Written by gwynethmarta on 26 Nov, 2008
Snowy, rainy, freezing cold and grey. Regardless of the season or weather conditions, Amsterdam is always full of people - locals on bikes and distracted tourists crashing with bikers. I was of course the second one, clumsy tourist with her nose in her map walking…Read More
Snowy, rainy, freezing cold and grey. Regardless of the season or weather conditions, Amsterdam is always full of people - locals on bikes and distracted tourists crashing with bikers. I was of course the second one, clumsy tourist with her nose in her map walking on bike paths instead of sidewalks. I seriously think I was being protected by some force majeure which stopped me from being run over a zillion bikes!This time Amsterdam welcomed me with just a few Celsius degrees above zero and a freezing drizzle. It didn’t stop me, however, from going out of the apartment I was staying at and exploring the city. What amazed me was the outstanding amount of people who, just like me, seemed not to care about these rather harsh weather conditions. I’m lucky, I thought, it’s not summer. Otherwise I would most definitely be run over by one of the million bikes locals use even more during summer months. Winter in Amsterdam definitely has its charm. Even though my hands were freezing and I had to break icicles that grew out of my nose numerous times, I was enjoying a wintery magical scenery of Amsterdam. During my one-and-a-half-day-stay in Amsterdam, I haven’t visited many regular tourist spots, but decided to purchase a 24 hours I Am Amsterdam card which gave me several discounts on transportation, museums and tours. Since my trip was a last minute thing and I was driving from nearby Brussels, I wanted to book a hostel one day before. I actually found a really charming Amsterdam houseboat located right in the center of the city and thought it would be quintessential for my stay in a "canal city" but it wasn’t available on the last moment, so I had to call my friend from Amsterdam and convince him to let me stay in his tiny apartment. My friend ended up giving me the keys to his apartment as it surely would not fit me, my boyfriend and him. As much as I loved his generosity of letting us stay at his place, I couldn’t believe how much people are willing to sacrifice. I guess it’s similar to New York, where people pay 1,000 dollars for a room of a size of my closet just to live in Manhattan. The apartment I stayed in consisted of one very tiny living room, kitchen slash shower and a toilet behind the sliding doors. Very steep ladder lead to a rather claustrophobic attic with a mattress and no windows. There was also a heater which is another story. My friend educated us on how to use it and even executed this knowledge by conducting a small test. I wasn’t surprised though. To turn on the heater, you had to light up a fire by following a rather complicated procedure. It worked though and at 4 am I had to go down the steep ladder to turn it off, it was so hot! Another thing I found funny were… mice. When I told my friend that we bought bread for breakfast, he said I should guard it in the microwave; otherwise it will be consumed by mice. I actually thought he was just joking until I came back to his apartment at night and discovered his bread in a microwave. As you can imagine, I burst out laughing. So, besides enjoying the Christmassy atmosphere of Amsterdam, we also took a night boat cruise. It ended up being a really nice experience, mostly because the boat was heated and we could learn some historic facts about the city’s architecture and canals. One of the things I remembered was the story about hooks that every Amsterdam house has to be able to place furniture in it through windows due to very steep and narrow staircase. We took almost the whole day visiting the Van Gogh museum that I found excellent. Except of Van Gogh’s works, it also displayed several world-famous works of other impressionists. Van Gogh’s paintings were showcased along with his biography which made us understand better his inspirations and motives. The biggest attraction of the museum, however, was the weather outside. I’m guessing snow in Amsterdam is not as frequent and all the tourists gathered by the museum’s windows to take photos of this nature’s phenomenon. We ended our stay with a visit to an Italian restaurant La Madonna which was full of hungry foreigners just like us. Service was excellent and food even better. After some Minestrone soup, garlic bread and pasta with salmon, we couldn’t wish for more. Although we were stuck in an hour-long traffic just outside Amsterdam, the beautiful image of snow-capped bikes and white cobblestone streets of this magical city had me smiling all night long. Close
Written by ripplefan2 on 21 Aug, 2007
Talk about an experience! The Heineken Brewery Tour (www.heinekenexperience.com) is something that you should stop by and try. Even for those who are not drinkers the tour is great. The tour is cheap and very informative, followed by intense periods of drinking (and for those who…Read More
Talk about an experience! The Heineken Brewery Tour (www.heinekenexperience.com) is something that you should stop by and try. Even for those who are not drinkers the tour is great. The tour is cheap and very informative, followed by intense periods of drinking (and for those who don’t drink, I can guarantee that someone else would love to drink for you). The cost is 11 euros per person and the tour lasts for about an hour and a half or so. You are given five different tokens, four being for drinking and one for redemption of your free gift at the end. You are able to walk through the different brewing methods such as walking through empty brewing barrels, seeing the different ingredients in their different stages and then seeing the final products.
