Thursday, August 8, 2013

Euro Trip Day 1: Amsterdam, Volendam, Marken, Zaanse Schans, Delft

Before talking about the trip itself, I shall just write a bit about my flight from Jakarta to Amsterdam. I wonder what is the big hoo hah about Singapore Airlines nowadays. The cabin crew and service for JKT-SGP were so so (borderline terrible, in fact) while the food for SGP-AMS was so so. Basically, I found nothing special with SQ, unlike my experience with them 5 years ago when I went to Sydney. Anyway, let's move on to the trip itself :)

My first impression of Schiphol upon arrival was not so good. It was nothing like Changi Airport. However, it is clean, sleek, and efficient as it only has what are the essentials for an airport. I found the toilet too small and the immigration area was definitely insufficient.

Outside the arrival hall, there is large area for people to simply enjoy the view. There is a huge photo taking opportunity outside the airport: I amsterdam. I think that is their tourism catchline.  Weather-wise, Amsterdam is windy and that makes the summer more bearable there

As my aunt was only able to pick us up after her work, we had to store our luggage in locker. Again it was something new. I was a bit worried about using credit card as cash was not accepted. The rate was 9.5 Euro for 24hrs. And aah btw, in case you are wondering the "us" and "we", I'm actually travelling wih my sister.

We proceeded to Amsterdam Central to book a tour to Volendam, Marken (both being traditional fishing villages), and Zaanse Schans (the windmill village). These are in North Holland so I suppose they are "outside city areas". There is public transport to these places but I don't like to travel to somewhere with no maps etc. Even wih maps, finding the tour agencies to book the tour was challenging. We found one after 9am so we were lucky that the bus had not left when we reached there at 910am.

At Volendam, we went too see traditional Holland houses with large windows allowing people to "peep" inside. It was intriguing to guess whether the houses were inhabited. There are signs of life but the spiderwebs outside the houses suggest otherwise. We also went to a cheese store. The cheese making demonstration was not really a demonstration as cheese making process takes many days and there was no cheese made during the 10-min demo. At the end of it, we were allowed to taste various types of cheese in the store.
Beautiful houses.. The green thing at the corner is a river, not grass, by the way.
We continued with a boat journey to Marken where houses were built on stilts due to flooding history in the past. With no wind and no wave, my guess was we were crossing a lake. It turns out to be a sea which is "enclosed" to prevent flooding. The sky was darkening so I did not quite enjoy the boat trip due to the fear of storm or rain when I was still in "open" water.
At Marken we went to a traditional clog (wooden shoes) factory. This time the demonstration was a real one as a pair of clog was made out of a chunk of wood. Traditionally the clogs were purely handmade but now they have smart machines to aid the process. You put the template on one side and a block of wood on the other side. When the gears rotate in same direction, an exact copy of the template is made. When the gears spin in opposite direction, you get the mirror image of the template i.e left and right shoes. Cool eh?

Zaanse Schans
Zaanse Schans is the last stop of the tour. The difficult to pronounce and spell name will be referred to as Windmill Village from now on. Lol. It is a nice place to camwhore with windmills and greenery. Only 1 mill is free for admission but we are not allowed to climb to the roof :( Gotta pay to camwhore at the other mills but I did not. The whole place also has a "funny smell" which I could not guess what. I thought I smelt cocoa, spices, and animal dung at the same time haha,,
That concluded our 6 hour tour and we were back in Amsterdam. We had lunch and the sun was really hot. I wanted to go for a river tour but ended up going to Dam Square and visiting various shops around it because I don't think my sister would be willing to be under the sun for anoher hour around the canal. Sigh.. I think it was stupid to visit Amsterdam without visiting the canals. Sad..

In the evening, our aunt picked us up from the airport and we travelled to Delft. It was 730pm but the sun was still up and it felt like 3 pm. It was a new experience for me to have the sun still up this late. Suddenly geography knowledge about long daytime in the summer in the northern hemisphere makes sense haha.. Anyway shops were already closed so we just went for dinner. Unfortunately, the restaurant which served traditional Holland dishes was closed on Mondays! Darn.. We decided to go to a random Western restaurant. I could not recall anything special with the food. My aunt ordered bitterballen which are Dutch traditional food. Basically they are deep fried balls of minced meat. From the name, I was expecting a bitter taste but they were not bitter. By the time we finished, it was 930pm but the sky still looked like my usual 730pm in Asia and we took a bit of photos of the city square. It was a great photo taking timing: no people, bright sky, and great surroundings.

So that is how my first day in Europe goes :) If I have to choose something as the most interesting, it will be witnessing 2 gay couples holding arms in public! I would not remember that Europeans are more open towards homosexuality if I did not see them.. No lesbians sighted though.. It will be at another time and another place where I witnessed lesbian couples. Lol.

Btw I am currently still on the last bit of my trip and I am in Vienna :) No time to attach pictures for now haha. I will do so when I am back to Singapore.

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