Back in Amsterdam, I had pre-booked us a hotel room for three nights at the Doubletree by Hilton, right beside the Amsterdam Centraal station. It worked really well and was a good location – close to transportation, food, and the red light district!
We were upgraded to a king room on the top floor facing north. Look at all the train tracks out the window!
We had been contacted by my Dad’s cousin Petra, on my Grandma’s side, that my great aunt Gré Stokman had passed away, just shy of her 97th birthday. Petra said she knew it was weird, but she was inviting us to the funeral to visit that side of the family.
Everyone loved Tante Gré. I’m not sure if I ever met her, but knowing how much she was loved, we decided to go to the funeral and represent all her Canadian family.
The funeral was in Vijfhuizen, where my Grandmother was raised. It wasn’t too far from Amsterdam, actually really close to Schiphol airport. We decided to take an Uber rather than figure out the train and bus combination that would have been necessary.
The funeral was in the church that my grandparents were married in!! Now that we’re back home, I can’t find any photos from their wedding to compare, but I would like to if you have any!
We got to the church early and didn’t know anyone, so we proceeded inside and took a back row seat.
I’ve never been to a church without pews! There was a choir and the entire funeral was in Dutch of course. I followed along with the words for the songs in the program, but we didn’t even try to sing along!
After the funeral, cousin Petra spotted me and introduced me to the other Stokman relatives. The church bell was so unique! It was SO loud, but it was on this metal structure outside of the church. I’ve never seen anything like it.
We jumped in a car with a cousin who had room in their car to drive us to the cemetery. They pointed out the place where Grandma was raised! The house has been replaced, but the out buildings looked original. There are so many Stokman’s in this town now, cousin Nico said he went to school with 3 other Nico Stokman’s!
I wish I got a photo of the road going into Vijfhuizen. It was so narrow, but so beautiful! What a beautiful place. Everything was a post card view.
I happened to look over after the ceremony at the graveyard, and saw my Grandma’s parents stone! Nicolaas Stokman and Petronella Stokman Rutte. I can’t believe I saw their grave! Have I ever seen the graves of my other great grandparents in Canada?
We jumped back in the car with my cousin’s again, and headed to the after lunch with the family. It would have been handy to know some Dutch here, greeting family in the line as we came in, but we awkwardly made it through!
We had a nice warm veal croquette on bread. It was delicious. Jeff had never had anything like it and covered it in mustard to choke it down. HA!
Here’s Petra and Jeff and I!
My group photos we took somehow came out as video so they didn’t work well, shucks! At least I have a couple candid ones though!
Afterwards, our cousins dropped us off at the train station nearby to make our trip back to Amsterdam an easy train ride away. They encouraged us to travel the other direction to visit the beautiful Harlaam, but we decided it was getting later in the day and headed straight back to Amsterdam instead.
We took a little downtime back in our hotel. Our beautiful upgraded room with the nice view, and the hideously hard bed.
The hotel was right by the floating pagoda Sea Palace restaurant, so we made a reservation and decided to dine there.
It’s a really unique three story structure. We were seated right by the window.
Where we could see Amsterdam, the sunset, and ducks and swans!
Our dining experience lasted two and a half hours!!! We ordered a specific meal that had a number of courses, including a duck that was carved right on our table for us!
It was a ton of food, but at the same time it wasn’t the North American Chinese food that is heavy and deep fried. This was wonderful rice and duck and jasmine rice and prawns. Really nice.
Afterwards we decided to walk it off by finding the Red Light district!
It was not really what I was expecting! I think it was maybe more modern than I imagined? With lots of drunk young tourists, almost like Vegas.
The prostitutes were in windows like cages, with a curtain and a bed behind him. They had red neon light above the windows, and a black light inside, to make their white bathing suits glow. They were young girls, with long fake nails and long hair extensions. Some were dancing, some just standing, some on their phone.
You aren’t allowed to photograph the woman. One person took out their phone and the girl starting slamming her hand on the window to make them stop. Which made it seem more like a cage!
There was also a mixture of weed consumption celebrated here, so there were prostitutes, late night foods, bars, and gift shops with a unique combination of x-rated postcards, penis everything, sex toys, pipes, and cannabis edibles.
We skipped the live sex shows and wandered back north to our hotel.
The next day, my dad’s first cousin Paul was free and we met him at 11 at a nearby cafe. He said it was too cold to meet us in his boat, but changed his mind and showed up in his boat!!
He had a fur hat, scarf, and gloves on. It was a chilly morning, no doubt! Maybe not for the Canadians from the Yukon, but definitely a cold day for the Dutch!
Paul’s boat was his father’s before him. He had made a little alter to honour his Dad inside!
Paul’s electric motor wasn’t working, but his diesel was, so we were a little louder heading through canals, but mostly there was only tourist ship traffic because it was so chilly!
Paul’s son Jannis met us for a moment too to say hi! I got to meet a second cousin!
