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Amsterdam Museum Cannonball Run: 1. Jewish Historical Museum

When in Amsterdam...Cannonball Museum Run Stop 1 is the Jewish Historical Museum. The weather was bad so we dropped  into a place close to home in old Mokum town.



Museum Layout/ Overview

- The Museum is housed in a complex of four former Ashkenazi synagoguess laid over three floors.
- Lower floors are the temporary exhibitions, cafeteria and entrance into the Synagoge. This area explains the basis of Jewish religion.
- Upper floor is the permanent exhibitions serparated into two room.
- First room covers the Jewish community in Netherlands and Amsterdam from 1500s to late 1800s.
- Second room is devoted to the 20th century experience of the Dutch Jewish Community.
- Disabled access is very good.


Jewish Historical Museum Amsterdam


Temporary Exhibitions

Philip Mechanicus: Photographer ( exhibitions runs until 27 Ocotber 2013)
 This is the first posthumous restropective work of this Amsterdam photogrhaper. Philip was born at Zwanburgwal a few blocks from the Museum complex.

Son of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish German month this enabled the family to survive the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam.

The exhibition covers the life work of Philip Mechanicus who was a writer and photographer.

For us the best part of the exhibition is the photos of Amsterdam streets shot between 1955 and 1962.

Shtetl in the City: Antwerp through the lens of Dan Zollman (exhibition runs 16 September until 2 February 2014)

Dan Zollman is an Antwerp native from a Jewish family. His exhibition brings alive the world of Antwerp's ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jews. Zollman opens the viewer to a community that is often closed.

An interesting look at a community from a city, Antwerp, that has had an enormous impact on the city of Amsterdam.



Dan Zollmann Sjtetl in de stad


Tips:
- Take the free audio tour it comes in multiple languages
- If you are interested in WWII and don't have a lot of time you can spend 1 hour just in the 20th century room.
- Museumnacht 2013 will be an event Digiffiti: Amsterdam street language and art influenced by the city's Jewish history.
When in Amsterdam....enjoy!

When in Amsterdam... - Blogged
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Amsterdam in the Winter: Food for thought and warmth

When in Amsterdam... - Blogged

When in Amsterdam and the east wind blows in winter the city gets cold, very cold. It is that time of the year again, Winter. There are many good things about winter in Amsterdam. The city is not so busy, you can go ice skating and walking along the canals reveals the architecture of this great northern European capital.

Through shared struggle comes identity. Winter in Amsterdam at times can be a struggle and food brings people together and creates an identity, Dutch Cuisine. In Winter Dutch Food comes into its own.

photo taken from La buena vida a food store in the Hague



The Dutch are not known for their cuisine, something that their southern cousins in Belgium consistently remind them.

If you are in Amsterdam during winter don't lament the cold, embrace it. Food will be your savior. There is no better time of the year to enjoy good old fashioned Dutch food.

1. Stampot (stamp in a pot)

This is a winter classic. Everything is stamped/mashed together in a pot - makes sense, yes? Normally mashed vegetables with gravy and a boiled sausage.

There are many versions of this of Stamppot:
- Hutspot has onions, carrots and potatoes mashed together.
- Boerenkool, translated as farmers cabbage, but in English Kale. This is mixed into the mashed potato at the end of the cooking and mashing process.
- Zuurkool Mashed potato with sauerkraut
- Andivie stampot: the same as Boerenkool but instead of using Kale, endive is used.

Bacon bits are a popular addition but the dish is limited only by your imagination.

photo of Zuurkool by blog Kattebelletje


Karin Engelbrecht from About.com Dutch Food made an Asian inspired Stamppot with bok choi (an Asian cabbage), cashew nuts and shitake mushrooms.

The secret is always in the sauce. Plenty of sauce is needed.

2. Erwtensoep (pea soup)

Similar to the English pea and ham soup the Dutch have been at lengths to explain the difference. First a traditional Erwtensoup must be cooked slowly over night on a very low heat. Vegetarian versions can be found but normally there is pork hock and sausage in this thick soup. It is perfect after ice skating.

3. Gehaktbal (meat ball)

 A good Dutch meatball will quickly make you forget the cold. Normally served with potatoes and gravy you can also have a sandwich of meatball. If your into meat, this is a show stopper. Dutch meatball is 5 times the size of a Swedish meatball normally around 100grams. Every house has its own recipe but normally there is mixed spice and a toasted bread mixed into the ball.Wednesday is traditionally meatball day. Yes, that's right a whole day attributed to a meatball.

Picture taken from an Australian Food Blog


4.Oliebollen (oil balls)

It doesn't sound healthy and it isn't. The Oliebollen is a Dutch donut without the hole. Amsterdam's squares and train stations are filled with Oliebollen stands during winter. If your waiting for the train or tram because it is to cold to bike this is a perfect treat. Freshly cooked and sprinkled with icing sugar a perfect snack to ward off the east wind.

These also come in many varieties some are stuffed with currents (krentenbollen) or apple.