One part of the tour that is great is a ride that they have that explains how the beer became the beer that beer. You have to wait in line until your turn is up, but then they walk you into a room and there are three or four old wooden carriages stationed in front of giant TV screens. You are strapped in and then everyone leaves the room except for the strapped in souls. The carriages then have hydraulics that turn on and the carriages feel like they are really moving. It’s pretty cool. We then moved on to the videophone area where you can send video cards to friends and family from the factory. You can either send pictures or videos. The problem is that the line for the video messages is so freaking long that it is easier to send the picture message. The room is also a creative setup with an arched entrance lined with Heineken bottle caps and a Heineken keg drum set.
After spending almost an hour waiting for the videophone, we finally left and hit up the first bar on the tour, and guess what they serve! The next area is the advertising area. Here there are large comfy benches with TV’s propped above it with constantly looping advertisements that Heineken has played. You may have to wait a while for a chair since a lot of people fall asleep while watching and enjoying the air conditioning. But, after waiting and finally getting a chair, the ads are hilarious. They also explain the "smiling E" on the labels and how the president of the company did this to help enrich the beer and its image. (Look at a bottle next time and you will notice that the "e" is off centered to resemble a smile.)
The final attraction on the tour is the famed drinking den. The designers of the brewery were ingenious in their planning of the layout. They placed the bar right next door to the gift shop. You can get drunk and buy stuff you don’t need. And God knows I did. But back to the bar now. Here hoards of people line up with their remaining three tokens and try to get drinks. The bartenders pour thousands of gallons of beer in the matter of minutes and ask for your token in return for a glass of beer. However, when the place is really crazy, you can just keep walking up to the bar and grab as many as your hands can carry. This is exactly what we did until we were finished in the bar, then received our complimentary (although we paid for it in the admission fee) gift.
You can also ask people who aren’t drinker’s for their extra tokens and they gladly give them away because they have no idea what to do with these tokens otherwise. When you find yourself in Amsterdam, try to take some time and head over to the Heineken Brewery and have yourself a day. And don’t forget, it's better in Amsterdam than anywhere else in the world.
Written by Vicho on 04 Aug, 2007
You may just aimlessly wonder around or join me on this true story walk that will not miss anything important on Amsterdam night life.Lets start opposite the central station. Here you will find original medieval sluice that still function. Closed by used to stand Schreiers…Read More
You may just aimlessly wonder around or join me on this true story walk that will not miss anything important on Amsterdam night life.
Lets start opposite the central station. Here you will find original medieval sluice that still function. Closed by used to stand Schreiers Tower; many women cried here as their husbands were departing for years long trips. Those whose husbands died on the voyages had to support themselves and that’s how prostitution started blooming in Amsterdam. Sailors stopping here after a long voyage could finally get here what they were dreaming about for long months on the sea. Women and Drink! Not necessarily in this order.Take the Zeedijk Street (sea dike) you will be walking along the system of dikes that protected the city from the sea. Don’t miss the "in den Aepjen" (in the monkey) café; it is one of the two only remaining wooden houses in Amsterdam. Here sailors used to drink to get more carriage for seeking other pleasures of life. Some of them were encouraging themselves that much that at the end of the night they had no money to pay the bill. One sailor was asked to bring the monkey from traveler in stead. Many others liked that way of paying and soon place become full of monkeys…and lice. Can you imagine that?
