Our floating home away from home, Azura, was due to leave the Netherlands in the early hours of the Friday morning. We’d retired to bed before this and thanks to a full day with visits to the maritime museum, the botanical gardens, the Gassan diamond manufacturing tour, the Hermitage museum, a 2-hour canal cruise excursion, a few hours in a local pub, and a nightcap (or two) on board the ship we were fast asleep in no time. It was just starting to get light out when I woke and felt that something was wrong. Not with me, but rather the ship. You can tell when the ship is moving and when it’s not even on calm seas and there was nothing. I eased back the curtains and looked out to see we were unexpectedly still in Amsterdam. Just then I heard the low sound of the ship’s speakers in the corridor outside the room so I switched the TV on to get the announcement in the cabin. The high winds of the previous few days had made it dangerous to risk taking the cruise ship through the locks at IJmuiden so the captain had elected to stay on until the conditions had improved. Passengers were informed that if we wanted to go ashore we could and he’d like us back by 3pm. My wife and I dressed quickly, wolfed down some breakfast, then headed off to take advantage of some bonus time in the Dutch capital city.
We’d been using the I Amsterdam city cards to visit places and luckily for us we’d bought the 48-hour versions. They were still valid for the entirety of our additional time in the city so we checked the map and elected to head towards the zoo. This walk initially took us back past the maritime museum we’d visited the day before.
Encounters With Dutch Cyclists
We had two interesting encounters with Dutch cyclists on our walk.
We didn’t get lost because I knew the approximate location of the zoo and figured it would be difficult to miss something that large but I did pull the map out at one point just to verify which of two roads would get us to our destination in the shortest time. This caused a woman on a bike to come to a screeching halt and immediately try to to help us out. This was very nice of her but as luck would have it she appeared to be the one person in Amsterdam who spoke no English. She did seem to have some German, or assumed we were for some reason, and I knew enough German words to pick out her directions and thank her even though I knew where I was going anyway.
Just as we arrived at the zoo we stopped and waited for another woman on a bike to come through one of the dedicated lanes. She did so at a fair speed but then her wheel seemed to clip the pavement, the bike wobbled, and she went flying. We ran across the road to assist and discovered she was bleeding quite heavily from her forehead, elbow, and foot. We handed over tissues we were fortunately carrying and asked if she wanted an ambulance; she said no and explained she wasn’t sure what had happened and that this had never happened to her before, that she was in her seventies and should know better, and that she just felt embarrassed. Another Dutch woman turned up to assist and we got her disentangled from her bike and on her feet. I picked up the things she’d dropped and broken (the frame of her glasses were detached) and another woman then also turned up from a nearby premises with a First Aid kit. Figuring she was in better hands with those people than with startled foreigners we wished her well, were thanked, and carried on. A shock for all involved and we hope she wasn’t too badly injured as a result. We were just glad we were there to help.
Artis Royal Zoo
To give it its full name Amsterdam Zoo is more properly known as Natura Artis Magistra but it’s recognised by the shorter name of simply Artis. The zoo is one of the oldest in Europe. We didn’t wander around with any particular plan, instead favouring just seeing where the winding paths led us. We were quite pleased to see so little fencing around as it makes taking photographs a lot easier.
I had to contend with bright backlighting and made some heavy adjustment of shadows and highlights in processing to save something of the following two shots but it was nice to grab some pictures of a mother with her baby up in the treetops.
We only saw one pair of animals exhibiting any signs of stress, those being the raccoons. For the very largest part this was a very relaxed-feeling zoo interestingly located within view of numerous buildings no doubt offering people living there great sights on a daily basis.
I like cats and I like brutalist architecture so it was lovely to see the former enjoying some of the latter at the zoo.
We can only assume there is something magical about elephants in the Netherlands as the excitement of the children who spotted the animals is difficult to describe. It was all we could do to stay standing as streams of kids thundered past and into us and around us shouting “Olifant! Olifant!” as their parents tried to hush them to little avail.
As well as enclosures outdoors there were a number of interior spaces for butterflies (forgot to visit this; next time), insects, and reptiles. This proved handy to escape a sudden torrential downpour at one point although my wife kept well away from anything that looked like it might remotely contain spiders. While neither of us like arachnids I do find them fascinating and am happy to peer at the creatures behind the safety of glass.
A large building given over to an aquarium was very nice, very spacious. The tanks seemed very clean, especially when compared to various sealife centres we’ve visited around the UK on our travels. There weren’t a huge amount of creatures on display but what there were looked beautiful. The only slight blot on the visit to this particular part of Amsterdam Zoo was that a school group were in attendance in one of the larger rooms and the sound of several dozen children mostly shouting over one another in an echoing hall-like venue did affect the enjoyment of the fish in their environments.
Back outside we ran into the tail end of a sea lion-feeding show taking place.
Our bonus half day in Amsterdam was very enjoyable and thanks to the excellent I Amsterdam city cards, free. We’d have no hesitation in visiting the place again if we were in the city as it’s a nice break from museums.
Just outside the zoo entrance was a small grassy area containing some odd, metal sculptures that was what I’d been intending to photograph before going in until we’d been distracted by the cyclist coming off her bike. I quite liked their unsubtle nature. Make of them what you will, but these were the last photos I took during our lovely few days in Amsterdam on our P&O cruise before making our way back to Azura and heading away from the Netherlands.