I need to jot a bunch of things down so I don’t forget th a experience.  I may expound later.

Day 1

Caught in a thunderstorm on the way to the hotel which I guess is typical here – the rain, at least.  Guess I am good luck because it hasn’t rained since.  It was grey during the early part of the day Tuesday but other than that it had been sunny and warm.  Also, sun doesn’t set until after 10.  Awesome. You get a lot out of your day.

Did a walking tour to orient myself with the city and learned cool things.  Tried Gouda and stroopwafels for the first time and am in love.  Just shipped Gouda home.

Walked through a street where only women can have apartments.  I think it was originally a religious thing but has expanded.  So if you get divorced, you can live there.  Respect for women.  It’s also very quaint and well kept, of course.  There wAs also a hall with visible boxes that were each individualized by orphanage children so one can learn about them through their art.

Decided to go for it and wait in the Anne Frank line which was so worth it.  I did not previously understand the involvement of Amsterdam in the Jewish culture and how many citizens were eventually lost.

By the way, so many things are connected here and very much tied to human rights.

That night, I did the Red Light district walking tour.  Fascinating to learn about prostitution and how it’s    run by the women themselves. No pimps, lots of rules to protect the workers.  They pay taxes and they are required to speak 4 languages.  You know what this plan does?  Avoids any need for human trafficking.  The workers pick and choose who they will or won’t sleep with.  You get 15-20 minutes.  50 Euro gets you a BJ and laid if you can cram that all in. The whole area is fairly safe.  Cameras everywhere and police everywhere.  One night I decided to check out one of the many sex shops.  2 women my mom’s age were comparing vibrators trying to decide on the best one.  A couple also came in with their baby.  Baby life is very different here.

Tuesday was the Ecco shoe day which slaughtered my feet.  Plus, the walking tour did not help with city navigation.  Halfway down many streets the names change or if you take a wrong turn and take an alley to get back on track it doesn’t work.  You end up very far away.  I walked too much that day.  Sure, it’s the canals that cause that but they are man made so there’s that.

This was Van Gogh and Rijksmuseum day, maybe something else I can’t recall right now.  And that was the night I went to the smallest bar in town and met Americans – 2 of them 60 years old and killing time on their way to Uganda.  She was fascinating.  Used to work for Schwab, saved a bunch of $ and retired young to chase her real passions.  She and her husband are now in a band and she runs her own business which involves humanitarian work in Africa.  We were also chatting up some 19 year old boys from CA.  3 nerds with girlfriends afraid to go too far in the Red Light.  We encouraged them to hook up with prostitutes by explaining they will not have those girlfriends long term.  Enjoy Amsterdam, boys.

Wednesday, no beer at all.  I had 2 days worth Tuesday night.  Went to the zoo because animals.  Fell in love with the butterfly room as I had  never done that before.  I also learned how much money this zoo throws into animal protection efforts which is why I am happy to spend my money there.

From there, took a side trip to the botanical garden which has actually been around for centuries and is connected to the science behind one of the ingredients used by Heineken.      Connection.  Very cool place with people just sitting on benches or painting. Very relaxing.  And, more butterflies.  Twice in one day.

Grabbed a sandwich from a side street bakery and killed some time before touring Delft, The Hague and Madouradam.  Cool trip but a good lesson as to why I should never take a group trip.  There’s always a couple assholes who don’t follow directions and return to the bus on time and for some reason think it’s funny.  I work with people like that and it makes my skin crawl.  Also, parents who don’t keep their children quiet when the guide is speaking.  The guide speaking is the reason we all paid to be there.  Oh, and as I stepped off the bus there was a kid puking on the sidewalk.  I’m thinking if your kid has motion sickness a five hour bus tour might not be the best idea…for anyone.

Anyway, didn’t think I would care about the pottery but it was actually an interesting process.  No average human can afford that stuff.

Drove around The Hague and learned a lot about their government and Royal Family.  They have elections every 4 years like us but have 38 parties.  Right now the most popular one is the animal rights group.

Madouradam is a miniature city of Amsterdam and its supporting suberbs.  Seems like a really weird thing to have but it was built to honor George Maduro who had been in government at some point.  Loved his city and they loved him back.  He was executed at Auschwitz.  Proceeds from the park support tons of charities. Connection.

Today was a poke around day.  Went to the tulip museum and learned a lot of cool stuff which linked back up to stories we were told about bud vases back at the pottery factory.  Connection.

Took a canal ride to the Heineken Experience which was phenomenal. It’s a can’t miss if you ever come here.  You can tell it’s a company who treats their employees well.  Super happy, super engaged and proud to tell the story.

Saw the Homomonument which is its real name.  Again, a community supporting every human’s rights.  At the end of the day, black balloons had been placed there to honor the Chevhnya victims of murder because of sexual identity.  This was the moment I fully understood why I love this city.  They face ugliness head on for everyone.  They don’t turn away like Americans do.  We figure if it doesn’t impact us we don’t need to worry.  It shouldn’t be about that.

Other random stuff…

I did not rent a bike.  You would have to be here to understand but it’s a contact sport.  They come out of the womb and straight to the bike.  You can see parents on their bikes side by side with very young children learning to ride their own.  The family sedan is a bike with baby bike seat.  And no helmets for anyone including babies.  I imagine the bike dictates how many kids you can have and when.  Certainly no more than 2 young ones.  There is a baby seat on the back and then a small seat in front of the actual biker for 2 kids.  People text while riding and don’t hit anything.

I have enjoyed taking baths at the end of the day as they gave me a bathroom with a tub.  It feels very European to take that time to relax and give the muscles some relief.

The Dutch people are the kindest people ever.  They usually speak several languages and don’t make foreigners feel bad.  They do rely heavily on the tourist economy so maybe they hide their hatred really well but they seem pretty authentic. What I feel bad about is how rude some other cultures can be to them. It’s embarrassing.  There are a few nationalities who give Zero effs about anyone but themselves.  Wild animals behave better.  Simple things like not cutting in line, saying please and thank you, ladies first completely elude them.  Americans actually look good over here compared to some others.

That’s a wrap for now.  Bruges tomorrow.