Posted by: RaeAn | 22 January 2011

Gelukkig Nieuwjaar!

…According to Google Translate, that’s “Happy New Year!” in Dutch. Anyone who actually speaks the language, feel free to correct me. I’m relying on unreliable technology for this one since I have no grasp of that language.

But it was indeed a happy New Year and a lovely one in Amsterdam! I went to Amsterdam with my sister, my friend Mandy, and my sister’s friend Abby. My friend Mike and his girl Jena were also there at the same time as us, so we met up a few times, though we kept mostly different schedules.

Day 1, Dec 30: Welkom in Amsterdam!

Yet another session of Fun with Google Translate… but we left Israel for Amsterdam on the 30th.

 

We’re leeeeeeavin’ on a jet plane… Don’t know when we’ll be back again… (Okay, fine, we do know: Jan 4. But let’s not think about that yet.)

Leah, Mandy and I made it through the traveling ordeal relatively unscathed. My boy met up with us at the airport to say goodbye to me and give me an early new years kiss… yeah, we’re cute. Get over it. I like him.

 

Yeah, we were disappointed that the sign was in English, too, but we got over it. Leah made me take the picture since she collects the "welcome" signs wherever she goes. Along with a million other silly things she collects when she travels. (McDonalds menus, shot glasses, etc... luckily, I know she barely ever takes the time to read this blog, so since she's a bad sister and doesn't keep up with me, I can be a bad sister too and make fun of her publicly. Ha.)

We tried to find a bus to our hotel, but the Best Western shuttle only went to the other location, not ours, and after waiting 20 minutes for the public bus line that the information desk told us to take… we gave up and grabbed a cab to our hotel.

The hotel messed up our reservation, but we managed to work everything out and we all had a bed to sleep on. Mandy went to bed while Leah and I hung out at the hotel bar for a bit… then we passed out ourselves.

 

Despite the exhaustion, we wanted a beer in the Netherlands, so we got a beer in the Netherlands, so there.

Day 2, Dec 31: Shopping, Logistics, and New Years Eve!

Abby, Leah’s friend, wasn’t joining us until the evening when her train arrived from France, so we figured we’d do some things she might not be interested in before she got there… so we tried to find the Jewish Quarter and such… but we failed miserably. We ended up wandering around the city, wholly distracted by a million things, until we gave up looking and left for the Central Train Station to meet Abby and get back to the hotel to prep for New Years Eve.

But we managed to navigate the public transportation system fairly well to get into the city…

 

Yup, that's a man in a kilt. On the bus. With no pants on. When there was snow on the ground and we were in at least 4 layers apiece. Sometimes, truth is stranger than fiction. Either that, or living in Israel has made me soft and weak when it comes to cold weather. Brrrrrr.

Our first distraction: getting SIM cards and such at a little shop with a very nice shopkeeper who helped us immensely with figuring our way around the city.

Our second distraction: GAYNESS!

I knew that Holland was a very open and friendly and live-and-let-live society, but I was amazed by how cool everyone is with gayness. Right across the street from our friend’s shop was a “Gay and Lesbian Tourist Information Center.” There were ads for gay wedding planners on the bus stops. And there is a monument to all those persecuted for their sexual orientation:

 

It says,

Commemorates all men and women every oppressed persecuted because of their homosexuality.
Supports the international lesbian and gay movement in their struggle against contempt, discrimination and oppression.
Demonstrates that we are not alone.
Calls for permanent vigilance.

Past, Present, and Future are represented by the 3 triangles on this square, designed by Karin Daan, 1987.

It’s a beautiful concept. Not a strikingly beautiful sight in the so-so weather of the day, but still pretty amazing:

 

There it is, the lovely Homomonument.

Well, technically, this is only one of the three triangles of the monument. We missed the other two somehow, but I found a diagram of what it’s supposed to be in concept at least:

We only saw the one on the left that goes down, but the other two were there, I'm sure. We just didn't look very hard.

 

Then we kept walking and looking around and enjoying the sights of the city. Such a gorgeous place!

We saw Madame Tussauds, though we never had the time (or the money — 21 Euros to enter!) to go.

