Am I in Amsterdam?

Amsterdam Travel Blog

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Tuesday, 20th November 2007

We didn’t actually need to get to the airport until about 3pm in the afternoon, but I guess that’s the beauty of being on this side of the planet, because we were in Amsterdam in the same amount of time as it would have taken us to get from Sydney to Melbourne. We managed to find our way to the train station and get to central station when we realised that we hadn’t brought a number or address for the hotel, and only had written directions and no clear map. But after some bickering and asking for a lot of directions we managed to find our way onto the right tram, heading in the right direction, and by 7.30 we had actually made it to the hotel!

I’d like to make a quick plug here, we booked our entire trip through Ezyjet holidays, and the hotel was amazing, it was only 3 stars, but we got a massive continental breakfast every morning and the room was really nice, pretty easy to get to from the city, and night busses ran to the same spot, and we were only paying about £10 each a night, so HEM hotel was definitely a thumbs up.

So by now the salad we had had for lunch was definitely bearing a hole in my stomach, but the gas at home had been off for nearly 2 days so we needed to shower and change before we headed back out. Because our tram tickets had expired in our adventures we decided to walk down and see what we could find. We walked from the hotel along a series of bridges over canals where we found a little deli and got some pasta and then kept on walking. We later found out we almost had walked to Cornelius Schuytstraat which was a bit more happening than where we were, but wearing my boots all day was starting to get to me so we headed back to plan the next few days.

Wednesday, 21st November 2007

We managed to get up at a reasonable hour get ready and fed, all without the help of an alarm clock. We ate our fill at the buffet, packed a rucksack and headed off into the city. The trams were a godsend for us you can jet around the city all day. We went into Centraal Station and bought travel passes for the next 72 hours.

From there we headed to the Anne Frank Huis, the place where Anne Frank and her family hid out from the Nazi’s in World War II. The hideout was constructed in 2 of the floors of Otto Frank’s warehouse / office, so during the day the 8 people hiding there could not make any noise as the workers below carried out their daily activities. The Frank family and the Van Pel family hid in the annex from July 1942 till August 1944 when they were betrayed and taken to concentration camps, where everyone but Otto Frank was killed. The house was opened as a museum in 1960, and has now been expanded into a large museum and monument to the Frank family.

After the Anne Frank House we managed to find our way to Plantage Kerklaan where we went to Verzetsmuseum (the Dutch Resistance museum), where we explored the Dutch resistance against the Nazi’s in the Second World War. It was a pretty sombre read, but I think by the time we get home were going to know everything there is to know about the holocaust and the people it affected. Near the museum was the Zoo (we decided not to go see it) and the botanical gardens, but it was a bit too dark for either by this time, oh the joy of a European winter.

We then went on a massive exploration walk of the streets of Amsterdam; we found ourselves at Rembrandt square, where there are a number of cafes (which we would call pubs) and coffee houses (the world famous kind). The square is also full of stalls selling all sorts of Dutch sweets so tempting… there is a monument in the square that has been recreated from a Rembrandt painting, of warriors. We then found this amazing pedestrian mall all decorated with lights and lined with shops where we spent most of the afternoon (as well as much of the next few days). We walked through Kalverstraat and into Dam square where the Royal Palace and Madame Tussadd’s are. When we had finally walked all the way back to Central Station, we decided we should head off on a canal cruise.

The cruise left from the front of central station and made its way through the city’s network of canals, through the harbour and back. The Amsterdam harbour is the second biggest in the Netherlands, there are ferries that carry passengers and their bikes across everyday as part of the public transport system. We passed NEMO the science centre made in the shape of a giant boat; it also has a pirate ship that is a replica of one stranded off the coast of Fremantle. There are around 3000 house boats permanently in the canals of Amsterdam, the city is at its full houseboat capacity. They are connected to the cities power and water supply, and soon the cost of owning a houseboat will increase because they will be connected to the sewage system of the city. We went down the Gentleman’s Canal which is the wealthiest part of Amsterdam, and also one of the oldest parts of the city. Here the houses were very narrow and around 3 stories tall, they could be identified by the gables on the top of the house, and often wouldn’t have house numbers. The rich people would buy adjacent houses so they could have more room, and sometimes they would make one their place of business. There are around 400 houses with matching gables, known as twins and triplets. We also passed the mayors house, which is renowned for its striped pillars. There are 2 towers that can be seen in the canal that are the remains of the wall that bounded the city. We got some dinner then settled in a pub to watch England lose the football. I didn’t really feel like going out after so we headed back to Leidersplien to soak up some atmosphere before heading home.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

