Aug 3, 2012

Cheekiemonkies in Netherlands: Day 4

The Castle

(Daddy recounts)

When I was doing my research on kids-friendly places in Amsterdam, I stumbled onto a find which I knew would highly interest the 2 boys. It was a medieval castle and after I told them of it, there was no chance we could exclude it from our itinerary.

And so, Day 4 would be the day where we laid siege to the castle. But since it opens on 12pm during weekends, the wifey got her chance to pay the flea markets a visit first.

The good thing about Amsterdam is that it is a rather small city - only about a third the size of Singapore. So it is very convenient to reach most places in the city on foot. And going on foot means that I got to soak in the beauty of the canals every time we crossed one.

The Noordermarkt is a flea market, which offers a enormous range of goods from antiques, second-hand clothes, toys, silverware, books to even the odd painting.

Or perhaps the odd hat or two. Erm, make that many hats.

But that wasn't exactly what we were there for. The real reason we trotted there on an early Saturday morning was because of the Organic Farmers Market, which only mushrooms every Saturday.

The market carries a variety of organic produce - bread, meat, fish, cheese, mushrooms, herbs, oils and of course, all the fruits, vegetables and flowers of the season.

Although we didn't buy anything, we were already contented with the riot of colours and smells abound in the market. Pity I didn't ask if the stall holders offered any produce for sampling or not. Heh.

At this point, the boys were getting rather impatient. So it wasn't any wonder that they religiously echoed that it was getting late already, and that the castle would be closed by the time we got there. In a bid to save our eardrums, we succumbed. So off to Amsterdam Centraal railway station we went.

Amsterdam Centraal railway station is THE hub station of Amsterdam, so it was mind-boggling just trying to figure out which train line to hop onto. In order to get to the castle, we had to take a 15-minute train ride, followed by a 15-minute bus trip. Pretty do-able I reckoned.

Well, the public transport was do-able alright. Except for a tiny problem - the castle was a further 20-minute walk away from the bus stop! Which the castle's homepage conveniently left out.

But kudos to the 2 boys, they soldiered on nary a complaint. It sure helped that the weather was super cooling. If this happened in Singapore, I would be the first to protest!

Finally, Amsterdam Castle Muiderslot beckoned!

Well, at least the magnificent sight of the castle, complete with a moat, more than made up for the long journey.

Muiderslot was built in 1285, and was part of the Defence Line of Amsterdam. The castle in on the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites, and never mind the boys, I myself was struck with awe as we entered the castle's courtyard.

For 1 euro, kids will be able to obtain a Children's Quest booklet where they have to go to various rooms around the castle for stamps. Which is a good way to sustain the boys' interest, I figured.

As we entered the castle, we explored the various knights' halls which had been restored to look like they did in the 17th century.

One particular thing which fascinated Ayd was the medieval version of our toilet.

He was tickled that there wasn't any water or flushing system, and that all waste were discharged into the moat below.

We then embarked on the Knight’s Route which took us to the Western tower, the highest point of Muider Castle.

All I can remember was we had to climb a lot and a lot and a lot of steps to reach the top. And for the most part of the journey, Ale was insistent on climbing the narrow and tall stairs on her own!

So it was a relief (and breathless too!) when we all finally reached the apex of the tower.

There was also a dungeon where prisoners used to be tortured and decapitated. There were pictures on the wall depicting the various punishments meted out for different offences, like cutting off the tongue for telling lies. And these got Ash spooked and he scooted out of dungeon soon after. No such problem for Ayd though; he even wanted to try on the cuffs!

Our final part of the castle journey was the Armory, with a stunning armour collection.

I think the boys, and even Ale, enjoyed this section the most as there were many hands-on and interactive exhibits for the kids to explore. Like playing dress-up in period clothes.

Or trying out pieces of heavy armour, and sharpening one's aim through crossbows.

The highlight though, has got to be the jousting exhibit, where the boys got onto mechanical horses and took on each other in a jousting competition via a projection screen.

3.5 hours flew past just like that, and soon it was time to head back. I was already dreading the tired cries of protest from the boys but to my surprise, they didn't complain (much). I think ice-cream make good bribes.

Not even Ale minded. Well, she was in a baby sling throughout the journey but never mind that. Heh.

Sure, our legs threatened to disown us by the time we were back in our hotel room. But at least we had tons of fun exploring a castle. Bring on Day 5! :)

See MORE photos of our Day 4 Adventures in our Awesome Amsterdam album on our Cheekiemonkies' Facebook page here:

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