Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Amsterdam Day 2: Library, Begijnhof, Schuttersgalerij and 2013

Last day of the year!

The hostel has a cat, and I think it likes me. It was asleep outside our room when I left for breakfast this morning, and it only bit me once when I tried to pat it. And then it followed me down to breakfast!

We tried for the Anne Frank Huis this morning, but the line looked about an hour and a half long so we went to our next stop: Amsterdam public library.

This is an awesome building, seven floors worth with beautiful views out over the city and cool bookcases. The children's section has lots of curving circular bookcases, one that has a second level that you can climb up to via a spiral staircase, and a giant polar bear. All libraries should be like this. We had some frites for lunch, and then wandered through the city and looked at the shops and the tulip stalls and found a post office. There's an amazing bookshop called the American bookshop that winds up for three floors, and just behind it is the Begijnhof, a courtyard surrounded by pretty buildings that was once a home for Beguin nuns, who wanted to live a nun's life without taking the vows.

The Amsterdam museum is right next door, and has a free gallery with huge paintings and photographs and an amazing carpet along the floor representing all the different nationalities that live in Amsterdam. I found the New Zealand square and enjoyed the paintings of guardsmen and orphanage women, and the gigantic 17th century wooden statue of Goliath.

After that it was back to the hostel for dinner, and to wait for the New Year celebrations to start. We'd been hearing explosions all day, and it turned out that these were small sort-of-hand-held fireworks that people kept letting off in the street. Lots of car alarms accompany the bangs and crackles.

It began to rain about nine o'clock, and we weren't sure if the promised street parties were going to happen. We stayed in the hostel's bar until about 11.15, then wrapped up and umbrelled up and forced ourselves out into the windy wet street (have I mentioned Amsterdam is very windy? It's like being back in Wellington). We'd ended up in a group of New Zealanders and one Nederlander (who had party horns, which were really useful) and found a spot beside the fairy-light bedecked outdoor ice rink under some trees. Fireworks were going off everywhere, including in the road in front of us, and the path to our destination Liedseplein turned out to be much like an obstacle course, dodging people, fireworks, broken glass, bikes and large puddles as well as struggling to keep the umbrella up and away from people's eyes.

By midnight we were soaked and freezing, but everyone was jumping around and whooping and wishing Happy New Year and throwing still more fireworks around. With the number of bangs and the strength of them (as well as the sirens from ambulances and police) we might have been in a war zone. We wandered around for a while enjoying the festivities, then went back to our hostel for warmth and music and dancing.

Happy New Year to everyone! Hope it brings excellent things :)


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