Thursday, February 27, 2014

Amsterdam – Say Cheese

After coming back from Belgium we didn't have much to do so we soaked in the city and chilled in the evening at the City Centre. One thing I have to mention, we discovered this amazing chain of Chinese food called Walk to Wok and became permanent customers of it. So anyone travelling there must try their take away in the paper carton.

The next day we left for Alkmaar cheese market; although there are other cheese markets also but this is undoubtedly the mother of all. Even though Aakaash was just not interested in going and went just on my insistence, he came to like and enjoy the place more than me.  The market opens on every Friday at 10 am at the Waagplein also known as the weighing square and is a must see. The cheese has been traded in this square since 1365. People are all dressed in the traditional costumes of Holland wearing the traditional Dutch wooden shoes. The bell ringing at 10 am is the sign to start the market. There was a sea of people and we slowly crawled our way towards the front to have a better view and click pictures. The cheese carriers are the only ones allowed in the market. They carry cheese on wooden racks hung across their shoulder and a barricade separates the whole market from the tourist spectators. The kids were called in and traded their cheese.  Aan even managed to get a ride in the cheese selling cart. Aan had an amazing time being carried around in the hand carriages meant to carry the cheese. Later Aan and Aananya had a blast getting weighed on the huge cheese scales and got certificate of weight as souvenirs.

Aakaash was not far behind, although it was impossible for anyone to carry him around, he decided to do some weight lifting and carried  the block of cheese using the hand carriages.FYI each block of cheese is 9kgs so it is not an easy task to carry 8 blocks of cheese around. The market presents itself as a great spectacle with no active participation from the tourists; I think we were really lucky that we could play a small part in all the hustle and bustle that was going on. The medieval square is surrounded by loads of souvenir shops and local food stall. All in all I would say that Alkmaar is a must visit place and there are loads of other things that you can do there.

From there we took the train to see the famous traditional windmills of Amsterdam. Your trip will not be complete if you haven’t seen the iconic traditional windmills of Netherlands and indeed the view was spectacular. On our way back I realized we hadn't seen the famous 2 meter tall, red I AMSTERDAM sign, so we headed towards that and got our clicks in, around and on top of the slogan. We had a great time and although we were not ready to say bye we took our last stroll in the beautiful city with canals.

This was our last night in Amsterdam and the place is infamously famous for drugs and prostitution. Of course we weren't to do any of that but were inquisitive to see the so popularized red light district. So we decided to take a walk on the street. It was really odd to see the ladies in a box like cabin with red lights on and trying to entice customers. Felt bad but then life is not a bed of roses and people need to do what they need to do to survive. Anyway, we had an excellent trip and for the very first time we covered 4 countries at one go, gathered all the memories and were ready to head back home.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Belgium & Luxemburg - 2 countries in 2 days!!!

As soon as we reached Brussels by train, we just dumped our luggage in the hotel and headed straight to Atomium. The building is shaped like an atom and indeed has an amazing structure. From the top sphere you can see the panoramic view of Brussels.  

Later we headed towards the famous landmark of Brussels - The Manneken Pis. After stuffing ourselves with waffles buried in cream and strawberries we walked towards the Grand Place. It has been voted as the most beautiful central square of Brussels and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After taking our perfect shots we headed back to our hotel.

The next day we travelled to Luxemburg by train and in so many days for the first time we had a sunny day. The most unique thing about Luxemburg was the dramatic landscape wherein a valley runs through the center of the city. We saw the Pont Adolphe Bridge which was built in 1900 and is the largest stone arch in the world. Luxemburg is a very small country and there is not a lot to see, so we took a toy train which gave us a tour of the place. We made the most of the little time we were there and later that evening we went back to Belgium and were ready to take our train back to Amsterdam the next day.