In Slartiblartfast Land

Slartibartfast is a Magrathean, and a designer of planets. His favourite part of the job is creating coastlines, the most notable of which are the fjords found on the coast of Norway on planet Earth, for which he won an award.
We left Amsterdam on Sunday afternoon, and today arrived in Norway. And it’s lovely …

Leaving Amsterdam

Our cruise ship, MS Koningsdam, moves slowly away from the passenger terminal in Amsterdam.

North Sea Canal

About to leave the Netherlands. This is the largest lock on the North Sea Canal, between Amsterdam and the North Sea. It looks much the same as the ones on the river cruise, but it’s MUCH bigger: 400 metres long, 50 metres wide, and 15 metres deep. It easily accommodates the MS Koningsdam, a mere 285 metres long and 38 metres beam. Pretty ordinary photo – it was quite late evening and almost dark.


Hardangerfjord, en route to the small village of Eidfjord. Hardangerfjord is 179 kilometres long, the second longest fjord in Norway;


Eidfjord is a small town, with less than 1000 inhabitants – well outnumbered by the 2500+ passengers on our cruise ship. It lies at the end of the Eio river, which flows from Eidfjordvatnet – a lake – to the Hardangerfjord.

Salmon trap on the Eio River

A salmon trap on the Eio River. The Eio is one of the best salmon rivers in west Norway, and these traps were designed to catch fish on their way up-river to spawn. The trap was built in the form of a box, which fish could swim into but not out of. There was a hatch at the end which was left open during times when fishing was prohibited. The fish were funnelled into the trap by a fence of poles tied together, and could occupy up to one third of the width of the river. These traps were prohibited in 1980.

Eidfjordvatnet lake

Eidfjordvatnet, a morraine-dammed lake a short walk out of Eidfjord. Our morning in Eidfjord was fine but cloudy and we enjoyed a walk in the countryside; in the afternoon it decided it was rain time!

Haereid burial mound

Haereid (literally “high ground”) is a large area near Eidfjord which is the site of an Iron Age burial ground. About 350 burial mounds are found in the area.

Farms in the Eio valley

Farms in the Eio river valley. A guide during our earlier river cruise used the expression “tractor eggs” for the white-wrapped silage.

Eidfjord Old Church

Eidfjord Old Church, built around 1309 AD.

Interior of the Eidfjord Old Church

Interior of the Eidfjord Old Church.

MS Koningsdam at Eidfjord

Our cruise ship, MS Koningsdam, at Eidfjord. The steep-sided fjords allow the ship to dock at this small town.


Some hardy types went kayaking in the rain; we retreated to the warmth of the Quality Hotel and sampled the local “Troll Tunga” beer!

Hardangerfjord at night

Heading back to sea down Hardangerfjord, in the late evening (about 11PM).


More Sights of Amsterdam


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Our last full day in Amsterdam – tomorrow at midday we board our cruise ship and head off to Norway – was another day of sightseeing, hopping on and off the buses and canal boats. No rest for the wicked here …

White Stork

There is a locked fenced off area in Vondelpark which is home to a family of White Storks. There is a large basket on a pole, where they are nesting. But often, as we passed, they would be foraging for food in the grass.

Hop-on/hop-off sightseeing boat

One of the hop-on/hop-off sightseeing boats, on a grey summer’s day.

Sea Palace

The Sea Palace is a three-storey floating pagoda-style chinese restaurant, reputedly very good.

National Maritime Museum

The National Maritime Museum, and a reconstruction of the “Amsterdam”, a Dutch East India company ship which sank in a storm in the English Channel on its maiden voyage to Batavia in 1749.

Hortus Botanicus

Hortus Botanicus was established in 1638 by the city to serve as an herb garden for doctors and apothecaries. It is one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world, and contains more than six thousand tropical and indigenous trees and plants.

