I saw a mouse… where?

Heavy rain and strong winds had been predicted and the forecast was surprisingly accurate. This morning, we noticed even the hardy Dutch were struggling to cycle in the appalling weather. We were booked on a walking tour in Amsterdam and couldn’t quite believe we were daft enough to attempt it in such awful conditions.

John was seriously impressed by trains each one with specific areas for bikes, but his admiration was dented when we ground to a halt, stuck behind a train with a defective door. It was a short delay as we were sent back to Haarlem but enough to turn our lunch plans into a quick stop for coffee and a snack.

Tip of the day: If you are cold, wet and hungry head to a Dutch department store. They usually have a warm, clean, reasonably priced cafe and don’t mind you dripping on the floor. We have tested this theory twice so it must be true.

Our guided tour started at the national Remembrance monument opposite the Royal Palace. We were a mixed group with people from New Zealand to Brazil. As we walked, our guide, Sem, gave us an entertaining talk on Dutch political history. We learned about. Dutch architecture and how the style of the houses was influenced by wealth and taxes. Taxes were calculated on the width of your property and the number of windows and steps.

Many of the tall narrow canal front houses lean forwards. We always thought it was something to do with poor building practices, but we learned today, it’s a mix of practicality and tax avoidance. The houses have such narrow staircases, all the furniture has to be hoisted up the outside and the lean helps to avoid furniture crashing into the property. The design feature also helps keep water away from the building. We’re not sure it’s true but it made a good tale.

Our walk through one of the university buildings stopped at an original Banksy and the most frequently stolen traffic sign in Amsterdam. The sign came about following a long campaign by a local to stop students smoking weed outside his home. Now all he has to deal with is the sign regularly being stolen.

Next was the old Jewish Quarter. 80% of Amsterdam’s Jews didn’t survive WW2 and those that did, came back to find their homes had been looted and any combustible materials removed by locals to help provide warmth through one of the coldest winters seen in the city.

We are sorry to say we didn’t see any windmills in old Amsterdam or mice with clogs on, it was too wet and windy.

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