Kongo arrived in Amsterdam yesterday to start a 2-week trip across Europe and is so happy this lovely city is the starting point for his latest adventure. Sometimes called the Venice of the North, Amsterdam offers visitors plenty of things to do. Whether you are snooping about Amsterdam’s famous red light district, sampling weed at one of the dozens of “Coffeeshops” where you can legally smoke a joint but not find a cup of Joe, or taking in a high dose of culture by visiting the museums, sightseeing, and checking out the dozens of canals that crisscross the city you will never be bored in Amsterdam.
Locals celebrate afternoons (or any other occasion) with a floating party on one of Amsterdam’s many canals. Everywhere you look in the old central part of town you will find boats decked out with people enjoying the last of summer with wine, beer, and cheese (of course.) Speaking of cheese, the Dutch are sometimes referred to as “Cheese Heads.” Do you know why? While there is cheese everywhere here, these people are not Green Bay Packer boosters. Back in the early 1800s when Napoleon came knocking, the Dutch peasants fought the French armies with pitchforks and used wooden cheese molds for helmets. Hence, “Cheese Head.”
A highlight of Saturday was an early visit to the Van Gough museum. This wonderful art museum is full of the artist’s work and affords an opportunity to learn something about his tortured life, the story of why he cut his ear off, as well as works of Vincent’s contemporaries like Monet and Gauguin. Photos inside the museum are not allowed except for a few spots and this is where the monkey snapped the self portrait seen above.
There’s a museum of bags and purses that Mrs. Kongo wants to see but there may be too many windmill stops between here and there. We’ll see.
There are more bicycles in Amsterdam than people. It’s a very flat terrain and the city fathers have invested in significant infrastructure to provide bike paths alongside virtually every road. Cross a bike trail at your own risk. Cyclists come whizzing by from all directions. Americans will be surprised to find that nobody here (even infants in their bike seats) wears a bike helmet. A lot of people text and peddle.
Much of Amsterdam’s residential areas are hundreds of years old. Taxes were paid on how wide the homes were so the Dutch being Dutch tended to build very narrow structures that went up three or four stories. Even today thousands of homes date back to the early 17th century. Since the land here is mostly reclaimed, the homes were built on wooden pilings that tended to shift and sag over the centuries. If you look closely at the photo above you will notice that some houses are leaning left, some, right, some lean in, and some lean out. These are known as “dancing houses.”
If a dancing house isn’t your architectural style, maybe you would like a house boat. Thousands of houseboats line the many canals in Amsterdam and if the couple above are any indication, it must be a relaxing way to go! Or maybe just an ordinary mansion like the one below.
Kongo is in Amsterdam until Tuesday when he gets on a riverboat and heads down the Rhine River for seven days before finally ending up in Basel, Switzerland and from there on to Lucerne and Zurich.
Stay tuned for more monkey posts from Europe.
Travel safe. Have fun.