Okay, so this is a little easier to talk about. On our way home we flew through Amsterdam and we chose to take an overnight layover and do a little touring there instead of trying to pack a tourist day into the time in Africa. Our interns, Terry and Kevin, were with us.
As our plane landed pretty early in the morning, we spent an entire day walking around on next to no sleep. I think I might have slept a bit on the plane, but I cannot remember. It's that fuzzy.
Kevin is practically a professional vacation planner, he's that good. So my main contribution was, "I'd like to see the Anne Frank house and buy chocolate." In researching, Kevin kept reading how Haarlem, a suburb about 20 minutes from the airport, was far cooler and less crowded than Amsterdam. And the Anne Frank Museum was sold out until October. And there was some kind of "Fringe Festival" (like it's not fringy enough already) happening in Amsterdam that drove up hotel prices way out of missionary budget range. And I said, "I'll take the Corrie ten Boom Museum. And chocolate." That was easier to arrange, so Haarlem it was.
In the airport we learned that we actually could get into the Anne Frank Museum at 8:30 that night. We snapped up those tickets, talked through a rough plan for the day, then hit the bus so we could drop luggage at the hotel. At that point our tummies began to rumble and we headed off through the scenic and adorable streets of Haarlem in search of food. Anything would have done it, honestly, but we found a pastry shop that had all kinds of crazy delicious looking stuff in the window and outdoor seating with pink benches and coffee.
Our tour time for Corrie ten Boom was not until close to noon so we had ample time to see the square and other parts of town. September 12 was some kind of national holiday wherein all important landmarks and museums are free. That meant we got into the cathedral and could have a good look around. It was beautiful.
After the cathedral I think we walked to some other places. I don't really remember, I just think we must have because we could not have gone straight to the Grotemarkt. Think gigantic outdoor farmer's market to shame all American farmers markets. It was where we had lunch, and we could not have been ready for lunch yet. Or maybe we were. I don't know, I just know we kind of split up and found all sorts of random tasty treats then met back up by a strange sculpture to enjoy it. Raspberries, meat pies, cheese, fruity beverages, stropwafels, nom nom nom.
Then it was time for the Corrie ten Boom Museum. I don't have much to say about this, but if you have not read the book, do it. And if you ever get to Holland, go to the museum. They would not let us take photos of anything but the secret room but I did not care. The guided tour was all we needed.
Holland is famous for cheese and it's unfortunate that both Kevin and I are mildly lactose intolerant. But who cares. We sampled a LOT of cheese anyway. I am happy to report there were no real repercussions. Kevin, Joel, and Terry were happy about that too.
At some point we bought chocolate and did a lot more walking and cheese eating and then took the train to Amsterdam, where we had a canal boat tour booked. Kevin had gotten us in with a very small operator, Robbie. As in, his boat was just large enough for all of us, which was pretty awesome because we ended up with a really customized tour. It was two hours long and we saw what felt like all of Amsterdam from the tranquility of the water. Well, actually, no - it was not really tranquil. There was a lot of other boat tour traffic, mainly populated by drunk people. Everywhere there were folks out enjoying the city. Robbie told us it's pretty popular to just grab a bottle of wine and hang out on a bench or the walls by the canals and spend a few lazy hours with friends.
And then there was the Anne Frank Museum. Okay, so it was pretty cool, but if I had to choose between it and the Corrie ten Boom Museum, I'd take the latter. At the CTB all has been left in it's original state, more or less. You get a real feel for the life. At Anne Frank it's all empty rooms and I could not get a feeling that anyone had lived there at all. It's like walking through a vacant apartment you might be considering renting. But the exhibits in the rest of the museum are good. And again, no photos.
By the time we finished there it was about 9:30 or 10:00 and we had been up for far longer than I want to try to calculate, walked more miles than I know, and eaten at least 6 times. We were SO ready for bed. So we headed to the hotel and crashed. I could have slept on about anything at that point, but this was the comfiest bed ever, so it was the bomb.
Next morning we had to be off to the airport by 9:30, but we learned that the Dutch don't do a lot before 10:00 on a Sunday, including open their cafes. While hunting for food, we went all "Squirrel!" finding a windmill, got some cool photos that may or may not have included Terry climbing on something to pose, and then finally had success in rustling up some grub. Back to the airport, where customs took almost 90 minutes because all 3 bags of camera gear had to be unpacked and thoroughly searched (always) behind the 4 other couples who did not listen to the warnings about taking laptops OUT of your bags and thus were also being searched by one solitary, patient man.
But in all other ways, Holland was pretty excellent and we do hope to visit again.
From the Keiters:
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