Bikes, bells, and beauties
Amsterdam Travel Blog› entry 8 of 26 › view all entries
I don't recall if I met her on the English side of the Channel or on the Continental side, but I guess it doesn't really matter.
Her name was Amanda and she was also travelling on her own. I hadn't even set out from Bristol a full day past yet and already I'd managed to find a nice companion to ride the rails with.
Amanda was American and we were both heading for Amsterdam. She'd arranged to meet a friend of hers there. His name was Peter and he had been living and working in Germany for some time so he was going to meet Amanda in Amsterdam and then take her back through Germany.
We chatted easily on the train, arriving at our destination some time in the afternoon.
Vincent van Gough has always been one of my favourite artists. I just love his use of colour and the wildness of his strokes.
The most impressive painting in the museum for me though was Rembrant's "Nightwatch". More so for the history of it's life and how some had tried to destroy it, than for any artistic merit.
We spent the afternoon wandering the vast Rijksmuseum and then van Goghs. It was cold outside so we weren't in any sort of a hurry to be back on the streets until we had to be.
When finally we'd had our fill of paint we wandered out and along the pavements. I kept hearing bells but it didn't register at all with me that I was walking along the side of the path intended for bicycles.
When they came at me from ahead it was natural for me to leap to the left to get out of their way (in NZ we drive on the left), unfortunately they also steered this way, and we shared looks of terror, but not injuries.
It took a couple of days for me to get used to that but there were so many bikes in Amsterdam I'm surprised they did so well to avoid me.
On our walk to and from the museum, Amanda and I also saw plenty of great street performers and sculptures. We stopped to enjoy those that took our fancy and edged our way around the crowds at others.
When we finally decided on dinner and to return to the YHA the light was quickly fading.
We spent a quiet evening sitting at a table chatting and catching up with some writing.
Next morning Peter arrived just after breakfast. He was a nice bloke too and we were happy to continue our exploration of the city together.
Our first stop was the Anne Franc's House. We wandered along the canals taking in the site of Amsterdam until we saw a crowd of people filling the footpath ahead of us. We'd chosen to get here early as we'd heard the house was very popular but it seemed we were still not as early as others.
We joined the queue and chatted as the line inched it's way along the pavement. Then we were entering.
Much is known now about the life of Anne and her family but until we made our way into the house I could never really get my head around the size of their living quarters. Even standing in the room there was an impression of size, but not for the number of occupants that would have to dwell here.
The idea of silence for the children must have been horrid too as the walls and floors would do nothing to stops the sound of a footfall.
At the end of the tour we watched a video explaining that there were regular searches of the building by the Nazis and I thought about the horror and relief as each of these began and concluded without success, until finally the hiding place was discovered.
Well worth the visit!
We made our wany around more of the city and as evening drew in we decided to explore the Red Light District.
Peter and I were called to by every tout as we passed each of the establishments offering "Live Sex Shows".
"This one's safe for the ladies" we were told, but I wasn't too keen to get in there and see if the man was right.
I must say I had my doubts about that. The pathways on either side of the main canal running down the red light district were filled with tourists making holiday movies.
In windows on either side and 3 or 4 stories high beautiful women, dressed in white lace were glowing under black lights in the hope of attracting an eagre punter for an hour.
We wandered up one side and down the other, then decided we'd go and find a nice coffee shop.
Of course Cffee Shop here means drugs downstairs. We wandered into a couple of them but the places just looked like drug dens so we kept moving.
We finally selected a place and I went up to order. As we looked at the board I scanned the place for a table and saw a couple of dudes shooting up in one of the darker corners. I mentioned it to the other two and we ordered coffee only, sat, drank and hit the track.