24.10.11

Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

In 1841, the British journalist Charles Mackay wrote the book, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, to narrate the events surrounding the Tulip mania that took hold of Holland in the 17th Century and that led to the first speculative bubble and financial crisis when it eventually burst. We obviously never learn. However, there is a difference with the crisis we are enduring today. The Dutch were left with beautiful tulips and a striving industry based on them. What are the rest of us left with? Derilict properties, toxic assets, and some very greedy and rich bankers. But let's concentrate on something nice and go back to Holland and more specifically, Amsterdam.
Amsterdam, if you find good weather, is a wonderful place to just wander around, provided you are careful not to get run over by one of the 400.000 bicycles that circulate in the city. Walk around the canals, sit down for a drink in one of its many cafes and just take in the atmosphere of this cosmopolitan city.
Though there are plenty of hotels to choose from, we particularly like the Hotel Okura  by the Amstel Canal. The hotel is not in the centre of Amsterdam and to walk to, say, Museumplein will take you around 20 minutes or 10 minutes by tram. The location is excellent if you are attending a fair at the RAI Convention Centre and you do get a spacious room and excellent service.
Down the road from the hotel there are a number of cafes and restaurants. For a very good Japanese teppanyaki, try Sapporo , and for very good and affordable Indonesian food Djago is a very good choice. My recommendation is to try one of their Rijsttafel, or rice table. (Scheldeplein 18, Tel.: 020 664 2013 - Open 5-9.30pm Mon-Fri, Sun).
Given that my wife loves tulips, these have prominence in any trip to Holland. In Amsterdam, a visit to the Amsterdam Tulip Museum is obligatory. Besides being a great place to learn everything there is to learn about tulips, you can also buy tulip (and other flowers) bulbs and you will also receive very good advice. One piece of advice that figures prominently on their web page is not to buy bulbs between February and mid-July.
But, if you really want to see tulips, you must visit Keukenhof , a park in Lisse, about 35 Kms. from Amsterdam. If you can, it's best to visit in mid-April when tulips should be in full bloom. This is also the place where you can order tulip bulbs that are sent to you at the end of October, so that you can plant them in November. You can buy a combiticket at the Tourist Information Office in Leidseplein for 25 Euros which includes transport and entrance to the park. However, getting there by public transport can be a bit of a hassle, especially if there are a lot of people, and believe me, there will be. You have to catch the 197 bus from Leidseplein or Museumplein that takes you to Schiphol airport and there, change to the Keukenhof bus 58. Another option is to book an excursion through your hotel - more comfortable but you may have to spend less time at the park.
Another favourite of Amsterdam are its museums, especially, the Van Gogh Museum , and the Rijksmuseum .

(Following pictures are courtesy of @diloumt)


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