While last night I took the opportunity to take a canal cruise through Amsterdam, today was my chance to see the city from a bus. There were two tours that I pre-booked, a city tour for the morning and afternoon tour to Keukenhof Gardens. Like the past few cities, I have visited tours are the best way to maximise my time here and to see as much as I can.
Amsterdam Morning Walk
I had a little time before the tour begun this morning and walked a street named Damrak. There are many interesting buildings along this street, which leads from the Central Train Station to Dam Square. A number of important buildings surround Dam square. The World War II Museum, the gothic styled 15th-century church, Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) and the Royal Palace. The Royal Palace sees minimal use except for State visits and other important events.
Morning Tour of Amsterdam
With only a little time I headed back towards the train station to join the tour. The city tour is not too long about two and a half hours. However, it was I think a fairly comprehensive tour. The first part of the tour drives through the streets of Amsterdam, where you get to see the style of the houses, and also some of the most prominent buildings, such as museums and galleries.
As the tour headed towards the outskirts of the city, we stopped to visit one of the remaining windmills actually in the city area of Amsterdam. This particular windmill is from the 17th century and is still inhabited today. At their peak, the Netherlands had over 10,000 windmills which had various uses such as grinding grain or pumping water. Today there are around 1,000 left in the whole country. However, this number is increasing, as only fully operational windmills get counted, and recently some complete rebuilds have helped.
In both the canal tour last night and the bus tour today it is hard to miss the many houseboats along the canals. There are around 2,500 such boats in Amsterdam today. However this number is not increasing due to new government limitations on the addition of new houseboats. Some of these rival some houses for quality and luxuries, and in the right one I could easily imagine living.
Keukenhof Gardens Tour
There was a short break between tours for lunch, which I enjoyed with a couple I met this morning. The afternoon tour was to visit Keukenhof Gardens, a 40-minute drive from the Amsterdam City Centre.
The arrival at Keukenhof Gardens coincided with the sun making an appearance this afternoon. Something that the tour guide indicated was lacking over the past few days. It definitely is much more comfortable and enjoyable to walk gardens with the sun out and no rain.
The flower that often comes to mind when you think of Holland is the Tulip. So it comes as no surprise that Keukenhof Gardens have extensive garden beds of tulips. There are so many different varieties and of course colours.
The tulip is not the only flower that is in abundance though there are many other flowers in just about every colour you can imagine. With mixed plantings throughout the gardens mixing different flowers and colours to create some unique and pleasing views it the garden. Also thrown into the mix are other landscape features such as how stone, pathways, and water is incorporated into the garden.
Another feature of the garden that was fun to see was the sculptures and artwork integrated into the gardens. One which I quite liked was “The Friendly Dragon” by Joshua Pennings. It was quite an interesting statue and almost felt like this little dragon could be a pet.
One of the pieces in the gardens that caught my eye was their windmill. When I did a little reading in the guide book, it says that this windmill was a gift to the Keukenhof Gardens in 1957 by Holland America Line, the cruise company which I have sailed with three times now. It is again a little different to the windmills I have seen, however I think that this might be the case with many windmills, each will have their own individual touch.
Ready For More
Tomorrow I have two more tours lined up to see a little bit just outside of Amsterdam. Today was great to get to see some of the city and some lovely gardens as well. While Amsterdam does have a certain reputation, it is also a beautiful place to visit and see a little of the city, whether you see the attractive side of the city or the maybe slightly questionable side.
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