Day 19: Autobahn to Amsterdam


Rhine Valley – Amsterdam

June 12, 2019

After a short stay in Germany, unfortunately, we had to say “Auf Wiedersehen” and hit the road towards Amsterdam.  We stopped at a nice rest stop which as usual in Italy and Germany, we had to pay to use the restroom. It makes me so thankful that we don’t ever have to pay to use the toilet in the USA! One odd thing about the restrooms there were that there were TV screens right on top of the urinals playing advertisements–so bizarre. There were also screens embedded in the mirrors above the sinks. It’s crazy to think that even bathrooms can be an avenue for advertising. I got a hot chocolate on my way out to warm up a bit–it was a brisk morning as we kept heading north.  We got back on the coach but couldn’t get going quite yet because we had to fill up with a certain diesel fuel additive that was available at the stop. Apparently it helps the diesel fuel burn cleaner, and is a requirement in Germany.

Our second lunch stop of the day was at a restaurant called “La Place”, which was a bit of a cafeteria style place. The great thing about it is that we could choose between salads, grilled food, sandwiches, pizza, and soup, all of which had a separate station.  The pizza station reminded me of Blaze, as there were a lot of ingredients out and a wood-fired oven in the back. They also had great desserts! I got a chicken focaccia sandwich which had bean sprouts or something on it. For dessert I had some sort of chocolate pastry/cake thing which was good, but I can’t remember what it was actually called. At this point on our trip it started raining pretty hard. The restaurant didn’t really have gutters, so we could see the rain just pouring off the sides of the building while we ate lunch.

The rain kept coming down as we entered the city of Amsterdam. We made a quick stop at a windmill in a nearby park, one of the oldest windmills in the Netherlands. We learned the importance these windmills served, notably to help pump water out of the lowlands after flooding occurred. We got a quick picture in the rain and got back on the bus.

Windmill just outside Amsterdam

We headed to our hotel and checked in. This gave me some time to get a quick bit of laundry done (the last round of it!). We were instructed to meet back at the coach at 3:30 so we could get dropped off downtown and explore a bit before our canal cruise. Apparently it took a bit longer than I predicted and we actually forgot the correct meeting time, so we headed down around 3:40 and everyone was waiting on us! Yikes!!! Unfortunately, we broke the #1 rule of tour group travel…don’t be last! It was fine though, we still had plenty of explore before our canal cruise!

The city has a lot of charm in the Dutch style houses and buildings that line basically every street. However, it seemed to be a pretty rough town, with lots of people smoking and selling weed, and prostitution and sex culture commonplace and rampant, not just within the red light district.  We walked down the street and admired the Dutch houses, the canals, and the antique shops which had lots of blue delft and neat trinkets.

Entrance to the Rijksmuseum, a Dutch national museum dedicated to arts and history in Amsterdam.


View down a canal in Amsterdam
View down a canal in Amsterdam


View down a canal in Amsterdam
View down a canal in Amsterdam


Blue Delft everywhere!
Blue Delft everywhere!

We had to watch for bikes. Man, the bikes. They were everywhere! And there were also specific bike lanes as well. So when we crossed the street, we had to look for bikes from the left, then cars from the left, then trams, then cars from the right, then bikes from the right. Such a complicated process just to cross! The bikes really snuck up on you so those were probably the most scary, haha!

Bikes, bikes, bikes!!
Bikes, bikes, bikes!! Watch out for bikes!


We met up with the rest of our group and boarded our boat for the canal cruise!  Not long after we started off, we stopped at a pizza place to pick up our pizza requests that we had put in earlier.  I had a Hawaiian pizza–reminded me of being back home in the US! It was neat to see the dutch houses pass by as we navigated from canal to canal.  The canals in Amsterdam are way different than the ones in Venice. The Amsterdam ones are a ton wider than Venice, but the water isn’t quite as a pretty color as the ones in Venice. Venice had a bluish tint to the water, but in Amsterdam it’s a brownish grey.