5. Chocomelk (chocolate milk)

A warm cup of chocomelk goes a long way in winter. The famous brand chocomel originating out of Friesland, a northern province of the Netherlands, is distributed widely in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium. This Dutch favourite is served in almost every business from Cannabis Coffeeshop to high end restaurant.
photo taken from blog: Almost barefoot farm girls



5. Mullwijn (mull wine)

Similar to the German and Scandinavian versions. Although a Swedish friend said the Dutch version was nothing like the 'great' Swedish winter wine. Warmed red wine with herbs, warms you to your very toes. Rembrandtplein, the Dam and Leidseplein are popular places to grab a warm red wine.

Here is a list of highly recommended Authentic Dutch restaurants in Amsterdam to enjoy. Click on the links to their websites.

When In Amsterdam....rug up and enjoy!
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All-time Top 10 Things to do in Amsterdam: a critical look

When in Amsterdam has realised that every website associated with Amsterdam travel has a top list of things to do in this city. Some websites only have Top 5 or 10 lists.

When in Amsterdam could provide our own list but honestly there is no Top 10 list. Waking up in Amsterdam the list changes day to day because of mood, weather and the place in question.

So we are going to give you the All-time Top 10 list of things to do in Amsterdam (updated 2014).

Our approach is simple: 

  • Collation
  • 100 web pages were analysed.
  • Search Terms were “top things to do in Amsterdam”, ‘top 10 things in Amsterdam’
  • To qualify the page needed to have in its title top things to do in Amsterdam. For Example: Top 5, Top 10, Top 20 things to do in Amsterdam.

We collated the results then ran a critical look at the list to provide you with an alternative.
Counting down from 10 to 1.


Amsterdam floating flower market
Timmer's Flowers and Plants: Amsterdam Floating Flower Martket
photo: Sonia Hermosin
10. Amsterdam’s Famous Floating Flower Market
The last market in Amsterdam still on the water. A wonderful place for colour and it is central. The Dutch are famous for cut flowers and bulbs. The 1637 stock market meltdown because of speculation on tulip bulbs made the Dutch synonymous with the Turkish flower.

Critical look:
  • The market has no educational aspect at all.
  • The market is not really floating.
  • A retail market servicing mostly tourists from Europe.
  •  Custom’s regulations restrict other visitors from taking back bulbs to their countries.
  • It is worth a look if in the area especially for the Timmer's family stall famous for their quality cut flowers and plants.

Alternative:
  •  Alsmeer Flower Market: An hour by bus outside Amsterdam it is the World’s largest flower market and the world’s 4th largest building. You can’t help but learn on the self-guided tour.
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Named after the famous 17 century poet and playwright Vondel it is Amsterdam’s central park. The park was created in 1864 after Victorian England made such gardens popular. It has a Picasso sculpture, wonderful bike paths, the film museum and a theater.
Vondel Park, Amsterdam

Critical look:

  • As is commonly reported Vondel Park receives 10 million visitors a year. 
  • On a sunny day finding a quiet spot in Vondel Park is not possible.
  • The smell in parts also demonstrates the lack of toilet facilities. This has been added to over the last few years.(thanks to comments section)
  • The high numbers of visitors and its central location, the park attracts people that want to be noticed. Unsocial behaviour and drunkenness does occur at the end of a hot day.
Alternative:
  • Westerpark is central and large like Vondel Park. The east-west layout results in more sunshine hours, if you are lucky to get a sunny day in Amsterdam. Large range of bars, eateries and toilets.


8. Visit the Albert Cuyp Market
With over 220 stalls and situated within the old Latin Quarter of Amsterdam, the Albert Cuyp market is the largest street market in the Netherlands and professes to be one of the largest daily markets in Europe. Named after the 17th century painter the market has operated since 1905.

Critical look:
  • It is not the most affordable of Amsterdam street markets.
  • Expensive nature means working class Amsterdammers go to other street markets.

Alternative:
  • Dappermart: cheaper, more rustic, fewer tourists, rated top 10 shopping streets in the world by National Geographic 2007.

7. Ride a bike
With an estimated 600 000 to 1 million bicycles circulating in Amsterdam, the city is one of the bike capitals of the world. The compact and flat nature of the city makes biking a fast and affordable travel option in Amsterdam.



sightseeing Amsterdam bike
Amsterdam bike
Critical look:
  • Most anger from locals towards visitors is about biking or walking in bike paths. 
  • Many Amsterdammers believe that visitors should take a test before being allowed to rent or ride a bike in Amsterdam.
  • Riding a bike in Amsterdam City Centre traffic is not for beginners.

Alternative:
  • Walk smaller areas and take Amsterdam trams in between – bike riders don’t mess with trams.
  • Take a guided walking tour of Amsterdam's Old City Centre  with a private, small or larger group tours. 
  • Take a countryside bike tour or a neighbourhood bike tour and enjoy Amsterdam with good bike paths. Dutch biking the way it is supposed to be, enjoyable.
The second or third largest beer maker in the world depending with whom you talk started in Amsterdam. The old brewery has a tour called the Heineken Experience.


heineken brewery
Heineken Experience, Amsterdam
Critical look:
  • They have not made beer in this brewery since the 1980s.
  • The tour concentrates on the advertising and marketing power of this international brand.
  • The tour only includes two half pints of Heineken. Trying to make friends with people who don't like beer on a brewery tour. Just to savour more of the product is a thirsty persons dilemma.
Alternative:
  • Spending the price of entrance to the Heineken Experience at one of Amsterdam’s active micro-breweries or quality beer bars will result in more beer. 
  • Amsterdam’s micro-brewery scene is building: Brouwerij ‘t IJ, Prael, De Bekeerde Zuster (the twisted sister) are well worth visit for beer lovers. Some Breweries conduct tours for groups and or individuals.
  • There are beer tours as well as pub and club crawls for the young.

