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Old 28th May 2012, 16:36   #61
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Default Re: Travelogue – Country of low lands & the City of lights

Weekend in Amsterdam - Day 1

The first week in Netherlands flew by really fast, and the weekend was almost there in no time. Now, since my stay was only for 3 weeks which also meant that I had only 2 weekends, I had planned the agenda much in advance before my travel.

The 1st weekend I had decided to spend doing some major sight seeing in and around Amsterdam area (like I hadn't done much during the week already ). Plan was that one of my friends who was studying MBA in Paris would join me in Amsterdam that weekend. And the plan for the second weekend, you ask? Well, it would be my turn to travel to the wonderful city of Paris where my friend would host me and show around places. Perfect plan, I say! More about the Paris trip later; for now, lets talk Amsterdam!

We had a fair idea of what we wanted to do that weekend; it was definitely not to take a packaged trip! We wanted to make a list of places we wanted to see and then arrange them in a proper order such that we could cover them all in the 2 days. Of course the fact that I had a free pass and that my friend would also buy a 2 day pass would help us get to all these places. The initial list included these places of interest - Windmills (had not decided which place exactly), Amsterdam city center district, including Centraal, Red light district, Dam Square, Royal palace, Anne Frank Museum, a canal ride (if possible), SAIL boat festival and if the weather permitted, a beach. My flat mate and other colleagues decided to take a 1 day packaged trip of the city.

The weekend arrived, and so did my friend from Paris, on a Euroline bus. I had given him directions to my apartment from the bus terminus (Amstelween station). It was pretty easy; one had to take a tram which started from the terminus and get off at one of the stations which was like 100 meters from my apartment. On Friday, while I was talking to one of my colleagues about my weekend plans, they suggested that I visit Zaans Schans to see the windmills. Added that to my list. And that was also going to be the first place we would visit on Saturday. I had looked up the directions to this place and found that it was outside the city but there were public bus services available from Centraal.

By 9 am, I and my friend were on the road all set for our sight seeing experience. We took bus 91 from Amsterdam Central Station which has its terminus right beside the main entrance of the Zaanse Schans.

Zaanse Schans

The Zaanse Schans is an open air conservation area and museum, on the bank of the Zaan River, which has collection of well-preserved historic windmills and houses. It displays the traditional architecture of the area (green wooden houses) and has several functioning windmills and craftsman's workshops, which are open to visitors. The access for the open air museum is free, the wooden houses are mainly normal living houses. Most of the windmills can be visited for a small fee. You can also take a tour of a real working wind mill to see exactly how it works. There are many gift shops selling much of the same touristy things; which is a good place to buy souvenirs for folks in India. According to Wikipedia, the neighbourhood attracts approximately 900,000 visitors every year.

Here's some pictures of the wind mills; they are really huge unlike how they look from a distance. Noticed that people were getting their boats ready, perhaps to go participate in the SAIL 2010 festival.

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Old 28th May 2012, 17:05   #62
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Zaanse Schans - Inside the windmills

A visit to the Zaanse Schans would not be complete without the opportunity to explore a genuine working windmill!

Some trivia about the windmills from the official website of Zaanse Schanse (www.zaanseschans.nl)

Quote:
Revolutionary Invention
The cunning application of the crank shaft revolutionised the development of industrial windmills in the Netherlands. Cornelis Corneliszoon or Uitgeest, an inventor at the beginning of the Golden Age the principle applied for the first time with a floating sawmill in 1592. This process was so successful that timber production in the area rose by 3000 percent. With an abundance of wind and water and the close proximity of Amsterdam's important, global, commercial center the stage was set for the Zaan region to become the first industrial area in the world.
I decided to see one of the saw mills, called 'het Jonge Schaap'. Trivia about this saw mill from the same website:

Quote:
Sawmill 'Het Jonge Schaap'

A rare top-turning sawmill
Before the last top-turning sawmill in the Zaanstreek, 'Het Jonge Schaap', was dismantled in 1942 it was painstakingly measured. The measurements and drawings were archived making it possible to rebuilt it in the 21st century. The entire project cost in the region € 1,8 million and to turn a dream into reality the Vereniging de Zaansche Molen created Het Jonge Schaap Foundation.
In the spring of 2004 work began on reclaiming a small part of the Zaan on the Kalverringdijk between oil mill 'De Zoeker' and the windmill without sails 'De Os'. Building started in 2006 and the cap and sails were added with great ceremony in February and March 2007. The building of 'Het Jonge Schaap' was completed in September 2007 and is now in full production.
You may also watch a video which shows the history and evolution of these wind mills. Here's some pictures:

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Old 28th May 2012, 17:42   #63
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Zaanse Schans - Traditional Dutch Wooden shoes

A small and interesting collection of many types of both old, original clogs and new artistic version of clogs are on display at Zaanse Schans. Every ten minutes or so there is a live demonstration of modern machinery clog making (dutch wooden shoes). I was also able to capture a video of this demonstration, which I will upload later.

