Visiting Beaver Creek

Noah and I were in Beaver Creek this week on a ski vacation with my family! Beaver Creek is in Colorado, about two hours from Denver.

IMG_8860

We stayed at a condo in the Kiva, and the whole family loved the accommodations! The condo was a three bedroom with king beds and a bath for each room – this is nice because usually my baby brother (who is not so baby anymore) ends up having to sleep on a pullout or small bed, so the extra space here was really nice for everyone.

IMG_8815 IMG_8818 IMG_8816 IMG_8820

There was also a spacious living room with a huge TV (which wasn’t really utilized much by our group…) as well as a kitchen with a big island. Bonus: there were two porches! It was pretty cold though, so I can’t say we spent much time on them:

IMG_8812 IMG_8813 IMG_8819

Throughout the week, the whole group did a combination of skiing and relaxation. Noah and I went cross-country skiing two days and downhill once. The first day of cross-country skiing was on the primary Beaver Creek ski mountain. We took a chairlift to the cross-country area and then were able to take the same chair back down. The skiing was much more challenging than the cross-country I’m used to. I think the difficulty was a combination of poor conditions (hard/icy snow) and simply the fact we were on a mountain (!) – as opposed to some of the open field areas I’m used to doing cross-country. Regardless, the views were absolutely gorgeous and we had some good laughs:

IMG_8822 IMG_8823

After a few too many falls, Samuel decided he would be best served by walking:

IMG_8824

We all persevered though and eventually made it home. 🙂

IMG_8825 IMG_8826 IMG_8830

For the next cross-country ski trip, we drove over to Vail (about 20 minutes from Beaver Creek) to seek better conditions at the Vail Nordic Center. The extra drive definitely paid off! This was some of the best cross-country skiing I’ve ever done. The trails were doable but still challenging in areas (it was on a golf course), and the landscape was beautiful. I felt like I really hit my stride a few times and left feeling totally exhausted. For this second ski trip I went with my Papa and Noah. Noah is an expect skier compared to us, so it was fun to watch him do his thing…

IMG_8845 IMG_8847 IMG_8848 IMG_8849 IMG_8850

…while we tried our best:

IMG_8851

Overall, a fabulous and fun ski outing. 🙂

IMG_8857 IMG_8859

While the skiing was nice, it was also a real treat to have time to just sit around, relax, read, catch up on personal projects, and all that stuff that seems to fall by the wayside during busy semester schedules.

IMG_8832 IMG_8834

Noah attempted to keep us warm by keeping the fireplace going (a difficult task because all the wood was outside on the wet, snowy porch!):

IMG_8837

And, of course, no ski vacation is complete without PIZZA:

IMG_8835

Happy winter. 🙂

A Few Final Israel Moments

My last post mentioned some of the meetings and educational tours I had during my last Israel trip, and here are a few of the food and location shots that didn’t make it in…

One of my favorite meals during my recent Israel trip was this outdoor lunch at Cafe Greg at the Old Port in Tel Aviv:

IMG_8718 IMG_8720

Cafe Greg is a chain around Israel, but I actually really love their salads and, especially, their version of Israeli breakfast.

The group also took a spontaneous trip to Cinema City:

IMG_8755 IMG_8756

Besides playing with the new lifesize Star Wars figures, I also snagged lunch at Moshe Burger (see my post here for pictures of their food). The burger was great!

I spent a nice afternoon at the Tahana Rishona – one of my favorite Jerusalem spots!:

IMG_8732 IMG_8734

While it was hard to saw goodbye to Israel at the end of the trip, I was so happy I was able to visit so many favorite spots (and favorite meals!) during my trip. It also helps that I know I’ll be back there again next winter. 🙂

 

Back in the Holy Land

I was fortunate enough to have a glorious two-and-a-half weeks back in Israel this December! I spent the first week relaxing on my own in Jerusalem, seeing friends, eating at favorite restaurants, and re-exploring my favorite neighborhoods. It was wonderful. On my first evening there, I went to Caffit (one of my favorite Jerusalem restaurants) with a friend. I had a cappuchino, the famous Oreganato Sweet Potato salad, and my friend ordered a bulgur and mushroom dish:

IMG_8644  IMG_8646IMG_8645

The next morning, I went for a walk around the neighborhood and checked out Noah’s and my old street and apartment. It looks like they finally finished the construction that had been going on for most of last year!

