New Years Eve in Amsterdam.
We woke to another chilly morning, but were spared the rain so we decided walking off some of our calories was in order. First on our list was getting to the Rijksmuseum. We walked there briskly noting all the storefronts. En route to the museum and outside a bakery door a very long line of people stood patiently waiting. Unusual we thought. A little further down the street a young man balancing a tray of small paper cups full of hot chocolate approached us shyly. “Would you like some hot chocolate and cookies? I made them myself.” Of course we would and I fumbled for some coins. He smiled and hustled back to the waiting queue. Payment was not required. We never asked he why he did this simple act of kindness.
Entry into the Museum was simple with almost no queuing. Unlike the lady waiting with us, who had tried to enter the museum on a day earlier; she and her husband had arrived at noon and waited for 3 hours in the cold. The museum was full to capacity and the museum staff were only allowing 100 people in every hour . We simply checked our coats and spent a happy two hours viewing the best that the museum had to offer. Rembrandt’s painting of “ The Night Watch” was very crowded but we were able to get very close to all of his other paintings.
We left as the crowds arrived but prior to true congestion.
Retracing our steps back to the apartment we walked passed the bakery with it’s long line of customers. I asked a lady who was part of the crowd what the fuss was about , “Olibollies” she replied. “This is where the Royal Family get their Olibollies, they’re the best in Holland.” For those unfortunate mortals out there who have never experienced an Olibollie they are small fist size Dutch pastries deep fried, sweet, raisin filled doughy treats that are similar to a doughnut, but different. Amsterdamer’s usually eat them on New Years Day, serving them warm with a sprinkling of powered sugar. Danger warning, they are very addictive!
Toward midday we started hearing some pretty intense explosions…not huge but certainly louder than gunfire. It turns out that the Dutch like their fireworks. The law allows city residents to use fireworks from 10 am on New Years Eve to 2 am on New Years Day. That law didn’t work so well. The fireworks started at about 10 am and were still going strong at seven am the following day. At about 8pm I’m shattered, feeling the effect of jetlag, a power nap is in order. Christina is made of sterner stuff and after a glass of wine or two she braves the crowds and the cold and goes in search of beer. She fights her way through a packed bar, orders a beer but on delivery is told, cash only tonight …no cards. She elbows her way out and walks back to the apartment. I wake at 11.50 to a roar from the street below our apartment, a cacophony of yells, whoops, whistles, fireworks and the snarl of traffic whose drivers honked their horns from 11.30 pm to four am. I watched as a man steps into the road and stops the traffic. He calmly places a very large box of mixed rockets in the very center of the road. He lights the fuse and steps back onto the pavement. We are entertained by star bursts, bangs and flashes that explode just above roof level. After sharing a bottle of Champagne we hang out of the window and try to capture the chaos on camera. At one am Christina heads to bed and I sit watching the New Year arrive on a night sky filled, with sky rocket bursts in every color, shape and form. The stink of the smoke and gunpowder and the sound of the various crackers and extreme cherry bombs went on continuously. All bloody night. The money spent on fireworks that night must have been be the total income of a large African Country. For lack of a better phrase, It Was A Blast!