Personally, I cannot imagine how people could walk wearing these wooden shoes; they are interesting nevertheless and you can buy them as a souvenir.

Live demo of the shoe-making process; the whole thing takes less than 5 mins!

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There was a big gang of tourists from China; they had a guide who translated everything for them

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Me trying out a pair of shoes. Perfect fit, no?

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I bought a pack of Tulip bulbs for one of my friends back in Bangalore. Those bulbs never grew in spite of them taking utmost care in sowing them. I think I should have bought these wooden Tulips instead; they would still be fresh today

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More pictures, shoes & shoes everywhere!
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Old 28th May 2012, 18:02   #64
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Zaanse Schans - Cultural performances

There were some music, dance and other performances on display the day we visited Zaanse Schans, probably because it was a Saturday, and also because of the crowded holiday season. There were also ladies dressed in traditional outfits selling some craft items. I appreciate the teenage kids who were doing some traditional dance, something which most other teenagers these days that I know of, would consider lame.
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Old 28th May 2012, 18:42   #65
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Some more of Zaanse Schans

Cheese Farm De Catherinahoeve

This replica of an original farm from the village of Oostzaan was built in 1988 and has been converted into a cheese farm. Different types of Dutch cheese are made here daily. Best of all is that you get to taste different varieties of cheese, and the entry is FREE. I bought some Parmesan for my sister, who loves cooking Italian food.

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You can also pet the goats that wander in the back yard.

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Albert Heijn Grocery Museum

The grocery store/museum of Albert Heijn here gives you an idea how the first grocery around 1900 was set up. This was the first store of Albert Heijn, currently the largest supermarket chain in the Netherlands. I was interested to see the museum given that I visited one of their stores almost every day for some or the other shopping needs.

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You can imagine how tiring it can get when you have to walk around so much. Well, so decided to grab some delicious ice creams which will keep me going for another few hours... or until I spot the next store selling some snack

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I wasn't going to be satisfied with just one!

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Did some shopping from the souvenir store.

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The Bakery Museum

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The Antique store

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The Museum of the Dutch Clock

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The Diamond Factory

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The moment I spotted a store selling some nice chocolates, the ice creams which I had consumed a few mins earlier were forgotten! Picked myself these Pastilles extra dark chocolates; all finished in a matter of few mins!!

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Some more pics from the neighborhood

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We were finally done with Zaanse Schans, and really enjoyed the experience! It was now time to get back to the city. Some pictures clicked while waiting for the bus.

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I wanted to capture that funny little red car; but clearly underestimated its speed!

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More of the city attractions to continue in my next posts... In the meantime, thanks for reading!!
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Old 28th May 2012, 23:24   #66
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Zaanse Schans - Some videos

As promised in my earlier posts, here's some videos from Zaanse Schans.

Kids doing the traditional dance



Videos of the Shoe making workshop and live demo







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Old 29th May 2012, 11:16   #67
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Default Re: Travelogue – Country of low lands & the City of lights

Hello Chikkars,

First USA & now Netherlands.

Thanks you so much for giving us virtual tour of parts of the USA & now Europe. You narration is really good & it was hilarious to read that d-o-p-e incident. Also the tour inside Wind Mill was really great & informative.

Anyways carry with your story telling & photo sharing & we will do what we do best - Read & enjoy your Travelogues (& experiences in foreign land).

Thanks,
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Old 29th May 2012, 13:53   #68
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Hey, thanks Jignesh for reading the TL and for the feedback! Hope you like remainder of the TL too.
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Old 29th May 2012, 18:33   #69
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We were back in the city by approx 3 pm, after spending almost half a day at Zaanse Schans. Next on our list was to visit a few museums at the Dam Square neighborhood and go for a canal cruise later in the evening. Before visiting a museum, we decided to check out the scene at ongoing the SAIL 2010 boat festival near the harbor, which was just behind the Centraal station.

The SAIL festival was in full swing with thousands of boats and ships of all sizes participating in the event. The SAIL Amsterdam event happens in August, every 5 years which attracts literally thousands of sailing ships. You can find all types of ships such as tall naval ships, smaller heritage ships, replicas of large ships; thousands of smaller yacht and boats filled with spectators also come there to greet the other participant ships. People can visit these ships, just like we did, for four days free of charge. Seeing them sail near the old city of Amsterdam, gives a lasting impression to a visitor. I was indeed lucky to have my travel coincide with this festival.