House stayed, but life monkeys are gone now, just a Dutch saying - you spent the night in the monkey (meaning: you are in trouble) is still alive. So don’t spend the night in the monkey, too much spirits doesn’t elevate your spirits. Head south along the Voorburgwal canal to the old Church. This church from 1250 is beautifully lit and hides such a treasures as organ and pulpit from 1640 or a grave of Rembrandt’s first wife Saskia.Letting your eyes enjoying the beauty of this old building make sure you don’t turn round, your eyes would fall on something else-old as well, but nowhere near to be beautiful.Old Church is at the edge of the red light district so all around you are really unhealthily looking creatures in the so called sexy underwear. Interesting view, but I would not touch any of them with a stick of the broom. So how come they have clients?
Ah, I see now, the coffee shops are the secret to the beautiful woman in the windows. One joint for 3 euros, can make a woman worth 80 euros look like one charging 400. Well let them to it if that’s what it takes and lets go together to see real culture of night Amsterdam.
Amsterdam has many theaters with programs adopted for foreigners. We decided to see the musical Rembrandt. At the theater we got the headphones that abbreviated what is going to happen in the breaks between songs so we could perfectly follow the story. Musical had a really high quality and we were pleased to close the evening this way.
Written by ripplefan2 on 18 Jun, 2007
I know what you are thinking. The city that is full of purveyors of pot, connoisseurs of cannabis and controllers of kink, what the hell could this guy write about that I haven’t heard already? Nothing at all. I am just going to inundate you…Read More
I know what you are thinking. The city that is full of purveyors of pot, connoisseurs of cannabis and controllers of kink, what the hell could this guy write about that I haven’t heard already? Nothing at all. I am just going to inundate you with more tales of depravity and destruction but I’ll throw in a couple stories of fun and excitement.
Last year three friends and I set about on trip that traversed through the lands for Europe for a couple of weeks. On our travels we decided that we had no other choice than to make a stop in Amsterdam. Unlike most travelers, we didn’t stay in a hostel; we actually had a friend staying out of the actual city near the Heineken Stadium. If you have a chance to stay outside of the center of the city, PLEASE RECONSIDER. Outside of the city is very strange and if you do not have your wits about you, you can easily be robbed. I would recommend that you try to stay near the Red Light District area, but not directly in the heart of it.
On our first day, we went to the Van Gogh Museum (www3.vangoghmuseum.nl/vgm/index.jsp) located next to the large park in the center of the city. The museum was unfortunately closed the day we went (some stupid reconstruction stuff) so we made a day of it in the park. Right smack in the center of the park, there is a sculpture set up that reads "I Am Amsterdam." So we all got together, stood in front of different letters and did a couple of panoramic shots, so when we developed them, we could put them together and spell it out. But be careful in the park because the entire city is a biker’s city, meaning that people of bicycles are riding everywhere. They don’t care; they will run you over with out a second glance. I actually saw one of the coolest devices I have ever seen; a collapsible bike. This bike folds up around the small tires and is as big as a briefcase. Upon returning home, I saw this folding bike craze spread throughout New York like wildfire.
After our day in the park, we headed off to the Heineken Brewery. Please, if you are in Amsterdam, stop by this place, it's great. We then headed off the lurid back streets of Amsterdam to find the famous Grasshopper Coffee shop. The Grasshopper Coffee shop (www.coffeeshop.freeuk.com/Database/ShopsA/GrassHopper1.html) is the tourist hotspot for people who want legal pot. It is a bit on the pricy side, but the pot is great. You can borrow bowls, pipes, bongs or papers and just sit and have a good time. They also have seeds and large quantities. One thing that is really strange is they have these coins that you can buy as souvenirs that used to be used in Amsterdam to verify people were old enough to drink. They would buy these coins, then, when they were out, they would give these coins to the bartenders and the rest is history. You can see why this is no longer practiced because anyone could get a coin and then party.
We then walked over the many bridges that connect the crescent shaped city like a series of veins. On our travels, we came across the many impromptu street fairs and fresh fruit and plant markets that encompass this unique city. Along one of these street fairs, I noticed something very odd. On the outside of a building, there was a pulley system setup from the roof with a giant couch suspended from a rope. This system is applied on every house in Amsterdam because the houses are narrow, these hooks were setup to help people move their furniture in without having to worry about the stairs. It is really weird and I wish that my camera hadn’t died so I could have taken a picture of it, but when you’re there, you’ll see.
