Last September, Kris, my wife, and I took a river cruise from Amsterdam to Basel on the amazing Viking Mani; this was our first ever cruise experience, and I can tell you that Viking will raise the bar for any future vacation plans that you might have.
After arriving a day prior to our boarding date, we checked in early into our hotel, the Victoria, which is just across from the Centraal Station; after our flight from Boston, we were both happy to hop into a shower and get a short nap before exploring the city. First stop was to get some food, which for me means that I wanted to get a Dutch specialty: a beef croquette sandwich (Dutch: kroket).
Next up we decided to take a canal tour, which is the best way to see Amsterdam. I’ll highlight a couple of views from our hour-long boat trip.
In the image above, the Stopera is where the Dutch National Opera & Ballet companies have performance space, and where Amsterdam’s city hall is located. The name came from a shortening of the protest slogan against the building’s construction: “Stop the Opera”. The design approval for the building literally took decades, as the original commission started in 1955 and took until 1964 years to finally reject all proposals; a new competition was held in 1967 for a new design, which was won by the Viennese architect Wilhelm Holzbauer.
Unfortunately, budget constraints delayed the project once more. In 1979, a new approach was proposed, which would combine the opera space and city hall into a single complex; a design by Wilhelm Holzbauer and Cees Dam was approved. Under much controversy and protest, construction started in 1982 and was completed in 1986.
At the intersection of the Zwanenburgwal and the Amstel river, stands a powerful reminder of the people who once lived in the neighborhood where the Stopera stands today; Vlooienburg was an island that was built in Amsterdam to add space around 1593. This island was part of Amsterdam’s Jewish Quarter, which was established during the Dutch republic, as many Sephardic Jews moved from Portugal and Spain to the more accepting environment in Amsterdam. The black monument commemorates the efforts by the Jewish population in their resistance against the Nazi occupiers during World War II; on the side of the monument is a text of the prophet Jeremiah, which laments:
“Were my eyes fountains of tears then would I weep day and night for the fallen fighters of my beloved people.”
Another key river of Amsterdam is the IJ, which likely is a remnant of the northern arm of the Rhine delta. Nowadays, the IJ has a seafaring shipping connection through the North Sea Canal, which stretches from Amsterdam to Ijmuiden.
From here our canal tour turned back to its mooring point, close to the main train station, and a bit later we’d go here…
There she is, our Viking longship, the Mani; named after the Norse Moon God, Mani, who flies through the night sky in his horse-drawn chariot, chased by an evil wolf looking to devour the moon. Our cabin is in view, albeit barely; it is the last visible window near the end on the upper deck. As the restaurant is at the front of the ship, we had a more than 100 m walk each way, getting our exercise, even on board!