Easing onto Amsterdam

Getting around Amsterdam isn't difficult, but buying a multi-day pass took more effort than I expected. The main problem is that the U.S. does not use the chip-and-pin system for credit cards and Amstderdam has aggressively moved to automatic ticket machines. We ended up riding the tram for free to Centraal Station (the tram driver wouldn't take cash) where we finally found that the Western Union desk would sell us a card—but not the 4-day one like we wanted. Goodness knows she you can get those, if you cannot get them at the main station! We bought 3-day ones instead.

We then made the mistake of walking to the department store in the central, old part of Amsterdam. (I didn't realize that we could have taken the tram.) it wasn't far, but it was insanely crowded with tourists. It is THE tourist spot. Happily, none of them were shopping at the department store.

After that, we walked around the Jordaan and looked at lovely residential (and tourist) areas. It was time for dinner, so we ate at a sidewalk cafe and had a good meal with Amstel beer. And wonderful apple cake, which I forgot to photograph until we'd eaten half of it. Excuse the crumbs.

The tram system is great, but the spoke-like layout does have drawbacks. We ended up pretty far from any N-S lines, so it was faster to walk back to Centraal Station and catch our tram there. (We may have walked a little too much today.) I was even brave enough to ask the driver if she was going to Amstelkade—butchering the name as I did so (I made it rhyme with arcade). But she said "Oh, Amstel-kah-deh! Yes, I stop there." So we caught the right one.

Everyone speaks Dutch to us at first, which I find oddly reassuring but baffling; they quickly switch to English, however. Pronunciation is tricky; very similar to German, but often the G is soft and there is some back-of-the-throat manipulation I cannot mimic. And don't ask me to say Van Gogh.

Tomorrow it's museum day, and Wednesday we to go Den Haag (The Hague) for, you guessed it, more museums (Escher!). Then its more museums on Thursday. Somewhere in there we will eat rijstafel, take a canal tour, and visit the fabric sellers. And maybe more shopping. And cheese.