Our final night in Amsterdam was spent by having a sunlit boat ride on the river while hearing the history of this old and historic city. The guides are very informative and funny and it is totally worth the 20-euro fee. This included two drinks and then of course the tour. There are plenty of these boats around the city and you can grab one of these anywhere as long as you get there early enough. We then headed in the famous Red Light District. Here is one of the strangest and semi-uncomfortable neighborhoods I have ever been in. There are scores of women standing in windows with men walking in and out all night long with the curtains in front of this windows opening and closing like a public bathroom door. It is rather a disgusting sight to see because every man in the area seems to be ok with it because some were waiting for their friends to come out so they could go in. It's really a disgusting display, but maybe not for everyone. I wouldn’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, so if that’s your thing, enjoy. Please don’t let my opinion influence your feelings about Amsterdam. Otherwise this is a city filled with fun, drugs and even sex, so bring your smoking lungs, a plethora of condoms and a charged battery for your camera.
Written by Vicho on 01 May, 2007
Recommended: Buy at the historical museum the pocket-sized book, "The Secrets of Old Amsterdam", or just follow the walk with this journal.The name Amsterdam was derived from the dam in the Amstel river, built in 1170. The square formed around the dam became the heart…Read More
Recommended: Buy at the historical museum the pocket-sized book, "The Secrets of Old Amsterdam", or just follow the walk with this journal.
The name Amsterdam was derived from the dam in the Amstel river, built in 1170. The square formed around the dam became the heart of the historical town. Lets start our tour right here at the Dam square (main square, no one can ever miss it). The impressive building from 1653 in front of you is called Royal Palace which hosted the city government. Next to it, is a well-worth-visiting New Church built in the late 14th century when Old Church became too small. A big change of the interior design happened after the 1578 prohibition of Catholicism when a new pulpit had to be placed in the church. A new protestant pulpit was done by sculptor A.J. Vinckenbrick and it took him 16 years.
Follow south Kalver Straat to poetic stop at Beguinage courtyard where the English Church takes you back to 1150 when the first unmarried woman settled here to help the sick. Later on, they started to be called Beguines. Most of medieval houses were replaced but the one at number 34 has a preserve wooden façade from the 15th century. The gravestone of the Beguine Cornelia Arents is right on the pavement you walk upon as she refused to be buried in the no-longer-Catholic Church. Apparently, her grave is still decorated with flowers every second May since she was reburied here in 1655, any other day you have to be really patient and observant to spot her gravestone. If you come here, you will also learn about the miracle of Amsterdam that supposedly took place here.
Stop for a cup of coffee to relax a bit and refresh your senses as the tour will continue through the prettiest parts of Amsterdam in the Day-Time Walk (Part 2).
Written by Vicho on 27 Feb, 2007
Refreshed? Lets go on then!From now onward, the walk continues around romantic canals, reflecting tall colorful buildings at any time of the day. All buildings are tall because taxes used to be based on the width of the building. Why they are so colorful I…Read More
Refreshed? Lets go on then!
From now onward, the walk continues around romantic canals, reflecting tall colorful buildings at any time of the day. All buildings are tall because taxes used to be based on the width of the building. Why they are so colorful I don’t know, but it looks really good. Stop at the Velvet rampart, this is the oldest canal in the city dug between 1342 and 1380. Just rich families originally lived here, dressing always in velvet, hence the name. At the corner of the Oudezijds Voorburgwal, the Archterburgwal and Grimburgwal is a proud of 17th century renaissance: The house on the three corners with three beautiful step gables.
Continue through Oudemanshuisprt (tiny street between the houses) till the next channel (Oudezijds) and turn right-south to follow it till Staal Street. This area was well known for cloth industry. For many years Rembrandt’s last great group portrait "The wardens of the Amsterdam drapers" hung in one of the houses in this street. This area is supposed to be the prettiest part of Amsterdam. Its blue bridge and skinny bridge keeps inspiring generations of artist for centuries. Return to Oudezijds and follow it to the north. The NH Doelen hotel used to be a tavern where militiamen would eat and drink. To make the place more cozy, Rembrandt’s 1642 painting the "The Night watch" hung here. On your right you can see the tower of South Church-first protestant church built after reformation.Keep going north along the canal. After few minutes walk you will be standing in the New Market square. The building in front of you some 500 years ago used to be one of three main city gates and it also served as the defense tower. In 1617, the old weight house became too small and so this place started to be used. The first floor had another function; the guilds sit here.