IMG_8647 IMG_8649

I enjoyed a lazy Friday morning with an Israeli breakfast, sitting outside at my favorite Jerusalem cafe – Kadosh:

IMG_8652 IMG_8653 IMG_8654

Other highlights from my week included running along the rekevet:

IMG_8673 IMG_8674 IMG_8677

Israeli produce (!!!):

IMG_8656

A good old-fashioned fry fest with some of my classmates from last year (reminiscent of last year’s Chanukah fry fest):

IMG_8663 IMG_8666 IMG_8672

Many trips to Aroma:

IMG_8683

And, of course, just generally walking around the Jerusalem streets and alleys:

IMG_8687 IMG_8691 IMG_8693

Emek Refaim has some interesting new decoration in the form of these spandex decorations:

IMG_8694

Slightly bizarre, but okayyy.

And a few final tidbits…

Star Wars dominates the holy land too:

IMG_8675

And when I saw this baby playing (sans parents) in the hall of Hadar Mall, all I could think was, so Israel.”

IMG_8681

More about the rest of my trip coming soon!

 

 

San Diego: Food, Fun, and Fauna

Continuing the recap of my San Diego trip with family in August, I would say there were three primary highlights of the trip.

1. Food (obviously)

Food was delicious and also provided lots of good table time sitting around and talking about the days. My favorites were True Food Kitchen (a natural food cafe with great juices):

IMG_8247 IMG_8249

Breakfast at Cody’s La Jolla:

IMG_8274IMG_8275IMG_8276

…Cody’s also had a dog menu!!

IMG_8280

And all meals eaten on the back patio of the house facing the beach:

IMG_8256

When we were at Cody’s La Jolla, a woman sitting near our table commented to us that she was impressed that no one had their phones out during the meal…good job quality family time!

IMG_8270 IMG_8271

2. Fun!

Fun defined as activities out and about but primarily biking

IMG_8260 IMG_8261

Papa Bear in action:

IMG_8268

We took a couple breaks during our rides to check out the water and views (clearly my parents have a thing for wearing college apparel):

IMG_8283

Goofin’:

IMG_8292 IMG_8293

3. Fauna

So fauna might not be the most appropriate word, but it was an alliteration. We went to the zoo – an establishment I have had a great affection for since childhood.

IMG_8303

This was the best day. We were at the zoo for a loooong time – 6 hours maybe? But it is huge! And amazing! And has pandas!

IMG_8305 IMG_8328 IMG_8332 IMG_8307

Good times on the gondola:

IMG_8312 IMG_8314

Last but not least, it’s always a treat to enjoy the eccentricities of family. 

Samuel with homemade sun protection:

IMG_8259

Classic Dad explanation mode:

IMG_8269

And…unfortunately I don’t have enough photos to document it, but the number one most exciting thing to happen was…meeting a new family member! I hadn’t yet met my gorgeous and lovely baby (although not quite a baby anymore!) cousin. We only had a brief visit, but it was great to spend a little time together! (the light in the picture isn’t great, but you get the idea) 🙂

IMG_2403

City of David tour and Hezekiah’s Tunnels

Noah and I are back in the United States now! Wow, what a year in Israel. I’m going to try to put out a post or two about the first days back in Boston soon, but for now, here’s a final recap of the last days in Israel.

A couple weeks before we left, Noah and I finally took a much-anticipated tour of the City of David. We had been wanting to do a tour there since last fall, but schedules were always busy and we wanted to reserve a spot on an English tour in advance. Eventually, the end of our time in Israel was approaching so we knew we needed to go! We went on a Friday afternoon tour through the city and the water tunnels. In total, the tour was about 3 hours long. We got there early to look around the area before the tour started:

IMG_7806 IMG_7811 IMG_7814

The tour started with an overview of the area (which has a great overlook into East Jerusalem) and explanations about some of the ruins found in the area.