Skinny Bridge

The “Skinny Bridge” – made famous (so the hop-on/hop-off tour commentary tells us) in the James Bond movie “Diamonds Are Forever”. The original bridge, built in 1691, was named Magere Brug (“skinny bridge”) because it was very narrow. This current bridge was built in 1934.

Custom canal cruise

There’s all sorts of custom canal cruises available!

Seven Bridges

The Seven Bridges of the Reguliersgracht canal, viewed from the Herengracht canal.

Amsterdam Main Post Office

The former Amsterdam Main Post Office, built in 1895, is an impressive Neo-Gothic and Neo-Renaissance style building; it is now the Magna Plaza shopping centre.

Dam Square

Dam Square, central Amsterdam. A bit like large city squares in many places – even down to the horse-drawn carriages.


Moco is the Modern Contemporary Museum, which at the time of our visit was hosting an exhibition of works by Banksy (many) and Andy Warhol (a few).


One of the Banksy works at the Banksy/Warhol exhibition at Moco Museum.


One of the Warhol works at the Banksy/Warhol exhibition at Moco Museum.


Vondelpark was opened in 1865 as Nieuwe Park, for horseriding and strolling. It was renamed Vondelpark in 1867, when this statue of the poet Joost van den Vondel was erected. By 1887 it had been extended to its present size of 45 hectares. The horses have given way to cyclists and joggers; strollers are still numerous.

Out and About in Amsterdam


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Having spent most of yesterday indoors at the Rijksmuseum, we decided today would be occupied with wandering around and seeing what we found. We did some hop-on/hop-off buses and canal boats, and lots of walking. Here’s a selection of things we found …

"Fish" sculpture, Vondel Park

We stayed at a small hotel out of the city, and would walk through Vondel Park each day to central Amsterdam, passing this sculpture “Fish” by Pablo Picasso.

Grey Heron

This Grey Heron was very tame; it strolled along the edge of a bridge, until it reached the end where a man from a food van gave it some scraps. I suspect it does this regularly!

Grey Heron

Grey Heron close-up – he’s really intent on where he’s heading.

These tiny little one-person cars are limited to 45 kph; but you don't need a licence to drive them.

These tiny little one-person cars are limited to 45 kph; but you don’t need a licence to drive them.

Blue Boat?

Perhaps someone is colour-blind?

Gassan Diamonds

One of the cutters at Gassan Diamonds. We did an interesting tour here, where we got to see lots of large and expensive stones, many with Gassan’s patented 121 facet brilliant cut (the traditional brilliant has only 57 facets). Sadly, no free samples!

Rembrandt Corner

Rembrandt Corner. The house with the green door, Jodenbreestraat 4, was Rembrandt’s home and studio; it is now a museum, with entry from the modern annex next door.

Schutterij van Amsterdam

Members of a reenactment society assembled on the steps of Rembrandt’s House. “Schutterij van Amsterdam” is the Amsterdam City Guard; the other words on the banner translate to Servitude, Brotherhood, Loyalty.

Street artist

The small square opposite Rembrandt Corner is filled with street artists. None appear to be in the same league as the old master.

Narrow building

Amsterdam streetscape, showing some of the narrow – and extremely narrow – buildings. Reputedly, they widen out further back from the frontage, but we’re not really convinced.

Ann Frank House

Most of the people in this picture are waiting to get into the Anne Frank House. Not queueing for tickets – you need to book several months in advance – but queueing for admission. We didn’t go there; we’d seen it years ago, when we were here in 1978.

Chess game at Max Euweplein

Onlookers at a chess game in the Max Euweplein, opposite the Hard Rock Cafe.

Evening in Vondel Park

On a pleasant Friday evening, Vondel park was a very popular place to sit, relax, have a beer, or a picnic barbeque, or …

A Day at the Rijksmuseum


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The Rijksmuseum – State Museum – is probably the most famous tourist destination in Amsterdam. It is very impressive! It’s large, with exhibits spread over four floors of a building designed by Pierre Cuypers, completed in 1885, and extended and modernised since. Most impressive is the Great Hall on the second floor, with Rembrandt’s “Night Watch” as one end. The entire second floor is devoted to the 17th Century – the Dutch Golden Age. Exhibitions on the other floors cover the 11th to 20th Centuries, together with a number of Special Collections, an Asian Gallery, and a Library.

