Val Ease Central Railroad by Jeffrey MacHan

Eurospoor The Eurospoor 2003 AdventureZ

Report #5: On the road to Eurospoor! October 14, 2003

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

- Tuesday began with a phone call to my wife to wish her a happy 25th anniversary. We then rushed to use the remaining time on our 24-hour day pass to hop on a tram to take in the Heineken museum tour. The tour was very well done and we enjoyed seeing the Shire draft horses in their stables (through the brewery windows unfortunately. We weren't allowed to enter the stables to get up close).

Our Heineken brewery visit included a glimpse of the Shire draft horses that still pull the beer wagon through the streets of Amsterdam every morning. The original copper vats of the Heineken brewery still held the smell of hops. Recommend this tour.

We dropped our Heineken souvenir beer glasses off at our rooms and then headed toward Centraal Station about 11 am. We bought train tickets to Haarlem to visit the astonishing cathedral. We arrived in time for lunch (deep fried herring strips and the local sweet pastry (puff pancakes in icing sugar and whipped butter). I was developing quite a liking for caffe verkeer (cafe latte). I couldn't pronounce it properly so I eventually gave up and simply ordered a latte. Everyone seemed to understand. Although still sunny the temperature had dropped to the point where gloves came in "handy" while sitting in the terrace of the cathedral square. The only blotch on the horizon were the golden arches which seemed to have infiltrated every tourist area we had visited.

The cathedral was astonishing. It cost 2 euros to entre via a small alcove from which we emerging onto an awe-inspiring vaulted cathedral. The vaulted ceiling was easily 100 feet above us. The stained glass windows were sparkling in the afternoon sun which sent shafts of multi-coloured rays down to the rows of pews below. The cathedral was not emply. In fact there was even a volunteer working on restoring small portions of stained glass. Terry and I spent a few minutes watching the worker position the glass, cut the lead channel and place the section together. While wandering around in a leisurely clock-wise rotation, I noticed three magnificient ship miniatures suspended from a portico. They depicted, with great believability, heavily armed vessels of the Dutch East India Company.

Lunch in the shadow or almost of the cathedral at Haarlem was just what we tourists needed. Sunny but cool. Glove weather.. The cathedral organ was the single most impressive decorative element in the church. At 5 years of age Mozart played this magnificent instument. 500 years of feet scraping over these crypt stones have worn off the inscriptions. Only faint numbers permit identification of the vaults occupants.

Opposite the main alter could be admired a truly enormous and particularly beautiful organ. The inscription on the plaque indicated that Mozart, at the age of 5, played his own compositions on this instrument. Too bad we were't able to attend one of the regular concerts played on this organ. The ornate sculptures surrounding the pipes were just as impressive as the size of the pipes.

Looking to me feet, I noticed how worn the black basalt slabs were. Then I noticed that the slabs were numbered and in some cases had inscriptions that were still legible. How silly of me. I was walking over family crypts inside the cathedral. It was humbling to walk over crypt stones worn down by visitors' feet over the past 500 years.

On our way back towards the train station, Terry and Helen stopped to visit another museum, this time one that held the very ecclectic and astonished collection of a Dutch merchant. His interests covered everything electrical and natural. I decided to pass on this visit and spent the next hour and a half dozing on a bench in the sun a few steps from the museum. Their visit complete, the Sutfins and I took a meandering path back towards the city core and the station. We crossed several small canals and noticed that a major canal provided a pathway for larger pleasure craft and barges.

On our return to Amsterdam I led my travel companions to a highly regarded Chinese restaurant on the margins of the red-light district for dim sum and several sumptuous and savory dishes. Our table seating offered a panoramic view of the transvestites and ladies of the night as they made their way to their places of business through large numbers of men, women and children! An incredible sight to see to be sure.

It was only a matter of time before we explored the Amsterdams Red Light District. Theatre Casa Rosso offers non-stop live sex shows. No we did NOT go in!

The sunset was magnificent and all three of us took pictures of the incredible structures along the canals and alleyways. As my wife would say, the images would have made great jigsaw puzzles. Of course, following our wonderful meal we took a quick tour of the Red Light District. We were surprised to find several red-neon framed windows along the main canals close to our more upscale neighbourhood. The ladies who occupied the glass enclosures were caucasian from what I could see and always tastefully attired in lacy undergarments. Occasionaly a UV lamp would enhance the glow of the lingerie to startling effect. I read somewhere that the farther the ladies were from the downtown core, the less expensive their nightly rent. It also appeared that these ladies were somewhat in the twilight of their careers or immigrants starting out in the business!

Despite the attempt by the city to paint a different picture, the whole area was rather seedy although surprisingly clean. I don't know why I expected otherwise. We often encountered city crews sweeping, washing and vacuuming the streets early in the morning. I spent the night dreaming of my wife ;-)

Coming up...Wednesday's adventureZ!

Stay tuned for Report #6 of the Great Eurospoor AdventureZ | Return to Eurospoor 2003 Home.