We spent our first night in Amsterdam docked in the city and after breakfast boarded buses for a full day excursion that includes a morning at the Riksmuseum, lunch at Doorwerth Castle and the afternoon at the Kroller Muller Museum, set in the midst of a national park, before meeting up with the Switzerland II further down the Rhine.
Amsterdam is known for its tree lined canals, great nightlife and shopping and its beautiful multi-lingual people, including our guide Greta whom we met this morning. As seasoned traveler I usually shun rubberneck tours on buses in favor of independent exploration; today, however, I was reminded of what a wonderful tool an excellent guide can be.
We drove by the sites of Amsterdam such as the Royal Palace and the Mint Tower before pulling up to the Riksmuseum. Amsterdam has over 50 museums and galleries, but the most comprehensive collection of 16th and 17th century Dutch paintings are here. The collection includes Rembrandts and Vermeers amongst others. Our tour also included the Delft collections. Had I not been in a group tour I probably would have lingered a little longer, but I do feel I got more value for the collections I did see because of the excellent guides and their ability to agily move us from one exhibit to another without wasting much time.
After our museum morning we headed out into the countryside, leaving Amsterdam. A little after noon we arrived at the 12th century Doorwerth Castle where we dined at the wonderful Bilderberg Restaurant. Doorwerth Castle lies about 8km from Arnhem. The castle dates back from the Middle Ages, was badly damaged in the Battle of Arnhem, and has now been beautifully restored to its original splendor. We crossed the moat into the walled castle and arrived at the restaurant itself which is in the carriage house for a lunch that sizzled our taste buds. Afterwards we explored the castle which houses three different museums.
We left the castle and drove for an hour or so to Hoge Veluwe National Park. Six years ago I spent a long weekend in Amsterdam when I was living in Hungary and came out to the Kroller Muller Museum and Hoge Veluwe National Park. It was wonderful! I rented a bike at the park's edge and rode to the museum, enjoying the fields of flowers in bloom. I missed riding the bikes this time, but the museum was no less impressive.
Started by Helene Kroller-Muller, daughter of a German industrialist, the museum houses an incredible collection of art collected by Mrs. Muller. It includes extensive works by van Gogh, Suerat, Picasso, Leger and Mondrian. The land was originally bought by the Kroller-Muller family and is now a national park. The museum was built in 1938 and an incredible sculpture garden was added in 1961. The garden, one of the largest in Europe, houses pieces by Auguste Rodin, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Richard Serra, Mario Merz, Jean Dubuffet and Claes Oldenburg. I love this museum! It is so relaxing to walk the gardens, the park and then stroll inside for a feast of art. Don't miss it!
By this time we had had a full day, so it was back to the ship, docked further downstream -- home. We were someplace new and yet, I didn't have to pack and unpack today -- everything was just as I had left it in Amsterdam! Ahhh.