The 30km dyke into Amsterdam
Our camping spot was in Histfals, Denmark last night and with the help of some motorways we make good progress towards Amsterdam. Mid day we fuel up and eat at a roadside Rasthaus in Germany so we are back to the Ausfahrts (exit signs). I point to something good at the hot food section and the girls asks me lots in German and something about the 'sides cut off'. Saying yes, I get the slices of pork, 4 boiled potatoes, gravy and hot sweet and sour red cabbage saurkraut. It is very guten. We count up 10 car ferry trips that have ranged from 30 mins to 30 hours duration while travelling Europe and they have been wonderful. Our Mazda van leaks oil over all the car decks each time and we keep topping it up though we haven't used up 6 litres yet.
the lake at the camp site
We will have nearly 1000kms travel today if we make target and leave Germany, travel through Belgium and into the Netherlands. Our lasting memory of Germany was plenty of motorway traffic jams of between 2-3 hours sometimes. In the last one another MPV full of young lads drew up beside us, they spotted our Aussie flag in the window and all jumped up and down waving their caps in Germany's colours at us with great excitement!
As we arrive in the Netherlands that silly song from a Eurovision Song competition more than 36 years ago perhaps keeps ringing through our heads as we struggle to remember all the words.. "I saw a mouse! Where? There on the stair, where on the stair, right there, a little mouse with clogs on, well I declare! Going clip clippety clop on the stair, right there.
the camp site with Mazda in foreground
They sang every morning how lucky we am, living in a windmill on old Amsterdam" To get into the Netherlands our road takes us along a 30 km dyke. Out in the sea there are wind generators planted like in rice paddies. We are navigating to a caravan park and suddenly have the choice of two. Pick the easiest (a right hand turn) and drive through a small, quaint village on the left hand side of us, a canal on the right.
The camp is on the side of a freshwater lake that also has a dyke around it and it seems that the lake is higher than the ground we pitch our tent on. Lots of birds and ducks here. The facilities were very ordinary, no hot water taps in the sink to supply washing up water, showers were by coin in the slot and the whole toilet block smelt like mouldy drains.
On the canals around Amsterdam
There are mostly wooden cabins surrounding a village green set up and most of them look like they are inhabited by permanents. A few camper vans and we are shown onto the village green where two other tents are pitched. Near the pub-restaurant many other tents are pitched by young people. It is very late (9.30pm) and there is a stiff breeze blowing so we eat and go to bed. Through the night I hear the ducks pecking through our washing up bowl looking for scraps! Next morning when Andrew brings me a cup of tea I can't drink it until he has thrown it away and washed it out in hot water as I am worried about getting Avian Flu!
We drive the van into a residential area and find free parking as we thought we were very close to the centre of Amsterdam.
Bridges on the canals
Asking a woman who is walking her massive dogs which way we can walk to the centre, she advises us to catch the No. 32 bus. It is a 30 min ride before we are at Central Station and we check our best sight seeing options and choose a 1 1/2 day canal pass and take to the waterways once again. Love the houseboats with their potted plants for their gardens, many of them don't curtain the rooms off and modern living spaces catch the eye as well as the eccentric. Many look as though they couldn't float anywhere and are in poor condition. The commentary on the canal boat tells of how locks are opened at one end of the city each night and the water is flushed through so that the waterways remain clean. Maybe so but there is a lot of litter floating on the water.
Using some of the discount coupons from our canal pass we get off and visit a Synagogue that is now a Jewish Memorial Museum and learn a little of the history of the Dutch Jews. I particularly like their creed that a Jew should leave the world a better place for their being there. On our bus ride back to the van we see streets of Orange flags and houses and shops decorated with orange flags for the World Cup Soccer.
Next day we return to the No. 32 bus and pick up the first barge to take us on a different route. I wanted to see Ann Frank's House and Museum and we get off at the right stop and join a long queue that snakes around the block. Into the tiny house over Otto Frank's jam factory that housed Ann's family of 4, another family of 3 plus an older person.
view near camp site
They hid here for 3 years never going outside, fed by two faithful retainers until their betrayal to the Nazis. Otto Frank survived the concentration camps and so did the diary of young Ann held by one of the retainers. It documented daily life and Ann's thoughts in those dreadful years. The Nazis stripped the secret rooms behind the bookcase of the furniture and it was Otto Franks wish that the house be seen as they left it, empty. A sobering place to see.
We left the house and walked through the streets until we came into the red light district finding a few of those little windows with it's resident female sitting in it watching the world pass her by. Next place was the tourist shopping area and we spotted a couple of plain clothed men each with a handcuffed man pressed up against the wall arresting them.
Lining up the bridges
The shops had world cup soccer shirts for sale but it seemed that the manufacturers thought that only 6-8 teams had a chance of winning the cup and Australia was not one of them. We feel that they have missed out on a huge retail possibility here. We began to pass groups of people heading off in one direction wearing all things orange including wigs. Realised that there was a pre-cup match about to be played in Amsterdam against Australia.
We collect our van when our feet no longer want to walk the streets and head off towards France. Unlike our first time in France I no longer find the roads daunting and love the "Aquaplange" warning signs. Wonderful word.