Call this an upgrade of a previous post – it really did need some fine tuning. Amsterdam is one of my favourite cities to date and I encourage all to give it a try. A few days won’t hurt you.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
The promise to myself was that I couldn’t re-read Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman until I had this bad boy online… so here we are kiddies (I’ve yet to full re-read the book) and you can thank my numerous pagan deities if you will. I’m talking about Amsterdam, a city of wooden shoes, a serious and devout love for the bicycle and THE sexiest place I’ve ever been! Maybe it’s best that the little people don’t read this in depth.
Having made this stop towards the tail end of my big Dorito Tour of western Europe and Morocco, mostly because I had a friend in the Netherlands I’d promised to visit back in 2011, I can honestly say it was a decision wisely made. The original plan was to devote three whole days here after leaving Marrakech but I realised, in Madrid, that three days was me being cheap.
It was only once I’d landed at Schipol that I realised these changes were SO DAM WORTH IT! See what I did there? It was title worthy also.
The fact that most Dutch are bilingual and can speak fluent English was a huge relief; you might find that for the previous four weeks, my limited Spanish, French and Arabic could only do so much. Also, old girls at the train station returning from Peru are a valuable source of intel, just saying.
For a starting point, consider Dam Square because everything is easily reached from this point and a lot of walking tours depart from here. I found Dam Square a joy to walk through, and the odd group of anarchists going to town didn’t bother my much either.
Upon completion of my free walking tour, which had my considering how I benefited from the whole experience (I can’t understand why the guide chose THE noisiest places to speak at or to hold up a bottle of water to show us where to go – he was lucky to get my 5 euros) I was set to see the dam city for myself. There I go again; my second hostel has lot to answer for.
Amsterdam is a city built on water, or ‘re-claimed land’ as they call it, and this is a fact that immediately had my interest.
The canals I especially enjoyed so DO A RIVER CRUISE! The above mugshot is courtesy of a one-handed man who was all out to enjoy the experience (he told off the people who were making too much noise.
Galleries are in steady supply, such as the Van Gogh Museum which was a positive afternoon (I was unable to get any photos of the inside) except for the part where the Sunflowers weren’t on display.
This one, hopefully an image of the original (and sourced from Google) is what I’m talking about – I spent so many years in art rooms looking at this and I missed out!
But the rest of the museum was lovely to walk around.
And adding to that, the Rijksmuseum (see featured image above), which I was happy to learn would go on to be one of the shooting locations for Sense8 season 2.
That last one is a Monet, by the way.
Feeling safe here is a constant. I went out a couple of times at night which isn’t in my nature (more on that soon) so don’t be afraid to take those extra steps.
Now, I consider it a blasphemy to swing by Amsterdam without seeing the Anne Frank House. Seriously, I do. It’s one of those experiences that need to be had.
However, thanks to some poor planning I failed to book a ticket online several years in advance. However (yep, that’s the word of the day), thanks to a lack of sleep your good Sheep here was able to score the first spot in line which is a monstrosity of a creation.
However (don’t hate me now), the conversations with randoms were good (that is Ingrid and Vivian smiling back – they’d just got off the plane from Singapore) and free WiFi made the line all the more bearable.
Going through the house itself was one of THE most surreal experiences of my life, I kid you not. Whilst it’s almost been stripped bare of furniture and other homely features, one is almost left feeling there’s limited space to move around in.
One of THE most significant voices in history was spoken within those walls and I was definitely on edge about stepping out of line. Seeing the diary itself was jaw dropping and I made the decision then and there to read it. I’ve been following the education activist Malala Yousafzai for many years now and it was here that I made the obvious realisation that before Malala, there was Anne. The words of an opressed youth are a powerful instrument.
Very close to the Anne Frank House (and I mean spitting distance but don’t go doing that) you will come across the Homomonument stretching out over one of the many canals.
Whilst it’s no secret that the Jews were persecuted by the Nazis, it was up until recently that I’d learnt very little (at least to me) about what was done to the LGBT victims of the holocaust.
Amsterdam certainly isn’t shy about its pride (rainbow flags are in steady supply) and the Homomonument is its tribute to the men and women, of LGBT orientation, who were oppressed by Adolf Hitler. Please, if and when here, put some time aside to go see it.
Upon my return some coworkers, and even a few of the parents of the children I teach to swim, asked how my sex and drugs tour went. Did I or didn’t I try some weed? Having now welcomed this joke with a WTF look, especially when the parents are asking, I can say that I didn’t go dabbling.
Amsterdam is very laid back when it comes to prostitution and marijuana, a given and a prominent reason as to why so many tourists make the visit (I shared a dorm with several who kept going ‘I wanna get high’) and they reflect this with their souvenirs.
I did stumble into a coffee shop, Bulldogs it was called, and noticed bowls of brown stuff on the tables but that’s as far as it went. The Dutch aren’t in your face about it and for all it’s a choice. Hell, the Dutch don’t even like it I’d learnt. That said I am in awe of how easy it is for me to come across the stuff without even trying.
And here we are talking about the Red Light District. Originally it wasn’t at the top of my list before visiting. IT. WASN’T!
I’d found myself with so much time to use up though… and you’ll read about it in a future post (don’t blame me, I need content!)
This city WON’T disappoint. I’ve a history of spending little time in large settings, because I often get bored after a few days, but exceptions have been made. After my time here I’m ready to see more; the decision’s been set in stone. I want to keep going through the Netherlands one day because of how safe I feel there. Hell if I had the funds I’d live here and get a novel going.
GO. TO. THIS. CITY! I’ve never been more honest kiddies. Never!