Monday, May 28, 2007


My first destination in 'Continental Europe'. Actually contrary to what most people would believe, there was no specific reason to choose Amsterdam as my first destination (yeah I am serious). I had got my visa from the Dutch embassy (i actually wanted to get it from Germany but due to the football worldcup, the processing time there was long and dutch embassy was the quickest in processing time).

I took the cheap route of reaching Amsterdam, a 1hr train journey to Harwich International, a 4hr ferry from there too Hook of Holland and a 1.5hr train journey from there to Amsterdam. I was especially excited as this was going to be my first ferry ride of any significance (and what a ride it was!).

The weather forecast was for fine weather and the ship was big (with a casino, eating place, bar, puppet show, movie theater, shopping etc - see photos towards the end) and I wanted to explore it.

However as the journey started, it all started going haywire. The wind picked up and tide came up to 3mtrs high. Dishes started falling down, people unable to walk. Gradually I could see the crew carrying polythene bags up and down the aisle (yeah, people were throwing up), there was a girl who was sitting in the next row to me and she started crying. A stewardess came to console her and I could hear her say, the tide is just 3mtrs, we can be safe even if went to 4.5mtrs (yeah that was some relief!). I had a window seat and with the waves, I was actually able to anticipate the ferry swerving this way and that - it was at the sametime a very thrilling and very fearful experience. I was scared, very scared. Just an example of how bad things were, I had gone to the loo to relieve myself, and given the was the ferry was swerving, I could not do the job and had to comeback and hold tight!

Anyways, I landed on shore and reached Amsterdam and was staying at the Inner Amsterdam Hostel (my first brush with 'hostelling').

The hostel was near the Amsterdam Concert center. well as near the Van Gogh Museum

A nice building, i think it is the University - again near my hostel.

Now, this is the real Amsterdam - canals. There are these canals all over the place. Actually a large part of the country is below the sea level - creepies!

The Dutch version of Madam Tussuad's (The Tussuad's Group which owns these museums was recently sold for GBP1bn!). I did not go in the UK version nor this version - just too expensive and not worth the money to see wax statues....

This is the Palace...

This is the famous Diamond Center. Amsterdam is a major diamond cutting and polishing center.

A 'buggy', the horse is really cute

Cheese and lots of it... my god, I have never seen so many varieties of cheese in my life. All I have been used to do until now was to go to a shop and ask for cheese and I got it. Here the shopkeeper would have shot back, which cheese?!

Tulips... again lots of variety. One of the reasons (a very small reason) for coming to Amsterdam (Holland) was to see tulips in real life. The first known economic bubble to mankind happened over Tulips during early 17th century in Holland. Must say, the flowers are especially beautiful. I actually wanted to carry a few back to london (my boss of those days really loved flowers) but I was told, you cannot carry them through customs... :(

An old lighthouse setup in 1600s

This is where all the canals converge - this is in the middle of the national capital

Another tulip!

Main Amsterdam railway station - Amsterdam Centraal

And trams station just outside...

This was really fascinating. What you see above is a three storey Bicycle stand (yeah) and it was all full...

Just outside the station, lots of old buildings and another canal...

Inside the railway station - notice the 'sleepers' on the track they are wooden!

Above couple of snaps are of Rotterdam taken from within the train. Rotterdam is Europe's largest port.

Back to Hook of Holland, time to take the return ferry.

This is the train which brought us here - yeah double decker!

This is the Hook of Holland railway station. A very rustic town indeed from the looks of it...

This is our ferry - Stena Line. This time around the forecast was for rough weather with tide of around 3mtr (around the same what we had while coming, so all the shows were cancelled, the shops were closed etc). And as things turned out the weather was anything but rough, so they restarted the shows, opened the shop. People were walking freely up and down the deck. I even managed to venture out in the open at the back of the ship. So much for weather forecasting in advanced countries!

Above few snaps are from within the ferry. It was very plush indeed.

Finally I am back at Harwich International (in UK). Its Sunday evening and back to work tomorrow morning...