 

I really wanted to go... I've never seen any Madame Tussauds, and the wax figures are supposed to be amazing.. but oh well. Next time, I suppose!

Then we kept walking around looking for the Jewish quarter, but we got distracted by shiny things. Namely, shoes. And by shoes, I mean boots. And by boots… I mean “HOLY COW you mean people actually WEAR these?” type of boots.

 

Now that's what I call boots. They kept me nice and warm on New Years Eve... and yes, I had leggings on with them for New Years so I was doubly sure I wouldn't freeze. I just forgot to take a picture of them that day, so here they are. I call them my Catwoman boots. They may or may not be coming out again for Purim. Leah bought a similar pair.

Then also a bunch of touristy shopping, and just looking around the streets… until we went to the central station to pick up Abby at 5:30. We then all went back to the hotel, got ready, and caught the last bus back into the city before New Years. We met up with Mike and Jena and had a blast!

 

We went to the square, then realized we had hours until things started up for real, so we got dinner and a beer before we headed back to the square for the partying.

Back in Dam Square for the show!

There were firecrackers going off everywhere… and I mean EVERYWHERE. On the streets. Not necessarily in a safe manner. It was actually kinda scary. People would light this one kind of firecracker, throw it on the ground, and it would make a giant flash and BOOM… and one time that happened inside a pedestrian tunnel. Not cool. Not cool at all. Ouch.

But otherwise, it was a ton of fun! Videos of the fireworks might make it online soon… depends on how my internet connection behaves.

 

Happy New Year from Amsterdam!

Day 3, Jan 1: Relax & Wander

After staying up late for New Years, we (of course) slept in a bit on the first… but then we got out and did some more wandering around the city.

We finally found the Portuguese Synagogue!

 

Unfortunately, it was being renovated so we wouldn't get any good pictures of the outside... and it had already closed for the day so we couldn't get inside. Sadness. But I was glad we found it at least!

The coolest thing about the synagogue, from what I could gather about it, is its history. According to the guy we talked to about it, it’s a Sephardic (Spanish) synagogue, with the Spanish rites (liturgically speaking), not Portuguese… what happened is that, in 1492, Spain kicked out all the Jews and a bunch went to Portugal. Then, five years later, Portugal followed suit… so several of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews came to Holland. However, the Dutch and the Spanish weren’t getting along very well at the time, so they all decided to call themselves Portuguese, including the Spanish ones, so they’d get along better in society. So it’s called Portuguese, but it’s actually Sephardic/Spanish in culture and religious rite. Pretty cool, if you ask me, though I’m a Jew nerd, so maybe you didn’t ask me. Though if I weren’t a Jew nerd, I wouldn’t be studying at HUC, so you must have already known that about me anyway.

We also found a playground.

 

Leah on the Jungle Gym, monkeying around as usual. 😉

The Dutch are also really good at public art and commemorating the past. Like a memorial piece of art commemorating the book burnings of WWII.

 

A statue of an old woman reluctantly following orders to burn books as commanded by the Nazis in WWII. This was inside the train station -- about as public of a place for art as you can get. Amazing.

 

There are stop lights for the bike lanes! Genius! I love how bike-friendly the city is... and how transit-friendly it is in general. You'll see people going around on every possible type of transportation: bike, buses, light rail trains, the Metro train, inter-city trains, planes, canal boats, cars, and walking... Everything is available, depending on where you're going, how fast you need to get there, and how much you can spend. It's phenomenal.

Then we went out that night in the Red Light District.

 

Swans! So pretty. And yes, in the canals of the Red Light District. Kinda funny, that.

Now we have a few things that are less G-rated… so I’m just going to put tiny thumbnails for you to click on if you’re an adult if you want to see the full pictures. (Note: I censored the first picture for those with more delicate sensibilities. For the uncensored one, look earlier in the album. I personally think that neither the f-word nor scantily clad women are offensive per se, but I know some might, so whatever, you win.)

 

Live Sex Theater

This “live sex show” place had it advertised in several languages… including Hebrew. Apparently enough Israelis travel here that it’s front and center right at the top. Hilarious.

