Friday, June 10, 2011

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Netherlands (Part 3): the Amsterdam tour

(This entry, of course, comes two months late. Here are parts 1 and 2, in case you haven't read them yet.)

With only four full days in the Netherlands, I knew I had to do everything everything right. And fast. I realized I could only make time to visit Amsterdam for one day, and that was during the first conference day. So I decided to go AWOL—at least for the next eight hours.

I ate a hearty breakfast around 8 am.

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The sun was up, finally, a far cry from the past days when it was bleak and dark and cloudy, words that hardly describe the tropical Philippine weather.

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I took the train. Amsterdam is some 30 minutes away from Leiden. The ride was uneventful, but it was exciting nonetheless.

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I spent most of the time taking pictures of random streets and canals. I also got hold of this newspaper, all written in Dutch, which I couldn't understand. The photography was excellent, though.

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This was how the rush-hour looked like, nothing of the sort I've experienced in Manila.

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Inside the Amsterdam Central Station was a shopping center of sorts. I saw tulips. I was told they weren't in bloom yet—it was still too cold, after all—but I was thankful I got to see some anyway.

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There were roses of different colors.

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And a host of other beautiful plants.

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The sun was still up when I got out. This is the view of the train station from outside, a rather historical site with noteworthy architecture.

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I had no idea what I was going to do, so I stood there for a moment, right in the middle of the street, and appreciated the beauty of strangeness, the joy of being in a foreign land, where nobody knew me and I knew nobody.

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I decided to seek some guidance. I asked where the tourism center was, and I was directed to a charming wooden building. The people were friendly and accommodating. I signed up for the 24-hour canal cruise where I could just hop on and off the boat when I wanted to.

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To make sense of my time—and saliva—I met Kim and Robin, a lovely English couple. They were fun to talk to, British accent and all. Kim spoke of Filipino nurses working in her hospital. She even complimented my English. "It's our second language," I said.

Robin, on the other hand, used to work in the Philippines in the 90's. He stayed in Surigao for months. What a small world indeed.

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The canal tour was slow, dreamy, and relaxing. This was my route.

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This was the more modern part of Amsterdam, taken near the city's port. The city is a harmonious mix of the old and new.

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How the bridges looked like from the bottom: woody and metallic.

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Other tourists. I wondered where they were going.

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I regret that I didn't take note of what the captain—do you call people who man these boats captains?—was speaking of. He seemed to memorize all buildings by heart.

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He pointed to this structure and called it a very old church. Amsterdam used to be a bastion of Protestant Christianity, but sadly religious life has since deteriorated.

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This graffiti could've been made by UP Fine Arts graduates.

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I found these floating residences rather charming. These places were expensive, I was told.

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And here were the others.

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We were heading for Anne Frank's home. She must've seen these buildings when she was growing up.

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I experimented with the camera on this one: an amateurish looking silhouette of a church tower. But I dare say, it's not too bad.

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Seeing these kids, I was reminded of childlike wonder and awe. Quietly I thanked God for the opportunity to be where I was: having a blast, far from the threat of impending Nephrology exams.

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Finally, the captain stopped the boat. I said goodbye the English couple and went strait to the Anne Frank Museum.

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I had read the book in high school. I knew that Anne Frank hid in the attic, had a crush on a boy, and wrote all about it in a diary, arguably one of the most popular of its kind in literature. Her home has been restored, perhaps, because this looked more contemporary than old.

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I would've wanted to get inside, but the queue was too long it would take the entire day to get tickets.

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While waiting for the next cruise, I took my time to roam around.

It was in the area where I shot this favorite self-portrait.

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I hurriedly bought souvenir items, documenting every single street I turned to.

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And, oh, pigeons!

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I realized I didn't have a lot of full body shots, so I asked a Dutch couple—I say they were a couple because they looked rather intimate—to take a picture of me. They willingly obliged.

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My time was up. I went back to the cruise, this time with a jolly crowd drinking champagne.

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I was on my way to the van Gogh Museum when the skies got cloudy.

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It was just as well because I brought a hoodie. The lamps were lit.

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And a babysitter with these cute babies ran for cover.

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Unperturbed by the threat of a downpour, I went on with my crazy solo tour.

Here was the Rijkmuseum. The architecture was awesome. I didn't get inside because there was some restoration work being done, and besides I didn't have much time.


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Finally, I found the van Gogh Museum!

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While I was queuing up for tickets and depositing my camera, I heard a familiar conversation from behind me: "Ano ka ba naman, friend!" I felt the world tremble: Filipinos! I went straight to them, introduced myself, and they gladly toured with me.

They were exchange students from UP and Ateneo, affiliated with a university in Hungary, but since it was their break, they decided to do a European tour of sorts. (I'm sorry I may have forgotten their names, but I wrote them down in my journal, which I left somewhere. I'll update this entry soon.)

Anyway, we had lunch together.

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But we had to part ways. They wanted to go to the Beer Museum, but it was getting late, and I had a train to catch. I hope I'd bump into them one of these days, probably to ask how the rest of their tour was.

Bogged down from all the walking, I sat quietly in the cruise. Meanwhile, I saw this noisy Italian family, and I remembered my loved ones from back home.

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The weather wasn't improving, but I was having a blast.

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I could've gone to other spots, but I simply didn't have time. Finally it was my stop. I hopped off the cruise, and made my way to the Central Station in the middle of the rain.
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I had to stop when I heard this moving tune playing in the street. I got jolted out of my senses.

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For a solo tour done on an entire day, I had accomplished a lot. True, Amsterdam is a lovely place, something for the postcards, but I doubt if I could live there.

I realized it was time to go back. So many things were coming my way. I still had a big conference to attend and an eight-minute oral presentation to deliver.

2 comments:

  1. Wow. Thank you for sharing this, Kuya Lance. :D And I can imagine how you must have felt when you heard someone speak in Filipino in a faraway country! Such a small world indeed.

    ReplyDelete
  2. There is something about Europe that takes you out of the ordinary and mundane...i miss it. i miss all of it :)

    ReplyDelete

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