Rubber ducks and other oddities
Updated: Apr 24
Amsterdam is weird, wild and wonderful! Armed with a map and a few handy tips for Allan, the very helpful chap at reception, off I went for my first afternoon In Amsterdam.
There are busy cities - like London, where everyone hussle about with purpose - and there are cities that hum with a busyness all their own, like Amsterdam. There are many more tourists here than I had anticipated for this time of year - though they all appear to better prepared for the weather than I am (six weeks from summer and its still cold and quite wet).
Trams, cars, pedestrians and, of course, bikes jostle mostly narrow streets and canal bridges heading every which way. In this city, the cyclists rule the road and any and all near misses (be they with cars or pedestrians) its the cyclists who have the last (and loudest) word. And with footpaths, bike lanes and carriageways all melding at times, I’ve seen quiet a few near misses.
There are a number of museums here you don’t find in the guidebooks, such as the Amsterdam Tulip Museum, the Cheese Museum (less museum, more shop borrowing the museum concept from the Tulip Museum next door), the Handbag and Purse Museum (I’ve not found it yet but a couple I met last night was telling me all about it - thanks Sarah and Shay!), and Het Muizenhuis or The Mouse Mansion, which I suspect started as a passion project. There are so many little lanes and alleyways to wander and treasures to find (plenty more I’ve yet to discover if I get the chance).
Everyone smokes something here - cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cannabis. There are vape and cannabis shops everywhere (I lost count) and as smoking is banned inside cafes, restaurants, bars and pubs, the footpaths and outdoor dining areas are littered with smokers (and smoke).
There is also a national obsession with rubber ducks (that or Amsterdam is a Mecca for rubber duck enthusiasts around the world). I’ve stumbled across four rubber duck shops so far. And one cow shop.
I ventured into Westerkerk. Commissioned by Amsterdam City Council, this church was designed by architect Hendrick de Keyser who, unfortunately, never saw it finished as he died the year after construction commenced (1620) - it was not completed until 1631. There is something magnificent in the simplicity of this church. Its lofty, unadorned timber ceilings makes its few ornate features really stand out - the wooden acorn carvings on the pulpits, the Duyschot organ added in 1681 (organ music was deemed too ‘popish‘ fifty years earlier), with its beautiful, concertinaed wing-like, panels made by Gerard de Lairesse, one of the most popular Dutch painters of the 17th century, and Rembrandt’s memorial plaque. Rembrandt was buried at Westerkerk on 8 October 1669 (though no one knows exactly where in the church he was laid to rest).
I then headed to Stephen and Penelope (S&P) a yarn shop owned (in part) by famous knitwear designer Stephen West to collect an order I placed before I left Australia. Heading back to the hotel (following the route suggested by my Maps app), I wandered into a tunnel full of booksellers and had to restrain myself! Emerging from the tunnel in the plein (place) adjacent, I was further tempted by the Friday book market.
Dutch Apple Pie
The tunnel of book sellers and the adjacent book market
The sheer delight of wandering the charming lanes and alleyways Amsterdam