We spent six hours here – and it could have been more. We’d been here before, way back in 1978, and we’ll certainly be back if we visit Amsterdam again.

Here’s a tiny sample from the day …


Museumplein, with Rijksmuseum and the “i amsterdam” sign in the distance.

Rijksmuseum atrium

A forest artwork in the atrium of the Rijksmuseum.

"The Night Watch"

“The Night Watch”, by Rembrandt, is the most famous painting in the Rijksmuseum, and hangs at the end of the Eregalerij, the impressive hall in the centre of the building. You have to get here early to get an un-interrupted view of it!

Vincent Van Gogh, self-portrait

Guess who?

"Made In USA"

“Made in USA”, a 1964 brass sculpture by US artist Shinkichi Tajiri; the work is described as “aggressive but also humorous”. Personally, I think it’s rather frightening.

Dolls house

During the late 17th and early 18th centuries, spectacular dolls houses were created in the Netherlands, especially in Amsterdam. They were not children’s toys, but display pieces, furnished for and by wealthy ladies who lavished enormous amounts of time, money and attention on them. This picture shows several rooms of one of them.

Rijksmuseum Library

The four-storey Rijksmuseum’s art-historical library contains one kilometre of books; an underground storage area has five more kilometres of material.

Ship model

The Netherlands has a long nautical history, and in addition to many paintings of ships, there are several models. There’s also a whole section of the Special Collections area devoted to them.

Penone tree scuplture

The gardens outside the Rijksmuseum contained an exhibition of works by Guiseppe Penone, featuring trees and rocks. This one is titled “The Leaves of Roots”.

Rijksmuseum fountain

Even some adults were venturing into the fountain “cage” – an area usually the reserve of the kids. Another of Penone’s bronze sculptures, “Thunderstruck Tree”, can be seen here.

Street performers in Museumplein

Street performers in Museumplein. this was their warm-up; they then collected money from the crowd – with great chat lines – before a terrific performance.

Farewell Scenic Jewel, Hello Amsterdam


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Most of today was spent organising ourselves – leaving “Scenic Jewel”, bidding farewell to new friends, and settling in to our Amsterdam accommodation, a quiet little hotel near Vondel Park. Nevertheless, we still managed to fit in a bit of sightseeing. Here’s a few things we found interesting …

Amsterdam Central Station

Amsterdam Centraal is the largest station in the city, and a major national railway hub. This Gothic/Renaissance revival building was designed by Pierre Cuypers, who also designed the Rijksmuseum. It opened in 1889. Behind, and inside, this original building are modern renovation and extensions.

Multi-story bicycle park

There are no multi-story carparks near Amsterdam Centraal – but there is this large multi-storey bicycle park!

The Royal Palace in Dam Square

The Royal Palace, in Dam Square, dates from the 17th Century. It was originally the Town Hall, but when Louis Bonaparte (brother of Napoleon) was installed as King in 1806 he converted it into his palace. [Cities have far too many poles and wires!]

The Waag (weigh-house), in Nieuwmarkt square.

The Waag (weigh-house), in Nieuwmarkt square, is a 15th Century building; it is the oldest non-religious building in Amsterdam. It was originally a city gate, and part of the walls of Amsterdam; in 1617 it was converted to a public weigh-house; the ground floor is now a restaurant and cafe.


The Oudeschans (old canal) and Montelbaanstoren (Montalban’s Tower). The tower was built in 1516 as part of the walls of Amsterdam; the decorative upper section was added in 1606.

Big car in Amsterdam

This old Dodge seems very out-of-place in the narrow streets of central Amsterdam.