In this picture you can see several small boats

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Next we proceeded towards a huge building close by, which was Nemo Science museum. This building is popular for NEMO Panorama terrace on its roof with deckchairs. The terrace is open during summer months, and access is free - you just need to climb up the steps or take the lift (like I did). It's a good spot to lounge around and enjoy the view of the Museum Haven, lovely waters around, and the beautiful surroundings. Although the Europeans were all enjoying the weather and soaking up the sun, it felt a little too hot for me.

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I was lucky to find an empty deckchair right next to the fountain/flowing water thingy. Spent some time giving my feet some much needed rest!

Next on the agenda was to visit some museum. Museums in Amsterdam are among the main tourist attractions, with over 50 of them. Anne Frank museum was on the agenda for the next day, and Madame Tussuad was ruled out because I'd read it wasn't very good here and was also not value for money at 27 Euros. We did nevertheless visit an interesting museum, details about which I cannot discuss here.

A couple more pics from the afternoon

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Old 29th May 2012, 19:14   #70
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The City Canal Cruise

We decided to take a canal cruise to get an entirely different perspective, seeing the city from water. Naturally, Amsterdam is at its most beautiful from the water. You keep discovering new buildings, bridges, several other small boats filled with people celebrating holidays, and of course the floating houses all lined across the canals. Amsterdam has 165 canals with a total length of 100kms! There are a number of tour operators offering a variety of canal cruise experiences – from open-top sightseeing by day to romantic candlelit dinner cruises.

We bought our tickets for a one hour cruise departing from from near Amsterdam’s Centraal Station. The cruise started at approx 8.45 pm when the sun had still not set. This was the last scheduled trip for the day, and we wanted to make sure we take this one so that we get to see the city after sunset, the bridges and the building all lit up.

Houseboats

Some of the finest and costliest examples of houseboats can be seen along the canals of Amsterdam. They are very expensive because of the limited number of moorings, and there are approximately 2,400 families that live on the inner waters. The house boats are full fledged, in that they have electric and gas connections and so on. Some pics of the typical house boats:

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Notice the time? Sun has still not set!

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More pics from the cruise; traffic was very heavy because of all the smaller boats which had descended on the canals. In some places with sharp curves and where there were boats coming from the opposite directions, our boat had to reverse and make way.

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Overall the canal cruise was good. However, my friend was not impressed, because he was comparing it with the cruises in Paris!

Anyways, after an eventful day we were dead tired by the time we reached home. However, my other colleagues, who got to spend the day with much leisure were still in full spirits and in a mood for some masti. Pizzas were ordered, which was followed by a game of Charades and then Antakshari!! The apartment which otherwise was occupied with just the 2 of us, was tonight filled with 8 people. I was keeping my fingers crossed hoping none of the neighbors complained of all the shor sharaba; and luckily nothing of that sort happened. There was total mayhem and madness; but super fun! Finally, after much pleading I was let go to sleep at 1 am, because unlike them I had to wake up early again for another day of sight seeing!
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Old 30th May 2012, 23:44   #71
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Weekend in Amsterdam - Day 2

We were up early in the morning all geared up for another day of city sight seeing! First up on the agenda was the Anne Frank House. Let me give you some trivia and history about this place.

The Anne Frank House is located on the Prinsengracht canal in Amsterdam. You can either take a 20 min walk from the Centraal station, or conversely hop on to a tram and get off at a place called Westermarkt.

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The museum is dedicated to Jewish wartime diarist Anne Frank. Anne Frank is a Jewish girl who had to go into hiding during the Second World War to escape the Nazis. As well as the preservation of the hiding place and an exhibition on the life and times of Anne Frank, the museum acts as an exhibition space to highlight all forms of persecution and discrimination. The Secret Annex is the rear extension of the building which was concealed from view by houses on all four sides of a quadrangle. Its secluded position made it an ideal hiding place for Otto Frank, his wife Edith - Anne Frank's parents, her elder sister, and four other Jewish people seeking refuge from Nazi persecution.They remained hidden here for two years and one month until they were anonymously betrayed to the Nazi authorities, arrested, and deported to their deaths in concentration camps. Of the hidden group, only Otto Frank survived the war.

After those in hiding were arrested, the hiding place was cleared by officers and all the remaining contents including personal belongings were seized as Government property and distributed to bombed-out families in Germany. The tiny room (secret annexe) measuring about 500 square feet is still preserved and forms part of the museum. This is also the place where Anne Frank wrote her journal which was later published as "The Diary of a young girl". The diary was retrieved by Miep Gies (family friends), who gave it to Anne's father, Otto Frank, the only known survivor of the family. The diary has now been published in more than 60 different languages, the English version of which I recently bought.

