Baltic Cruise Day 2...Amsterdam
2022-06-29 We had an early morning excursion, so we were up and at breakfast by 7:00 a.m. Today's excursion was cruising the canals of Amsterdam, and we were on the bus by 8:30 headed into Amsterdam, a 45 minute drive. All along the way we passed many areas that were below sea level, that happened dammed up, and the land reclaimed. It was very interesting to hear him tell how that happened, and how the dikes hold all the water back. He explained how the Netherlands got its name, and Amsterdam, and really kept a good running commentary the whole 45 minutes into town. We saw so many modern windmills, like the ones they have in Texas, and he said that there were really only a few of the old timey ones that we associate with Holland that were even there anymore. But he promised to take us by some of them to get some pictures and he did. When they dam up an area to reclaim the land, for the first three years they have to have a special kind of wheat planted on it, a wheat that absorbs the salt, and at the end of each season, they burn it off as it turns brown. Then in the fourth and fifth year, they plant a yellow flower, I forgot what it's called and that flower can live in salty areas better than others can. That flower also fertilizes soil and makes it good, and 5 years after they have removed the water from the land, the land is good to use. This was really interesting and I had not thought about what you did with land that had been under sea water for so long. At one time the Zuider Zee covered over a third of Holland, and now they have reclaimed enough of it that it is now a lake, with no access to the sea.
When we got into Amsterdam, we boarded a canal boat that took us in and out of all of the canals in Amsterdam. It was a very enjoyable two hour ride, and we saw lots of sites, including the Anne Frank home - the house in the picture below that has 263 on the door, the opera house, all of the canals and the houseboats that park along the canals where people live, and the system of pulleys and ropes that people use to move furniture into their house. They can't just move it up the stairs, as the house is are four and five stories not much space wide but they are tall. So they have this pulley system at the top of their houses, with ropes, and the middle windows in the apartments are larger. They hoist the furniture or whatever it is up and in through the windows, using this pulley system. You'll see several houses where I took pictures of specifically of the top of the house so that you could see that.
There were houses that were leaning into each other, because the pilings underneath them were giving away. All of the houses are built on top of water obviously. They have to put pilings into the ground, build them up, and do several things before they can put a house on it. If any of that process is skipped then the house starts leaning. You'll see at least one picture where there are four houses together and two of them are leaning into each other!
Our guide's name was Wim, a derivative of William which is a popular name here. He was very interesting, and I loved to listen to him talk. He reminded me of a gentleman in our church when I was growing up, Mr Marcus, and I loved to listen because it brought back such good memories of when I was younger.
Windmills for everywhere, as I said, and as we were at dinner tonight on the ship we looked out and we saw windmill farms out in the ocean! It was so crazy, I was sitting at my table at dinner and turned around and took a picture that you see of windmills in the water. Our guide did say that they can't have cows on the dikes, because cows pull the grass when they eat it and therefore they pull the dirt and mess the dikes up. Also they're heavier and they don't need to be walking across the tops of the dikes very much. They do use sheep on the top of the dikes but not cows. He also said something else I got a good laugh about but I don't know who all caught it in our group. He said that they're not using as many cows as they used to because of their CO2 emissions. What!?! I heard that is a joke before but I didn't think anybody really believed that. The joke was about cows pooting and releasing carbon. I just shook my head lol.
On the way back we had an elderly lady on a walker. She really struggled just to get up the bus steps. Her husband was with her and because they were so slow, of course they were at the end. On the way there, the bus driver found a place for her in the front seat by moving someone around. Coming back, these two younger and obviously more healthy people plopped down in the front seat. We got the second row seats. We had two groups of handicapped, and people had stolen both front rows by the time the handicaps got on the bus. One gentlemen, whose wife had an injured leg, told one group when he got on that that was their seat, and the thieves got up and moved :-) Kay told the lady in front of us that there was a handicap woman coming that would need that seat and they didn't even act like they heard her. They just ignored her. When the poor woman finally got on the bus, she just looked to the left and saw her seat was taken and started walking to the back. Kay jumped up and told the woman here to take her seat, that the people in front had stolen it and she had told them but they had not paid attention. She was obviously perturbed about it. I had a very nice talk with the woman coming back. She was a retired educator and her husband was retired military. She was 81 years old. They were such a nice couple and I'm glad I got a chance to talk to her and meet her although I'm sorry for the reason I got to.
At 5:30, when we were ready to leave, Kay looked out the balcony window and saw the police car that I took a picture of. It was a dog detection car. I didn't see the dog but they had a drug dog on board. Our table mates said that the dog was on the ship and was standing there when people were checking back in. I guess we were in Amsterdam, with all that implies :-) at any rate we have two sea days coming up, so you may not hear a lot out of me the next two days, but I'll post something. Next stop is Stockholm and Copenhagen on Thursday and Friday.