Newcastle Upon Tyne is a city of about 300,000 people on the east coast of England. We visited the castle Keep and ancient city wall, parts of which date back to the 10th century and earlier. We explored the Church of England Cathedral. It is massive and beautiful and several hundred years old. The stained glass windows are magnificent. In commentary I will add that even with all of the building's brilliance, it is no better suited for worship than a pole barn where believers are gathered.
At 3:00 we caught the bus for a 30 minute trip to the Ferry Port on the River Tyne. The ferry was set up like a cruise ship, except of course for the three levels of cars and large trucks it was carrying. The room price is very reasonable, but the on board amenities are not reasonable. The buffet is 39 Eros ($45) per person. We went for the cheaper pre-made ham and cheese sandwich that was just five Euros a piece.
About 9:30 Wednesday morning we arrived in Holland. From the port we rode a bus to the city of Amsterdam. Amsterdam has a population of close to one million residents. The bus delivered us to the city centre. From there we walked about ten minutes to our hotel where we left our luggage. After walking back to the city centre we bought 24 hours tickets for the Hop On and Off buses and canal boats. To me two things stood out most in Amsterdam: the canals and the bicycles. The canals earned the city the reputation as the Venice of western Europe. We spent a good amount of time in a large red boat exploring the canals. The boats are the best way to see the 17th century row buildings. Most of these amazing buildings were built during a time known as the Dutch Golden Age. One very noticeable thing about the buildings is that many of them are leaning a few inches one way or another. The leaning is a result of building on soggy lowland and over 400 years of age on the posts that were built upon.
The most noticeable thing for the visitor to Amsterdam is the bicycles. I read that there are over 800,000 bikes in Amsterdam. They are parked all along every street and we saw a very large three level parking garage for bikes. There are separate bike lanes along every street. Pedestrians are expected to stay out of the way of the bikers. We saw very few bikes with speed gears. They are mostly single speed, which is fine considering how flat the land is. It is a sight I will never forget.
We went to the Van Gogh Museum on Thursday. It was interesting to learn about his short life and to see his original works. His works are unique in that they are more primitive than his contemporaries, but draw you in by their uniqueness. Van Gogh's story is sad considering his mental issues that eventually led to him taking his own life.
We visited the sight where Anne Frank wrote her diary. We were disappointed that we couldn't get inside as we weren't aware that tickets had to be reserved on the Internet. They did open it up to everyone after 3:30, but the wait in line was about two hours or more. It is good to just be able to say we were there. We must never forget the evil that took place there by the Nazis. It is what happens when people are convinced that one group of people are of less worth than they are themselves. We must guard against such thoughts by following the example Jesus set for us.
All in all, Amsterdam is an amazing place to visit. We met people from all over the world. We all so met several people from America. Americans can blend in very easily in Europe until we open our mouths. Every time I heard what I guess is our American accent I would ask where the speaker was from. We met people from Indiana, California, New York, and North Carolina. There were a lot of places to eat, but our favorite was a pancake house where we had American pancakes (there is a difference) and American crispy bacon (again there is a big difference). After retracing our steps we returned to Bootle on Friday. I'm glad we took advantage of being close to Amsterdam and making the trip. Be sure to check out the pictures on this sight. I took over 200 pictures, but selected 18 for the website. I'll make you watch the others when we get home in just over two months now.