are a lot of bicycles. More than I anticipated, and then some. This is a triple decker bike park near the station, but any empty space around the streets is a potential bike park. And this is in addition to their wonderful, efficient and regular public transport system. Monkey did an excellent job of navigating us around the city, aided by the fact that the trams and buses have screens that tell you the upcoming stops and the connecting services. By the third day we were giving advice to other tourists about the buses.

On the advice of Julie we bought I amsterdam passes that were a brilliant way to get around and gave us free access to many of the museums and galleries. We stayed at the Hostel Slotania; it was cheap and easy to get to from the airport and into and out of the city centre. It was comfortable as a place to sleep but you wouldn't want to hang out there. The room was clean, fresh towels and plenty of hot water, and it was a quiet time of year. The telly picture was fuzzy but we had fun adding our own dialogue to the dutch programmes when we relaxed at the end of the day. We made a plan, and sort of stuck with it, because there is so much to do you could waste a lot of time deciding. There was some disappointment the first evening when Monkey realised that the castle was only open weekends from November to March so we gave up on the idea for a trip out of town.

Micropia was our first stop. It is a museum of the microscopic world. Be prepared to never want to touch anything ever again. Definitely don't look at the toothbrush microbes. But you know what, we coexist with most of them, the ones that want to kill you are not so common.
Some of them are even quite cute.
And they had a colony on leafcutter ants, which are my favourite creatures from my trip to Costa Rica.

The zoo is right next door. In the spirit of going with what we are enjoying doing we ended up spending the rest of the day there, having some lunch in the cafe.
Baby elephant:
Baby leopards:
Several 'walk-through' enclosures; this one with the wallabies:
and indoors with the capuchins and chinese water dragons:
The lion, doing his lion thing:
starfish doing what starfish do well:
and the vultures vulturing:
Tuesday saw us at the massive NEMO Science Museum most of the day,

 followed by a brief and bemusing visit to the Stedelijk modern art gallery. They had some artists I recognised but there was so little information about the art and artists that I did not get much from it. 
We rejected the Cow museum, the Pipe Museum and the Handbag Museum in favour of 'Red Light Secrets' the Prostitution Museum, conveniently located in the red light district. It is a glimpse inside a surreal world, though I felt it was a very narrow picture of prostitution giving us only the story of the profession in Amsterdam where it is legal and the woman are free and protected. It was strange to put yourself on display in the window but we did have fun making passers by uncomfortable by waving to them.
Thursday we visited Body Worlds
It uses real human bodies to teach about anatomy and the physiology of the different body systems. It is a totally fascinating exhibition (and only silly at the end when they took the photos).
Poffertjes for breakfast ... or supper ... or whenever.

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