Disembarkation day in Amsterdam caused quite a stir for the passengers and crew.

We don’t know whether Viking cruises had forgotten or not known in advance that 27 April was the King’s birthday and the celebrations for this are huge. Thousands pack into Amsterdam for parties and fun activities. There is orange everywhere – clothing, balloons, ribbons, hair, painted nails etc. We got to see some of these the following day. It is all very patriotic and chaotic. As the streets were to be closed off at 07:00 our departure time from the boat was changed from 09:00 to 06:30 which was when our taxi arrived to take us to our hotel. We were to spend 4 nights in Amsterdam prior to boarding another Viking cruise ship, or long boat as they are referred to, which would take us down the Meuse River to Antwerp in Belgium.

Orange balloons outside The Bulldog Pub and Restaurant.

Our hotel was situated out of town near the airport. At first we were disappointed but it turned out to be perfectly fine. Amsterdam has an excellent commuter system and the bus stop was 50m down the road. A bus arrived every 10-15mins but on the first couple of days the problem we had was busses that were full by the time that they arrived at our stop. Twice we had to wait as 3 full busses went past without even considering stopping and take on more passengers.

Our hotel with our room 4th from the right on the top floor
Pond in the gardens

As we had to disembark so early, we were at our hotel by 07:30. We explained our unexpected early arrival to a very pleasant receptionist who stowed our luggage while we went for a walk. We returned a little over an hour later and decided to sit and wait until our room was ready, expecting this to be at about 14:00. While sitting there, someone from the dining room kindly came and offered us coffee. We were surprised when, at about 11:00 we were called to Reception to be told that our room was ready.

While out for our walk we crossed over the road at the front of the hotel and up a small lane. On the left-hand side on a small bank was a large, pink, wooden glasses frame. As we went around Amsterdam over the next few days, we discovered that there were many modern sculptures on the sides of the road, some attractive but many not. Most were made from recyclable material.

Glasses frame

We followed the small road to a large lake on which there were a few boats and, on the beach, a family was fishing. On the far side was a small village from what we could see. It was a beautiful day and a lovely opportunity to spend beside the lake. We walked back to the road and went toward the main road coming to another entrance to the lake. We went down this lane to find a restaurant which seemed to have closed down as it appeared rather run down. There was a small children’s playground and some ablution blocks but no other people to be seen.

Homes across the lake

Once settled in our room we went our and took a bus to the village of Sloten which is 6kms to the west of Amsterdam and the nearest to our hotel. Our main task was to purchase something for supper but it also gave us an opportunity to see another part of the area. As the bus driver had agreed to let us know when to alight at a stop near to a shopping centre with a very large Spar Supermarket, we relaxed and enjoyed the passing scenery.

On the way we passed another lake which had a high spout fountain in the middle. It reminded us of the one in Lake Geneva but this one was much smaller.

Fountain in the lake (photo taken from the bus)

As we entered the village, we saw a very large, sculpted windmill which was leaning to one side. We had to pass it twice before we were able to take a photograph because of the angle of the windmill and the access to the intersection. Further into town there was a very busy flea market taking place, with stalls on every corner and into parking lots. It didn’t seem possible for there to be enough people to purchase half of the goods on sale.

Windmill sculpture

On arrival at the relevant bus stop, we found that to get to the Spar we had to climb a long flight of stairs, but it was worth it as the shop was very inviting with good food on hand at reasonable prices, for Europe that is. At first, we thought that it was expensive but learnt later, when we went into the city, how much better it was price-wise.

Once we had done our shopping, we wandered around what was a large square and in one corner was a bicycle park. We were to learn that there are more bicycles in Amsterdam than there are people and that cyclists appear to have the right of way. Although cars would automatically stop for pedestrians, cyclists did not. One had to quickly learn how to keep out of their way. As one guide told us, “They do ring their bells but only once they have knocked you over.” One good thing was the fact that they kept to the correct side of the road.

Bicycle park

We returned to the hotel by bus and rested in our room for the rest of the day and had an early night as we wanted to be up early to see as much of Amsterdam as possible.