5. Canal Tour
Amsterdam is known as the Venice of the North. Even though the canals do not smell and the canals are not deep like Venice 20% of Amsterdam's surface is water. With over 100 kilometers of canals, around 90 islands and 1500 bridges traveling by water is a great way to see the city.

Critical look:
  • Few Amsterdammers use their canals.
  • There are three main canal tour companies in Amsterdam. They run tours that are similar with recorded messages, and their boats have no historic relevance to Amsterdam.
Amsterdam local boat tour
Local Boating Experience, Amsterdam


Alternative:
  • Find a local Amsterdammer with a boat. Finding a local boat cruise is easier to find when the weather is good. Inquire with other tour providers you may use. Amsterdammers' have a network of boat operators in the city. 
  • Visit Het Grachtenhuis (Canal House Museum) learn how Amsterdam's world heritage listed canals were created.
  • Rent your own boat and captain yourself. Sleopdelen, Boaty. Becareful, when the weather is good on a weekend, out come the party boats.


4. Red Light District
Situated in the oldest part of Amsterdam this area provides an eclectic mix of sex shops, brothels, coffeeshops, hotels, gay bars and around 300 red light windows. Since 2000 Amsterdam legalised sex workers. The Red Light District is the main centre of this industry in Amsterdam.

Critical look:
  • There is more to Amsterdam than the Red Light District. The area is often full of young men peering at the scantly clad women.
  • On weekends the neighbourhood can be over loaded with travelling parties of men and women. Exciting for early evening walk.
Alternative: 
  • Take a guided walking tour of the Red Light District. The area is the oldest in town and full of hidden secrets. A little bit of knowledge goes a long way compared to peering into the bewitching red lights.
  • Go during the day and see the shopping, art and history side of the area.


The greatest collection of Dutch art and history in the Netherlands. Normally ranked in the top 20 of museums in the world. The Rijksmuseum was under construction between 2003 and 2013. The masterpieces are layed out in a new style with focus still on the grand hallway of Masters. Classics by Rembrandt, Frans Hals and Vermeer are well represented.  


rijksmuseum amsterdam sightseeing
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.



Alternative:
Rembrandt House: Comparable there are no crowds and you can see what sort of bed the old master Rembrandt slept in and toilet he used. Also the largest collection of Rembrandt etchings in the world

2. Van Gogh Museum
The expressionist painter was famed for his rough style, sharp colours and considered a trail blazer for modern art. This museum houses the largest collection of Van Gogh paintings under one roof and tells the story of the man from child hood to his end at 37 years old.


van gogh museum amsterdam sightseeing
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.




Critical look:
  • Van Gogh did not spend a lot of his life in the Netherlands.
  • His fame has only come about through Van Gogh's influence on 20th century art.
  • Expect large lines.
Alternative:
  • Pre-purchase your tickets at the tourist information centre at the front of Central Station. Go late to avoid the crowds. 
  • On Friday night the museum is open to 10pm with a relaxed and enjoyable environment.
  • Go on a day trip to Kroller Muller Museum to experience the largest private collection.


1. Anne Frank Museum
The location of the Jewish Frank family hiding place during WWII. Teenage Anne documented her experience from the annex of this Amsterdam house during Nazi occupation. The book has become one of the world's most widely read. This popularity accounts for approximately 1 million visitors a year to this museum.


anne frank house sightseeing
Anne Frank House Museum, Amsterdam.




Critical Look:
  • For a small museum there are a lot of people at certain times. 
  • The museum has a difficult job balancing the broader context of the period.
  • It is more of a pilgrimage than a museum.


Alternative:
  • Avoid the long lines and buy on lineGo late in the evening or arrive early before it opens and the school groups arrive. 
  • Resistance museum provides you with a greater snap shot of World War II in Amsterdam and the Netherlands. Rated one of the best museums in the Netherlands don't expect long lines here maybe just a school group now and then.
  • The Jewish Historical Museum provides detail on the Jewish community's influence on Amsterdam through the centuries. Ticket to this museum includes entrance to the Portuguese Synagoge and nearby Deportation centre.  


Overview of Amsterdam's Top 10 Things to Do:
  • The 'Big 3' as the industry calls them, fill out the top three. 
  • Sex, alcohol and boats are four, five and six. 
  • Bikes, markets, parks and flowers round out the list. 
Quite a range for a small city of less than 1 million people. Have you got a suggestion? Let us know what you enjoyed in Amsterdam.

For more things to do check our list for Spring 2014.

When in Amsterdam.....enjoy!
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