Towards the end of our Europe trip we stayed with our friends, P & J in Netherlands and went on a day trip to Amsterdam. Though many may argue that this was a very short time for such a big city, but this was ok with us and kind of worked out better in the end.
Since we visited this city at the end of our trip, we noticed the stark differences here vis-a-vis the various other cities that we had seen. While every other city was beautiful, clean and presented its best foot forward to show off in front of us; Amsterdam had no such pretensions and showed us exactly what it is. It’s very inviting with its beautiful canals, some amazing museums, and architecture but at the same time it’s also very disturbing with the attitude of people around, the run down look of some city centric areas and the “in your face” red light areas and the sex toy shops.
Hence I feel that this is a city of extremes, either you really like it or you just don’t.
As we were staying in Vaals, which is a 2.5 hours drive, we started the trip very early and drove to Amsterdam. We parked the car at the outskirts and then took a train to the city centre i.e. the main station.
Here the first thing that we saw were the beautiful canals and the rickety swaying / leaning long thin houses. These houses are quite thin and long and inside they have really small rooms and long leg breaking stairs. These houses are standing right at the edge of the canals and I didn’t see a single house that was standing straight. Also, I can bet that on especially windy days, they must be definitely swaying.
We then started our tour by walking around the centre and exploring the Royal Palace, the New Church and the Old Church and the other small shops around. We had seen a lot of palaces and churches by then so didn’t see any paid sections and just saw the free ones. Near the Royal Palace there is a kind of square with a war memorial and a lot of people dress up in costumes depicting various characters and put up acts. For a small fee, you can see these acts and get pictures clicked with them.
We then walked along the canal belt to the Anne Frank Huis, a place I had long wished to see. I had first read this book — “The Diary of Anne Frank” 15 years back and since then had always wanted to see the “Secret Annexe” that had hidden these families. We had booked the tickets in advance and hence immediately entered. This is a typical long thin Amsterdam house with small rooms, steep staircases and a small gift shop. They have put televisions and notes on the background story, the history with dates and also marked the actual rooms from the book. You can see all the rooms, the attic and also the original diary. If you have read the book and then see this house, you find it really moving and actually feel sorry for that family and this small child who didn’t survive to realize her hopes and ambitions. If you haven’t read this book, then you can always pick up a copy of the same in the gift shop, as they have it in nearly every language. I loved this place and recommend it to everyone who visits Amsterdam.
We then walked out to see the main city and do the most touristy thing of Amsterdam – click pictures near I AMSTERDAM.
In Amsterdam, we had decided that we will visit either the Rijksmuseum or the Van Gogh museum. Unfortunately the Rijksmuseum was under renovation so we visited the Van Gogh museum. The queue for these tickets was too long and we could have spent the entire afternoon just standing there,when we came across a board that said that we could buy these tickets from the jewel museum just across the road. So we went to check that and actually bought the tickets from there at the same price and with no queue. So, always keep your eyes open for such signs. We then spent a beautiful afternoon along with Van Gogh on the journey of his life through his paintings and their subjects. Though I don’t understand much about art, I still recommend a visit to this museum to everyone. After an afternoon here you will definitely start understanding some bits of art and also see the beautiful original paintings of Van Gogh. And once you step out of the museum there are these small shops from where you can buy the reproductions of these paintings, postcards and T-shirts. We bought loads of postcards from here.
We then spent the afternoon walking around the red light district, the china town and the Vondelpark. Though I found the red light area quite disconcerting I think it’s still worth a visit if you are interested. However we loved walking around the Vondelpark with its English style gardens, water fountains and lakes with swans.
When you walk around this city you tend to notice the following 3 things –
1. Canals – These literally run through the whole city and you can walk along these canals and wave to all the people taking a boat ride.
2. Cycles – There are cycles all over the city, in fact you can also call it the city of cycles. We also heard that the best form of revenge here is that you just come one night, steal the cycle of your enemy and throw it in the canals. It is also said that if they were to ever empty all canals someday then they will find layers and layers of cycles underneath the water. I found this fact quite interesting.
3. Cannabis – When you walk about in front of cafes here you smell a strange smell wafting all over. Well that’s cannabis. Interestingly smoking tobacco is prohibited in cafes in Amsterdam but smoking cannabis is allowed. Any adult can try this.
Hence I call Amsterdam the city of 3Cs – Canals, Cycles and Cannabis. 🙂
We then shopped for the standard souvenirs of wind mills, the dutch clogs in various forms of key chains, fridge magnets, chocolates etc. Was a lot of fun. We then ended the day with a long drive back to Vaals.
I know we missed a lot of other things, but I guess that’s for my next trip. 🙂
Tips for the Trip –
- Always book your tickets for the Anne Frank Huis and the Museums in advance, else you waste a long time (at times upto 2 hours in the queue). Also the Anne Franke Huis is very small and allows only limited number of people inside in one slot.
- If there is a long queue for any museum, just check out the boards around the place because the same tickets might be available in a nearby place with practically no queue and the same price.
- This city is the only city in our itinerary that I have heard is not able to maintain the hostels, so please be careful before booking your accommodation.