 

Moulin Rouge

The Moulin Rouge sex club, apparently.

We went to a peep show just to say we did it… it wasn’t impressive at all, but whatever. I’d done my “see other people naked” part of the trip, and that’s that, and it gets boring after a while. There were, of course, plenty of women in windows, but we weren’t allowed to take pictures of them without possibly being arrested, so I didn’t try. I actually kinda wanted to see how much it would cost to pay one for an hour just to talk, figure out what her life is like, etc… but that’s the feminist “sex workers are real people!” type in me that none of my companions were as keen on sharing. Boo.

 

Since we couldn't take pictures of the women in the windows, here's an AP photo similar to what we saw.

That’s enough of that for now. After that, we went out and had some drinks and relaxed. Yay vacation!

Day 4, Jan 2: Anne Frank and The Canals

We had tickets to the Anne Frank museum (if you’re ever going to Amsterdam, I HIGHLY recommend purchasing tickets online ahead of time — the line was atrociously long even in winter, and we got to walk right in at our assigned ticket time). It was amazing. It’s entirely empty of furniture because that’s how Otto Frank wanted it, but there’s a lot of artifacts and information and models of how the family lived in the tiny apartment when they were in hiding. I bought a few things in the museum store, including a museum info book in English and Hebrew, Anne’s diary in Hebrew, and a graphic novel based on the diary which is really well-done. Also some beautiful postcards that I’ll turn into a nice framed array once I get back to the US and can get to Michaels to do that. (I used to work in custom framing there, so I can put together something nice pretty easily with the right materials… seems silly to do it here in Israel, where it will be more expensive and much harder to lug a framed piece back than just the postcards.)

Then we bought tickets for a canal tour of the city, which I also highly recommend to anyone visiting Amsterdam. We bought the tickets at the cafe right next to the Anne Frank house for 9.5 Euros a person and it was a great tour.

 

Getting ready to tour the canals just before sunset!

The canals are beautiful.

Sunset made the whole thing even prettier, though it did make it harder to get good pictures once it got darker.

After the tour, we went out for Indonesian food, which is apparently a specialty in the city. I’d never had it before. Indonesia was a Dutch colony once upon a time, so plenty of places to choose from… and thank goodness for my iPhone Amsterdam apps to help us find places to eat… but as we were wandering toward the place my phone told me to go to, we discovered that Israel isn’t that far away, after all:

 

Baba, a kebab and falafel restaurant in Amsterdam.

And there’s also no getting away from Jesus.

 

Nativity scene in the center of the city in Amsterdam, near Dam Square.

I mean, really, no way to escape Jesus in the Western World today.

 

Jesus Love You, even in Amsterdam. The best part is the fact that the Dutch translation says "God" instead of Jesus, which, as a Jew, I'm more inclined to agree with as a statement anyway. 😉

Leah and Abby hung out with Leah’s friend who is studying in Amsterdam while Mandy and I met up with Mike and Jena for some relaxing at a fun little coffee shop where we got to talk with the locals, who made fun of me for ordering a glass of milk. In my defense, it was on the menu — don’t put it on the menu unless you expect someone to order it at some point! Haha. We saw this “Jesus Loves You” sign after all of that as we waited for the night bus back to Uithoorn to our hotel.

Day 5, Jan 3: Van Gogh, Bols, and the Sex Museum

The next day we had tickets for the Van Gogh Museum (which I also recommend you purchase beforehand online — another long line which we got to skip entirely, though there’s no time or even date on the tickets; they’re good any one day within a year, so it’s more flexible for travelers like us who don’t like to stick to a schedule while on vacation). The museum was pretty awesome, though Leah was sorely disappointed that Starry Night wasn’t there (it’s at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC, though, so we can always take a far less expensive trip to see it another time once we’re back stateside). But it was a great display; again, no pictures allowed, so sorry about the lack of illustrations for this step of the trip.

I bought more postcards there which I will make into an array to go next to my Anne Frank one once I get back to the US.

