Tag Archives: Amsterdam

It’s Nice To Feel Useful (7)

  

It’s nice to feel useful (7) …

Every now and again I like to look back over my posts to review what has been going on.  One of the things that I like to do is to take a look at the search questions that seem to bring web-surfers by the site and take a look at some of the more bizarre and unusual.

Last year my favourite was is “Why did Shakespeare bring starlings to Australia?”  and I was obliged to point out here that William Shakespeare died in 1616 and Australia wasn’t settled by Europeans for another couple of hundred years or so after that and although there is much literary speculation concerning possible visits by the Bard to Italy I think it is safe to say that he never went as far as Australia!

Vesuvius the crater

Being a student of geography I am going to begin with a couple of wildly inaccurate searches:  Firstly “Vesuvius Turkey”  and secondly “Wales Cantabria”.  When I was a boy I had a book called “The Boys’ Book of Heroes” which had a chapter about great explorers and I am fairly certain that if they republish it that these two enquirers are really most unlikely to get a mention.

Sex always rears its ugly head so let’s deal with that one straight away.  Someone asked about “Getting laid in Germany” and believe me if I had the answer to that one then I would keep it to myself.

I like this one even better – “Medieval brothels images” and I am completely unable to help with that one because most of the illuminated manuscripts in my collection have images of Jesus and the Saints and as Monks didn’t have digital cameras they probably didn’t have a great deal of spare time to draw pictures of brothels.  Perhaps the enquirers were thinking about the red light district in Amsterdam or perhaps they found their way to my post on the Grand Tour of Europe?

The best that I can do is show this picture of a ‘walk this way‘ brothel sign in the ancient city of Ephesus in Turkey …

Ephesus Brothel Sign

There are always some bizarre questions about low cost airline Ryanair and this year these are my favourites: firstly “Can I take tea bags on a Ryanair flight?” and as far as I am aware tea has not been declared an illegal substance so I am certain that the answer is yes but I don’t think you will be allowed to take a kettle and brew up!  Next – “Is agarbatti allowed in flights?”  and I have to say that with Ryanair being a no smoking airline probably not and lighting up an incense stick is likely to lead to Argy Bargy.   I did provide some advice for flying with Ryanair in a post called Travel Tips When Flying Budget Airlines.

Ryanair Fez Airport

Some of the daftest search enquiries seem to crop up every year but here are some new ones from the last twelve months:

“What were gunfighters actually called” and my answer to that one is that although some of them had real names of course like Jesse James, Billy The Kid, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid  I think mostly they were just called gunfighters!

The meanest gunfighter in the West however was…

Next up – “Which state are Johnny Cash and June Carter talking about when they say we been talking about Jackson ever since the fire went out?- I am of course tempted to say just try Jackson USA and you will get the answer – it is that simple!

We got married in a fever, hotter than a pepper sprout,
We’ve been talkin’ ’bout Jackson, ever since the fire went out.
I’m goin’ to Jackson, I’m gonna mess around,
Yeah, I’m goin’ to Jackson,
Look out Jackson town.

To finish two more searches that caught my attention this year – “Jesus give thanks to feed four thousand men” and I can only assume that in an era of cutbacks and austerity that  this enquirer works for the Government because the size of the crowd has been reduced by 20%.  I wrote about the feeding of the five thousand quite recently.

And finally for this time – “is there a weight limit for the Cresta Run” but I am afraid that I cannot help with that one at all.

What is the strangest search engine enquiry that has brought someone to one of your blog posts?  (This is not a quiz!)

