A Dam Good Day

Amsterdam Travel Blog

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Beautiful store front

Damn the strippenkaart, damn the train schedule and damn the buses, for today we were tackling Amsterdam on foot (damn it!).  We would steer towards the Jordaan neighborhood first to reach the Anne Frank House before lines got too long.  Afterwards, Kim had a couple shops she wanted to steer towards, so for the most part it was to be a day of strolling the Dam.


Treading through Amsterdam in the morning is a delight…so long as you don’t tread on a bike path!  The multitude of canals lend an aura that makes it difficult to realize you are in a city, but pedal and pedestrian traffic can bring you back to reality in an instant.

A rosy facade in Amsterdam
  The biggest difficulty for us was purely that it is so unexpected to have hoards of bicycles whizzing about.  The bike paths aren’t consistently, conspicuously marked (e.g., I would have benefited if they were always outlined by yellow lines or something).  In addition, pedestrian paths seemed to be the ones that always got shortchanged –no merchant would dare set up a table in the bike path, but they would spill out into the sidewalk right up to the bike path!


The biggest thing I had to get used to was that bikes are silent stalkers…you can’t hear them and need to train yourself to always be on alert.  Especially at intersections, where an overtaking biker may need to turn across your path.  Not to make anyone paranoid, we adored walking about Amsterdam, just a heads up if you’ve never had to deal with this situation before.


So long as you are not getting run down, it is invigorating to walk in Amsterdam.

Yum, cheese!
  The motion of so many people in business suits, the elderly, the very young and everything in between getting around on two wheels is quite inspiring!  Against this hustling backdrop we made our way towards the Jordaan Thursday morning.  There was another restaurant, the Pancake Bakery, Kim had read about on Prinsengracht (same street as Anne Frank House), which we thought would be a good breakfast option before touring the museum.


It took us about an hour to reach the Anne Frank House and there was a line, but not too bad and we continued on several more blocks to the Pancake Bakery.  It was 10AM, but the Pancake Bakery was closed…they didn’t open until eleven.  Today’s lesson would be that pancakes aren’t just for breakfast as in America, lol.  So we flipped back around to discover our fifteen minute detour allowed the line to increase significantly.


Due to an exceptional lay out, however, the line moves quickly at the Anne Frank House.

The classic shot in front of the Rijksmuseum at the Museumplein
  The numerous visitors snake through many rooms and narrow hallways populated with displays (either mementos or artifacts with brief written documentation) and monitors with looping programs that were never more than two minutes long.  This arrangement keeps things in motion and comfortably moves the crowd along without feeling rushed.


The Anne Frank House is a somber experience.  Unlike her diary, the memorial seeps the tragedy of the holocaust into your bones.  There were two things which really struck me.  First was how the windows in the hiding place are still blacked out.  How incredibly sad to exist in a few rooms without ever leaving for several years, but to deny sunlight while enduring such a trauma is utterly tragic.  Anne’s bedroom still has the pictures she glued on her wall to “brighten things up” and they have posted an excerpt from her diary where Anne expresses her longing to move around outside, enjoy the sun and smells and to feel young again.  This from a fifteen year old…


There was one bright spot – they had a toilet.

Rijsttafel at Sama Sebo
  I remembered wondering how they disposed of waste and could only imagine they used bedpans which were emptied at night.  There is no mention of this in the diary and I assumed the move to the hiding place happened too quickly to have such a facility installed.


Once you’ve squeezed back out of the hiding place and beyond some further displays there is a mini theater area where short video clips play, posing provocative questions around tolerance (e.g., “should neo-Nazi’s be allowed to demonstrate in front of synagogues?”).  Every seat has a yes/no button and they present the results of the immediate poll for your room as well as the cumulative voting after each question.  The gift shop comes next and was a bit disappointing after everything before it.  There was little else here except for copies of Anne’s diary in every language imaginable.  After all the effort to stimulate feelings around respecting others, this should have been a great opportunity to exhibit other books which pursue this important topic.  As you may recall from my opening piece, I don’t feel Anne’s diary touches on that issue.


Kim and I departed, sad, but simultaneously gladdened by this legacy which attempts to keep fresh the perils of narrow thinking.


Now the Pancake Bakery was open, so we rebounded back down the street.  This restaurant deserves its own review, so you’ll find details (and pictures of really big pancakes) down at the bottom of this entry


The rest of the day was invested in tracking down a few shops Kim wanted to check out and we checked off most of the souvenirs we needed to pick up for family and friends.  It also allowed us to deepen our understanding of the streets of Amsterdam as we ventured all over.  Kim’s office started a fitness program last week so she packed along a pedometer, which indicated we had plodded around eleven miles today.


We wanted to walk through the Museumplein (where the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museums are) on the way home, arriving around 5PM, too late to check any museums out.  All that walking had us hungry though and we saw an Indonesian Restaurant, Sama Sebo which lured us into an encore of last night’s fare.  Another terrific rijsttafel, though the similarity to Jacomien’s preparation helped us appreciate just how authentically she prepares this ethnic dish.  Kim and I agreed that Jacomien’s version was tastier!  …and a lot less expensive, lol.


Back at CitizenM, I sent an e-mail to Agnes (aggieaggie), who we hoped to meet tomorrow.  Agnes’ beautiful pictures of Kinderdijk had enticed Kim and I to visit there and I promised to try and get together for coffee when we headed her way.  Unfortunately, our open itinerary didn’t permit much advance notice (we didn’t plan anything specific in advance so we could pick and choose depending on the weather forecast for the next day).  Although Agnes would be unable to meet us, I was glad I had shared our planned approach to Kinderdijk so she would have options of where to rendezvous.


Our intended route was to take the train to Rotterdam-Lombardijen and catch an hourly bus to Kinderdijk.  Agnes informed us the bus route no longer ran and suggested taking a ferry we could catch a little ways from Rotterdam-Centraal.  TreavBuddy to the rescue again!

vances says:
You know, Dan, baseball cards would let you know when they're coming...I may have to write the government and suggest a new law!
Posted on: Aug 01, 2009
rotorhead85 says:
Those bikes need baseball cards in the spokes. I hope to visit the Anne Frank home on my upcoming visit. Great blog!
Posted on: Aug 01, 2009
Aditu says:
Someday I would love to go to the Anne Frank home, it seems to me it's one of those places that people need to see in their lives. Great blog :D
Posted on: Jun 18, 2009
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Beautiful store front
Beautiful store front
Love those Amsterdam canals...
Love those Amsterdam canals...
A rosy facade in Amsterdam
A rosy facade in Amsterdam
Yum, cheese!
Yum, cheese!
The classic shot in front of the R…
The classic shot in front of the …
Rijsttafel at Sama Sebo
Rijsttafel at Sama Sebo
Amsterdam Restaurants, Cafes & Food review
The Pancake Bakery in Jordaan
Just a few blocks beyond the Anne Frank House in Jordaan lies a terrific place to enjoy the Dutch version of pancakes…but not for breakfast! The Pa… read entire review
photo by: pearcetoyou