Leah wasn’t feeling well, so she rested at the Van Gogh museum while Abby, Mandy, and I crossed the street to the House of Bols, a liqueur museum and shop of the Bols company. It was a ton of fun, actually, and also highly recommended! The history of the liqueur and the shape of the bottle is actually really interesting, and they have a wall full of 36 different flavors that you get to smell and guess the flavor of the liqueur inside.

 

A stack of Bols cordial glasses in the museum part.

The wall lined with three dozen different Bols liqueurs to smell and guess what they are... some were surprisingly good!

Mandy takes a whiff of a mystery flavor... is it strawberry? Watermelon? Cherry? Or perhaps even rose?

After the museum part, you go to the bar where you get to try one cocktail for free. They have a list of signature cocktail recipes which you can print out and keep, or you can request a custom cocktail with your favorite flavors, and you also get to try two shots of any flavors you want.

 

Mandy got the Strawberry Delight (left), Abby got their chocolate hazelnut martini the name of which I forgot (right), and I was obnoxious and requested a custom Lychee-Passionfruit martini.

We loved our cocktails. I loved the Strawberry Delight that Mandy got enough that I paid to get that one, too.

The strawberry one had real strawberries in it and their new 2011 flavor, the Natural Yoghurt Liqueur. I bought a bottle of that because it was so good and interesting, as well as a Lychee and Passionfruit. (Once a bartender, always a bartender, I suppose… I miss tending bar sometimes! But I guess I’m on to bigger and better things now…)

We then had reservations to eat dinner at a lovely Dutch restaurant and had some local cuisine, which was very delicious. I ate meat. I know, I’m a hypocritical vegetarian, but I wanted to try the local specialty, which happened to come from a cow. My tummy only hated me a little bit afterward. It was worth it. Once. And only once.

And then, for the evening entertainment, the only museum (well, one of two — also the Hemp Museum, but we didn’t get to that one) open until stupidly late at night, the Sexmuseum!

 

The Sexmuseum!

The museum was actually really well done, especially considering it only costs 4 Euros, which is unheard of in the city for a museum. The curator really knew what they were doing, with a history of sex and its role in society and various objects either used for or reminiscent of sexual things.

 

Yep, even the Sexmuseum wished us a Merry Christmas as we entered. Ha.

Yes, that's a corkscrew in the shape of a penis... which says "L'chaim" ("To Life," a Jewish toast) on the side. Hilariously awesome.

An homage to Marilyn Monroe, with the display label describing her as "Sexsymbol from the fifties" (yep, "sexsymbol," one word).

We then decided to relax with a beer for our last night and not do anything too crazy, so we headed to a local watering hole where I had a yummy Dutch beer,  and Leah built a tower out of the coasters.

 

Such an accomplishment! (Don't laugh. That stuff is hard. Especially after a beer or three. I'm being serious.)

And then we went back to the hotel and packed up, passed out, and got ready to leave the next morning. The leaving part was sad — Amsterdam is such a wonderful city, and I absolutely want to visit it again! There’s so much history, beautiful architecture, and the people are so incredibly nice and open-minded and lovely to be around. If you hear about any 6-month or one-year fellowships for Jewish educators in Amsterdam, let me know — the Jewish community there would be wonderful to work with for a while, and I would jump on the opportunity if it were there.

Day 6, Jan 4: Back to Israel

And there you have it, folks. We woke up early, caught a cab, and Leah, Mandy, and I flew back to Israel while Abby caught a train back to France. Leah and I relaxed at Gal’s place in Tel Aviv for a night, then went back to Jerusalem until our mom arrived in Israel on the 6th… and traveling with her will need to be a blog post all on its own, which I should be able to post soon if all goes according to plan! It was a hectic break, but a good one with seeing family and traveling around Israel.

Missing Amsterdam already, though… Thanks Mandy, Abby, Mike, Jena, and Leah for making it a wonderful trip and a very happy New Year!

L’hitraot,

~ Rae

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Responses

  1. We have a family friend who has one of the houseboats in Amsterdam, so I got to go in one when I was there. It’s crazy! And it moves more than I expected…


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