A look back at previous silly search questions:

It’s Nice to feel Useful (1)

It’s Nice to feel Useful (2)

It’s Nice to feel Useful (3)

It’s Nice to feel Useful (4)

It’s Nice to feel Useful (5)

It’s Nice to feel Useful (6)

Entrance Tickets – Anne Frank House, Amsterdam

Anne Frank House Entrance Ticket 1Anne Frank House Entrance Ticket 2

“Writing in a diary is a really strange experience for someone like me. Not only because I’ve never written anything before, but also because it seems to me that later on neither I nor anyone else will be interested in the musings of a thirteen-year old school girl. Oh well, it doesn’t matter. I feel like writing.” – Anne Frank

The entrance ticket is rather plain but this seems strangely appropriate because there is nothing inside to see because it is all about the experience of being there…

…. We were close to the Anne Frank House now on Prinsengracht and as this was on our ‘to do list’ we thought we might check the queue situation which the guide book warned could be quite lengthy at peak times.  Although it was mid afternoon there was no queue at all so we decided that this was an opportunity not to be missed so we paid our entrance fee and went inside.

The house was built in 1635. The canal-side frontage dates from a renovation of 1740 when the rear annex was demolished and the taller one which is rather the point of the visit now stands in its place was built. The Frank family left Germany as the Nazis established power and Otto set up his spice and pickling business in the premises.  Later Nazi persecution spread to the Netherlands and over one hundred thousand Jews were deported so the Frank family went into hiding inside the house in an annex at the rear.

The Secret Annex, as it was called in the English version of Anne Frank’s ‘The Diary of a Young Girl’ enjoyed a secluded position which made it an ideal hiding place the family and four other Jewish people seeking refuge from the authorities. They remained hidden here for two years and one month until they were anonymously betrayed to the Nazi’s, arrested, and deported to their deaths in concentration camps. Of the hidden group, only Otto Frank survived the war.

Anne-Frank-21-007

After those in hiding were arrested, the hiding place was cleared by order of the arresting officers and all the remaining contents of the Frank family and their friends were seized as Government property. Before the building was cleared two friends who had helped hide the families, returned to the hiding place and rescued some personal effects. Amongst the items they retrieved was ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’.

It was an interesting experience to go through the hidden door behind the bookcase and to climb the steep steps into the rooms where they lived and hid, the little guide book calls it a ‘Museum with a Story’ and this sets it out against other museums that do not have the same emotional connection.  It is only small of course so the visit doesn’t take too long before finishing in the inevitable book shop at the end.

I read the diary after a previous visit to Amsterdam but the problem with it of course is that even before you start to read it you know the tragic and heartbreaking end and it is also worth remembering that the Franks weren’t unique in Nazi occupied Amsterdam and across the Netherlands it is estimated that twenty thousand people sheltered Jews at considerable risk to themselves.

Anne Frank House Secret Passage

Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflections

Amsterdam Canals

Amsterdam Canal

I led people on along Stadhouderskade before crossing through a small public park and into Weteringschans and around the next corner was my objective.   As we turned in the others all sympathised with me that we hadn’t found the Reguliersgracht and what a shame this was but, quite by chance, this was perfect timing because here was my opportunity to say ‘Da Da!’ and throw open my arms in theatrical style to introduce them to the prettiest canal in Amsterdam!

Read the full story…

Poland (Wroclaw), Cathedral Island, Padlocks and Museums

Cathedral Island Wroclaw poland

‘This is most apparent on the Pont des Arts, which has been terribly degraded, both visually and structurally.   In a few short years, the heart of Paris has been made ugly, robbing Parisians of quality of life and the ability to safely enjoy their own public spaces along the Seine, which has itself been polluted by thousands of discarded keys…. The time has come to enact a ban on ‘love locks’ in order to return our bridges to their original beauty and purpose.’          Petition Against Love Locks, Paris.

After an above average (put rather pricey) breakfast at the Sofitel Hotel it was immediately time for more walking and sightseeing and there was perfect weather this morning with a crisp blue sky, bright sunshine and not a threatening cloud in the sky.

It was quite chilly however but the hotel desk clerk told us that this was unusual and unseasonably mild because normally at this time of the year the people of Wroclaw would expect to be shovelling snow several centimetres of snow and dealing with average temperatures some way below zero.

