Sunday, October 21, 2007

Amsterdam 1: Shoes and Windmills

There's good news and bad news on the apartment front.

The good news:
1. I finally moved in last Thursday and have been sleeping in the apartment.
2. I got the Internet up and running today.
3. I managed to unpack most of the stuff I have with me and clear out the apartment in time for the massive shipment I'm bringing in from the warehouse tomorrow morning.
4. I found the cord for my electric razor. Now I can go on dates without looking like Chewbacca.

The bad news;
1. Moshe, who passed the apartment on to me, got into a fight with his future landlady, and it sounds like he won't be moving in to his new place, and is now in the same situation as I was; homeless, looking for a new place. Which means that all his stuff here is going to be moved out much more slowly.
2. While the Internet is working, my Vonage connection (phone over Internet) is not. I spent a few hours hashing things out with the Vonage people by phone today, and we couldn't get it running. I called Bezek Benleumi (my Internet service provider,) and they're changing the account settings so that I can use Vonage, but could take up to three whole days!

Anyway, on my way back from America, United States of, I had a 12-hour layover in Amsterdam. In the airport there's a service that charges exorbitant amounts of money to take you out of the airport and drive you around town during your layover. But, really, when is the next time I'll be in Amsterdam? So I jumped at the opportunity.

First off, the tour guide informed me that what we call Holland is really the Netherlands, and don't you forget it! Holland is just one, albeit the most important, province of the Netherlands. To pile on a bit more confusion, the people speak Dutch, not Netherlandish or Hollandish. You would think, with all their European bureaucracy and love of the metric system, they could streamline all of these ethnicities.

Our first stop was a touristy wooden shoe factory, and appropriate destination since I was with a gaggle of fellow tourists. Wooden shoes are one of Holland's, er, excuse me, the Netherlands' most important products, along with cheese, tulips, windmills, and marijuana.

Wooden clogs were popular since the Netherlands is mostly below sea level, and very rainy, the ground tends to be quite wet most of the year. Holland, excuse me, the Netherlands, was created before Gortex, and the clogs serve as a natural, water-proof shoe.
Wedding Shoes

In this case, we have an intricately carved pair of wedding shoes. The girl's name isn't carved on the shoe until right before the wedding, in case the guy changes his mind.

The shoes are actually made on a lathe from a master, much like a key. Here we see the master being traced at the end of that curved, pointy thing. Under the saw, the block of wood is quickly cut into the shoe shape.

Next, the insides are hollowed out.

So that's where wooden shoes come from. They left us in this place for like fifteen minutes, and we all wandered around the store while they stared at us waiting for us to buy something. That part of the tour was kind of a bore.

Next, we were off to see a historic windmill...

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