Amsterdam surprised me. I didn’t expect it to be so charming and welcoming. But when I arrived in this beautiful capital city it didn’t take long for me to appreciate the locals’ warm welcomes and all-round helpfulness. The canals were so lovely, it was hard to keep my eyes from wandering to all the beautiful buildings and waterways in order to avoid being hit by one of the many bicyclists.
Without further ado, this is how I spent my 48 hours in the lovely Amsterdam…
Hannah and I arrived in Amsterdam around 6am on an overnight bus (more on those in a later post…) from Paris. After finally figuring out how to buy a ticket for the tram to take us to Centraal Station and then our hostel (the machine didn’t accept cash or our cards, so we had to pay the conductor himself), we settled in at a Starbucks for some free Wi-fi and planning time. We dropped our heavy backpacks off at our hostel and set out to explore the city. After finding that the Anne Frank Huis had quite the line, we spotted a cheese museum right across the canal. Jackpot!!! There were free samples of every kind of cheese imaginable… Red cheese, blue cheese, green cheese, aged cheese, cheese I’d never heard of… You name it, it was there. And with samples. Hannah and I perused the “museum” (sample heaven) and ended up buying a smoked goat cheese for a future picnic.
The rest of the evening Hannah and I simply explored the canals and tried our best to orientate ourselves to the city. We called it a night early, exhausted from getting no sleep on our overnight bus, and headed back to the hostel around 9 (lame, I know!).
We had planned to wake up in time to get in line for the Anne Frank Huis before it opened…..but slept in a little. Oops. We went straight there from our hostel, though, and waited about 2 hours in line to get in. Truly worth it though. The museum/house was touching and actually made me pretty emotional. I was stunned when I realized that once we got into the museum, nobody was talking. I could feel the respect and emotions from all the other visitors, it was amazing. You know it has to be powerful when it stuns a group of tourists silent. At the end of the tour through the house, we got to see her actual diary. For me, that was the most powerful part of it all.
Being in Europe, in the places WWII and the Holocaust happened, makes it all the more real to me. My heart hurts that this could have ever happened. But the best way to build a future is to learn about the past. Thank you, Anne, for your beautiful and witty recount of your life in such a difficult time.
Okay, on to less emotional topics. After the Huis we needed a little pick-me-up, so we did what always makes us feel better: retail therapy. The Waterloopein Flea Market was exactly what I was looking for. There was a good mix of touristy souvenirs, vintage items, and random junk. I love random junk. I bought a compass and a small present for my dad, but could have walked out with a lot more souvenirs if I had more room in my backpack. However, I still have 17 countries to go and a lot more souvenirs and gifts to purchase. I have to keep some room in there. What I really wanted were Dutch clog slippers, but those would never fit in my bag. So sad.
Hannah and I sat on the edge of a canal right by Waterloopein for almost an hour after we finished shopping. It was such a beautiful day out and it was nice to watch the boats pass by and reflect on our time in Amsterdam.
We then bought supplies at the supermarket (Marqt) and had ourselves a picnic in Vondelpark, a surprisingly large and beautiful park just outside city center, and right near our hostel. My favorite part of the picnic was also one of my favorite parts about Amsterdam: Stroopwaffels. YUM. I don’t even know exactly what they are, but I think they have some sort of molasses in between the two thin waffles. Either way, they’re just delicious. I need to find this in the US…somewhere…anywhere…
Hundreds of young locals were sprawled out on the lawns, having their own picnics, guitar jams, and ….hookah sessions. In Amsterdam you can pretty much do anything, at least compared to the US. The one thing I really didn’t like about the city was the frequent whiff of a certain smoke I’d smell while walking down the streets. To each his own, however I choose not to do it. I really don’t have an opinion on Amsterdam’s law, but as far as I could tell the city was extremely peaceful and had no obvious problems. Maybe the legalization had something to do with this? Who knows.
We then found the famous IAmsterdam sign behind the Rijksmuseum. There were tourists climbing all over it, trying to get the best shot possible. I just had to take my turn.
After taking some touristy pictures with the letters we went for a quick glance at the notorious Red Light District.
It was still pretty light out so it probably wasn’t as bad as it gets at dark, but I was still stunned by what goes on there. Needless to say, it wasn’t my favorite part of the city, but it is still an important part to at least see in order to get the full picture of Amsterdam. A lot of people there were doing what one of the cows in this Ben & Jerry’s sign I saw is doing…
It was getting late, so we ran back to our hostel to grab our backpacks and catch the tram to our bus station for Berlin. Of course I read my email ticket confirmation wrong and thought we were departing from Amstel Station. So we get there, look around, can’t find any buses, ask the people at the Burger King, and realize we’re at the completely wrong station. We also then realize that our bus leaves at 11:15, not 11:30. Being that it was already 10:45, we were panicked. The kind people at Burger King told us which metro line to get on in order to get to our new station at Duivendrecht. We hurry up and buy tickets, at which point I realize I don’t have my phone. I run back to the seat in the station where we were sitting earlier… no phone. I run back to Hannah right as a girl is giving Hannah my phone. I guess she saw me leave it there. Thank goodness for nice, honest people!!!
So, we get on the metro at 10:58. Our tickets say that check-in closes 15 minutes before departure. Nuts!!! When we get to our stop a few minutes later we run down the stairs, following all signs that say “Bus.” I really don’t know how I did it, running down stairs with a bad knee and a super heavy backpack. Adrenaline is my guess. We got to our bus just in time. Thank goodness. Now I know to always double check everything. That was way too much stress for me.
Overall though, I loved Amsterdam. I felt like two days was a perfect amount of time in the city. We didn’t get bored, but we still had time to relax in Vondelpark and wander aimlessly to our pleasing. We got in all the sights we wanted to see. I was worried about the language barrier but unlike Paris (where almost everything was still in French!), Amsterdam’s restaurants and people all had/spoke English. Which is great because the Dutch language looks crazy to me! It sounds cool but, at least at first glance, I found no similarities to English. I found the city pretty easy to navigate using GoogleMaps and just delightful overall.
Amsterdam gets an A+ from me!