IMG_7813 IMG_7817 IMG_7818

The highlight of a tour to the City of David, however, is a trip through the water tunnels. King Hezekiah built these tunnels as a way to defend the city from the approaching Assyrian army in the 8th century BCE. Today, the tunnels still have some water (about knee deep, sometimes a little higher).

IMG_7821 IMG_7825 IMG_7829

Unfortunately, our trip through the tunnels wasn’t the greatest. We were behind a group that was singing very loudly and, it turned, included several blind people. It was great that the group was enabling some blind people to walk through the tunnel, but it made the trip through the tunnels very slow and I started to get sort of frightened after being in the small space for so long! I was definitely glad to see the sunshine when we got to the end!

IMG_7831

Besides the City of David tunnels, there were some other final activities and restaurant visits that we wanted to make sure to get in before leaving the holy city. A few highlights include…

birthday dinner at my favorite Jerusalem cafe, Kadosh:

IMG_7882 IMG_7883 IMG_7881 IMG_7884

a final trip to the Old City to see the Tower of David Night Spectacular:

IMG_7886 IMG_7891

a waffle from Waffle Bar:

IMG_7905

Saying goodbye to our beloved Jerusalem apartment:

IMG_7895 IMG_7901

And a 4:00am trip to Ben Gurion airport for our departure flight:

IMG_7906 IMG_7907

Goodbye, Israel. I will miss you so dearly. 

Exploring in the north and Hamat Gader

As mentioned in my previous post, the Shavit Family Guest House is both a lodge and a restaurant, and we were fortunate to be able to enjoy some of their delicious food during our stay there. The first night, we ate dinner at the family restaurant, ordering the signature dish of lamb casserole – cooked all day and stewed with potatoes and various vegetables. We also had breakfast at the restaurant both days and it was delicious! Like any good Israeli breakfast, there was an abundance of dips, eggs, vegetables, fruit, and beverages.

IMG_7555 IMG_7557 IMG_7558

After breakfast, we made a stop at Capernaum (where Noah and I have now been three times!) and looked at the ruins of a synagogue from approximately the 4th century (don’t mind the fact that the men in the photo below are actually looking at another camera…):

IMG_7513

After Capernaum, we began to drive north further into the Golan region, stopping at a lookout point along the road for some incredible views of and around Lake Kinneret. The area is called Offir lookout, and it is off of Rt 789:

IMG_7514 IMG_7516

The lookout was a great find – we weren’t planning to go there and only happened to notice it off the road. In fact, we had to drive along a long, muddy trail to get there, and we almost turned back, thinking the path didn’t lead to anything. I’m glad we forged ahead!

IMG_7520 IMG_7522

Given the slightly cold and rainy weather during the trip thus far (as you may have noticed from the photos), the group decided that this would be a great day for a refreshing activity. So, we headed to Hamat Gader, a hot springs spa located right by the Jordanian border and only a few miles from the point where Jordan, Israel, and Syria meet. Despite its slightly suspect location (and the fact that this is an Israeli spa, read: you need VERY different expectations than what you would expect from an American spa), visiting Hamat Gader was a lot of fun. When we arrived, we ate a quick lunch of salatim at a casual family eatery within the park and then headed to the main attraction: the hot springs!

IMG_7526 IMG_7527

The hot springs basically look like a big public pool, but it is filled with thermal hot springs. Also, the natural sulfur in the water is said to have a healing and renewing effect. I am not so much of a water person, so I was content to sit by the side and watch the fun:

IMG_7529

After the hot springs, the rest of the day included more driving, gazing at lookout points, and a dinner on Mt. Gilboa before heading back to the Shavit Guest House for one more night (and breakfast!). Naturally, there was more rain – this time with a bit of hail!

IMG_7560

And I thought there wasn’t supposed to be rain after Pesach?!?!

The following day was again busy with exploration, visiting the Yigal Alon Museum at Kibbutz Ginnosar, more ruins, and a very rainy trip to Tzfat (sound familiar?!).