The walk can be cut short by heading north via Zeedijk and crossing the canal to visit one of the oldest museums in Amsterdam; the Museum Our Lord in The Attic. This museum lets you wonder some 350 years back in the history, from daily life to the surprising church in the attic. Private churches become very popular after the prohibition of catholic religion. Thanks to Calvinism (that people refused to accept) we can admire this private church preserved from the 17th century. From here you can wonder around the heart of old Amsterdam back to the Dam square. There is much more to see but we should preserve something for night walk as Amsterdam changes its face radically between day and night.
Written by jim on 13 Jun, 2000
I had always heard about the Red Light District and was very curious, so we walked to this area of town after dinner (plus it was only a couple of blocks from our hotel- see the Grand Westin). The Red Light District was a…Read More
I had always heard about the Red Light District and was very curious, so we walked to this area of town after dinner (plus it was only a couple of blocks from our hotel- see the Grand Westin). The Red Light District was a surreal experience. Almost everything is legal- drugs (marijuana, hash), porn shops (with every possible type magazine, video, sex toy), live sex shows (strip joints to actual sex), and prostitution. The area seemed perfectly safe and many couples walked through the area. The police presence was appropriately visible and until really late at night the crowd did not get overly seedy (particularly if you stayed on the main thoroughfares). Some of the side alleys were a little scary but it was fairly easy to see where you shouldn’t go. It only takes a minute to figure out, but the coffee shops are actually the marijuana and hash bars. Once inside one of these bars, you can buy everything from fresh squeezed orange juice and hot chocolate to a variety of marijuana and hash. We went to two of the more prominent coffee shops on the first night – the Grasshopper and the Bulldog. The Grasshopper was a triple level complex that had dancing and music, a steakhouse, and several bars and lounge areas. We settled on the bottom level which was a fairly low key with a few tables a chairs and about 20 people engaged in a variety of activities. We ordered a couple of hot chocolates (which were actually very good) and tried to just get a feel for the place. After a few minutes we figured out how everything works. In addition to drinks, the bar sells paper and pipes (or you can borrow one) while an enclosed area that looked like a casino cage sold the drugs. A menu was available and you could choose from over 5 varieties of hash and 5 varieties of marijuana. I’m certainly not an authority on this, but most people felt the home grown Dutch marijuana was the best choice. You could get pre-rolled joints if requested. An interesting thing about drugs in Amsterdam is that the illegal drugs (i.e. cocaine, heroin, etc.) can be used if you just have it tested at a government sponsored testing facility (better to keep the drugs safe and track the distribution than crack down on people who have them - or so the theory goes). If adventurous, definitely go to one of the sex shows (you can haggle the price down - especially on slow nights). Also, check out the sex shops. You will be amazed by some of the stuff you see. Don't be afraid to try the hash bars. I thought it was great smoking a few joints and having some hash brownies while sipping orange juice or hot chocolate. My girlfriend and I also found the Prostitution Information Centre to be interesting. It is like a tour featuring the sex trade. All of your questions are answered and you can buy a copy of the Pleasure Guide (full of interesting facts, news and stories). An example of a fact given at the Centre, prices start at approximately $20-$25 USD for either a blow-job or sex (15-20 minutes). While on the topic of sex, Amsterdam has fetish clubs, legal call girls (call a number and they come to your room), and sex clubs. The book 'The Cool Guide to Amsterdam' by Joe Pauker reveals all. Close
Written by britgirl7 on 02 Feb, 2006
When in Rome…..Actually if you want to enjoy the Dutch relaxed attitudes to drugs you should probably book a trip here soon, as there are serious talks about making the Coffee shops illegal to tourists.I have no idea how they will implement this law; but…Read More
When in Rome…..Actually if you want to enjoy the Dutch relaxed attitudes to drugs you should probably book a trip here soon, as there are serious talks about making the Coffee shops illegal to tourists.I have no idea how they will implement this law; but word is it's going to happen in the next few yearsSo with this in mind, I thought it would be a shame not to sample some of the wares whilst here. Finding a coffee shop is easy; they are all over the place. The ones around the red-light district I found to be seedy and dirty but those down the random side streets had a great laid back atmosphere to them, with plush velvets and cushions to aid relaxation.Despite it being talked up before going, we really spent very little time in them. A quick joint at the start of the night was enough to satisfy our curiosity of these shops. In reality they are really too smoky (duh??!!) for a non smoker to enjoy for longHeres a few tips for coffeeshop enjoyment• In theory, the advertising of the drugs is not allowed, and on entering, you have to ask for a menu. However, in reality, we found that the coffee shops all had menus either on the table or the staff arrived quickly with one.• Whilst its legal to smoke the drugs its illegal to grow them and so many of the varieties of pot are not local…but that’s also possible to find if you ask.• Joints are meant to be smoked in the coffee shops but everyone smokes them in the streets, some restaurants, clubs etc, If in doubt at a club or bar just ask.• although Marijuana is legal in Amsterdam; Coke, E's, heroin, etc., is NOT (despite how much you see around). Mushrooms are legal (but only the fresh variety) as is Hash cakes/Space cakes.
