Dikes and Towers Part I: Amsterdam

Posted by on January 25, 2018 at 1:27 pm :: No Comments

Jason and I traveled to Europe with 35 other master’s students back in October. Over 11 days, we visited Amsterdam, Paris, and Provence. This was a packed and productive trip filled with both sights and school work. We came home exhausted and jet lagged just in time to do the final preparations for our Halloween party. But that’s a story for another time; here’s the story for this time.

At the Aalsmeer flower market, trains and carts of flowers zoom around the world's fourth-largest building with a nerve-racking rapidity.

At the Aalsmeer flower market, trains and carts of flowers zoom around the world’s fourth-largest building with a nerve-racking rapidity.

As Amsterdam was the first stop of our travels, we took a direct flight to that city. This plane ride wasn’t too awful, but why is it that the snoring guy sleeps just fine for half the flight while everyone else only manages to doze for an hour or so?

Rembrandt's house has been superbly restored.

Rembrandt’s house has been superbly restored.

Upon arriving in Amsterdam, we wandered the streets a bit and succeeded in staying up until 8:00 PM, after being awake for almost 30 hours. With a little ZzzQuil, Jason and I were able to sleep reasonably well until 5:00 AM the next morning when we had to rise for a business visit. Since this trip was part of my master’s program, seven business visits were scheduled throughout it to help students understand the cultural nuances of the region. We toured two businesses that morning while experiencing a hefty helping of jet lag, including the largest flower market in the world at Aalsmeer. There, in the fourth-largest building in the world, 20 million flowers are traded and shipped worldwide every day. The pace of it was remarkable and dizzying, especially to those suffering from a circadian desynchronization.

The Grote Kerk has dwarfed Haarlem's market square since 1550.

The Grote Kerk has dwarfed Haarlem’s market square since 1550.

The Grote Kerk's showy organ has attracted many famous musicians over the centuries, like Handel and Mozart.

The Grote Kerk’s showy organ has attracted many famous musicians over the centuries, like Handel and Mozart.

Since Jason and I visited Amsterdam just a year ago, we didn’t feel a need to see the “main attractions” with the rest of the group. Instead, we went out on our own in the afternoon and visited the St. Nicholas Basilica, Nieuwe Kerk, and Rembrandt House Museum. The “We Have a Dream” exhibit at the Nieuwe Kerk on Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Nelson Mandela was interesting, and I loved walking up the coiling steps Rembrandt once wandered. After that long day, we slowed down for dinner at a yummy Indian restaurant. (Yes, Dutch Indian food is surprisingly excellent.)

Zaanse Schans is an idyllically-preserved piece of Dutch countryside.

Zaanse Schans is an idyllically-preserved piece of Dutch countryside.

On our final day in the Netherlands, the whole group went to Haarlem, Zaanse Schans, and Volendam. Haarlem’s famous church, with its prestigious organ that once attracted talented musicians like Mozart, was magnificent. Haarlem was also holding its weekly town-square market that day, the same market it has held since the Middle Ages. I felt pleasantly foreign as I watched locals buy their fresh produce, breads, and fashions from little tents in that cobblestoned plaza. Zaanse Schans was much the same as the last time we visited it a year ago. However, the sails of The Cat windmill were moving at an even brisker pace and grounding chalk with a playful enthusiasm. We had just enough time in Volendam to visit the Volendams Museum and eat frites on the quaint shores of the IJsselmeer.

The IJsselmeer, the freshwater lake bordering Volendam, was created by the industrious Dutch from an inland bay decades ago.

The IJsselmeer, the freshwater lake bordering Volendam, was created by the industrious Dutch from an inland bay decades ago.

The next day, we were on a high-speed train to Paris. In my next post, I will discuss the urine-streaked grandeur of the most romantic city in the world.

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