Yesterday I decided to not pack the bike at the hotel, since that would have entailed taking public transportation to the rail station with 2 pieces of heavy luggage. Instead, I put the trailer on and cycled to the train station. The ticket counter didn't open until 6 am, but there were no "hours" signs, so nobody really knew what time they opened. The automatic ticket machines only accept cards with a chip and pin #, so I sweated it out for a few minutes. The ride is only 18 minutes and drops you directly at the airport. I spent 1.5 hours folding my bike and reconfiguring all gear back into the duffle and 20 minutes to get through security, but I had checked in via a kiosk, so I just had to check my bags and pay for the one. That part was pretty quick. Security was right at the gate... interesting.
KLM was very cognizant of my lunch request this time. They distributed the special meals first (as opposed to coming to the Netherlands, when they messed it up and distributed them last and had given my meal away by accident), though the meal was very institutional.
At JFK, the whole journey went weird. First you go through passport check, then collect your bags, then go through customs, where they take your little "I am not taking any dangerous flora or fauna home" form, then you walk the length of that terminal, stand in line to re-check your bags, run upstairs to Airtran, run outside to the terminal under construction, back through security (20 min), then to the gate, which has changed. There was only about 1 hour between flights. A little hairy, but I made it.
Home sweet home.
Dwight had saved all bad news up while I was gone. The dog had to be put down and a friend was having serious trouble. I guess I am glad to have not known. It pays to have a wonderful person at home.
Thursday, August 02, 2012
Next was the Jewish Museum. I thought it would be more about the history of Jews, but it was more about culture and reflections. It was okay. St. Nicholas, the catholic church across from Centraal Station was exceptionally beautiful, but no photos were allowed. It reminded me of some tour guide who spoke about the rational for building beauty that makes you look up towards god. This was certainly the case. It was juxtaposed by the restrictions on how far you could enter the church, even though there were no services. Really truly a magnificent church, even seeing a tiny portion.
There are free tours put on by Sandeman. You tip the guide according to how much you can afford and how much you enjoyed the tour. Our guide explained the Dutch attitudes about marijuana and prostitution as, in part, a knee jerk reaction to WW II and the cooperation of Amsterdam in the collection and persecution of the Jews.
He also showed us Amsterdam's solution to men pissing in the streets and the consequences of attempts to provide women the same kind of facilities (after the women protested). The women's facilities were shuttered because since they were totally enclosed and could be locked, they were used for drug use and women were being assaulted in them. He also talked about the thousands of bicycles dredged from the canals each year and explained that the canals are purged and flushed about every 3 days. This is one of the reasons the canals don't stink like the ones in Venice. Yesterday I watched someone in the canal with a face mask on, trying to locate a boat which sank and apparently a long time ago people would throw their dead horses in the canals. Makes you wonder what you would see if you drained one totally. Parts of the old wall and gates still exist, as well as one of the weighing houses, from the times when ocean going ships came right down the canals to the city walls. It is amazing to see how skinny most of the houses are; this one was so skinny it is hard to imagine having anything more than a single sized bed in it.
I ate cheese sandwiches and an apple for lunch, but couldn't resist the urge to get a very un-vegetarian fried roll out of the hot vending machines. Such an interesting concept. The staff is still there, but they stock the machine continually from the back and serve things like french fries.
In Dam square (named because the river used to be damned there before the whole great harbor was enclosed) there were costumed, music and performance buskers.
My hotel room is on the 4th floor and overlooks a lovely backyard deck. There is no privacy in back yards, since other buildings overlook them from far above.