The day ended with a drive back home to Jerusalem, where Noah’s parents would spend the rest of their visit. We went for dinner at one of Noah’s and my favorite neighborhood restaurants, Kalo. Noah and I shared a camembert cheese sandwich and salmon/cream pasta, both of which were delicious:

IMG_7564 IMG_7565

Noah’s parents stayed only a few blocks from us at the Little House in Baka – a small and casual hotel that has been very popular with the visiting parents of students in my program this year. Be careful, though, not to confuse it with the building next door: NOT little house in Baka:

IMG_7566

I guess those people have had one too many tourists try to come into their living room…. 🙂

Although Noah’s parents spent another 5 or so days in Israel after coming with us to Jerusalem, I could only spend one more day with the group because classes at Pardes were resuming. During my last day with the family, we went to the Israel Museum. Although Noah and I had been to the Israel museum before, it is a HUGE place and there were a lot of exhibits we didn’t get a close look at the first time. In particular, I wanted to look at the archaeology exhibit and the sculpture garden. I really enjoyed walking through the sculpture garden and, in particular, seeing a piece called Space that Sees by James Turrell. The piece is a large box of sorts that you enter through a walkway…

IMG_7574

Inside, it is a large square where you can sit and look up at the sky through the open ceiling:

IMG_7567 IMG_7569

Very neat! I imagine it could be quite beautiful to see in the nighttime:

IMG_7570 IMG_7573

Other posts about visiting with Noah’s parents:

Zichron Yaakov – visiting Ramat Hanadiv gardens and Caesarea
Ein Hod Artist’s Village and Acre (Akko) – Crusader’s Fortress and market

 

 

Visit to Zichron Yaakov

For the second part of Passover and through the following week, Noah and I had very special visitors:

IMG_7400

Noah’s parents visited for about 10 days, and we had a great visit. It was a lot of fun to have visitors, and it was also a real treat to travel more throughout the country and see some new places. To begin the visit, Noah and I met his parents at the Tel Aviv airport.

Small interjection about one of the “so Israel” things that I love about this country, the man waiting at the arrivals corridor next to us was reading the Talmud Bavli. Oh, Israel. ❤

IMG_7372

When Noah’s parents arrived, we picked up a rental car at the airport, and then drove together to Zichron Yaakov. Zichron Yaakov is at the base of Mt. Carmel, south of Haifa and was founded in 1882 as part of the First Aliyah movement. The settlement was founded by Baron Edmond James de Rothschild, a Zionist, French Jew who provided the financial backing for much of the first aliyah movement.

In Zichron Yaakov we stayed at the Purple House, a lovely place that Noah’s mom found on Air BnB.

Adorable, yes?:

IMG_7397 IMG_7395

AND, with a lovely garden:

IMG_7392 IMG_7394

Upon our arrival, we went for dinner at a restaurant called Casa Barone at the Beit Maimon hotel. It was kosher l’pesach and had various meat-y items – I had a burger with fries (the restaurant was dark, so no good pics).

The next morning, we had a nice breakfast at Cafe Kilimanjaro, a coffee shop that Noah’s mom found to have a lot of good reviews on Trip Advisor.

IMG_7398

Breakfast was delicious…

IMG_7404 IMG_7405

…and Noah ordered the cafe’s signature drink – some sort of chocolate/coffee mixture:

IMG_7401

After breakfast, we strolled a bit around Zichron Yaakov’s main pedestrian street, peeking in windows and (of course) posing with statues:

IMG_7406 IMG_7407

The day’s primary activities began with a trip to the gardens of Ramat Hanadiv – beautiful sprawling gardens in the memory of Baron Rothschild.

IMG_7416

At the gardens, we watched a brief movie about the Baron Rothschild and then spent a couple hours walking through the various garden paths and admiring the trees and flowers, as well as visiting the grave of the Baron whose tomb is within the gardens:

IMG_7411 IMG_7415

After the gardens, we drove to Caesarea and explored the ancient ruins there. The ruins included – among other things – a Byzantine fortress wall, Roman theater, and various rooms and storehouses used by the area’s previous inhabitants:

IMG_7417 IMG_7431 IMG_7429 IMG_7418

My favorite part of the ruins was the Herodian amphitheater:

IMG_7439IMG_7441

The ruins were right along the coast which provided some great views of the water:

IMG_7424

The area was quite sprawling and a bit overwhelming to make sense of without a guide, but luckily there were some informational panels smattered throughout the ruins providing information:

