Travels: Amsterdam


“A mouse lived in a windmill in old Amsterdam
A windmill with a mouse in and he wasn’t grousin’
He sang every morning “How lucky I am
Living in a windmill in old Amsterdam”.


I saw a mouse – where? There on the stair
Where on the stair? Right there
A little mouse with clogs on – well, I declare
Going clip-clippety-clop on the stair – oh yeah…

sung by Ronnie Hilton *
Taken from the Music Enquires, Music Questions, Music Queries online

Aaahh, tulips from Amsterdam!! Amsterdam is a city of dykes and waterways. A city where the easiest and possibly the best way to see the places and to get the feel of the city is just by walking or perhaps renting a bike. The city has an excellent system of the trams as well. I and himself, occasionally took the trams; but mostly, we walked, walked and walked our feet off, it felt like.

The hotel where we stayed was right at the heart of the best shopping streets at the time. The shops had the most beautiful and, also, extremely expensive goods for sale, anyway, in that district where we stayed. It was fun to look at what exactly was on offer, but as to buying anything much, no way in those prices. I do not remember what I did get there but I do recall the fabulous ice-creams that were sold in a store in the street we stayed in. Twas Cinnamon Ice-cream. Delicious. The first and only time that this kind of ice-cream was anywhere to buy where I have been in. I have made it since myself, though.

The highlight for me was the visits to the museums such as The Rijksmuseum, The Van Gogh Museum and The Anne Frank House. I had so looked forward to being able to see the Rembrandt paintings in real life, but when I saw and read more about the man himself, I became rather disappointed. The man had a plum-life as a court painter. The most famous painting of Rembrandt is possibly ‘The Night Watch‘ – well, would you believe that what one is shown, normally, of that painting is only a minute fraction of the whole thing! The painting in its full size is absolutely enormous.

Vincent Van Gogh had not been one my favourites before this trip – but he became after it! I spent hours in the museum reading his letters – displayed in the glass cabinets, yet easy to see – to his brother Theo and some other people as well. The paintings of his really came to life and felt more interesting with that background of his descriptive letters of them.

The horror of the Nazi era came alive in the Anne Frank House where we spent hours looking, thinking and going from room to room in the Annex as it still looks like it was when the people and Anne herself were hiding in there. The bookshelf – so familiar from the book of Anne’s, ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ – is still there…

Vermeer and Monet are my very top favourite painters of all time. Vermeer’s style of painting is to me, really, very modern in the way that it looks rather like photographing with its sharp and stark contrasts between the dark and the light. The colours are strong and vibrant, so pleasing to look at. I was very impressed by his paintings in the ‘real’ – well, the way one is allowed to admire them in the museum.’The Milkmaid‘ is, perhaps, Vermeer’s most well-known painting.

The streets, like the Prinsengracht, where the Anne Frank House is located and the Herrengracht, are another site as they go over the dykes in a semicircle. The houses are high and so narrow that one nearly gets the feeling that one has to move about in the houses sideways!! They are kept in spick and span- order. Order, really, is the word of the northern regions of the world. Everything has its place and purpose. That is the way that the business of any sort thrives in, of course. The creativity and the like, often, suffocates.

The food was not expensive and it was soo delicious, especially, the Rijsttafel – akin to the Middle Eastern Mezes and the Spanish Tapas – yet distinctively Indonesian in its style and taste. We ate these ‘rice tables’, that is the literal translation of the word, several times and always, always twas outstanding and reasonable in cost. ‘Yum’, said my tum!

The Dutch language, I found to my great surprise, was one that I could understand after a while quite well, both in spoken as in TV and written forms as in the newspapers. It is related to German and having also Swedish and English helped to get the ‘lingo’. Everywhere I was addressed to in Nederlands – that is the Dutch language in Dutch – as people were thinking that I was Dutch! It was nice not to be taught as an alien but a part of the scenery… Yes, I liked it very much, indeed.

Tis for this travel for now – until the next posting. Riihele xx.

* He was one of Britains most popular singers in the 1950s.