A few Days in Amsterdam

As I was putting together Travel Plans: Capitals of Europe, I noticed that I had never posted anything from my Amsterdam trip. That trip was in June 2013 and it is now April 2014. Better late than never, I suppose.

Vondelpark

The feature of Amsterdam that made the most lasting impression on me was Vondelpark. I love cities with good public parks, but I hadn’t set out to find this one. It was just a lucky coincidence that my hotel was right outside the park and I still had an hours or so to kill until my room was ready. In the end, I went to the park every single day of my stay, walking around it or just sitting down to read/watch the people around me.

I was reading Capital at the time, very, very good book by the way, almost kept me from ever leaving Vondelpark and exploring the rest of the city. Shortly before I had been reading Jane Jacobs’ The Death and Life of Great American Cities, particularly the section on what makes good parks, and I think Vondelpark checks most, if not all of those boxes. I took a couple of pictures, but none of them really capture what was so great about the park; all these different people on foot or bike, going about their business or just passing through. Really quite wonderful.

Around Town

Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t too good the two days I stayed in Amsterdam, so these photos are all a bit gray, alas.

Gratchen

Rijksmuseum

Joordan

Westerkerk

Blick von der Westerkerk

Random Observations

A funny combination: a New York City taxi cab, with Düsseldorf (Germany) license plates on the streets of Amsterdam.

NYC Cab from Düsseldorf in Amsterdam

I noticed this in Luxembourg as well: their Fanta Orange – one of my favorite soft-drinks – is so much paler than the Fanta Orange we have in Germany.

Pale Fanta

Two Days in Luxembourg

Blick von Kirchberg auf die Stadt (1)

Eisenbahnbrücke (2)

Brücke und Bach

Casemates (1)

Brunnen

Spuerkeess

ARBED Building

Clouds

Notes from the Field

  • While I knew that both French and German were official languages in Luxembourg, I was surprised how much French and how little German was in practical use. Other countries that have two official languages, just have things labeled in both languages. In Luxemburg it seemed most things were in French while some things were in German. In the Hotel and supermarket, people addressed you in French but in casual conversation they seemed to prefer Luxembourgish (Lëtzebuergesch).
  • Speaking of Luxembourgish, the guide book I had specifically pointed out that it was not a German dialect, but its own language and that under no circumstances one should say otherwise. The Luxembourg City History Museum, however, called it a Germanic dialect. The Luxembourg City History Museum (Musée d’histoire de la Ville de Luxembourg) by the way is an excellent museum. Really nice building and well structured exhibit.
  • Equally excellent was the Museum of Modern Art (Musée d’art moderne Grand-Duc Jean). The building, designed by I. M. Pei, itself is probably worth a visit.
  • It was a really good idea to bring my hiking boots on this city tour. They worked great on the cobblestone and without them I couldn’t have done the walk across the valley and through the forest between the city center and the Museum of Modern Art.
  • While today Luxembourg is known mostly as a financial center, steel used to play an important role in the Luxembourg economy in the late 19th and 20th century (Luxembourg was a founding member of the European Coal and Steel Community, one of the predecessor organizations of the EU). Hence the beautiful ARBED building in the city (see pictures above).

Experimenting

Part of the reason I bought a Sony Alpha 58 was the fact that I could share lenses with my father and sister who also have Sony Alphas. So this week I borrowed my dad’s 18-250mm lens.

I’m very impressed with this lens’ versatility: here’s the tower of the church from across the street as I normally see it and then fully zoomed in.

Kirchturmspitze (1)

Kirchturmspitze (2)

I don’t think I ever want to go back to the measly 18-55mm kit lens I used to use.

Zoopark

Things to Read: Wish List Clearance

In Firefox, I keep one bookmarks folder as a wish list, containing links to the Amazon pages of books I would like to read some day. Whenever I see something I like, I add it to the list. And whenever I need something new to read, I go into that folder do an “Open All in Tabs” and pick one or two to buy.

As I don’t purchase books in the order that I bookmarked them, there are a couple of titles that have been on my wish list for quite some time, but for one reason or another have been trumped by others again and again and thus were never purchased.

So today, I purge these old timers from my wish list and publish them here instead. All of these books are great based on what I’ve heard about them, I just don’t think that after such a long time, I will ever get around to buying them.

Travel Plans: Capitals of Europe

With my upcoming trip to Luxembourg for the second time this year I will be able to cross off a city from the list of European capitals I want to visit.

Country City Visited
Austria Vienna 2017
Belgium Brussels 2001
Czech Republic Prague 2002
Denmark Copenhagen
Finland Helsinki
France Paris 2009, 2015
Germany Berlin 2003
Greece Athens
Hungary Budapest 2007, 2017
Iceland Reykjavik 2014
Ireland Dublin
Italy Rome 2016
Luxembourg Luxembourg 2014
Netherlands Amsterdam 2013
Norway Oslo 2012
Poland Warsaw
Portugal Lisbon
Slovakia Bratislava
Spain Madrid
Sweden Stockholm
Switzerland Bern 2015/16
United Kingdom London 2007, 2015
Vatican Vatican City 2016

Over time I will be putting links behind the years as I visit them. I also noticed that I never got around to posting pictures from last year’s trip to Amsterdam. I will do that in due time as well.

For my non-European-Capital travel posts (e.g. Israel in 2010), check out the Travel category.

It’s Nice to Have Options

When I originally bought my Surface Pro, I got it with a Touch Cover. The Touch Cover was thin, light and I had heard good things about the typing experience.

It's Nice to Have Options 2

And for the first couple of months that was true. But over time, I got the feeling that the sensitivity of the touch keyboard was deteriorating. More and more often, I had to hit keys multiple times until they were recognized. As a somewhat fast typist, this was getting annoying.

Therefore I got myself a Type Cover 2 as well. Contrary to what I had expected based on the specs alone, it doesn’t actually feel that much thicker or heavier. But it does provide a much better typing experience than the Touch Cover. Though, of course it cannot beat the regular sized keyboard and mouse I use when the Surface Pro is docked at home.

Nonetheless, I think each kind of these keyboards has it’s own use-case. So I use a

  • Touch Cover when I use the Surface Pro on the road in tablet-mode and I just want a cover to protect the screen.
  • Type Cover when I use the Surface Pro on the road in tablet-mode but expect to do some typing, e.g. taking notes in a meeting.
  • Regular keyboard and mouse at home or on the road for heavy duty typing when the extra baggage is not an issue.