IMG_7425

After leaving the ruins, we made a quick stop at the (impressively intact) remains of the Roman aqueduct and then went back to the Purple House for a relaxed evening:

IMG_7446

Other posts about visiting with Noah’s parents:

Ein Hod Artist’s Village and Acre (Akko) – Crusader’s Fortress and market
Exploring in the north and Hamat Gader spa and hot springs

Day trip to Rotterdam

After a great three days in Amsterdam, Noah and I wanted to take a day trip to another city in the Netherlands. Rotterdam was an easy day trip and offered some interesting sights related to architecture, so we thought this would be the perfect destination! Trains from Amsterdam to Rotterdam run frequently, so getting there from the Amsterdam Centraal Station wasn’t too much trouble. Unfortunately, the express train we had planned to take was cancelled (surprise surprise!), but the local train only took about 15 minutes longer, so it wasn’t too much of an inconvenience.

IMG_7285

Adventurin’…

IMG_7286

Rotterdam is known for its unusual and modern architecture. The city was basically entirely destroyed in World War II, so the entire landscape shows a very ‘new’ look, and it seems that the remodel opportunity was used to have some architectural fun. Architecture is an interest of Noah’s, so he was especially excited to see the city. We used an app (Rotterdam Info) to guide us on an architecture walk through the city.

The first stop…Rotterdam’s Centraal Station – this was easy since our train from Amsterdam arrived there!

IMG_7287

Rotterdam’s main train station, this building was revamped and reopened to the public in March 2014:

IMG_7291

Right near the train station were several other interesting buildings including Groot Handelsgebouw, an enormous business center that covers a building block of 720 x 275 ft. Also, this is the style that once symbolized post-war reconstruction in Rotterdam:

IMG_7292

Delftse Poort are high-rise office buildings just across the street from Centraal Station that immediately give the city a metropolitan feel. These buildings are an imposing 495 ft. tall and have a mirrored facade:

IMG_7293

De Calypso is a colorful building with sloping walls. Inside are apartments, offices, shops, and, naturally, parking:

IMG_7296

And, to make things even more fun, there’s an oddly shaped church attached to the end of De Calypso:

IMG_7299

The Westersingel canal (a primary canal in Rotterdam that runs from Chinatown to the Museum Quarter) has interesting sculptures dotting the pathway along the water. The name for this route is Beeldenroute Westersingel (Westersingel Sculpture Route). There are 17 sculptures featured, created by artists from around the world:

IMG_7300 IMG_7301

The end of the sculpture walk brought us to an odd (and apparently somewhat controversial) statue. The statue’s official name is ‘Santa Claus.’ but it is known at the Buttplug Gnome (hence, the controversy as to whether this type of statue should be displayed by the city). It is supposed to be making a comment about pop culture.

IMG_7302

Moving right along…SHOPPING!!!

IMG_7304

Lijnbaan, the busiest shopping street in Rotterdam, was the first pedestrian shopping area in Europe. There was a large mix of stores including popular American brands I recognized as well as smaller boutiques:

IMG_7305

Just off of Lijnbaan is the City Hall building. There’s a street running under the center of the building!

IMG_7306

Interesting window shopping continued at the Beursplein, also sometimes called the ‘shopping trench’ because it is a below street-level pedestrian shopping area:

IMG_7308

Walking through the Beursplein led to a momentous occasion…my first Swatch! Noah is a big Swatch fan, and I finally let my envy of his cool watches get the better of me:

IMG_7309

The Grote of Sint Laurenskerk (often called Laurens Church) was built sometime in the late 15th or early 16th centuries and is the only surviving late-Gothic building in the city. Today, the building is used not only by tourists and churchgoers but also for concerts, lectures, and other large events:

IMG_7310

After all this sightseeing, Noah and I were hungry for lunch and excited to stop for a bite to eat at one of the most interesting buildings we saw…Markthal:

IMG_7312

Markthal (Market Hall) is a recently-opened indoor food market with shops, stands, produce vendors, restaurants and more. Of course, I would love this sort of food market no mater what, but the building itself is part of what makes this place really interesting. The building is built with apartments and offices forming a partial oval around an open-air center area. In this picture, the internal area extending from the large central window is the open-air market while the exterior ring is office buildings and apartments:

IMG_7316

Inside…food, food, food!

