We crossed the border into the Netherlands on Saturday, and drove to a camperplaats (the Dutch word for stellplatz) in a village called Nunspeet, which was in the middle of nowhere. Our reason for staying there was that it was only a short drive away from Amsterdam, and we would also be able to have a much-needed afternoon’s downtime.
We were up early yesterday and by mid-morning we were driving on our way to Amsterdam listening to a BBC podcast “How to Invent a Country“, telling the story of the colonial past of the Netherlands. The Dutch East India Company (VOC) had once controlled Indonesia, and as a result there are lots of Indonesian restaurants in the Netherlands today, with the signature meal being a ‘rijsttafel’ or rice table, so we decided that we’d have to check this out.
Before midday we had checked into a campsite at Amsterdam, allowing us to spend the afternoon in the city. The campsite was in the suburb of Gaasper, just 10 minutes walk from the station at the end of the 53 (red) metro line, and a further 20 minutes from there to the Central Station. We bought travel cards which cost just €12.50 each for two days on the metro, trams and buses (a bargain!) and by early afternoon we were in the city centre.
We got off the metro at Nieuw Markt, and went in search of a café. Following the crowd we inadvertently ended up walking through the red light district which seemed pretty tame compared to Hamburg, though it was a Sunday afternoon. There was also the smell of pot at every turn. Before long, we were in the centre of town, crossing loads of canals as we went.
Carol and I have both recently read Anne Frank’s diary, so we’d wanted to visit Anne Frank House – the secret annexe where the family hid from the Nazis for so long. Unfortunately for us, entry is by timed ticket only; 80% of the tickets are put on sale two months in advance, and the other 20% on the day via the website. We don’t know where we’ll be next week, never mind two months ahead of time, so I was on the website at 9am yesterday morning trying to buy tickets, but without success. We still went to see the house though and, having seen the set up there with all the crowds, I’m not too disappointed that we didn’t get to go in.
We’d read that stolpersteine for the Frank family had only recently been laid, but we couldn’t find them anywhere and so I asked one of the museum guys. He told us that these had been laid outside the house they lived in before they went into hiding, so we jumped on a tram and a short while later we were stood outside Merwedplein 37. Whilst we were stood there a walking tour came along, and the tour guide pointed out the floor where the Frank family lived and also told us that the bookshop the family used – the one where the famous diary was bought – was just around the corner, so we went to see that too.
We took the tram to Rembrandtplein, where there’s a large statue of the famous Dutch master painter. Stopping for a drink we checked the interweb for Indonesian restaurants, and found a good looking one away from the main tourist part of the city, so I phoned them and booked a table.
After a couple more tram rides and a wander around the Central Station it was time for dinner. The Jun Restaurant had only just opened so wasn’t busy when we arrived, but they were turning people away by the time we left, and it was obviously very popular with the locals. We both ordered the rijsttafel which was a set menu (click the link) and the food was great, with lots of different flavours. It was quite a feast, but we managed to polish it all off. Feeling rather full, we returned to the van.
This morning we took the metro back into town to catch up with Shera, an ex-colleague of mine. We met her in the lovely (and very busy) Winkel café in the Jordaan area of town, famous for its delicious apple pies which are baked in the basement, and obviously very popular as there was a long queue out of the door to get served. It was great catching up with Shera, and the time just flew by.
We took the tram to a street food market for a late lunch, and then caught another tram to the Central Station to take a ride on one of the free ferries over to the north side of Amsterdam. After a coffee there we took the ferry back, and then caught another tram to the museum quarter for a wander round. There were several impressive looking museums and art galleries displaying works by Rembrandt and Van Gogh amongst others, but we gave them a miss. By now it was late afternoon, so we set off in search for a restaurant. We were in a very touristy part of the city and so there were restaurants serving cuisine from all over the world, but we managed to find a Dutch restaurant and had a nice dinner there before heading back to the van.
Tomorrow we’ll be moving onto a campsite in Delft.