Friday, May 29, 2009

Cheese Delight

When A gets going, omelettes end up looking like this!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Treasure Trove

In what is a rare occurrence, A and I whipped up quite a frenzy in our kitchen a few days back. We had a couple of German friends over for dinner and I'm glad to say we did outdo ourselves! Come to think of it, I think this is the first time we've actually made a full-fledged meal for someone else!

Lemonade (complete with lemon slices and umbrellas), along with a chicken starter dish (A mysteriously calls it his masterpiece! Oops, unfortunately, I didn't manage to take a picture of it!) and lijjat papad, made up the appetizers.

The main course saw rice, chicken curry, aloo gobi, raita and pappadum being served, in all their regal royalty! Of course, wine, beer and cola also were part of the very same stormy frenzy!

Dessert was gulab jamun (bought from the store), the sugar level of which took our friends completely by surprise, thereby solving the mystery of my urge to always want to up the sugar content in most German sweetmeats! :-D

Monday, May 18, 2009

Anne Frank; Her Hideout, Her Diary

Ever since I read Anne Frank's Diary, which wasn't until very long ago, I've been besotted by her and her overwhelming life experience. Even as a kid, I'd heard a tremendous lot about her diary and I'd always wanted to read it. Quite strangely, it wasn't until just a few years back that I managed to lay my hands on a copy. Once I'd read it cover to cover, all I wanted to do was visit the house in which she and her family had remained hidden for such a long period of time. My trip to Amsterdam was quite a long awaited one, for this very purpose.

When we reached the site, we could see a long, serpentine queue of people waiting to get into the house. The weather was lovely and playing charades and answering a survey conducted by one of the locals, made the waiting time seem pretty short. To the serpent's credit, although it winded its way right from the entrance door all the way to the next perpendicular street and beyond, it did move pretty swiftly.

The house itself was quite an experience. People familiar with the story will find themselves moved beyond words upon entering the various rooms that the inhabitants had occupied, not so very long ago! Anne's room, in particular, so reflects the girl we've come to know through the diary; so reminiscent of the lively little girl that she was. The walls of her room still have bits and pieces of the posters and drawings that she'd adorned them with, so as to alleviate, at least by a slight measure, the boredom and barrenness of the place.

Although a large portion of the house was destroyed, most of it has been recreated with the help of the recollections of Frank, Anne's father. The movable bookshelf, the secret annexe, all the things that the readers of this dairy will be very familiar with, are there to be revered and marvelled upon. There are also numerous videos, pictures and plaques that tell the story of Anne and her family and friends.

The original diary is also on display. Seeing Anne's own handwriting made me only rueful that I couldn't read her thoughts and feelings in their original language; the language in which she thought and felt them.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Keukenhof translates to kitchen garden. The Tulip Garden in Lisse, which is in South Holland, is believed to be the largest flower garden in the world. Rows and rows of tulips greet visitors during the months of April and May, which is when they're usually in bloom.

There are innumerable tulip fields in the Netherlands and just to state what is obviously stale news by now, the famous song sequence in Silsila was also shot in the fields adjacent to this garden.

Considering that there were so many tulips around that they managed to render even me speechless, I'm just going to sit back and let the pictures do the work on this post! :-)

Monday, May 11, 2009

Amsterdam RLD

The Red Light District in Amsterdam is popular among locals and tourists alike. Prostitution is legal in the Netherlands and there are supposedly over five hundred "windows" in the largest Red Light District. These windows (in many cases, glass doors) are where the prostitutes stand and wait for customers. Women of almost every nationality can be found there. As we walked around, we learnt that one street was for Russian prostitutes, one for Asian, one for African, and so on. All the windows or doors glow with a red light and all the women standing at those windows are required to wear at least a bikini. In fact, one particular street has a small kindergarten (for the families living in that area) in the midst of this flesh trade, and the kids who go there and see the women standing at the glass doors, are told that the girls are waiting for a bus to take them to the beach! :-)

I was most surprised to learn that there was even a street inhabited by older women, in their 60s or so! The oldest one is said to be 85 years old and she continues working because she likes it!

The area is also home to a statue, which bears the inscription that prostitutes all around the world should be respected. The majority of them are extremely careful and conscious, with the result that the percentage of people having HIV/AIDS is almost equal to that of the common public. This, in spite of, a basic health check that was required in earlier times, has now been done away with, following widespread protests from the prostitutes!

The Red Light District is home to not only many women prostitutes, but also to some male prostitutes. Gay places are distinguished by the rainbow flags that hang outside them, while the leather clad, whip yielding (BDSM) ones stand out by using a black flag.

The Red Light District is generally thought to be quite a safe area. Although it was a crime-infested area not too long ago, government regulations and police intervention have transformed into one of the major attractions in Amsterdam. Each street and alleyway is manned by many cameras and even the safety of the prostitutes is not undermined. The pimp responsible for a particular group of prostitutes ensures this by looking at the television monitors that they set up in their "shop", lest any untoward incident happens.

We also went through an alleyway believed to be the narrowest one in the area; we could go through only in a single file, almost walking sideways. The area also houses a number of restaurants, small eateries, souvenir shops and sundry other things.

Near the entrance to the area is a big "condomerie", with a hilarious display of numerous, funny-looking condoms. There is also a sex museum, an erotic museum, sex shops, coffee shops selling marijuana, sex and peep shows and a cannabis museum in the vicinity. The sex shows differ from the peep and strip shows, because in the former, they show people doing it live.

Life goes on as usual in the district, which is almost always bustling with a wide array of humanity, including children and older people.

While there, I also picked up the trivium that some Dutch men like to frequent this area in the mornings, while on their way to work! Apparently, mornings are usually the busiest for the girls; and like a guide vehemently stated, no, their wives don't approve!

The 3 Xs in XXX that is so synonymous with X-rated movies now, stands for fire, flood and plague.

By the way, they charge €50 for about 15-20 minutes.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Birthday Tulips

Thursday, May 07, 2009

None the Wiser :-)

...although I be older!

Psst: In keeping with the Amsterdam theme, A got me some lovely tulips... My phone isn't cooperating right now, will upload the pics later...

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Arriving in Amsterdam

Amsterdam takes liberty and freedom to an altogether different level. Beautiful in so many ways, the city is such an amazing collage of contrasts.
As for most parts of Europe, the advent of spring bodes well for the Netherlands too. The weekend gone by saw a bunch of us basking in the glorious sights and sounds of the popular city of Amsterdam. After a fun train ride of a little over four hours, and after figuring out the public transport system there, we finally checked into our hotel. Then, we made our way to the city centre.
Amsterdam is a city of bicycles. Rows and rows of bicycles is what catches the eye on every road. Methinks, the Dutch sure must be a very fit lot! Can't really blame them for wanting to ride their bicycles at every given opportunity, though; the city is just so pretty with its myriad canals and cobbled streets.

The trams and bicyclists have a menacing reputation preceding them; they are thought to wait for nothing! Quite often, we were told not to incur the wrath of the bicyclists and to steer clear of the cycling tracks. Bicyclists having to ring their bells to even nudge a pedestrain a little to the side, is just not a done thing! It is almost always accompanied by a bout of glares, frowns and stares, all from the concerned bicyclist, of course! :-)

The Oldest Clock Tower in Amsterdam

Central Railway Station

Our first stop at the city centre: the all famous red light district in Amsterdam.
To be continued in my next post...