My experience - I had read about the notorious long queues at the ticket counter; so we were there by 9 in the morning to beat the rush. If you are not one of those keen on history, this place may not excite you. It was unbelievable to comprehend how a family and friends shared the tiny space in hiding behind a bookcase entrance which was made to conceal their annex. One can still feel the atmosphere of the era this family experienced this horiffic account; it was all a little dramatic to imagine.

Some pics of the house

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By the time we were done with the tour of the house, this is how long the queue had gotten!

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Some pictures from the neighborhood.
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Old 31st May 2012, 15:05   #72
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Weekend in Amsterdam - Day 2

From the Anne Frank house, we continued our walk through the historical center with places such as Dam square, which is famous for notable buildings and frequent events. The Royal Palace is also situated in the west side of Dam Square, opposite the War Memorial and next to the Nieuwe Kerk.

Amsterdam has a rich architectural history with a few buildings displaying Gothic architecture. Also, several of these buildings still exist because the city did not get too many of the WW2 bombings.

Notice that most buildings are brown or brick colored in Amsterdam, where as in Paris (you will notice later) they are mostly beige.

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It was a breezy morning with a pleasant cloudy weather; I could see several such boats filled with people enjoying their holidays!

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Notice the cars parked on both sides of the canals? Well, because of the slopes hundreds of cars have fallen in to these canals each year. This forced the city authorities to put up barriers in the form of small poles.

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The Royal Palace. We were not very keen on going inside.

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Pictures from the Dam Square. There was this funny circus kind of a performance from a guy happening at the square. He was hilarious, and had everyone in splits with his funny antics!
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Old 31st May 2012, 15:49   #73
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Weekend in Amsterdam - Day 2

We were soon back at Centraal and took a small break to decide where to head next. We had seen almost all of the places we had on our list of must see places, except for the Van Gogh museum which my friend was keen on visiting. But the museum was at Museum square which was away from the Centraal area. We decided to do it in the evening on the way back home. Which means, we still had a couple of hours on hand to see some more places. Took out the city guide and quickly looked up to see if there was anything interesting around. I noticed there was a beach which was at a 45 min tram ride distance from Centraal. Well, we had seen the canals and the rivers, so thought we'll also take a look at the beach.

In a few mins we were on the tram traveling towards the Blijburg beach. We got off at the last station and then had to take a long walk (2-3) kms through a silent residential neighborhood which had no people around. We kept walking and walking and finally arrived at the beach hoping that it was worth the long walk. But sadly, the beach looked deserted and there were hardly any people around. Anyways, we thought we'll just rest for some time on the sands before we head back to the city.

A hop on hop off bus at Centraal

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Entrance to the breach

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The silent sea

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There was some photo shoot going on, probably for some kids apparel brand

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Disappointed with the beach we decided to return towards the city...

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And, just then I noticed a group of bikers who came down on their huge BMWs and Harleys!! This made up for all the disappointment at the beach.


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Old 31st May 2012, 17:56   #74
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Default Re: Travelogue – Country of low lands & the City of lights

Weekend in Amsterdam - Day 2

Back in the city from beach after a "not so disastrous" experience (thanks to the super bike display), we reached the Museum square neighborhood.

Notice the mini bus? One of the several shuttles which takes you to all the tourist attractions.

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Clicked a few pictures at the large I amsterdam letters at the Museumplein, in front of the Rijksmuseum. These letters have become an icon of the city and are a much sought after photo opportunity.

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My friend went ahead with his museum visit, why I lazed around at the lawns.

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Time to get going...

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We soon arrived at this busy junction (cant remember the name) which was buzzing with many activities

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There was a large group of people looking at some performance, which got me curious as well.

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This was it, very entertaining!

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There were all kinds of artists showcasing their skills

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Which way to go??

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Okay, lets take a stroll in the Vondel Park

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The holiday mood everywhere was very nice to see

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Well, the day was getting to a close and we had to rush back to the apartment because my friend had a night bus back to Paris. I could not wait for Friday already, when I would be heading to Paris!!!
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Old 31st May 2012, 20:00   #75
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Default Re: Travelogue – Country of low lands & the City of lights

Excellent narration. I did a day tour of Amsterdam once while I was in Bonn in late 2008 or early 2009 I don't exactly remember. Since it was only a day tour it was pretty rushed and we did only the highlights as time could permit. Including the one below which you cannot speak of here

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Originally Posted by chikkars View Post
We did nevertheless visit an interesting museum, details about which I cannot discuss here.
Know that very well. My friend finally pulled me into this museum as compensation for not going for a certain show in a certain district . I confess the whole experience was so hilarious. Now waiting for pictures from the rest of your trip.
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