A few more from Amsterdam
In my last post about Amsterdam, I talked about our visit to the Rijksmuseum, which we loved. Here’s a rundown of some of the other things we saw.
Bicycles and more bicycles
Our hotel was just outside the center of town, about a 5 minute walk to the tram line running straight into the center of Amsterdam. This worked out well because trying to find parking in Amsterdam isn’t easy, unless of course you own a bike. I know this isn’t news but Amsterdam is literally covered in bicycles.
Bicycles e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e. Bicycles and scooters, in bike paths that are near or sharing the pedestrian areas. Each one of us almost got ran over by a bicycle at least once in our walks around town. It was a little stressful honestly, though I’m sure once you live there it becomes second-nature.
At one point, we were in the museum area between the Rijks and the Van Gogh, and a scooter flies by us in the walk lane. A cop happened to be on the side of the road, outside his car, and he actually tried to pull the guy on the scooter off his bike. We were all about 2 feet apart from this and I couldn’t help thinking it would have been really bad if the cop had been successful – the scooter would have shot off in who knows what direction. From what we saw walking around, we decided that the unofficial right of way goes something like this:
bicycles > scooters > pedestrians > trams > cars*
*with cars having the least right of way
We stayed in Amsterdam for 3 nights, including that Friday, which was D’s birthday! How sweet is it when you and your parents get to eat your birthday dinner together, even when far, far away from home? Here’s the restaurant’s special birthday dessert – an assortment of ice cream, fruit sorbet, and whipped cream:
D’s parents arrived the Wednesday before, at the Brussels International Airport. We met them there, rented a car, and drove north into The Netherlands. We stopped for lunch upon arriving in Amsterdam, at a place in one of D’s mother’s guide books, an Indonesian restaurant called Tujuh Maret. We were all a little travel-shocked, but with the waiter’s help we ended up sharing two orders the restaurant’s most popular item – the rice table. This consists of multiple small hot and cold Indonesian dishes, both vegetable and meat, and ranging in from mild to very hot, along with white and yellow saffron rice. It was good but a little too much production for a lunch. The restroom there was up the narrowest, turning stairwell I have ever seen.
After the first night at the hotel, we took the tram into town to the visitor center. We got an iamsterdam card, get it? “I am sterdam”, clever eh?
The card gives you access to most of the museums in Amsterdam, including the RIjksmuseum and Van Gogh, but it did not include the Anne Frank Huis. Darn. We got it anyway because it also included some attractions, and public transportation too. The cost is €33 for 24 hrs, €43 for 48 hrs, or €53 for 72 hrs.
We took the 2-day pass which was perfect for us.
After visiting the Rijksmuseum we got some lunch, it had started to rain so we decided to do a Blue Boat tour, included with our pass.
The Amsterdam canal system is the result of conscious city planning, seeing a map of the city makes that very obvious:
Anne Frank Huis
After the boat tour it had stopped raining, and though we thought we might be too late, we walked along the Prinsengracht canal to the Anne Frank museum. It turned out the museum was still open, extending it’s summer hours of operation, so we had plenty of time and no crowd. This museum is great. It’s sad to be there, but it’s real, and it’s crazy. I’m happy it has been preserved to serve exactly this purpose.
D’s mother and I both bought a copy of The Diary of Anne Frank, one in French and one in English. The paperback copy I bought here is the definitive version, which has 30% more content than the one I originally read in school. D took an interest in the book after we got home, so he’s reading it first.
Van Gogh Museum
The next day, we visited the Van Gogh museum, which, fittingly, holds the world’s largest collection of art by Mr. Vincent Van Gogh. I loved this museum. If I had to pick between Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh I’d have a hard time. They are completely different, first of all. Secondly, they cover the art in different ways. In the Van Gogh museum we see the progression of Van Gogh’s life and his art; they are definitely tied together. His story is sad, but also interesting and passionate.
I also realized while I was there, that the eye-catching novel cover of David Sedaris’s When You Are Engulfed in Flames, is Van Gogh’s Skull with Burning Cigarette:
Red light, etc…
After the museum we thought we’d go see the Oude Kerke, which is the oldest church in Amsterdam. We got there at 5:15 p.m. so we were 15 minutes too late to see inside. As we were rounding the corner though, we saw hookers instead. Ouch. Turns out the Oude Kerke is inside Amsterdam’s Red light district. We saw 3 rather large women, scantilly clad, inside their showcase windows. Okay.
D’s parents were tired by now so they decided to take the tram back to the hotel. D and I, well maybe more me, wanted to see more red light district. So we did. Nothing wrong with a little curiosity is there? We walked back into the area, which is quite large. I had read that it’s impolite to take pictures, and as I like my camera, I didn’t bring it out. It wasn’t really scary or creepy until we turned one corner and ended up in some very narrow, sketchy alleyways. The girls did look better here but at that point I got weirded out so we decided to leave.
Hmm, what did I leave out? Oh yeah… We did smell and see people smoking pot, numerous cannabis cafes, and souvenirs like green cannabis lollies, for example. I didn’t find it overwhelming, but we might have missed the best areas for those seeking this out.
Amsterdam was a super city to visit. My only advice: watch out for the bikes, or maybe get on one!