It’s been a couple of days since my last update, mostly because the internet connection on the boat is sporadic and glacially slow. I’m going to try to catch up with posts regarding our time in Amsterdam, Kinderdijk, and today in Cologne.
Amsterdam was delightful. We arrived late at night along with the Wickhams and were met by a car service driver arranged through the Renaissance Hotel. Our driver, Michelle, gave us a mini-tour around Amsterdam on the way to the hotel. He and Barbie W parted best of friends. The Hotel was excellent – 4-star and well-appointed and ideally located in the center of town immediately adjacent to the red light district and coffee-house area.
Ruth and I spent most of Saturday exploring Amsterdam on a motorcoach (a.k.a., bus) and then on a canal boat. One of the interesting observations about Amsterdam is the number of bicycles on the roads. The conventional estimates are that there are about 800,000 residents of Amsterdam and there are 1.2 Million bicycles. Bicycles are everywhere and are the major means of transportation. The roads all have three sections: one for cars, one for pedestrians, and a separate road for bicycles. The bikes seem to have the right of way, and the cyclists are aggressive about that right. If you step into their road, they will plow right into you and curse your foolishness.
As evidence of the ubiquity of the bikes, here is a shot of a typical street:
The canal boat took us around several of the hundreds of canals that define the city.
One of the odd characteristics of the buildings in Amsterdam is the fact that many of them tilt – either forward or sideways. Forward tilt (we were told) was intentional to give the appearance of a bigger house. Sideways tilt was due to settling on the soft peaty land of the city. Here is an example:
The city is quite lovely, and full of history. There are numerous charming bridges connecting sections of the city and crossing the canals. Here is an example of a series of seven bridges that line up in a straight line. If you examine the photo carefully, you can see the bridges in the distance.
We left Amsterdam late Sunday evening, sailing through a system of canals to a tiny little town near Rotterdam called Kinderdijk. Kinderdijk is a key part of the system of water management for the country of the Netherlands. Since much of the country is below sea level, the inhabitants had to develop a method of pumping water out of their land and into the North Sea. In the “old days” around the 1600’s, a system of windmill powered water wheels scooped up water from drainage canals and lifted the water up around five feet to catchment ponds. When the North Sea tide was low, the water in the catchment ponds was released to the sea. When the tide was high, the dikes were closed. Kinderdijk has a system of 19 windmills that used to power the pumping system.
In the 20th century, the windmills were replaced by first steam powered pumps, then diesel powered pumps, and finally electric pumps. The modern pumps use an Archimedes screw system that is capable of moving 1.5 gallons of water a minute.
Click on the video to see an example:
Today, Day 3 of the cruise, we sailed down the Rhine river and docked in the German city of Cologne.
Cologne is a beautiful and charming city. The people seem to be relaxed, friendly, and not overly concerned with authority and protocol (if our tour guide accurately represented the city’s culture). The city was nearly flattened by Allied bombing during WWII, and extensively rebuilt after the war. The pride of the city is the Great Catholic Cathedral (or Dom). It was mostly destroyed during the war, but now has been restored to its pre-war state.
The town is charming. On our tour, we stopped to admire a sculpture that is said to capture the Cologne spirit. The photo shows Ruth admiring the sculpture of a farmer and businessman. Legend has it that if a woman rubs the nose of the farmer (on the left) while standing on his toes, the city will grant her wish.
That’s all for now. I have added posting rights for the other in our party, so hopefully we will have more updates going forward.