DAY 2 Amsterdam

 Monday June 5, 2017  


The Estherea had a lovely buffet breakfast so we ate there. There was a large choice and it was all delicious – so much for gluten-free pastry :-) It is somewhat challenging to walk in Amsterdam, the city of 900,000. About every other street is separated by a canal, over which every several blocks, has a bridge over it. he street running parallel to the canal are made up of several sections – narrow pedestrian walks, wider sections for bicycles, next narrow lanes for the trams with several coaches that run in both directions. To make walking even more difficult, it seems like every other store is a restaurant with a sidewalk café which takes about half of the walkway. Also, there are many buildings which have a basement with steps leading from the walkway. Bicycles seem to be the most common way of transportation. Every street has hundreds of bicycles parked in stands. So it’s possible to fall off the sidewalk which is elevated above the bike route, and be hit by tram or a car. Walking around Amsterdam is rather challenging considering the huge number of people walking in both directions.

Today, our first adventure was to visit the Royal Palace which was several blocks away. The Dutch have called it “ the eighth wonder of the world”. The palace stands in the oldest square – called Dam Square. When the Palace was built in 1648, it was to serve as a town hall. In 1808 the town hall was transformed into a palace. In 1806, Louis Napoleon, brother of Napoleon Bonaparte, took the throne of Holland and proclaim Amsterdam its capital. Louis insisted on having a residence in the capital and laid claim to the building.

We first entered what is called the Citizens' Hall which, as its name suggests, was open to all citizens. It was a meeting place for functionaries, merchants, and citizens from all walks of life. The floor of the Citizens' Hall had inlaid maps the heavens and the earth by Joan Bleau (1596 – 1673). The vast open space  of the Hall was three stories high.

Above the entrance to the Citizens' Hall is what is called the "Personification of Amsterdam". She has three crosses on her breast. In her right hand she holds an olive branch, a biblical symbol of peace, and in her left a spray of palm leaves, the classical emblem of prosperity. An eagle approaches to place the crown on her hair, and two lions lay at her feet. A woman sits on either side of her. One wears the helmet of Pallas Athena, the goddess of wisdom; the other a lion's skin, signifying the Greek god Hercules and therefore alluding to strength.

We took an audio tour of 21 magnificent rooms. This room is know as the Burgomasters' Chamber.  Note the beautiful ceiling , an example the ceilings of every room. We enjoyed the tour very much as each room was beautifully furnished with original furniture.


Next door is a church known as Nieuwe Kerk (new church) which was built in the 1400s and is the most important church in Amsterdam. It is open to the public as a church, exhibition space and also holds organ concerts and private events. The church originally dates from the 14th century when the growing city of Amsterdam needed a second church from the Oude Kerk (Old Church). The Nieuwe Kerk was subsequently damaged by fire a number of times - in 1645 it was rebuilt in Gothic style after almost being destroyed - and this is what can be seen today along with some renovations from the 19th and 20th century.

The Nieuwe Kerk is used for royal weddings and inaugurations. On April 30,2013 it was the site of the investiture of Dutch King Willem Alexander and Queen Maxima, who were also married in the church in 2002. Highlights inside the church include the magnificent Great Organ from 1655, the grand brass choir screen and stained glass windows, and hundreds of grave slabs on the floor

Presently the Nieuwe Kerk is hosting the World Press Photo - Annual exhibition contest of international photojournalism. The World Press Photo foundation (founded 1955) is based in Amsterdam and has held the exhibition at the Nieuwe Kerk from 1982-1999 and 2014-present. The exhibit run from mid-April to early-July.

 We paid €10 each for entrance to the exhibit, but we wanted to see the church itself. We also found the exhibit meaningful, many of the photos famous news photographs.  

By this time, it was after 1:00 and we were getting hungry. One of the streets in front palace contained all the standard American fast food joints so we stopped in McDonald’s which had four floors of tables and was full. It hit the spot.

Next, we visit a place called – The Begijnhof which is an enclosed courtyard dating from the early 14th century. Nothing survived of the earliest dwellings, but the Begijnhof still retains a sanctified atmosphere. The Begijnhof was originally built as a sanctuary for the Beguines, a Catholic organization of lay women who lived like nuns, although they took no monastic vows. Houses in Begijnhof

The Catholic faith was banned in the 16th century. The Begijnhof was the only Catholic institution that continued to exist because the houses were the private property of the women. They did have to give up the chapel. A new, so-called ‘hidden church’ was later built behind the facades of several residences. The Begijnhof Catholic Chapel was completed in 1680.

Across from Catholic Chapel is the English Reformed Church, which is one of the oldest buildings in Amsterdam. It is home to an English-speaking congregation which is affiliated to the Church of Scotland and to the Protestant Church in the Netherlands. The church was originally established as Begijnhof's chapel. It was confiscated from the Catholic lay sisterhood during the Reformation. For this reason, the church is invisible from the street and can only be discovered by entering the courtyard through an inconspicuous archway.

As with other city churches, the keys of the chapel were surrendered to the Municipality when Amsterdam sided officially with the Prince of Orange and formally adopted Calvinist doctrines in 1578. The church, controlled by the Beguines, was taken by the city council and closed. In 1607, the church was re-opened for worship when the Municipality presented it to the English-speaking Protestants living in the city. Since then, services in English have continued practically without interruption to the present day. Since the late 1970s, the church has provided Amsterdam with an important platform for the performance of chamber music of all periods and styles with over 70 concerts a year. In particular, it has given many young artists the opportunity to launch their careers. The Academy of the Begijnhof, founded by a former church organist, is now one of Amsterdam's premier baroque orchestras.

After our visit there, time was getting near 5 o’clock and we were getting tired. Our pedometer said that we had walked 4 ½ miles thus far today so we came back to the hotel.

We had dinner reservations tonight in a fun restaurant called the Blue Spoon which was sort of in the area where we were this afternoon.  We shared a salad, Kathleen had a seafood soup with several kinds of fish plus  shrimp and mussels. I had scallops with caramelized endives. We have several fun activities planned for tomorrow. We walked 6.7 miles today.

 Next Day 

Day 1 - Amsterdam

Day 2 - Amsterdam

Day 3 - Amsterdam

Day 4 - Amsterdam

Day 5 - Warsaw

Day 6 - Warsaw

Day 7 -Warsaw

Day 8 - Czestochowa and Kracow

Day 9 - Krakow

Day 10 - Auschwitz and Wroclaw

Day 11 - Wroclaw

Day 12 - Poznan and Torun

Day 13 - Torun and Gdansk

Day 14 - Gdansk

Day 15 coming soon