IMG_7317 IMG_7319 IMG_7320 IMG_7323 IMG_7318

From the inside, the ring of offices/apartments looms high above all the action, and the dividing wall is decorated with flower images:

IMG_7321

Here is a view to the outside from the center of the market:

IMG_7322

So neat!

After lunch, we looked at a couple of the other neat buildings in the immediate vicinity. Directly across the street from Markthal was Bibliotheek Rotterdam, Rotterdam’s public library:

IMG_7315

Also across from the Markthal are the iconic cube houses:

IMG_7324

These houses were designed by an architect named Piet Blom. His vision was to make the houses look like trees and have the complete unit appear like a forest.

IMG_7326

One cube house is a small museum of sorts where visitors can go inside and see what it would be like to live inside one of these houses. From the inside, the design seemed like a pretty inefficient use of space to me, but it was fun to get a view from within! Here’s a peek out of the attic window:

IMG_7328

Our last adventures of the day were to walk along the Nieuwe Maas (the large river running through Rotterdam) and to visit the Het Nieuwe Instituut.

IMG_7329 IMG_7334

The wind next to the water was incredible. I literally thought I might be blown away, so we didn’t spend too long there before seeking cover on a different walkway. The Het Nieuwe Instituut is a contemporary museum about innovation. Unfortunately, our visit was a bit disappointing because half of the 4 exhibits were closed or not completed. There was a fairly detailed exhibit on 3D printing though….if that’s you’re thing. 🙂

Other posts from the Amsterdam Trip

Travel day and hotel
Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum, and Keukenhof Gardens
Canal Cruise, Museum of the Canals, and the Old Jewish Quarter
Anne Frank House, Amsterdam City Museum, and Oude Kerk

 

Anne Frank House, Amsterdam Museum, and Oude Kerk

While I was able to get advance tickets to the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum, there were no online advance tickets available for the Anne Frank House. From the website, it seemed as though there are only a small number of advance-purchase tickets available to the Anne Frank House for any given day and they sell out well in advance (I didn’t see any tickets available until late May!). Since this is one of the most popular attractions in Amsterdam, I knew we would should expect some high waiting times in line (and, in the days prior to the visit, I saw long lines snaking around the blocks near to the museum).

The House opened at 9:00am, so Noah and I got to the line at about 8:30 – there were already over 100 people in front of us (yes, that is the line snaking up the block and curving to the right):

IMG_7250

Within the next half hour before the museum opened, the line increased to a few hundred (I couldn’t even see the end!):

IMG_7251

Holy cow – this was quite the line! We waited close to two hours in line before getting into the museum…good thing I brought my book! Inside the House, no photos were allowed, and it was very crowded. Basically, everyone walked through the rooms in a line, reading the information on the walls and looking at some of the artifacts on display. It was definitely a worthwhile visit, and I found it particularly interesting to see who was in the crowd of visitors. The Diary of Anne Frank is the Holocaust book that has achieved the greatest degree of worldwide popularity, and as such it seems to have become a symbol and point of connection to the Holocaust within communities and people that might not generally have much in the way of Holocaust education and exposure. As someone who has had a higher degree of Holocaust education (and especially after my Heritage Seminars trip to Poland in January), I found it very interesting to see the difference in people and feeling at the Anne Frank House.

After the museum, Noah and I visited the Amsterdam City Museum. This museum is enormous – something we unfortunately didn’t realize until we were already there. The museum includes a ‘DNA’ exhibit where visitors can learn about the basic history and ‘makeup’ of Amsterdam:

IMG_7254

Beyond the DNA exhibit, there are exhibits on art, culture, and social movements throughout essentially all of Amsterdam’s history. We were disappointed we didn’t realize how large and thorough the museum was before going because we timed the visit in such a way that we were tired after only an hour or so there – I felt like it could have taken half a day at least to see everything!

