Sunday, July 31, 2005

Europe 2005 - The Netherlands

We made good time crossing Germany(average speed was 110mph) and we found the campground faster then we normally do (which is what usually takes up our time.) so we decided to go into Amsterdam for the evening.
Anne Frank House- We decided to go an hour before closing to try to avoid the lines since this is the most popular thing in Amsterdam. We had just finished "the diary of Anne Frank" just before crossing over into the Netherlands so we recognized all the quotes on the walls as we walked through. She talks a lot about the placement of the rooms and people throughout her diary so seeing in person how it all fits together was like finishing a puzzle in my mind. Stepping through the bookcase into the hiding area really was like stepping into a different world. At the end they had a room with a display that posed different questions about the freedom of speech vs. protection then allowed you to vote as a group. It did a really good job of explaining anti-Semitism as it is today. In the bookshop they had the book in all the different languages.
Red light district- We decided to wander around to see what it is like. The tradition there started long ago that the prostitutes would stand in the window to show what you could buy. I guess its like the produce guy displaying the fruit in the window. I think it was better then when we have been to Tijuana where they have a barker at the door that tries to get you to come in. They would harass you to no end. The funny thing was, was that all the windows were full of bored women in bikinis either talking to each other, texting on cell phones, or watching TV. L. thought the sex stores were pretty explicit with the DVD cases they showed in their windows.
More rain-The next morning we woke up to the heaviest raining we have had in Europe. The storm was strong enough to blow the tent enough that it would bend down and touch my knees. The tent we have is pretty good and successfully had kept all previous rain out but the raining all night finally got water in our tent but not our blankets so we put those in the car and headed into town to get out of the rain. We saw "Charlie and the chocolate factory" to get out of the rain, since so many people know English here they don't dub the movie. (just sub titles) Just as I thought there are things lost in culture differences as L. and I were the only ones to laugh at the "county fair" joke.
Rijks museum- Dutch painters style is both my wife's and my favorite style with the detail and reality. This was an interesting place to go since they have a lot Rembrandt and Vermeer. They had all the Dutch porcelain paintings that is so famous. The problem being that because of the rain everyone else decided to do a museum day too.
Van Gogh Museum- this is the largest collection of Van Gogh's anywhere and he is an easy painter to understand for impressionism so a lot of people, including me, like him. Van Gogh was never famous in his life, but he tried really hard to paint stuff people would like. To read the letters he wrote his brother and how they are correlated to the different places he lived, the mental institution, and finally his suicide can be seen as it progresses through the rooms of art work (its how they have them organized.) With that much of his work there it was heart wrenching for me to see the progression.
Hemp Museum- (its funny this place was not in our guide book but I had found it in another book I read called "weird places in Europe.") The police confiscated everything the first time they opened and they display those tags now too as badges of honor. They had a display of all the different ways people have smuggled marijuana along with a little note that the police were well aware of all these tricks. They detailed all the uses for hemp from fabrics to medicine. They did not seem to be none to happy with the strict laws and enforcement that the USA has. To top it all off they have a real working hydroponics greenhouse growing all the different varieties so you can see all the shapes the plant comes in. It was interesting and funny but I took at catalog as my only souvenir from their gift shop. So marijuana in Amsterdam is legal to own and sell (tax revenue- so no street dealers) but illegal to smoke or grow. I don't know how the museum and a few restaurants we passed were getting away with growing the stuff in their windows but I'm sure the police get tired of all the stupid tourists who walk down the road smoking a joint. It was weird to see people carrying bags of the stuff out in the open right past the cops.

Coffee shops- Go to a café if you want coffee. Coffee shops are the places you go to buy pot and they are everywhere. Whenever we walked past one the smell reminded me of the concerts I had been to. We were looking for an internet café and realized all the ones we had seen were all in the coffee shops. So we then went looking for a coffee shop with computers and found what must be the only internet café in Amsterdam which is good since all the smoke was giving L. a headache.

Politics-warning biased opinions of mine. Hemp- at the hemp museum they did a really good job of stating all the benefits of hemp and why Dupont and Dow Jones are fighting the competition but I really doubt that their main motivation for legalizing marijuana is to slow deforestation and make stronger ropes. the people that want marijuana legalized state their main reason for wanting to smoke it and it makes the argument weaker in my eyes.
Fear- while reading the diary, being in Germany and then walking through the secret annex I really drew a lot of parallels to what Hitler did with the Jews and what Bush is using terrorists for. Don't get me wrong - I am not calling Bush a Nazi or raciest. Simply that he is using fear of a small group to increase his power and temporary emergency powers getting codified into law in the name of patriotism. Do I think Bush is trying to become a dictator? No of course not but I do think this is a slippery slope and we are sliding the wrong way.

The facilities- I would not mention the urinals of Amsterdam normally but they all had something weird about them. For some reason they all had a detailed fly painted in them. I first saw them at the Van Gogh museum and thought they were being artsy but I saw them 3 different places with different brands so I am at a loss why they are there.
The dikes- Driving in and out of the Netherlands we saw the windmills and dikes that keep the ocean out. Its very strange looking one way and seeing the ocean at one level then looking the other way and seeing the houses at a lower level. Since everything is so flat when it rains it turns everything to puddles and mud.

Bikes- The Netherlands are famous for people riding bikes. When we were in China about the same percentage of people were on bikes there. The difference here is that the bikes have their own road system separated from the cars. There are a lot of bike overpasses and underpasses so they do not need to stop for cars. We always had to look both ways on the bike roads too or the bike riders would use their bells as horns.

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