Friday, April 1, 2011
Must Love... Amsterdam
After begrudgingly packing our suitcases and reluctantly jumping on the high speed train that would carry us away from the beautiful city of Paris, our spirits brightened as we thought of the adventure that awaited us in eclectic Amsterdam.
We arrived at Centraal Station in the heart of Amsterdam and were greeted by old brick buildings, weaving bike lanes, colourful trams and bridges galore. We were also welcomed by the wind. I have never experienced anything like the gales in Amsterdam, they were relentless in blowing us forward, messing up our hair and making us feel like we were in a bad action sequence where every movement is shown in slow motion.
We spent our first night in Amsterdam mesmerised by the Red Light District. And yes, it’s exactly as the stories describe it. There are “cafes” on every corner, inviting you to take a bite of a legal hash cake or try the different flavoured joints all packaged up and ready to go. There are neon lights on every second building screaming “X Rated Sex Show”, as girls stand in their best lingerie, sending flirty kisses your way through the many glass windows bathed in red light.
It is a place where at any given time you can see nearly every nationality in the world; people walking past giggling, some on the search for the perfect high and others searching ravenously for something to satisfy their munchies. And they wouldn’t have to look far. The Red Light District is bursting with junk food. Huge hot dogs, greasy pizza slices, large Big Mac meals and Chipsy King – hot chips wrapped in a swarm of paper and squirted with mayonnaise and garlic butter. It is truly heaven.
But by the light of day, Amsterdam is completely transformed. It is no longer the seedy place where sex runs rampant; instead it is charmingly kitschy, creative and very scenic. We walked past flower stalls filled with tulips, stopped in at cute souvenir stores to stock up on clogs and windmill covered trinkets, and browsed some of the coolest shops we had encountered over the whole trip.
Breakfast was spent in a small café next to the Anne Frank Museum (the actual building the family took refuge in during World War II), sipping on hazelnut lattes and eating chocolate croissants. We then braved the massive line to be let into the museum itself and went on to explore the hidden annexes used so long ago. History briefs and personal quotes from Anne were pinned up on the walls, and my heart broke for the Frank family all over again as we saw her original diary on display and I took in how horrible it must have been to endure this radical injustice.
Another tram was caught and we made our way to the Van Gogh Museum, housing the majority of the artist’s most famous works, as well as those from his mentors and the painters who inspired him. I liked the set up of this museum, as it outlined how Van Gogh became an artist, and showed how his artwork progressed as he went through life, influenced by the cities he lived with and the people he became close to.
Amsterdam was a city of friendly people, rich history, lots of bicycles and a calmness that comes with flowing rivers running through its centre.