We stayed a while in the Market Square where some stage scaffolding was being erected in preparation for a musical event and then we left through a lop-sided archway and made our way north through the handsome University district and towards the River Oder and the handful of islands that sit in a wide stretch of the river and which are connected by several bridges which immediately entitles it to the tag of the ‘Venice of the North’.  This isn’t a title that it holds uniquely of course because this has also been applied to Amsterdam, Bruges, St. Petersburg, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Manchester, Edinburgh and even Birmingham amongst others.

Actually, I have to say that here in Wroclaw this description is stretching it to its absolute limit but it was pleasant enough criss-crossing the river on the bridges and strolling across the islands one by one towards our objective of Ostrow Tumski, the Cathedral Island, which actually isn’t an island any more since part of the river was filled in two hundred years ago.

To get there we had to cross the Tumski Bridge which has now become known as Lovers Bridge on account of that awful modern obsession with attaching padlock graffiti to any available railing which seems to have become an irritating epidemic all across Europe.  This is a lover’s plague whereby signing and locking the padlock and throwing the key into the river they become eternally bonded.  Now, this is an action where I would recommend extreme caution because it sounds dangerously impulsive to me; I think I would further recommend taking the precaution of keeping a spare somewhere in case I needed to release myself later from the implications of a hasty and ill thought through obligation.

Urban Wall Art Wroclaw Poland

Urban Wall Art near the Tumski Bridge

This tradition might sound all rather romantic and lovely but apparently all of these love tokens do lots of damage to the bridges because as they age and rust this spreads to the ironwork and thousands of padlocks need to be removed every year from bridges across Europe.  In Venice there is a €3,000 penalty and up to a year in prison for those caught doing it and that is a much, much higher price than I would be prepared to pay for eternal bondage!

To anyone who thinks this is mean spirited please bear in mind that in June 2014 the ‘Pond des Arts’ in Paris across the River Seine collapsed under the weight of these padlock monstrosities and had to be temporarily closed.  They are not just unsightly – they are dangerous!

Cathedral Island is the original site of the first permanent settlement in Wroclaw, sometime in the ninth century and shortly after it became established and became a bishopric work began to build a Cathedral.  Named after John the Baptist, Patron Saint of Wroclaw, the current incarnation of the cathedral started life in 1241 although it has had a great deal of restoration work since then  because just like every European church it has suffered a mandatory burning down or two and the odd bomb over the years including the destruction of the twin towers in 1945.

There is nothing especially remarkable about the interior of the church but there is a lift to a viewing platform up to the top of one of the towers and so we took the ride and enjoyed the views over the city and the surrounding countryside but we didn’t stop long because it was cold and windy and rather uncomfortable at the top so after a couple of circuits of the spire we took the first available lift back to the ground where the temperature was more agreeable.

And so we left the islands and returned to the old town where we walked for a while along the south bank of the river before turning our backs on it and walked south.  Here we passed by two museums, the especially impressive National Museum built in the style of a German sixteenth century palace and over the road the Panorama of the Battle of Raclawice which is a concrete rotunda with just one exhibit, a hundred and fourteen metre long by fifteen metre high painting of the battle of 1794 when a Polish army defeated a superior Russian force in a struggle for independence.  (Just for comparison, the Bayeux Tapestry is seventy metres long by only half a metre wide).  The painting has great patriotic and nationalist importance for Poland but we decided to walk on and leave this until tomorrow.

Instead of the museums we went to the indoor market but it wasn’t as vibrant as some that we have been to and compared badly for example against Riga and Budapest and it seemed tired, run down and unexciting.  The guide book pointed out the importance of the roof as one of the best examples of early halls made of concrete in Europe and if you like concrete then I am prepared to concede that it was rather impressive.  Personally, I am not a huge fan of the grey stuff!

We had been walking now for over two hours and I was beginning to detect that the needle on Kim’s whinge meter was beginning to twitch so the priority now was to find somewhere for a coffee break so we walked the short distance back to the Market Square and found a modern café where we stopped for a while to rest and warm up and to plan the rest of the afternoon.

