Friday, April 12, 2013

Amsterdam & the Netherlands 2012 Part 1

In the April of 2012, I was sent to Amsterdam for a work assignment. This was initial testing and training for Paramount's SAP installation in Germany, France, and Spain. Because of the large number of users effected by this change (6 offices total), my trip to Amsterdam was going to be a two week trip.

I arrived in Amsterdam very early on Monday morning. I went to the hotel and after checking in early, showering, and getting ready to go to work, I grabbed my camera and took my first stroll along the canals of Amsterdam.

After work, although it was cold and rainy, I went with a coworker to see the April fair set up in the Dam Square only five minutes from our hotel.

It was also on this first day that I learned the Paramount office in Amsterdam would be closed on Friday.  Not only was I in Amsterdam, I was going to have a three day weekend there! I spent the week planning out my activities.

On Friday I was going to rent a car and drive all over the place. My aim was to see Muiderslot Castle, Kasteel de Haar, and the Keukenhof gardens. For Saturday I bought a train ticket to Brussels, Belgium.  And on Sunday I was going to relax, go to church, and sight see in Amsterdam proper.  In this post and the one following, I'm going to talk about my agenda on Friday and Sunday.  I'll leave Belgium for another time.

Friday came and I picked up my rental car. I was able to connect with some friends from Cincinnati who were living and going to school in Amsterdam, so the agenda was to pick them up at 10:00.

Knowing that I was only going to have one chance to have a car in Amsterdam I picked up the car at 7:00 and started driving to some predefined stops.

Stop number one was Castle Brederode. This old ruins seemed intriguing to me and although I knew I couldn't actually tour it a 7:30 AM, I was still able to walk around and get a few pictures.

The next stop was the series of locks and dams that keep the North Sea from engulfing Amsterdam which sits roughly 15 feet below sea level.

This is the industrial center of Amsterdam.  Although completely different from the city, castles, and gardens I was visiting, I thought it was just as fascinating.

After driving across the locks, I made my way to go pick up Dave and Abby, my partners for my trip across Amsterdam.

Our first stop together was Muiderslot Castle. Both Dave and Abby had been before and decided to walk around the town's 17th century fortifications while I checked out the castle.

Muiderslot was a fairly interesting castle. It was nearly completely medieval with few updates in the past two hundred years. With its close proximity to Amsterdam, it seemed a bit too touristy for my tastes generally. One of the tourist attractions was a falconry.  The garden needed some work, but probably would have been incredible in another week or two.

The weather so far was pretty cloudy and gray.  The forecast was for rain and all three of us hoped the weather would stay away for the rest of the days schedule.  As we got into the car after Muiderslot, it started to rain.

We had two more stops before reaching Kasteel de Haar.  Naarden looked incredible from Google Earth and I had to check it out.  Up close and in person, there wasn't much to see.  It's hard to get the floral pattern of the battlements without having the aerial view.  I was however glad I stopped by.
The next stop was the city of Utrecht.  The Kasteel De Haar was close to the city and Dave recommended we stop by to see the cathedral there.  The interesting thing about the cathedral in Utrecht is that the bell tower is no longer connected to the cathedral building.  During a storm in the late 1600's, the central nave collapsed separating the tower from the rest of the cathedral.  We walked through the streets above the canals (every city in the Netherlands has canals) before heading over to Kasteel De Haar.

Part 2 will discuss the remaining trip to Kasteel De Haar, the Keukenhof, and my tour around Amsterdam.
For the complete photos of part 1, click here.