The coffee shops provide many different kinds and strengths of all their products so never be afraid to ask questions. A good coffeeshop is used to tourists and will help you out with any questions..Many of the coffee shops also sell the infamous Space cakes
Before going I had read that the Space cakes, though legal, were so strong that many of the legitimate coffee shops refuse to sell them because of the strong effect and the ”number of tourists who end up in the canals after getting messed up on them”Well it turns out that most coffee shops do actually sell them but the strengths vary greatly. One night some in the group did one from the Bulldog café with no real high. Another night one purchased from Goa coffee shop had VERY strong results! Believe me!
One final thing to remember: it is so normal to smoke there and to walk around with half-smoked joints in your pockets. You don’t even think twice about it after a few days. But PLEASE remind yourselves to empty such pockets before flying back to the States!
Written by jenandfrank on 13 Apr, 2005
Overall, it was a pleasant city with a lot more to see than we initially expected. We were definitely able to cover the sights in three days. Painted as a very liberal city, I just didn’t get that vibe. I guess if…Read More
Overall, it was a pleasant city with a lot more to see than we initially expected. We were definitely able to cover the sights in three days. Painted as a very liberal city, I just didn’t get that vibe. I guess if you consider liberal as legalizing prostitution and pot, then maybe. There is a very carefree attitude. No one or nothing there seemed to be on a schedule. Just because the sign says "open at noon" doesn’t necessarily mean it opens at noon; it opens when the workers get there. So maybe that counts as liberal somehow. It’s also touted as the "Venice of the North" – not quite, since Brugge would better fit that description. Yes, Amsterdam has canals, and yes, the city is pretty, with old yet well-maintained structures. But it’s no Venice.
Most of the homes are tall/skinny and brick with three to four stories. All have the connected-to-the-other look. Originally, taxes were paid based on the width of the house (which is why most homes are very narrow). Getting furniture through the front door became a problem, and so pulleys were attached to the front/roof part of the home for the purpose of getting furniture in. There are also houseboats (or barges) located along many of the canals. Although some are nice-looking, it gives the canals a very different look. I have never been so cautious when crossing the street, mainly due to the excessive amount of bicycles blasting by. Bicycles here are the transportation of choice by the locals, and it’s almost amusing when you walk around and see the amount of them locked to posts in town. It also seems (due to theft) that the older and more rusty the bike, the better.
Smoking is everywhere here, but considering it’s Amsterdam, there is pot as well. Although no longer legal, assuming you aren’t starting any trouble, no one bothers you. There are several "coffee houses" (bars) in town that sell pot, and many of those patrons enjoy it in-house. You can definitely tell when walking down the streets which coffee houses are traditional and which are not. Overall, people were nice, even though you could tell Americans weren’t their first choice in visitors.
Fast-food dining was a very interesting experience. Napkins were hard to come by, and we were given one paper napkin per person. Having lived in the States all our lives and having napkins by the case if we wanted, that was a challenge (we are messy people). Condiments were another story. We had lunch one day in Leidensplein and had to pay 35 cents per packet of ketchup, mayonnaise, etc. This, of course, was in addition to paying for the bathroom everywhere we went, between 20 and 45 cents.