Wroclaw Poland from the Cathedral Tower

It’s Nice To Feel Useful (3)

  

It’s nice to feel useful (3) …

About this time of the year I start to look back over my posts to review what has been going on.  One of the things that I like to do is to take a look at the search questions that seem to bring web-surfers by the site and take a look at some of the more bizarre and unusual.

Last year my favourite was can pubic hair grow more with regain?” and rather disappointingly I have nothing to really compete with that in 2013 but carrying on, here are my top ten:

Being a student of history I am going to begin with a selection of wildly inaccurate historical searches.

The first one is “Why did Shakespeare bring starlings to Australia?”  I think I am obliged to point out here straight away that William Shakespeare died in 1616 and Australia wasn’t settled by Europeans for another couple of hundred years or so after that and although there is much literary speculation concerning possible visits by the Bard to Italy I think it is safe to say that he never went as far as Australia!

I imagine that what the question referred to was really about starlings in the USA because here there is a connection.  The introduction of the starling to USA is said to be the responsibility of a man called Eugene Schiefflein who belonged to a group dedicated to introducing into America all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare’s works on the basis that they thought it would be rather nice to hear the sound of Shakespeare’s birds warbling their old world songs on the tree branches of new world America.  Obviously they didn’t realise that this had the potential be an ecological disaster on the same scale as introducing the rabbit into Australia!

Showing a similar lack of historical knowledge is my second search term, “Was El Cid a Muslim?”  Now, El Cid was the great Spanish hero of the Catholic Reconquista which drove the African Moors out of the Iberian Peninsula so I imagine any suggestion that he was a secret Muslim will have poor Charlton Heston spinning in his grave.

Following a visit to Castilla-La Mancha in 2009 I wrote a number of posts about El Cid and I expect the enquirer was sign posted to one of these.

El Cid 1

Next on my historical howlers list is Napoleon Monument in Moscow” What? In his periods of sanity Napoleon did some rather good things but most of the time he was a tyrant and a dictator and a warmonger and in 1812 he invaded Russia and did unspeakable things to the Russian people who were unfortunate enough to be in his way as he marched his army to Moscow.  When he got there the Russian people burnt the city down and so with nowhere to stay for the winter he was obliged to march all the way back again during which his army did more unpleasant things to the Russian people.

I imagine that the chances of there being a memorial to Napoleon Bonaparte in Moscow are about just as likely as there will be a statue of Adolf Hitler.

La Colonne de la Grande Armée Boulogne France

There is however a monument to the French Emperor in France at Boulogne-Sur-Mer so perhaps that is where the search engine went looking?

Moving away from history to travel I do hope that in some small way that my posts will provide some useful information for fellow travellers – here are some of my favourite search question:

Firstly – “Places to get laid in Europe” and believe me if I had the answer to that one then I would probably be inclined to keep it to myself!  Perhaps the enquirer was thinking about the red light district in Amsterdam or perhaps they found their way to my post on the Grand Tour of Europe?

Grand Tour of Europe

Stansted Screening

Next  in  this section is Do I have to take my shoes off at Stansted airport?” and what sort of odd question is that?  The answer actually is sometimes depending on how much the security staff at the airport want to irritate travellers on that particular day.

And my favourite travel question is two things I didn’t know about Spain”.  There are actually about two million things I don’t know about Spain so the chances of me providing the illusive final two for this enquirer are very remote indeed.  I did a post once about ‘ten things I didn’t know about Spain’ but this wasn’t ever meant to be a definitive list and I am fairly certain that I could have kept that theme going forever.

Iconic Spain

From history and travel I move to sex because it is estimated that well over half of all web searches are about this subject.

My first enquiry is just simply “knobs and knockers” !  Interestingly however I once worked with someone who used the office internet to make this very same enquiry.  She was restoring an old Welsh Dresser at the time and although her enquiry was completely innocent she had some explaining to do to the IT section when she received the unexpected results of her search.  I have made a few posts about doors and windows so I expect that’s how my blog was identified in search results for this particular question.