Paul’s boat is taller than some, and he’d shout out “low bridge” and get us all to duck so we didn’t lose our heads. Sometimes he had to duck right down and look through the windows to navigate!
It was a lovely sunny day, so nice, brisk and cold sure, but the sun was warm. Paul never would have been out in the boat otherwise, but he seemed to enjoy the sunshine!
I really enjoyed talked about his parents and his life growing up. He had a fairly famous Dad, but with a common last name, no one knew and he was able to have a fairly normal childhood.
His mom was my grandpa’s sister. I have a nice letter she wrote me when I was a child I need to find to show Paul. She was a really fun lovely lady.
Look at this place Paul pointed out. Did it sink and then they redid the windows to match the crookedness? All these big old buildings are on wooden piers driven down through the sand and water to support the weight of them.
And look how these cars are parked again, right along the canal! They even made Paul wince, and he lives there! He said there is a little rail in most places, and you get used to pulling in until your front tires hit the rail. Once he didn’t feel it and stopped just before his tires headed over into the canal, and then realized the rail had ended with the car parked beside him, and he was a centimeter away from going in! He still winces retelling the story!
Another low bridge!
Even ducked down, the top of his hat rubbed on the bottom of the bridge! Good thing the water levels are all regulated here in Amsterdam now so you don’t have to guess if your boat will fit!
Paul’s sister lives in a houseboat! Unfortunately she was out of town so we couldn’t visit, but he took us by her place. Oh to live in a houseboat in an Amsterdam canal! What a life!
I think I would be very happy living such a life!
We tied up the boat and went into a little tea shop in the basement of a building. How Paul ever found such a tiny little place, who knows! We had a warm tea to warm us up, and Paul showed us photos of his sister’s houseboat and pictures of life there when it snows! Beautiful!!
Back on the boat, Paul was soon going to need to leave us, so he decided he’d take us closer to our next stop, the Resistance Museum we wanted to see. So we kept on our tour, heading in that direction.
Look at this poor boat, sunk in the canal! Paul said there is a company that will come help pump out your boat should this ever happen.
Guess to got to drive for a bit! ME!! I drove a boat in the canals of Amsterdam!!!! If you can see the next bridge ahead, and gave the controls back before we went under it, because I didn’t care to crash us! ha!
Some of the boats looked really rough. Like the one behind him in this next shot. A bit of a “maintenance problem” he said!
The large building in the next shot is a big concert hall that started out as a circus!!
Next, we went past the Artis zoo! This was a nice area, with big weeping willows hanging over the water. It actually reminded me of Grandma and Grandpa’s pond with the weeping willows and the ducks and swans!
You can’t probably see them in this shot, but we could see giraffes and zebras in the zoo from here!
Paul let us off near the museum and hopped off his boat for a picture with me! So glad to finally meet Paul. Touring the canals with him was really a highlight of the trip!
Off he goes!
Next we toured the Resistance Museum. It was all about Holland’s experience in the Second World War. This is one part of my family story that I didn’t know too much about, except what has been written in the life stories of Tante Miep and Hanny, and Uncle Jan. My Grandparents never talked much about the war with us.
The museum was full of photos and personal stories and artifacts. Stories of how Germany thought it would surprise attack Holland and quickly gather them as an ally, where nice passive Holland basically said, “uhm, no thanks”. There were many stories of the persecution of the Jews, the forced labour camps in Germany for all Dutch men, and how many went into hiding. There were also stories of the radios that were all forbidden, that allowed the Dutch to hear something other than the propaganda they were served, and how small radio components were hidden under floor boards, and inside carved out books.
I’d recommend this museum to anyone wanting a fuller understanding of the war experience in the Netherlands. The layout is a bit confusing, but they cram a lot into a small space. We had audio devices to listen to as we moved around to add extra context and story.
Afterwards we decided to walk back to the hotel, taking time to wander through some more shops and we stopped at a little diner for lunch.
I ordered from the Dutch Classic menu. It was meat from chicken thighs, with a barbeque sauce, onions, and mushrooms, on a fresh bread. Delicious!
Jeff sat under a picture of a member of the Heineken family, drinking a Heineken, and eating a club sandwich.
Then we continued our last afternoon of wandering around Amsterdam.
That night we dined in our hotel. It was a delicious family style dinner. We each picked our main dish, halibut for me, and enormous prawns for Jeff, then we shared steam vegetables, salad, and truffle risotto.
The next day was a long one! We flew out of Schiphol airport around 1pm, spent about 9 hours in the air, and landed just a few hours later on the clock in Calgary. From there we had another flight to Vancouver, a long layover, and then a flight to Whitehorse landing just after midnight. We were so utterly exhausted, but it helped cure the jetlag all at once! The next morning we woke up and drove back home to Dawson, where it is winter!!
One more post coming your way soon, with my thoughts and reflections on Holland!