Amsterdam in three days. Nutsy. But we loved it.
So maybe we tried to pack in too many things… And maybe we weren’t so great at our time management. But we did a lot and explored a lot and had a great time. Lots of window shopping, lots of food (we declined the kangaroo burgers at the Australian restaurant, though), a few museums, and touring the city. And no, we did not go into any “coffee shops”, though they were everywhere, and the whole alternative culture was overwhelmingly present in that city. 🙂
The famous architecture really was stunning, and along the many canals we saw countless tall and narrow buildings with colored brick, painted trim, and beautiful details that gave each house a unique charm and personality . And I have never in my life seen so many bikes in one city. (No photos to fully prove this at the moment, but I promise. It’s crazy.) 🙂
It rained a whole heckuva lot while we were there. When we had brief sunny breaks here and there we would immediately take all our photos, and then the water would pour down again and we’d run for cover. This led to some fun shop and museum discoveries, and many delicious snacks (poffertjes, stroopwaffles, and cheese, to name a few…), so no complaints here.
We found ourselves at the Amsterdam Tulip Museum’ which had a full history of how tulips became such an important part of Holland’s identity. (Did you know that the tulip is originally from turkey and the name comes from the same word they used for the Turkish turban?)
Next door to the tulip museum was the Cheese Museum. A bit smaller and most of our time was spent sampling cheese. 😀
We found little discount tickets to things at our hostel and one was for Sara’s Pancake House, so of course we had to go. 🙂 It was a little pricey but the crêpes were quite good (I had a walnut caramel one and my sister had a pineapple banana crêpe), and it was fun to get a photo outside of me grinning ridiculously at ‘my’ pancake house (same spelling and everything)!
We took in an open mic night at an Irish Pub called Mulligans: we just couldn’t turn down free entertainment, especially not Celtic music. 🙂 Three young guys from Ireland were the main performers and sang such gorgeous harmonies we were in heaven. The lead singer was on an acoustic guitar, they had an acoustic bass and a mandolin. A percussionist on a box drum (forget the real name of it, sorry) and a guy on a hand drum rounded it out, and then part way through a fiddler came in to join them. It was absolutely fantastic!!
We checked out the famous floating flower market, and found tulip bulbs, fresh flowers, seeds and more souvenirs, but it wasn’t too exciting for us- perhaps if we were avid gardeners… 🙂
We went to the Rijk Museum of Art, which had a huge collection of art from the 1200s-1800s. One thing I noticed that I have never before seen in such a classic museum was that every piece of artwork had a description under the usual artist/title/material sign. It often said what the artist’s intention was, or what the images symbolized, and as a non-art-history major, I really appreciated that. It completely enhanced my experience. That, and some giant post-it notes around the museum with commentary from two modern art-history students on the art and the collections there.
We then had to get some shots by the I AMsterdam sign (as one must do when one is in Amsterdam), and then we headed to dinner, which ended up being at an Australian grill where we got burgers. Not very Dutch, I guess, but there were delicious. We opted for beef, and not kangaroo, (no, I am not joking)…. we just couldn’t bring ourselves to being that adventurous… 😛
We had tickets to go on a walking tour of the Red Light District but we were misinformed as to where our group would start out, so we actually missed it. We tried tagging along with another tour company for a few minutes, but they kicked us out rather quickly. We walked around the area for a bit after that, and then headed to our next evening event: the Amsterdam Ice Bar. 🙂
We had seen posters about the Ice Bar and wanted to go, so made reservations for 10:30pm. The main bar is like any other, with music and drinks and bar seating (and maybe some bear skin rugs and giant polar bear and penguin statues)… And when your reservation time starts they give you giant parka ponchos and matching mittens, and lead you into a smaller room at the back of the bar that has ice sculptures, frosted walls and ceiling, and a mini light show. You get two drink tickets for inside the ice bar, and the options of Heineken, vodka or whip cream flavored vodka with orange juice. You get your drinks in ice glasses, and you only really want to hang out in there for long enough to have two drinks before you want room temperature again. It was really fun, and a totally unique experience. We then got “Amsterdammed” drinks in the main bar (cranberry-something-delicious), and headed home for the night, as the next day would be packed with Van Gogh museum, Anne Frank House, and a canal tour.
We wanted to see the Anne Frank house before we left Amsterdam and decided to brave the long line up to get in. We arrived during a torrential downpour. We were already around the block from the entrance to the museum so I wasn’t too optimistic about how much patience I had for over an hour wait in the pouring rain. The rain slowly tapered off after about 45 minutes of heavy pouring, and then 30 minutes of continuous drizzle, and the sun poked its head out of the clouds. It was at this point we had moved about 15 meters. But we persevered, had some hot chocolate from a well-placed local little shop, and made friends with the people in line behind us, a woman and her sister from Copenhagen, and a girl from Dublin. While we were in line, a busker played us some amazing Vivaldi on violin, and the church tower near us played some amazing ‘popular’ music for some time before a musician on a tiny boat in the nearby canal started playing a trumpet. Then all of a sudden he and the church bells were playing to each other, and we found out the bells in the tower were being played live by a musician up there. This went on for quite some time and was brilliantly entertaining! (And obviously, not the first time they had done this.)
In the end we were in line for over 3 hours!!! We agreed that the museum was worth it. It was unbelievable to walk through each room in the home and hiding place of Anne and her family and see short videos of her father, one childhood friend, and one of the staff who helped hide her family above her father’s business talk about Anne and what it was like during the war, and the impact her diary and writing have had on the world.
Because of our 4+ hours at the Anne Frank house we didn’t make it to the Van Gogh museum. 😦 Since a canal tour had been so highly recommended to us we did that as our last excursion in Amsterdam as our night train left the main station at 7:00pm. We were looking forward to seeing the streets we had already wandered around from a different perspective, and get some history on the city. Going past all the house boats and barges was my favorite part. I would imagine it would be fun to take a tour in the evening when the city is all lit up.
Well, Amsterdam, it’s been a whirlwind three days! See you again!