21 October, 2011

Murray Watches the LA Kings in Hamburg, Germany; Visits Amsterdam

This month has consisted of a lot of traveling and I have loved every minute of it.  I started the month off by flying to Hamburg, Germany to catch an exhibition game between the Los Angeles Kings and the Hamburg Freezers.  Then a week or two later I was off to Amsterdam.

Unfortunately, the weather in Hamburg wasn’t great it was dark and grey and looked like it had rained in the morning.  However, it was kind of refreshing to be in a place that had more fall like weather.  The day before in Lugano, I got a sunburn while sitting outside and eating lunch.  I can’t believe it is the beginning of October and I’m still getting sunburned.  I miss watching the leaves change back in Duluth, and the weather in Hamburg reminded me of home.  I ended up catching a train and bus to get to Jack’s game.  I navigated the rail station, but once on the train I found a man wearing a Hamburg Freezers jersey so I cheated and followed him.  So I had a mild sense of accomplishment, because I didn’t completely navigate the trains and buses all by myself. I got to the game just in time to see the pre-game show.  I miss watching NHL games, especially with my friends from home.  The Hamburg Freezers pre-game show played first, the fans were crazy clapping and cheering, and snowflakes fell from the ceiling. Then the Kings pre-game show played, it was a highlight video, but instead of playing on the Jumbo Tron it was projected on the ice.

The game was great. It was like watching an NHL game at home and had a bit of a North American Atmosphere.  However, the Hamburg Freezers fans and the food vendors would quickly remind me that I wasn’t at home.  There was a food vendor walking up and down the stairs at the game carrying a big whicker basket lined with blue plaid fabric, that was selling fresh baked bread and pretzels.  That is something I wouldn’t mind bringing back to the US.  The game was actually a lot closer than I thought it was going to be.  However, the Kings did have major jet lag.  They landed in Hamburg the day before the game.  The Kings ended up winning the game 5-3.

I don’t even know where to start with my second adventure.  Amsterdam was simply amazing.  It had something that appealed to everyone.  It had quiet little canals full of houseboats and lined with cute little cafes, with outdoor seating. Then you walk five more minutes towards the center of town and you stumble upon the Red Light District.  There is nothing like it.  It was an experience to say the least.

Our first day in Amsterdam started very early, with a 4:45 am drive to the Milan Malpensa Airport.  We booked an early flight at 7:05 putting us in Amsterdam at 9:30.   We ended up getting to Amsterdam so early that we couldn’t check into our hotel room.  So we put our bags in the luggage storage at the hotel and began to wander around the city.  Again like in Hamburg, it was refreshing to have a little bit colder weather. The weather in Amsterdam was beautiful, the sky was completely clear and sunny.  We had absolutely perfect timing with the weather, it had rained the entire week before our trip and was foggy on Monday when we flew back to Milan.  We walked around the city snapping picture after picture.  We were blown away by how nice the city was, and loved how the main form of transportation in the city was bicycle. 

Parents had their small children all bundled up with scarves and mittens sitting in little chairs between their seat and the bikes handle bars.  People were doubled up on the backs of the bikes, and there were even dogs in the baskets on the fronts of the bikes.  The bikers had their own lanes, cross walks, and traffic lights.  Our second day in Amsterdam we actually decided to rent bikes and tour around the city.  We made the initial mistake of going in the wrong bike lane and were playing game after game of chicken with the local cyclists.  All of which ended with us running our bikes into the curb and into each other in a last minute attempt to get out of the way, while the locals angrily chimed their bike bells at us.  It kind of made me giggle, angrily chiming a bell seems kind of like a paradox to me. Once we figured out what lane to pedal in it was smooth sailing.  We biked from one end of town to the other. Which sounds like quite an endeavor, but it only took us 10-15 minutes each way.  We actually biked along the route of the Amsterdam Marathon and got to see the last 5 people cross the finish line.  The last place person ended up catching a bus and riding it across the finish line.  But, just in front of him was a lady who looked like my grandma.  She had on sports sunglasses and a sweat band.  All I could think of was when I’m her age there is no way I would ever be running a marathon, but good for her. We ended up biking across town to the Gooyer, the only windmill within Amsterdam’s city limits.  It has actually been turned into a private home.  Can you imagine living inside a windmill? From the Windmill we biked to the Heineken Museum, but didn’t take a tour we just went to the gift shop and bought some postcards.  We then biked around Vondelpark.  Vondelpark is made up of one hundred acres of green grass, leafy trees, rivers and ponds right in the middle of the city.  The park made me really think about the fall weather at home.  The trees were just beginning to turn colors and lose their leaves.

The first day in Amsterdam we probably walked for at least 13 hours straight.  The only time we stopped to sit down, was to eat.  We walked along the canals and attempted to find the Red Light District during the daytime.  We were told we had to see the Red Light District at night and during the day. After visiting the Red Light District we wandered over to the Bloomen Market, an entire market dedicated to selling flowers and planting supplies.  You could find any type of flower bulb you wanted there.  The majority were tulips of course, but the variety was absolutely unbelievable.  We attempted to find some bulbs that were safe for international travel, we ended up finding some for 20 Euros, but they were a random assortment and after seeing all the different types of flowers, we were set on picking our own. 

After the Market we wandered over to the Van Gogh museum.  It was fun to see artwork from an artist I actually know and like.  When I was in Florence, I saw so many different works of art, but they were all dark, gothic, religious oil paintings that I didn’t really understand.  After the museum, we posed next to the “I AMsterdam” sign.  So many other people had the same idea, we ended up having to be aggressive and jumped in the middle of someone else’s picture. When it started getting dark we wandered over to the Red Light District.  This area was no longer suitable for children, to say the least.

The next day we had another early morning.  We wanted to make sure that we were close to the front of the line to get into the Anne Frank Museum, the actual annex where the family was in hiding for two years.  It was eerie to walk through the building and think this was their kitchen, this was her room, and this is where she wrote in her diary.  The last exhibit of the museum contained pages from her original red plaid diary, a collection of short stories, and even the beginning to a novel called the “Secret Annex”.  Her penmanship was flawless.  At that moment I wished that I could read and understand Dutch, so I could read a hand written passage right out of her original diary. 

After a costly trip to the museum gift shop we went in search of coffee.  There was no way that after another early morning we were going to be able to function without caffeine in our systems.  We got our coffees and headed over to Star Bikes, a budget bike rental shop.  This is when all the bike craziness happened.  To start, I haven’t seriously ridden a bike for 10 years. Then add my lack of bike riding with riding the opposite way on a bike path and you have a recipe for disaster.  After visiting the only windmill, we rode our bikes to the Hard Rock Café.  There was an hour wait, but once we had our enormous bacon cheeseburgers in front of us it was totally worth it.  After thoroughly enjoying our 5 pounds of red meat we headed back to the hotel. 

The trip to Amsterdam was great.  The city seriously has something for everyone.  We did everything from visiting Anne Frank’s house to getting enormous burgers at the Hard Rock.  Trips like this make me count down the days until my next off weekend!  Which is only two weeks away, I’m thinking PARIS!!

The hockey season is going well too.  Our team has actually been playing really well together. Two days ago we found out that one of our top import forwards Nadine Muzerall is heading to Minnesota, to be the new assistant coach at the University of Minnesota.  Which is great news for her, but bad news for us, because we are losing one of our top scorers.  But, assistant coaching jobs at that level don’t become available too often, so we couldn’t be that upset about her leaving.  She will be missed, but that just means the rest of us need to step our game in her absence. 

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