ADVENTURES | PHOTOGRAPHS | LIFE IN AMSTERDAM


Friday, January 15, 2010

American Book Center, Broken Bikes & The Begijnhof

Nothing beats riding my bike around Amsterdam and going to museums. Especially on a nice warm 3°c day (ha!). The city was so quiet this morning as I biked all around without having to stop except for a very quick near death via tram incident...but we can just pretend that didn't really happen. Sometimes, I just get going on my bike and completely zone out. This isn't a good idea when dodging other bikes, tourists, cars, trams and busses. Moving from a city with only a few bikes to bike heaven in Amsterdam requires a lot of 'live and learn' type moments.

I also experienced my first bike travesty today...a flat tire! After just 17 days, my cute, yellow oma fiets was impaled by a piece of glass and 30 seconds later the tire died in front of an Asian grocery store in the Nieuwmarkt. My friend Isabel and I used this opportunity to browse spices, noodles and hot sauce varieties while I went off about Murphy's Law and idiots who throw glass into cobblestone streets and the crazy probability of my tire hitting such a tiny piece of glass granted the high volume of cobblestone cracks and the velocity of my tires plus a shard of glass...But, my daisy yellow bike is back in action now so life is good.

After a visit to The Amsterdam Historical Museum and tasting a delicious spinach and goat cheese pastry, we headed to a hidden courtyard known as The Beginhof. Of course, this took a few wrong turns and circling around the block before we actually found it. Getting lost is part of my love/hate relationship with this city. 

I love all the windy streets and the charm of weaving around alleys, not exactly knowing where you're going, when every building seems cuter than the previous one. But, I hate when there's actually an agenda to be followed or a site to be found because having a "U" shaped city that's full of twisting canals really makes navigating tiny side streets a challenge! But once you arrive to the said destination, there's almost always an exclamation of, "Ohh, duh. I know exactly where we are now!" One day I'll have it all figured out, and by then it will probably be time to leave. Oh well. 

In this particular case we were just behind the American Book Center, where I like to hide from the cold and read up on American gossip, fashion, food magazines for free (you don't even want to know how inflated the prices are!).



Back to the Begijnhof, which is a bit like a cloister type place but apparently more relaxed as far as religious oaths go. The website describes it as a place for, "eucharist reflection, prayer and silence" and tour groups aren't allowed because some single ladies still live there and probably don't want a bunch of tourists peeking in the windows. 

Actually, certain parts are sectioned off from the pubic allowing privacy for the residents. Go ahead and read up on "The Miracle of Amsterdam" if you're interested. The story basically goes a little something like this...  A dying guy is given the sacrament but he barfs up the bread which is thrown on to a fire and wont burn. (Hmm. Freaky? I think so!) At the time, some people felt this was a very important issue, so now it's a miracle. Other relics from the scene are also now part of The Begijnhof chapel. See, you can learn a lot of religious history from studying art and travel guides without ever needing to open a bible. And that being said, it's time for some photos...

Entrence to the pseudo secret garden...



Courtyard view...


Het Houten Huis. One of the oldest wooden houses in the Netherlands, c.1420. Wooden houses were banned in 1521 after a fire destroyed the city...


Biblically themed plaques...


One last view of the courtyard...

Imagine how nice it will look when spring arrives!

2 comments:

  1. I always zone out when I am riding my bike too. Usually I get snapped out of it by a near miss or a shouting Dutchman.

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