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European Vacation – Day 11 – Dordrecht

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Tuesday is our first rainy day.  We hope it will be enough rain to raise the water level in the rivers. When I looked out of our cabin window early this morning, I was looking into the window of another riverboat.  During the night another riverboat rafted up with us.

We packed our bags placed them in the hall.  The luggage will be taken to the W hotel in Amsterdam and it will be waiting for us when we arrive tonight.  We bid a fond farewell to the whomever was near the gangplank, opened our umbrellas that we brought from home and headed to the train station.  The Amsterdam Central train station is a short walk from our riverboat.  We stopped at the train station to buy our train tickets yesterday.  That way we would not be delayed if there was a long line this morning.  Our track 2a was the farthest possible point in the station. No worries, we boarded a 30 minute earlier train at 9:04 am to travel to Dordrecht.  This is a 1.5 hour train ride to visit our friends Reinout and Irma Klapwijk.  Reinout worked for Rust-Oleum Netherlands.  I met him 25 years ago when I visited the RO factory there.  Reinout is an accomplished sailor and racer do not it off right away.  Reinout has visited Chicago and been sailing on my boat Blue Heaven.

Riding the train has its moments.  We boarded the train on the correct platform at the correct time.  The electronic billboard shows Dordrecht as one of the stops.  What could go wrong?  After we board the train we notice the scrolling TV shows this train only going as far as Rotterdam.  There is WiFi on the train so I look up the route and it shows us going all the way to Dordrecht.  Someone sits in a seat near us and I asked her if this train goes to Dordrecht and she replied yes.  I pointed out that the TV shows Rotterdam as the last stop. Another person commented that the train will split in two at Rotterdam and only the front few cars will continue on to Dordrecht.  We have to move to one of the forward cars to get to Dordrecht.   However, you cannot get past one of the cars in the middle so we had to get off the train to go to the front cars. It is a very long train and we were concerned they would shut the doors and leave us on the platform.  We moved forward about 10 cars and got back on.  We checked the TV and it showed Dordrecht as one of the stops.  I think we are going to be OK.

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Dordrecht obtained city rights as early as 1220, making it the oldest city in Holland. Located in a wetland area with such rivers as the Merwede, Noord and Ouwe Maas, it was an important merchant city with a lively trade in wood, cereals and wine. That history, wealth and culture is still clearly visible. Not only does the historic city center of Dordrecht harbor around 1,000 monuments – they are also splendidly used as restaurants, museums and theaters.
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Reinout met us at the train station and we went to a nearby restaurant to meet his wife Irma and 3 year old grandson Max.
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No visit to Holland is complete until you visit a windmill.  Since 40% of Holland is below sea level they have to continuously pump water from the lowlands to the rivers.  This was done for 100’s of years using windmills.  Entire families lived in the windmills.  The father maintained the operation of the paddle wheel pumps and turned the top section with sails (blades) to face into the wind.
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Livng in a windmill can be very dangerous.
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Wooden shoes are still warn by Dutch farmers.  Allegedly  they are warm, inexpensive and comfortable.
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We had lunch at a pub next to Reinout’s new house.  He purchased this warehouse loft on the canals and is carrying out a massive renovation single handed.

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This is the final day of our European Vacation.  Tomorrow we will return home in time for the trick or treaters.

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European Vacation – Day 10 – Amsterdam

The ms Inspire cruised all night from Düsseldorf to Amsterdam.  We arrived two hours early.  There are two locks that usually drop the riverboats 3’ each to sea level.  Since the water level on the Rhine is so low the locks are not operating and saved the time usually required to transit the locks.
Our afternoon activity was a canal luncheon cruise.  Amsterdam is called the Venice of Northern Europe because much of the city is accessible by canal.  We cruised the canals and learned about the history of the city and country.
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The 17th century is considered Amsterdam’s Golden Age, during which it became the wealthiest city in the western world. Ships sailed from Amsterdam to the Baltic Sea, North America, and Africa, as well as present-day Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, and Brazil, forming the basis of a worldwide trading network. Amsterdam’s merchants had the largest share in both the Dutch East India Company and the Dutch West India Company. These companies acquired overseas possessions that later became Dutch colonies. Amsterdam was Europe’s most important point for the shipment of goods and was the leading Financial centre of the western world. In 1602, the Amsterdam office of the international trading Dutch East India Company became the world’s first stock exchange by trading in its own shares.  The Dutch had over 5,000 ships which more than England and France combined.
Many Dutch families live on canal boats in the central city.
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We witnessed a bachelor party with all of the participants dressed like Superman.
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Amsterdam is famous for the coffee houses that legally sell various drugs.  Only 10% is sold to citizens.  90% is sold to narco tourists from other countries.  What is that smell?
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Throughout Europe love locks are the ultimate symbol of unconditional love forever.  Every bridge over the Rhine has literally tons of locks hanging on the railings.
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 Tonight is our last night on the Tauck tour.  We will spend one more day and visit our friends Reinout and Irma Klapwijk in Dordrecht, Netherlands.  That will be a 1.5 train ride each way.   We will spend our final night in the W hotel in Amsterdam.
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We will be home in Lake Bluff for Halloween.
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European Vacation – Day 9 – Düsseldorf

The ms Inspire is docked in Remagen just south of the famous bridge from World War II.  Operation Lumberjack was a military operation during World War II with the goal of capturing the west bank of the Rhine River and seizing key German cities, near the end of World War II. The First United States Army launched the operation in March 1945 to capture strategic cities in Nazi Germany and to give the Allies a foothold along the Rhine.
One unexpected outcome was the capture of the Ludendorff bridge, a strategic railroad bridge across the Rhine, in the Battle of Remagen. Despite German attempts to destroy the bridge, Allied forces captured it intact and were able to use it for ten days to establish a beachhead on the far side, before it finally collapsed at 3:00 PM on 17 March 1945 after months of aircraft bombing, direct artillery hits, near misses, and demolition attempts.
The battle was depicted in the novel The Bridge at Remagen by Ken Hechler, which was later adapted into the film of the same name.
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Sunday started with a presentation and sampling on the history of beer at 10:00 am.
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 Beer tasting with our tour director Paulo and Joe.
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Brunch was served at 11:30 am as we cruised north on the Rhine River.  Our riverboat arrived in Düsseldorf at 1:00 pm.   Priscilla and I went on the beer tour.  Each brewery makes only one beer and that is what they sell in their beer hall.  You choose your beer hall depending on which beer you like best.  Their advertising is clever – A day without beer is a health risk.  Flush your kidneys with a minimum of 2 liters of beer per day. The beer is served in 10 ounce glasses and costs $2.50 per glass.  When your glass looks empty the waiter brings you another and another until you put a coaster on top of your beer glass.  The waiter marks your coaster with an ink line to keep track of how many beers he has served to you.
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We have spent some time on this cruise with Joe and his wife Nita.  They are from Oklahoma.  I asked Nita about her name and she said it was short for Juanita.   When she was born in Oklahoma her mother wanted to name her Virginia but her grandmother said if you want to name your daughter after a state then you should name her Kentucky.  The compromise was to look at a list of possible names and they chose Juanita.  When she moved to San Antonio twenty years later she had  to continuously explain why she did not look Mexican and shortened her name to Nita.
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At 5:00:pm we cast of the dock lines to cruise north to our final port of call Amsterdam.  We will arrive in Amsterdam at 1:20 pm.
Priscilla is the Halloween pumpkin carving contest winner (1st place) with her entry “Stary, Stary!”  Who is that handsome (hairy) gent holding the winning entry!  There were 12 other entries.
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i will let you decide what this piece of artwork depicts.
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