A Dutch River Cruise

(Click on any of the pictures to get a larger version of that image.)

From April 11th to April 18th, Shelby and I went along with Shelby's parents on a Viking River Cruises cruise through the rivers and canals of the Netherlands.

There are four pages of pictures — skip around to:

Page One:

  • Amsterdam (Bicycles, the Rijksmuseum, the Anne Frank House)

Page Two:

Page Three:

Page Four:


Our cruise started in Amsterdam; to get there, we took the train from Hamburg to Amsterdam Centraal Station. One of the most fascinating things in Amsterdam (for me, at least) was right outside the station entrance — this bike garage, four stories tall and packed with thousands of bikes. You hear how popular bicycling is in the Netherlands, but you don't understand until you see it for yourself.
Bikes have their own separate-but-equal traffic system; there are bike lanes, and bike signals at larger intersections. People who didn't look like frequent bikers were saying "oh, how nice and considerate of them to have all these accomodations for bicycles", but I wasn't sure it was an improvement. For one thing, many of the bike lanes ran adjacent to sidewalks without any more separation than a painted line, leading to cyclists dodging disoriented pedestrians in the middle of bike traffic. At intersections, you had an interface between three different modes of traffic (car, bike, ped), with each moving according to its own set of signals: a nightmare for disciples of the Effective Cycling system. (Notice that the bicyclists in the picture to the left have a set of bicycle stoplights, but they also have a yield sign. Huh?) I decided that I vastly preferred the American system, where bikes share the road like any other vehicle.
Our first organized-group activity was a canal cruise, really the best way to see a city where so much revolves around its waterways.
Our cruise ended near the Rijksmuseum. Almost the entire museum was closed due to renovation — absbestos problems — but one wing was open with the masterpieces of the collection.
It's one thing to see them in an art book (or from someone's photos on the Web), but it's quite a different experience to be confronted with the immensity of Rembrandt's Night Watch or the luminous hyper-reality of a Vermeer painting in person.
Later that day, we visited the Anne Frank House, where two Jewish families hid from the Nazis (and Anne wrote her famous diary, of course) for just over two years, until their hiding place was betrayed. It was a very powerful experience; if you had to choose one person as evidence that some people are chosen by God and provided with special powers to fill a necessary role, Anne Frank would be an excellent candidate. The "Secret Annex" was larger than I thought it would be, but the thought of living in that space for years was oppressive.
Since Shelby is a diamond freak, we had to go visit Coster Diamonds, which had plastered the tourist areas with advertisements to come see their diamond-cutting operations for free. In exchange for the one-room "free tour", you have to exit the building through Souvenir Hell: a seemingly-never-ending series of rooms, with each room descending lower and lower on the souvenir food chain (we started in a room selling $15,000 diamond jewelry; we ended in a "coffee shop" selling coffee from a drinks machine).

My transit-freak moment: each streetcar had a conductor's booth inside; instead of buying your tickets from a machine, you could go to the back of the car and buy them from a real person!

Sunrise from our cabin window on the morning we left Amsterdam.

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More Pictures — Next: The MS Viking Neptune (our ship)
(Amsterdam | The MS Viking Neptune | Enkhuizen & Hoorn | Marken/Edam/Volendam | Zaanse Schans & Cheese Farm | Palais Het Loo | Kinderdijk Windmills | Delft | The Hague | Keukenhof Gardens )

This page last modified on Monday, May 03, 2004
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