View from our canal cruise boat
View from our canal cruise boat


View from our canal cruise boat
View from our canal cruise boat

During our cruise we had a nice conversation with a couple from South Africa who joined our tour in Rome. Our cruise ended at the main train station downtown. Then we got about an hour and a half of free time before our coach would pick us up and takes us back to the hotel.

We were ready to head back to the hotel immediately since we were pretty tired and it was also really cold. The cold front that came through was finally blowing through and pushing out the rain, so the wind was chilly. First we headed to the McDonald’s so we could use a restroom. But, the first one we went to didn’t have restrooms, but luckily it had a diagram of how to get to another McDonald’s nearby that did have restrooms. We walked to the one nearby and paid 50 cents to use the restroom. At that point we didn’t want to brave the cold temperatures or the horrible weed smoke anymore, so we relaxed inside for a bit and enjoyed the view from the 2nd story of the McDonald’s which overlooked the street.  We eventually went back outside and walked all the way down to the National Monument on Dam Square, which is a monument for the victims of WWII. There was a shopping mall next door which we peeked in and walked around a bit…every single name brand you could think of! It also had all of the purses out on display, but on chains to prevent shoplifting. We headed back down The Damrak (one of Amsterdam’s main avenues) to our designated meeting point and rode the coach back to our hotel for the evening.

View of townhouses
View of townhouses across the canal. Notice the leaning buildings which suffer from soil subsidence.


Looking North down The Damrak
Looking North down The Damrak


Step Metrics: 9,461 steps; 4 miles; 425 cal; 1h 40m time


Self Q&A

Q: What is the AdBlue stuff that trucks and busses have to add to fuel?

A: Diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) is an aqueous urea solution made with 32.5% urea and 67.5% deionized water. It is standardised as AUS 32 (aqueous urea solution) in ISO 22241. DEF is a consumable in selective catalytic reduction (SCR) that lowers NOx concentration in the diesel exhaust emissions from diesel engines. The German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA) registered the trademark AdBlue for AUS 32. (from Wikipedia)


Q: What are the rules about AdBlue?

A: It’s not necessarily about where it’s required but more of vehicle requirements. The German automotive industry has always kept ahead of the European Union’s exhaust emission legislation with the pace of its technological development. The Euro 6 exhaust emission standard came into force for cars in 2014, which indicated that with certain new vehicles from September 2017 onwards, RDE (Real Driving Emissions) regulations go into effect.  RDE legislation is regarded as the greatest challenge facing diesel vehicles since the introduction of EU exhaust emissions standards. In addition to a further reduction in engine-out emissions, two systems have proven effective in reducing nitrous oxides for almost one decade now, depending on the vehicle weight and its engine: the NOx storage catalytic converter (NSC or LNT) and selective catalytic reduction, abbreviated as: SCR. It’s this SCR technology that makes use of AdBlue. (from VDA)

For vehicles that use AdBlue, if you run out of it while you’re driving, then the engine’s power and performance will be reduced to limit its emissions. Once you’ve stopped, you won’t be able to restart the engine if the AdBlue tank is empty. The vehicle will give plenty of warning that the AdBlue tank is running low – usually a text warning on the dashboard with around 1500 miles to go followed by an amber warning light. (from AA)


Q: Are the hooks on top of the townhouses really used to move furniture into the house?

A: One thing all canal houses have in common is the hook in the gable, to which a pulley wheel and rope can be attached. This handy manual elevator system was developed from medieval shipping techniques; it’s incredibly difficult to move bulky goods up and down the precariously steep staircases found inside most Amsterdam houses, so boxes, pianos, couches, and whatnot are winched up using the rope and pulley, and hauled in through the wide windows. Keep your eyes peeled as you walk through the city and you may see a few Dutch movers in action. (from Fodor’s Travel)


Fun Facts

  • Most Germans don’t own cars more than 5 years old. They resell to other European countries.


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