Catalonia Spain Door Detail

I like the next one better – “see through girls’ clothes” and once again if I had the answer to this one I would surely be a millionaire.  It reminded me of my post about X-Ray Specs which seemed to suggest all sorts of peeking opportunities but in fact never actually worked (or so I am told!)

And so I wind this post up with a couple of random questions that I cannot seem to place into a category.  Firstly a really dumb question – “French dog waste management” and I can only assume that the person asking the question has never actually been to France because the answer is simple – there is no dog waste management in France and the French people just allow their canine companions to poop all over the streets with total disregard to other pedestrians.

Finally for this year I really like this one – “do you need a CRB check to hold a childrens’ party at Mcdonalds”Probably not such a daft question when you think about it and the answer is probably yes!  I wrote about birthday parties so perhaps this is where the question was directed?

Only just excluded from my top ten this year – What is a Mole?”, “What did houses look like in the middle ages?” and these what year is the baby boomers let me?” which, as far as I can see makes no sense at all!

P&O Mini-Cruise, a Previous Visit to the Netherlands

Amsterdam by Delft

It was slow progress out of Rotterdam on account of the rush hour traffic and Jonathan soon became drowsy and dropped off to sleep and while he dozed my thoughts went back to our previous visit in a very cold February 2004.

That had been our very first Ryanair flight and on that occasion we stayed in the capital at the Hotel Amsterdam on Damrak, right in the city centre and I inappropriately introduced him to the Red light District and because of the weather and the need to be indoors we visited some of the city museums.

Read the full story…

P&O Mini-Cruise, Delft – Canals, Pottery and Cheese

Delft the Netherlands

A weak winter sun was shining through a veil of high cloud when the transfer coach dropped us off at Rotterdam central station and although I suppose it was rather rude we didn’t spend any time in Holland’s second largest city but made straight for the ticket office because we had plans to visit nearby Delft.

Read the full story…

Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflections

Amsterdam Canals

Amsterdam Canal

I led people on along Stadhouderskade before crossing through a small public park and into Weteringschans and around the next corner was my objective.  As we turned in the others all sympathised with me that we hadn’t found the Reguliersgracht and what a shame this was but, quite by chance, this was perfect timing because here was my opportunity to say ‘Da Da!’ and throw open my arms in theatrical style to introduce them to the prettiest canal in Amsterdam!  So we walked along the narrow street in the shade of the towering gabled houses with their brightly coloured shutters and crossed the seven bridges one by one in a sort of zig-zag fashion as we made our way along its length and back towards the Old Town area.

Read the full story…

Amsterdam Mini-Cruise

Normally we take a low cost airline flight to our chosen destination but now that I live in Grimsby near to the passenger port of Hull this time we decided to take our chances on the high seas and take a P&O mini-cruise.  The P&O website makes everything sound rather grand and markets the North Sea crossing like this:

Mini cruises to Amsterdam include a 2-night stay, travelling in style in one of our ensuite cabins and taking advantage of a host of facilities onboard. You will find a fantastic range of dining experiences with the famous West End Langan’s Brasserie and our Four Seasons buffet restaurant. After your meal why not relax in one of our stylish bars, take in a film at the cinema or even join the high-rollers in the casino? There is also live entertainment for the whole family, plus hundreds of great deals can be found in our onboard shop’.

I have never been cruising so this all sounded rather seductive until Micky pointed out that this wasn’t really a cruise at all but just a simple ferry crossing and more of a sow’s ear than a silk purse and that I wouldn’t need my dinner jacket because there was no chance of being invited to the captain’s table because he would be too busy negotiating the ship through the busy shipping lanes of the North Sea regions of Humber and Thames.

 

Russia, Saint-Petersburg Canal Boat Ride and a Crisis!

Saint Petersburg Canal Boat Tour

The boat was just about to cast off and leave so we quickly paid for our tickets and joined about twenty fellow passengers on the open deck at the rear. Some of them were wrapped in complimentary blankets and Kim asked for a couple but I thought this was rather unnecessary as it was pleasantly warm sitting in the golden glow of the sunshine in the shelter of the adjacent buildings.

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