The Red Light district was definitely a new experience for us--basically alleys, located along a few square blocks of town, surrounding the Old Church where prostitutes, scantily clad, stand in a glass doorway (in some cases, windows) with a red light above and wait for customers to pay them a visit. While "working", the curtains are pulled over the doorways. I cannot even put into words what this was like as a prude female walking around. Many of these women were young and very good-looking, and all I kept thinking to myself was, why are they doing this for a living? Yes, the money, obviously. The men we saw coming and going were from all walks of life and were having a grand old time. Surrounding these "doorways" were porn shops selling very explicit items and fast-food restaurants.
The St. Nicholas Boat Club is a non-profit organization that runs a canal cruise for tourists at no cost. Boom Chicago is where we found out about the club and where we were able to sign up for a boat ride. Our guide was American but a resident of Amsterdam for 10 years, so we were able to understand everything he was saying, both in language and analogies. Technically, there was no charge for the ride, but they did ask for 10 euros per person to cover the cost of the boat maintenance, which we were happy to pay. The trip was about 90 minutes, and we were able to get some great pictures and see a different side of the city from the water. A canal cruise is something I really recommend doing.
We were there during Easter weekend, and believe it or not, we never got to see the inside of any of churches. Our hotel was very close to the Westerkerk church, a very large (from the outside, at least) and pretty church. We would pass it every day and every night, and it was always closed, as was the Old Church in the Red Light District. That was sort of a disappointment. Dam (Damrak) Square was a large area – not like St. Mark’s Square in Venice, for example. The Damrak is the main drag where you will find the most fast-food places and tourist traps (inflated money exchanges booths, souvenir shops, etc.). Unfortunately, there was a large carnival in town – set up in Dam Square – while we were there, so it was hard to get any good pictures, and it was also hard to get a feel for what the square was really like. That was also a disappointment. The streetcars run up through the Damrak, and we found them to be a great way to get around town - very clean and very inexpensive.
Keunkenhof (see my other journal) was a real treat, and if you happen to be in town during the end of March through mid-May, check it out. It’s really an incredible sight. Vondell Park is Amsterdam’s largest park to speak of. Many people compare this to NY’s Central Park. Maybe in size, but not in content. I found there to be dog crap everywhere and no set bike paths, so you were constantly dodging cyclists. Not many benches or trees, either. There was one lake in the center, and we were told there was a theater but never saw it - that was about it.
Traveling in and out of central station was very easy. We took the train from the Schiphol Airport (AMS) to Central Station and caught a cab from there to the Pulitzer Hotel. On exiting the cab, a bicycle crashed into the cab door -welcome to Amsterdam! On the way to our next country, we again left out of central station. There are several signs, and the train conductors and station staff were very helpful. As an aside, the trains were extremely clean and an efficient way to travel.
We found the weather to be very quirky here. We would wake up, and it would be cold and damp with fog, and then, by lunch, it would be beautiful, even warm some days. By dinner, it would be pouring, and by late night, totally clear. That said, for a 3-day trip, I had to pack for at least two different seasons and a small umbrella that would fit into my bag midday when I no longer needed it. We found that the city was a casual one. By that, I’m not suggesting sweatpants and sneakers everywhere you go, but it’s not a high-fashion city like Rome, for example, where people get dressed up to do laundry.
Food was very good, and the selections were numerous here. Mayonnaise is the topping of choice on french fries, and there are as many fried potato stands in Amsterdam as there are hot dog carts in NYC. I said it in my other journal, and I will say it again: stop and try some poffertjes. They are the little Dutch pancake treats, and they are phenomenal. You would be remiss if you didn’t try them once while in town. If you’re the late night drunk-stoned wandering type, I recommend you try the FEBO, which is where you can buy "food out of the wall." It’s a small storefront that has walls of small doors with food items inside (a giant vending machine). After inserting your coins, the door is unlocked, and you can remove the item. Beer and fries are also for sale at the counter, and you will find these FEBOs everywhere. The bottom line with Amsterdam, I would say, is this: don’t visit unless you have an open mind. It’s as safe as you make it (walking around drunk at 3am will get you mugged anywhere – regardless of the country), pickpockets are everywhere (just like every other major city near tourist attractions), and it’s a nice trip on your way to or on your way around Europe. As an aside, most of the city is cobblestone, so leave the heels at home. Recommended.
