Europe, Travel

Three Days in Amsterdam, Zaanse Schans, Volendam and Marken in Netherlands

DUBLIN TO AMSTERDAM

We woke up at 2:20 am to catch air coach to airport in Dublin. The stop on O’Connell street was a 20min walk from the hostel. We checked out and some crazy drunk guy stormed in the hostel and said there are goons outside who tried to harass him. We confirmed the safest way to the stop and started walking. It was all safe. Probably that person was making up stories!

Reached the stop which was right opposite to maccas and so Jay picked up a coffee from there. Closer to the pick up time 4am, taxi drivers started flogging the area and offered taxi rides to the airport at same price as the coach. Then someone came and said that the coach won’t be coming to the stop because of road works. We searched for the nearest stop and started walking towards it. An ex USA army person was with us on the way. That lady was going had set out to travel 60 countries and was on number 36. She talked about her travels in morrocco and how she couch surfed etc. Interesting talk. Finally managed to get to the airport. We picked a quick breakfast from boots at the Dublin airport. Security check opened our bags which was annoying. All well…on the way to Amsterdam.

Day One

We landed in Schipol Airport Amsterdam at roughly 9:00am. We had pre bought our Amsterdam card (72 hours) with regional travel. We went to the Amsterdam card office at the airport to collect our cards. We bought some focaccia bread from a supermarket at the airport and ate in on the train. Took few photos near the ‘I Amsterdam’ letters and caught a train from the airport. We caught the 9:30 am train and reached Amsterdam central at 10 am. Checked in to our hostel the flying pig. Very different to our 1st hostel. Jacob’s inn was modern and simple. Quite clean too. flying pig – as described on hostel world and elsewhere is a party hostel. We made a conscious decision to stay here. The room we were staying in was a 4 bedder. The 2 other people in our room were boys. The rooms weren’t ready but we could still put our stuff in the cages. We kept our stuff, changed and headed out to Zanshe. Took a train ride and reached Zanshe.

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First impressions – an uber cute Dutch village with windmills on its coast. It was a world of its own. Canals, bridges, wooden shoe factory, oil mills, saw mills. Wind mills – we actually climbed on top and saw the windmills up close. Spent a good part of the day there and then returned to Amsterdam. Had dinner at an Italian restaurant opposite our hostel.

That’s was all for the day as we were super tired after almost 15kms of walking.

Day Two

Bright new day in Amsterdam. Since all local attractions were opening after 10am, we decided to visit the fishing villages of voledendam and Marken early in the morning. The route was Amsterdam central to voledendam by bus and voledendam to marken by ferry. Marken to Amsterdam back by bus.

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Voldendam is a very traditional village with a character of its own. Every house was very inidividually and lovingly decorated which made the walk along the streets of the village and experience. The bell shaped, steps and triangle facade of the houses was maintained throughout, including the supermarket in the village square.

We went to the local museum and explored the streets. On the coast we tried a local Dutch item which called stroopwafel. It is 2 paper thin pancakes with caramel sandwiched in between. Next we went to a studio and had a photo clicked of us in traditional Dutch costumes. Very funny!

Then we caught a ferry (Marken Express – included in our Amsterdam card) to Marken. On the way we met 2 elderly Indian couples from Punjab and Kerela from USA. Had a nice chat. Clicked a photo with them and gave a packet of the girnar tea.

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In Marken, we went back in time to experience an old town charm of a fishing village. We visited the shoe factory there (again) and sampled some Gouda cheese. It was locally made and very smooth in taste. They make it in varied flavours too. We wanted to buy some to have a small snack but they only sold it in big packs.

We moved on towards the bus stop which was only a few meters away. In the way, like we decided, we filled up our water bottles in the drinking fountain. We must have saved at least €50 by this time just on water by carrying our own bottle. Anyways, just opposite to the bus stop was a local grocery shop. We saw the locals shopping there and went in to grab a snack. Right at the front the juicy strawberries caught my eye. We bought 500gms (€2.75) and a bottle of freshly squeezed orange juice (€1). Waited for the bus and enjoyed our snack on way back to Amsterdam. The views on the way back were great. One advantage of travelling on the local buses and trains is that you get to interact with locals and see the everyday life while passing from the suburbs.

We reached back to Amsterdam by 2pm. We still had a good part of the day left so decided to start exploring Amsterdam. We started off with visiting the Heineken brewery. There was a 35minutes long queue to purchase the tickets (€18 each with 2 drinks included pp). It would have been wiser to purchase he tickets online. Walking doesn’t kill my legs, standing does. Also, as a note to self, always visit the tourist office before you start exploring the city. They have discount voucher booklets for popular attractions.

After the long queue, we finally got in. The tour started with a jolly guide explaining us the history of Heineken and how it all started. How they had someone else bottling the beer for a few years before the partnership went sore and they started bottling their own. Today, Heineken bottles 1.4m bottles a day. Whopping. Moving on, another friendly guide spoke to us about the making of the beer with water, yeast, barley and hops. The reason why it has a light colour as opposed to the ruby colour of Guinness is because the barley is only lightly roasted. Apparently the secret behind the taste of the beer is in the strand of the yeast and the taste of water. To maintain the same taste of the beer, they distill the water to reach a neutral level. So no matter where it’s made, it tastes the same. Ok, enough of the history, moving on we saw the exhibits, learnt how to taste (take a big gulp till the bottom of the glass is exposed – this way the top froth stays) the Heineken and other fun facts.

