Me on the viewing platform on the rooftop terrace. See the Schiphol sign in the background?
So I arrived in Amsterdam
on Friday June 12 around 7:30 am. After a frantic week and final 24 hours of packing and trying to finish things at the office I made my flight with plenty of time, only to be delayed by a thunderstorm. We had to sit on the runway for quite awhile but made up the time in flight so I arrived at my scheduled time. One of the students in the EMIL Program, Rachel, is a couple years older then me and we decided to go a day or two early together. I waited for her at the airport with some starbucks to help wake me up. They have a neat little waiting area on the roof of the airport where you can enjoy the sunshine, fresh air, and watch all the planes.
mural of the queen (I think) next to the palace in Dams Square
It helped ALOT with the jet lag because I didnt sleep much on the plane. My usual Europe flight process is watch the first movie, eat dinner, take sleeping meds at the start of the second movie, then wake up 6 hours later fairly refreshed. But, because we started late and hit REALLY rough turbulence, they didnt serve dinner until about 1/3 into the flight, killing my sleep plan. Finally Rachel arrived and after baggage delays we got ourselves train tickets into Amsterdam.
The 20 minutes ride was uneventful. We took a taxi to the hotel which was nearby, but too far to walk with all the luggage I have to carry for the program equipment. Thankfully my room was ready so we dropped off gear, got lunch, and came back for a 3 hour nap.
Doner Kebab and Coke light...only in Europe!
After showering we went out for dinner and to walk around Leidsplein which is one of the town squares where alot of people hang out in the evening. We watched street performers and wandered around the shops that were all closing. In Amsterdam, small amounts of marijuana can be legally sold and consumed in "coffee shops" (which dont sell coffee at all). Walking around town you hit walls of that potent smell all the time. Rachel and I didnt want to smoke but thought it might be a good chance to try brownies or what they call "space cakes". We were advised to only take a few bites and then see how we felt. So we ate half a muffin and waited, then ate another half and went shopping. An hour later I turned to Rachel and said "I think we just paid 6 euros to eat stale chocolate muffins".
boats and bicycles dominate the city
She agreed, we had a good laugh and we took it as a sign that it just wasnt meant to be so we gave up on the concept of coffee houses for life LOL.
Slept in on Saturday then as we were getting ready, we got a call from some of the EMIL students who had just arrived. We all had breakfast together and then 4 of us headed out to visit the city. Our first stop was the Van Gogh Museum. I was a little underwhelmed because it was so crowded you couldnt see anything and then only 1 floor of the museum was his work. The other 3 floors had his peers or something? I got the headsets which had insightful commentery and enjoyed the van gogh pieces then went and got a coke and waited til everyone else finished.
After that we went to the Heineken Brewery tour which was alot of fun.
shopping for diamonds with Rachel!
Its totally geared towards American tourists but they had several tastings, really insightful guided tours, lots of interactive exhibitions, etc. After no lunch and 3 beers we went in search of food as we headed out the door. Kebabs are one of my favorite european foods so we walked until we found a stand. Doner kebabs are pitas filled with shaved grilled meat (chicken or beef), lettuce, tomato, garlic sauce, spicy sauce, and sometimes cucumber. They can be really messy but sooooo delicious! We also got an order of fries 'frites pronounced freets' which in the low countries is served with a sweet mayonaisse instead of ketchup. We made it to the Gasser Diamond House just as they were admitting the last tour of the day. We saw how diamonds are extracted and then cut and polished.
beautiful flowers framing the doorway of a building
At the end they take you into a consulation room and show you lots of rings and make a big sales pitch. Everything was beautiful and I learned about cut, clarity, color, and carat.
Caught a tram back to the hotel and then napped until about 8:30 pm. Rachel and I wanted to see the Red Light District and were advised to go before 9:30 pm so we walked about 10 minutes to get there, saw what there was to see, werent really impressed or intrigued, and walked back towards the hotel to get dinner. It reminded me of Bourbon Street in New Orleans just with more nudity, more drugs, and less alcohol. Not really my style. But its a must see so now its off my list.
Sunday I slept in a little and then went to the Anne Frank house with one student.
Front of the Anne Frank House and the Vestkurk (West Church) that she would hear the bells chime from every hour while in hiding.
We couldnt get advanced tickets so we decided to walk over and at least try to get in since we wouldnt have another chance. As soon as we left the hotel it started to rain and I was caught without umbrella or jacket but we pushed on through the light drizzle. The wait was about 45 minutes but we just chatted away and took pictures of the canals etc. I am really glad we got in because that was my favorite thing in this city hands down. Its a really moving experience to see where these 2 families of 8 lived in 4 rooms for over 2 years, never getting to see daylight and having to tiptoe around. the museum is thoughtfully laid out with pictures, archivals documents, and video clips. The squeaky floors make you appreciate how hard it would have been for them to walk and make no noise so that the people working in the store below would not know they were there.
standing in an alley way in the red light district
No pictures are allowed so I cant share it all with you but it was great to see so many adults and children there learning what happened and able to connect such a horrible time in history with an actual person and situation.
After the museum we started walking back to the hotel via Dams Square. This is one of the central areas of the city flanked by the Royal Palace, Madame Teussauds Wax Museum, and a giant obelisk monument. I stopped and bought a pin (which I collect from every city I visit) and some postcards and then hurried back to the hotel to prepare for our afternoon lecture and cocktail reception this evening.
Overall impressions of Amsterdam are that its a beautiful city, thoughtfully laid out with the canals. Lots of bicycles because there is little room for cars. The trams and bikes make it very dangerous to cross the street because they make no noise! The more exotic aspects of the city such as the coffee shops and the red light district might appeal to some but its not my style. It was just smelly, dirty, and creapy. Nice city to visit once but nothing really pulls me to come again.
Meetings all day Monday and then Tuesday morning off to the port of Rotterdam
and then catching a train to Stuttgart Germany.