Written by jenandfrank on 11 Apr, 2005
Anne Frank House – Prinsengracht 263, Amsterdam, 31-20-556-7100.
The Anne Frank House is located in the center of Amsterdam, 20 minutes from Central Station. Annelies Marie Frank was born on June 12, 1929, in Germany to a Jewish and German family. In 1933,…Read More
Anne Frank House – Prinsengracht 263, Amsterdam, 31-20-556-7100.
The Anne Frank House is located in the center of Amsterdam, 20 minutes from Central Station. Annelies Marie Frank was born on June 12, 1929, in Germany to a Jewish and German family. In 1933, after Adolf Hitler came into power, the Franks left Germany. Otto left his family’s bank in Germany and opened a business in Amsterdam selling Opekta products. Less than 7 years later, Hitler invaded the Netherlands, and the persecution of Jews began. On Anne’s 13th birthday, she received a diary--a diary that would later sell 14+ million copies. In ’42, the Franks went into hiding, and in ’44, the "Secret Annex" was compromised. The families were then thrown into concentration camps. It is definitely more than I can put into words, but it was quite an experience.
When we first arrived in Amsterdam, we would pass the house and see the long lines and wonder if time would allow a visit. Although our concierge at the Pulitzer offered special tickets (admission after 4:30pm), which would allow us to skip the line, we just got lucky one day around 9am – no line. What can I say; it was interesting, upsetting, overwhelming, inspiring, and depressing- all at the same time. The house where eight people from three different families hid out in for more than two years during WWII has been kept in its original condition. When walking up to the house, what most people think is the actual house is the new museum. In fact, some people get annoyed when they see it, thinking it was renovated. Actually, the Anne Frank House is two doors down from the modern-looking museum on the corner. After paying and passing through the initial screening room, you can enter the house/annex. The building was divided into two sections: the front, which housed Otto Frank’s business and contained a warehouse on the ground floor, offices, and storerooms upstairs; and the back of the house, upstairs, where these people lived in hiding, called the Secret Annex. They could not speak or make a sound the entire day while people were working downstairs. Imagine a 13-year-old girl not allowed to make a sound all day long?!
Getting to the annex, you climb a very steep set of stairs. This tour is unfortunately not for the handicapped. You literally walk through the opening behind the famous bookcase and the experience begins. That bookcase still holds what seems to be original inventory of books from the store below. Walking through the entire annex where these people hid, seeing copies of Anne’s diaries, postcards, and items from the Frank family, was just surreal. Most of the original wallpaper is still up, with pictures that Anne herself had glued to the wall in her small bedroom that she shared with a stranger. Other than protective Plexiglas that has been put up over the walls nothing has been changed which just heightens the experience. Seeing Anne’s diaries, you come to realize that she used them as a way to deal with boredom, a way to express herself and a way to deal with the war and the world that was going on without her. Throughout the house, quotes from Anne’s journals are posted on the walls and near items on display. You really are given a chance to glimpse what life was like for her--a small glimpse. There are video screens and interviews playing throughout the house, which I found to be very informative. There is the window that gives you a clear view of the bell tower that she used to speak of in her diaries.
Towards the end of the tour, there is a video of a former classmate of Anne’s. She was the last person (on record) to see Anne alive. She spoke about throwing food and clothing over the fence of the concentration camp and how she really believed Anne would have made it out alive, had she known her father was still alive (the only person of the eight to survive). She said she thought depression was what ultimately killed Anne after hearing of her sister’s and mother’s passing (murder). There is a "media room" at the end, which is handicapped-friendly. The computers can take you anywhere in the house, describe the people who lived there, their history and plight, and the timeline of events (very user-friendly). Everything in this part of the museum is new and kept in mint condition and is also available in several languages. There is a bookstore on the premises for those who are looking to spend some extra time or walk away with a memory or a copy of Anne’s diary that has now been translated into every language imaginable.
Admission is 6.50 euros for adults, 3 euros for young adults, and children are free. Very Highly Recommended--you would be remiss if you passed on an opportunity to visit here while in Amsterdam. After all, you do have 6 million reasons.