Waking up to a brilliant blue sky, we made our way to Pancakes Amsterdam for breakfast. It was a bitter day and we patiently waited outside for a table to open up in the tiny restaurant. From the line that quickly formed behind us it became apparent we’d lucked out and had arrived between two rushes.
We both ordered traditional dutch pancakes, which I knew were larger and thinner than American pancakes. I was not expecting it to be massive. My pancake had spinach, pine nuts and goat cheese. (You’ll notice that goat cheese is a favorite of mine.) It was delicious and perfectly filling.
Knowing that we had all day before the New Year’s Eve festivities, we hoped on a train and traveled up to Zaanse Schons, a town just north of Amsterdam that I had read was famous for their windmills and historic village. The weather was perfect.
I took tons of pictures of the windmills and the village. Each windmill had a different purpose. One milled lumber, one milled paint pigments, one milled wheat, etc.
After spending several hours getting chilled while we marveled at the windmills we made our way back to the train station. Stopping along the way for ollie bollen, the traditional dutch New Year’s Eve treat. We devour a half dozen before the train arrived.
We had planned to make it to the zoo for the evening, by the time we arrived we had less than an hour before it closed. Instead we grabbed an early dinner at a nearby pub and then wandered through the botanical gardens. Even though the sun had set and it most of the plants were dormant there was plenty to see. The Light Festival had several installments in the gardens. Our favorite was an interactive exhibit that was motion activated. When you walked under the lights, they would light up and spin, creating a cascading effect. We ran through it several times and then stood to the side as we watched other patrons discover the exhibit. Ever person who walked through smiled and most couldn’t help but laugh as we ran through acting like children.
Finally midnight was approaching so we made our way to the Museumplein for the fireworks.While we waited for the clock to tick to midnight we watched skaters on the ice rink in from of the I am Amsterdam sign.
Both of us knew that New Year’s Eve is celebrated with fireworks, we had heard them going off intermittently all day, but we were not prepared for the sheer magnitude of fireworks. Imagine a county fair firework show. Now imagine it lasting over an hour and happening every five blocks all over the city. Then add in sparklers, poppers, and various other smaller fireworks on the rest of the blocks of the city. It was awesome.
Once or twice there was a firework that went off a bit wonky. One even caught a woman’s jacket on fire. Everyone darted out of the way and then came back, made sure everyone was fine and lit some more fireworks. Incredible.
After a full hour had gone by, we were both frozen and decided to make our way back to the houseboat. Along the way we continued to watch the fireworks through the thick haze of gunpowder smoke blanketing the city.
That night we fell asleep to the popping and crackling of fireworks ringing in the new year.