IMG_7255

Before too long we left to rejuvenate with lunch at the Luxembourg Cafe (my burger was great!):

IMG_7256 IMG_7258 IMG_7259

A complete pick-me-up wasn’t complete though until post-coffee. Coffeecompany is a chain around Amsterdam, and the swanky looking interior caught my eye:

IMG_7262

It turned out this was a very nice coffeeshop – high quality espresso, freshly brewed coffee for each order, and some interesting espresso drinks (like a more authentic version of the flat white – Starbuck’s new menu addition). I ordered a regular coffee which was brewed in front of me using an aeropress:

IMG_7260

After coffee and lunch, we did some sightseeing around Dam Square. Dam Square is in the center of the city and derives its name from the fact that it was at this location that the Amstel River was dammed and, thus, Amsterdam was created – originally, Amstelredam. Today, the square is bordered by some pretty impressive buildings. Most namely, the Nieuwe Kerk (Amsterdam’s principal church when it was built in the early 15th-century):

IMG_7264

And the Koninklijk Paleis:

IMG_7263

This building’s current name (Palace), however, is slightly misleading because the building was originally built to be the city’s town hall and didn’t have any royal occupants until the French occupation of the city (1795-1813).

From Dam Square, Noah and I ventured further into the city center to see the Oude Kerk and have a peek into the Red Light District. The Oude Kerk is one of the city’s most beautiful churches…and it happens to be right in the middle of the Red Light District. The church has been here since the mid-13th century and became something of a pilgrimage site after there was a purported miracle that occurred here. The story of the miracle is as follows: a dying man took communion here and threw up his Host. When it was thrown up, the cracker was thrown onto a fire, but it didn’t burn up. The un-burned cracker was then put on display and people would come to see it – hence, pilgrimage site.

IMG_7265

The church was quite impressive, but I felt most of place’s spirituality was dampened through distraction from the rest of the environs:

IMG_7151

After the Oude Kerk and Red Light District, we walked to Vondelpark, Amsterdam’s largest green area, to relax and stroll around a bit before dinner:

IMG_7269 IMG_7271

On Saturday night (two nights before), Noah and I had tried to go to Moeders one of the [few] Dutch restaurants recommended in our guide book. Unfortunately, when we got there we were told that they were totally booked. I called later to make a reservation and they didn’t have any availability for two days (!), so I made a booking on the only available night. If difficulty to get a table corresponds to quality of food, then this place must be pretty good!

The environment at Moeders is a lot of fun (the name means ‘mothers,’ and the walls are covered with pictures of peoples mothers!

IMG_7278 IMG_7279

Noah ordered a fish special and I ordered vegetarian hotchpotch – a Dutch dish made with mashed potatoes, veggies and cheese:

IMG_7282 IMG_7281

We shared a dessert called ‘Dutch delights’ that had small samples of a few traditional Dutch desserts: spiced biscuit ice cream, small pancakes, and custard with fruit curd.

IMG_7283

Yum!

Coming soon…a recap of our last day in the Netherlands and a trip to Rotterdam!

Other Amsterdam Posts

Travel day and hotel
Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum, and Keukenhof Gardens
Canal Cruise, Museum of the Canals, and the Old Jewish Quarter
Day trip to Rotterdam, architecture tour

 

Amsterdam Canal Cruise, Canals Museum, and the Jewish Quarter

The second full day in Amsterdam was just as busy as the first! First thing in the morning, we went to buy tickets for a morning canal cruise.

IMG_7191IMG_7199

Canal cruises – one hour boat rides along the canals – are very popular in Amsterdam and there are a lot of different companies you could go with. We decided to go with a company called Reederij P. Kooij, although I suspect most companies would offer a pretty similar program. The canal ride offered some interesting information about the city and some great views of canal houses:

IMG_7194 IMG_7202

And we got some interesting views of water homes:

IMG_7200

Overall, the cruise was fun but it was sometimes hard to see outside the window because it was raining and getting fogged.

After the cruise, we went to the Museum of the Canals – a fairly new museum that has an interactive exhibit showing how the city was built on swampy marshland (spoiler: by driving long piles – aka, huge stakes – into the ground) and how the current canal system was designed and came to be.

IMG_7226 IMG_7225

The museum was interesting and presented its information in an unique format that I thought was fun, but I don’t think this would be a ‘must do’ if you’re pressed for time in Amsterdam.