Moving on we went to the experience theatre which was like a 7D theatre that showed us the actual beer making process. Last but not the least, we reached the awesome vibe roof top bar. Magnificent views of the city and a coldie made the perfect recipe for fun.

Coming down the elevator, we had a surprise game section. We went crazy there with the karaoke, the photo booth and what not!! They did make us smile.

We had booked a tour to visit the infamously famous red light district for that evening. Before going for the tour we stopped to tick off one more cultural experience – Febo. Febo is one of its kind experience of buying hot food from a vending machine. I got a cheese pocket (the only vege option) and Jay got chicken and noodle croquet. It was pretty good option for a quick snack. For dinner, we got kebabs and falafel. They were filling and a healthy option as we got ours with salad.

I will write about the walking tour of the red light district separately. Photos are not allowed in the area so we don’t have any.

All in all a very efficient day with a late night. Smashed and definitely ready to hit the bed.

Day Three

We started our day with a cruise tour of the grand canals of Amsterdam. Our Amsterdam card included a ride of the grand canal with one of the 4 cruise companies. We chose to do ours with the lovers cruise company. It was a nice sunny day. We had our breakfast and headed straight there. Showed our cards and got our tickets. Walked to the harbour to board the cruise. The reason behind choosing this particular company out of the 4 was that their cruises had an open area as well. Others were fully covered.

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It was an informative and picturesque. I had to pinch myself to believe that we were in such a beautiful place…so surreal.

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After the cruise we decided to go to Rembrandt’s house. On the way we saw something which I guess could only be found in Amsterdam – hash (marijuana) and hemp ( type of cloth traditionally weaved in Netherlands). Also on the way, we came across a farmer’s market. As we were feeling a bit peckish and roamed in the market. We bought some of the Gouda cheese and then looked for a bread to go with it. The bread stall had hundreds of fresh bread loaves. The lady recommended a bread to have with the cheese, slices it up for us too. We wandered and found a nice spot by the canal to sit down and have our snack. We looked for a bottle shop to grab a bottle of wine too without any luck.

Finally we reached Rembrandt’s house. Our Amsterdam city card included entry to this place. It is a beautiful and lavish house where Rembrandt used to live and run his art school before he went bankrupt. The house was empty as the bankruptcy creditors sold everything to pay the due debts. However, in order to do this they made a list of the inventory he held. This house is recreated with that inventory list and things are placed in the exact same manner as they used to be. Few of the pointers were also taken from the journals of his students from back then. It was a 4 storey house with different rooms for varied purposes. It was what we would call in today’s day ‘a home office/studio’. My after thoughts after visiting his house were that not only he was a great artist – he was a clever business person too. His business acumen was displayed in the way he decorated his reception rooms where he received his clients. How he disguised plaster to look like marble in order to give a impressive look. He also had his students make colours, canvasses etc for him while they were on their ‘internship’. Each student paid 50 bucks every six months to study under him- a hefty amount at the time. They even made replicas of his work which he then onsold to clients who couldn’t afford his original works. I would like to read more on him to find out the reason for his bankruptcy as it would give me an insightful lesson.

After going to Rembrandt’s house, our next destination was floating flower market. I was really looking forward to it as I love flowers and tulips are my favourite. Half of the market is on the canals(wooden structures). When you walk in the stalls, the entrance is concrete flooring and rest is wooden floor. There is a small staircase right at the end to gain access to the canals from the shop. They sold lots of tulip varieties, flowering bulbs, bonsais and all things plants. Like any tourist place, souvenirs were found in abundance too. We bought our postcards and magnets from here along with some special lollypops and cookies. We stopped for a quick break in the market to try out Dutch pancakes. We got a serving and Jay got a Heineken and I sipped on some rose wine. Dutch pancakes, drink, people watching, flower market – perfect bliss.

We roamed around the city for a while and saw the party mode building up for the gay pride 🏳️‍🌈 festival. On the night before during our tour of the district, we saw some wild parties in the inner streets to celebrate the pride. The whole city was dressed in rainbow colours. All people who supported it hoisted flags outside their shops and homes.

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On the way, we came across a food truck for herring fish. It is a small sized fish which is traditional dutch delicacy. They eat it raw and whole. Jay wanted to try some and so he did. His willingness to try only lasted one bite.

By this time the pride carnival was starting to gear up. There was going to be a hoard of boats on the princes canal for the carnival. We went to the canal and saw the festivities and the madness. Partying full swing! It was a very very different experience for both of us.

Exhausted after a long day, we reached the hostel, had some eat in pizza (€5 each), packed our bags for the next day and hit the bed.

Date Visited: 3rd August 2017 to 5th August 2017

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