We accidentally slept in today, ah that will teach us to not set an alarm, but we still managed to get up, fed and out early enough. We went to Museumplien and booked a day trip for Friday. We then jumped across the road to the Van Gogh museum, Van Gough was 27 when he decided to become an artist, and he was living in The Netherlands. Between 1880 and 1890 Vincent made more than 800 paintings, and 1000 drawings, the museum in Amsterdam houses more than 200 of these, spanning his entire career. It was pretty amazing to see the progress of his art from amateur caricatures to the post modern impressionism he is famous for. The museum was actually huge, it had art from a range Van Gough’s inspirations, as well as a whole section on Japanese art, and his own works.

After the museum we headed back into town, through Vondelpark, then we made our way to NEMO but decided it wouldn’t be the best way to spend the afternoon, so took some photos and headed back. We were headed to the Heineken brewery but hopped on the wrong tram and got completely lost in the middle of the suburbs, it ended up being ok because the brewery was closed for renovations, so we walked back towards the Albert Cyup Markets and wandered around in the dark until we came across the Flower markets and the Torture museum, which was a bit creepy. We dashed home for a quick change and pre-drinks before heading back to Liedersplien for dinner and some drinks at a bunch of different places around the square. It wasn’t actually a really late night because there was plenty to do tomorrow.

Friday, 23 November 2007

We had asked for a morning wake up call that never came, but luckily I’m developing some sort of insomnia that wakes me up many, many times in the night and we got up and got out by the ungodly hour we needed to be at the coach stop for. We were doing a KeyTours tour of Edam and the windmills. The coach left from Museumplein and took us to the outskirts of Amsterdam, our first stop was the Jacob Hoeve cheese factory, where our host showed us how edam cheese is made. It is coated in plastic and wax so that it can be kept for years. Edam cheese was never actually made in Edam, but in many small towns around there, and sold in the Edam markets. It was delicious, there were so many different types made from cow, sheep and goat milk with flavours added and plain. We then headed through the smallest town in Amsterdam; it has only 240 people until in merged with the 3 surrounding towns. Our second stop was the costal town of Volendam, most of this part of Holland is reclaimed land created by dams blocking the flow, and the water being pumped out by the hundreds of windmills that used to be dotted in the landscape. The coast in Volendam is created fro these dams, and used to be filled with salty sea water, but over time has been replaced with fresh water. The next stop was the tiny little town of Edam that we walked through in about 20 minutes. The final stop for the day was the village of Zaanse Schans, the home of 5 windmills, 3 of which were on that day. We saw a traditional clog making display where modern techniques make clogs in about 5 minutes out of really fresh wood, and then headed into the windmill, which was used to saw logs. It was really windy and cold as we walked through the fields across to the windmill, but that just meant the mills could work at a faster rate.

When we got back into Amsterdam, we headed back to the hotel for a change before heading out for dinner. Then we went off in search of the red light district. Now cam and I had been lost lots of times in Amsterdam already, but managed to find ourselves again because the city is one big semi-circle, but the red light district proved to be the hardest thing to stumble across, until we did for the first time and then we couldn’t seem to get away from it. On the way we saw a few gross things, but the worst was the public urinals basically a big plastic bucket with little walls on the sides for guys to pee in, I was grossed out to say the least. The red light district was not as bad as I thought it would be, the streets were lined with girls in windows trying to convince the guys leering at them to come in, and then every few shops there would be a live sex show, or a normal pub, you go around a corner and your on a strip of shops and restaurants, turn another one and your back in sex shows. I wasn’t very comfortable walking around there, but it was so busy nothing was going to break out in the crowds. The girls mostly looked bored, made you feel a bit sorry for them, and some of them were quite old. We walked around the city for a bit longer and then decided to head back to the hotel.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Our last day in the Netherlands, it was a bit sad when we checked out of the hotel and caught our last tram into the city, we managed to find a baggage storage at central station and then spent the rest of the morning walking around the cafes and shops near central station. We grabbed a quick bite and figured out how to catch the train back to the airport. Before we knew it we were on the bus heading home from Edinburgh airport, planning what we would do next time we see Amsterdam!

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photo by: pearcetoyou