After the museum, we went for a quick lunch at the Amsterdam chain, Bagels & Beans:

IMG_7228 IMG_7231 IMG_7232

The rest of the afternoon was spent exploring and seeing the sights of Amsterdam’s old Jewish Quarter. In the eastern side of the city, the Jewish Quarter was the crowded and busy home of Amsterdam’s Jews since the 16th century. Historically, Amsterdam had been something of a haven for Jews escaping persecution throughout other parts of Europe. While equal rights and fair treatment were not completely extended (for example, Jews had to buy citizenship, couldn’t join guilds, and were forbidden to marry Christians), there was a degree of religious tolerance that wasn’t enjoyed elsewhere in Europe. At the beginning of the Nazis’ rise to power, the Jewish population of Amsterdam doubled (from 60,000 to 120,000) as it accepted Jews fleeing from Hitler. Tragically, Nazi forces eventually occupied Amsterdam as well and murdered almost the entirety of the city’s Jewish population. At the end of the war, only 5,000 (out of 120,000) remained alive.

Today, what was once the Jewish Quarters is dotted with various memorials, museums, and Jewish historical sites that remind visitors of the area’s former inhabitants. We started our exploration of the area by looking at a memorial statue of Baruch Spinoza, a Jewish philosopher and theologian whose progressive thinking placed him in conflict with community leaders of the time:

IMG_7233

Next to the Spinoza Statue was a memorial to honor the dead of the Jewish resistance. The black stone is inscribed with a quote from Jeremiah which reads, “If my eyes were a well of tears, I would cry day and night for the fallen fighters of my beloved people.”

IMG_7234

Next, we went to perhaps the two biggests current sites within the Jewish Quarter: the Joods Historisch Museum and the Esnoga.

The Joods Historisch Museum (Jewish History Museum) gives an overview of Jewish life in Amsterdam from the 16th century through the present day. While it had an interesting exhibit on the Holocaust, the museum focused on a broader picture of Jewish life, emphasizing the vibrancy and practices of pre-war life as well as the situation of the current Jewish community in Amsterdam. My favorite part of the museum were video interviews that visitors could watch relating to historical events and present circumstances experienced by Jews in Amsterdam.

IMG_7235

Close to the Joods Historisch Museum is the Esnoga – an enormous synagogue completed in 1675 for Amsterdam’s Sephardic Jews. The building in quite impressive…

IMG_7237

…and the mere fact that a building of this grandeur could be built for Jewish ritual life illustrates the relative tolerant tendencies in Amsterdam at that time. Inside, the building has wooden benches, beautiful chandeliers holding candles (there is no electric light), and large pillars supporting the building.

IMG_7238

The Esnoga synagogue sits within a larger courtyard that houses other rooms and services such as a smaller winter synagogue (with heat), a mikvah (traditional Jewish bath for ritual purity), a kitchen, and storehouse.

Something interesting that Noah and I noticed when visiting the Jewish museum and synagogue was that the security at these buildings was much less than what is typically found at other Jewish sites in Europe. For example, there was no security entrance at the Esnoga, and the museum only had one basic metal detector (vs. many other museums I’ve been to which include body and bag scans, proof of identification, etc.). We wondered if the relative leniency in Amsterdam was a result of non-violent attitudes towards Jews post-war as opposed to other places in Europe which have continued to deal with anti-Semitic acts and attacks from post-war even until the present day.

The last stop in the Jewish Quarter was the Auschwitz monument in Wertheimpark (a small, canal-side park). The monument was fairly simple – broken mirrors and an inscription reading, “Auschwitz – Never Again.”

IMG_7244

After a full day of exploring (unfortunately, often in the rain!) we were tired and ready for dinner. We went to a vegetarian restaurant near our hotel called Bolhoed. We ordered a tzatziki appetizer, bean/cheese enchiladas, veggie casserole, and a chocolate/peanut butter mousse for dessert.

IMG_7245 IMG_7247 IMG_7246 IMG_7248

And just for fun, we saw – in action – the way people get furniture upstairs in spite of the extremely small canal house staircases!

IMG_7249

Other Amsterdam Posts

Travel day and hotel
Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum, and Keukenhof Gardens
Anne Frank House, Amsterdam City Museum, and Oude Kerk
Day trip to Rotterdam, architecture tour