Friday, December 09, 2005

Europe 3: A Taste of The Netherlands

Clockwise from top left: The Falcon windmill in Leiden; St. Xaiver church in Amsterdam; One of Amsterdam's countless canals; Delft china

Spice bread and Stroopwaffels


PLACES AND DATES: Rotterdam – September 13, 2005;
Amsterdam – September 14-17, 2005

DAY TRIPS: Leiden – September 15, 2005: Leiden is like a Dutch Oxford. A quaint and pretty town about thirty minutes outside of Amsterdam by train, Leiden is home to multiple universities and close to 20,000 students. The town’s bakeries present a wealth of enticing options, even a multi-grain croissant. The Van Delk (meaning Falcon) is a fully restored windmill open for tours. It costs just 2.50 Euros and gives a reaonsable history of the functionality and utility of windmills in Dutch culture. But the town’s system of canals are the main draw, less crowded than Amsterdam, and surrounded by a mix of Dutch and English architecture. A half-day visit is a great way to gain a sense of how the non-coffee house Dutch live.

Delft – September 16, 2005: You can see the two factories where Delft china is still made. Every piece if made by hand during and the process is amazingly laborious.

HOSTELS: Rotterdam – Stayokay Hostel

Amsterdam – Flying Pig Palace – Cheap bar with a nightly happy hour, free internet and breakfast and a surprisingly reasonable noise level.

SITES: Rotterdam – Erasmus Bridge is an incredible sight and a symbol of Rotterdam’s prestige as the world’s largest port.

MUST SEE IN AMSTERDAM: Anne Frank House; St. Xavier Church – Interior is an astonishing piece of Baroque art at its pinnacle; the interior includes gilded statues, kaleidoscopic stained glass and an altar that is a testament to how faith can instigate great art; Albert Cuyp Market – Everything is for sale here. Fabrics to incense, to authentic Dutch cuisine (herring broodjes, stroopwafels) along with fresh fruit and veggies, cosmetics and pharmaceutical products. It’s a vibrant strip of Dutch life with the beautiful drowsy branches of willows overhanging the street and children galore.

FOOD: Rotterdam – Incredible mix of African and Asian cuisines

Amsterdam – Indonesian cuisine (reviews to come); Stroopwafels – Sweeter than a Halloween candy bag, these paper thin waffles come in hefty sacks and are filled with a layer of either caramel, honey, or butter syrup. Delicious in small quantities but addictive enough to cause consumption of an entire bag, ending inevitably in stomach aches and a desire to swear off all sweets forever more; Spice breads – Rather flat tasting. Heavily flavored with cinnamon and nutmeg, the bread is too dense, feels like a brick, and would be well-served by nuts or dried fruits to break up the thickness. Beware, those aren’t nuts on the top of the bread, they’re pieces of rock sugar.
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