Amsterdam Stories and Tips

Day 1: Embarkation in Amsterdam

Amsterdam. Sights, sounds, smells and tastes are what I return home with. Over the next three weeks, they will mix and mingle into a crescendo of senses; but today, as I walk out of Amersterdam's Central Station and walk west into the Jordaan, I am confronted by silence. The morning rush hour is in full swing. The sound of silence is only occasionally punctuated by the ring-ring of a bicycle bell.

I sense that everyone is hiding somewhere nearby--that a whole city lies behind a closed door waiting to yell "surprise!" This is the city of Anne Frank. I am sure she knew this same silence on mornings when she was too scared to tip-toe in her attic for fear of being caught or seen by the unseen. The houses here have rearview mirrors in the upper floors, adjusted so one can sit in front of the TV and knit, while keeping track of the neighbors' comings and goings down below on the street. Such discretion might be advised for the prostitutes who sit in their windows and wait for customers.

I hear a new sound and look up. The apex of every roof here has a hook that's used as a pulley to lift furniture in and out of homes when moving since the stairways are too narrow. Although Dutch wives will tell you they use these hooks to lift their husbands to bed when they come home from the bar (whence the name, "flying Dutchman"!), I see enough being used this morning to know otherwise!

I find a gym and run off my jet-lag, then with map in hand, I start to re-explore one of my favourite European cities. It's spring so the tulips are in bloom and every corner finds buckets upon buckets of brightly-colored flowers being sold to passerby. Although I have been to Amsterdam many times, I have never visited the house of Anne Frank, so I decide that this time I will. It is haunting to go up the narrow staircases and see how small the rooms actually are. I am suddenly back in Mrs. Shadiow's eighth-grade English class reading The Diary of Anne Frank.

For lunch, I head over to Cafe in DeWaag which advertises its menu as "international cuisine with a Flemish twist." DeWaag was originally built as the city's gatehouse and the restaurant is within its turreted and sinister exterior. Inside a beautiful high-ceilinged, fairy-tale café is exposed.

After a leisurely lunch, ship embarkation begins, so I wander over to the station and look at the boats in the harbor. I see the Swiss II, walk over, and embark.

Ann Franks House (Princengracht 263, 9am-7pm)
Cafe in DeWaag (Nieumarkt 4)
A Bigger Splash (gym) (26-30 Looiersgracht)

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