Look out! Don’t cross yet! Watch out for the scooter! These phrases peppered our trip to Amsterdam. The bicyclists and the sheer number of bicycles are bananas. The bicycle path is SERIOUS business. We were warned about them in every guide book and video about the city. Do not step into these lanes carelessly and be as cautious about them as cars when crossing the street. The bike lanes host motorized scooters in many variations as well and everyone is keeping speed.
I think it’s great that so many people commute by bike. It’s interesting to see what it looks like when bicycles outnumber cars four to one in a city. Parking for bikes seems to be a problem. They crowd most sidewalks in front of stores and on residential streets. Small children ride seated with parents on the bike either front, back or in a covered cargo bin on special bikes. I didn’t see many under ten pedaling in the lanes. Fun fact: They say that they pull out 12,000 to 15,000 bikes from the canals every year.
Andreas and I met my brother and his family in Amsterdam for the beginning of an eleven-day trip. Amsterdam, gray and drizzly was wonderful.
I loved the canals, the tall crooked houses and the friendly, English speaking people. It was a nice break from Bremerhaven, Germany to be able to speak English with someone and not feel embarrassed about it. We stayed in an Airbnb with steep staircases, a little kitchen and giggling neighbors in the next house over; twenty minutes walking distance from my brother’s hotel.
Thank God Andreas has a good sense of direction. I was always pointing the wrong way.
The six of us toured the city and the art museums. My brother’s family saw many more museums than we did for the kids. Andreas and I are pretty content to sit in a coffee shop and people watch. We did visit the Rijksmuseum which I loved. It wasn’t very crowded and there were some wonderful portraits.
The Van Gogh Museum was lovely too but very crowded. I did enjoy seeing so much of his work in one space. I came away with a new feeling about the paintings.
Andreas and I travel differently. I’m used to traveling with some bread and cheese in my backpack, a couple of candy bars and bottle of water. He finds the best coffee and has it ground for the Airbnb, he likes nice restaurants and orders what he doesn’t know how to cook himself and wine. In the morning we look for bakeries and eat fresh bread and pastry. We stay in safe, clean places. I definitely prefer this type of travel. Ha ha.
The experience in the city was a little overwhelming at times but wonderful especially before Christmas. Get to Amsterdam, it’s unlike any city I’ve visited.
It was a rough week emotionally watching, listening to and reading about the situation with Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford in America. It brought up a lot of bad memories for me and it was heart wrenching to read about the memories of my friends and acquaintances online. Andreas and I had a unused train ticket from the summer and he wisely suggested a change of scenery. We choose Bremen because we’ve heard good things, we wanted to explore and it’s very close.
We began our day at the Kunsthalle, (art museum) fairly close to the train station. The current exhibit of the museum is about Love. I found the images interesting, but not extraordinary. Andreas, who can read the descriptions, stories and the themes of the exhibit in German was able to decipher its deeper intentions. The museum has an impressive collection of paintings from the late 19th and 20th century including some of my favorite German Expressionists.
A couple of days before our trip I went on long walks around Bremerhaven and developed blisters on my feet from my shoes. So, I didn’t have happy exploring feet for Bremen. This made me grumpy going place to place, but when I took breaks and just sat watching the crowds I had some surprising photo opportunities that I would have ignored or walked by otherwise. For instance, I didn’t realize that there were song lyrics written on the walls in the Love exhibit until I took a break to rest my feet.
When we had seen and experienced all that the museum had to offer we went to a little café that Andreas read about online. We were following google maps on his phone and got turned around in the wrong direction trying to follow the blue dots. We walked for a couple of blocks only to reverse directions a couple of times. My feet weren’t happy and wanted to stop walking. We noticed between two buildings a little alley with a café, a bar and few shops. I asked to walk there because it looked much more interesting than the street we were on. The area turned out to be the Schnoor Quarter, one of the oldest areas of the Altstadt or old town. There were winding cobblestone streets, little shops in medieval buildings full of “typical German” things that you might find at the Christmas market and a TON of tourists. Tiny streets with piles of tourists, the worst kind with strollers, small children and dogs. If it wasn’t for the tourists it would have looked very Diagon Alley. Andreas’ graduate student, Cassandra and I are introducing Andreas to Harry Potter movies this month.
Andreas did not enjoy this path and asked that we leave those streets as soon as possible. As we were weaving our way through we accidentally happened upon our café destination. The café was also quite crowded and ancient, we found ourselves sitting in a cubby hole in a back room with seven ladies we had never met before. Our waitress was an attentive elven goth who brought us wonderful pastries and coffee. Andreas and I had a good time recounting the paintings we had seen at the museum and what made them special to us. Since we were conversing in English we didn’t bother the ladies too much.
Re-caffeinated we proceeded to our next destination on the list; a fancy restaurant for dinner. Again, Google maps twisted our sense of direction but we had hours until dinner to get lost and explore. This would have been fun if my feet had been in better shape. On our wanderings we found the Marktplatz and main square that you see in the photos of what to do in Bremen. St. Peter’s Cathedral, the statue of Roland and the statue, Town Musicians (A bronze statue with a rooster standing on a cat that’s standing on a dog that’s standing on a donkey from a Grimm Brother’s fairy tale) were all there. The tourists were gathered around to rub the donkey’s hooves. We took some photos and continued our quest.
At one point, walking through a residential neighborhood, my feet had had enough and we sat in a clothing designer’s red doorway. After we sat a dirty, friendly cat greeted and walked on us, then we noticed a wedding walking toward us down the opposite street making their way to a restaurant on the corner for their reception. Again, we would have missed this if we weren’t having a sit down.
Blocks later we found the little restaurant and then still needing to fill an hour or two we walked to a busy street nearby in a neighborhood full of graffiti and murals to look for a place to hang out and grab a beer. We found a little table in the window of an empty bar with mid-century furniture and foosball tables. As we were drinking our beer Andreas said, “I think I just watched a drug deal.” Ok I said, not too unusual in a city. Then I noticed a very nervous looking man walking slowly down the sidewalk and three men following him in the street. I said, “I’ll bet that’s going to be another one.” It was…then another. What to do? Andreas took some photos. I asked him not to do anything while we were sitting there. It was a nice neighborhood, lots of families and kids walking by.
We walked back to the restaurant a little nervous because Andreas made it known to one of the guys dealing the drugs that he was watching him. Dinner was an event. The restaurant was very small with just a couple of tables on the lower level, a little below the street, of a corner house. As soon as the tables were filled a red velvet curtain was drawn in front of the door letting those passing by know that the restaurant was full for the evening. We had a choice between two fixed menus and between three to seven courses. The food was tiny, artsy and tasty. I didn’t take photos because cell phones were discouraged in the establishment. On their page is a good example of a tiny, artsy dish. A fancy place with a comical touch in the bathroom. The toilet was the old style with the tank near the ceiling and a chain. The handle of the chain was a wooden banana. Real towels at the sink, fancy, smelly soaps and a wooden banana. Same in the gents too.
After our sweet, tiny dinner we ran for the late train and returned to Bremerhaven.