I have always heard so much about Amsterdam.
Like you, I have heard that w**d and Prost******* (I hope I got the number of stars right) is legal. Oh and the unasked advice of ‘you must so visit the red light district’ from anyone and everyone even those who have never been to the city. Naturally, my impression of Amsterdam wasn’t too hard to form. Yup it’s a party place alright and what’s the best way to enjoy partying it up? Stay in Hostels! With a bunch of complete strangers! And then you can party all night. Drink beer and eat loads of goodies and just never sleep. I am just kidding. Haha. The only reason I stayed in hostels was I’ll admit – cheap prices!
As soon as you step out of the central station, the first things you see are canals. Canals, canals everywhere, not surprisingly, this place is known as the Venice of the north (along with Brugge, Brussels). It’s quite easy to figure out the maze of waterways around the city because it is honestly not so big.
So I wanted to start off my day by renting a bike and going around the city. Well big mistake. The weekend I chose to visit was the Rainiest weekend EVER (you will notice all the pics are quite gloomy looking too).
My first stop was the Museumplain (Museum square), see I was determined to see the Van Gogh Museum while I was there, right opposite is also the Rijksmuseum but the only painting I have heard of Rembrandt is well of course the Night Watch so I decided it wasn’t worth visiting an entire museum for one painting and let’s face it, I could not spend another minute in the pouring rain. I had to get in somewhere nice and warm and museums are my favourite things to do. All I had on my list was the Vangogh Museum and Anne Frank’s Haus and of course the Dam Square and Red-light district.
The Vincent Van Gogh Museum wasn’t just a museum filled with his paintings. It was a museum filled with paintings of famous painters who have inspired or influenced him through his years as an artist. When Van Gogh started his work, he started with drawings when he was working in Antwerp (Belgium) and soon he moved to Paris and started to paint which led to the introduction of his famous work ‘The Potato eaters’, after which his paintings became more and more say colourful and that’s how he ended up with the artistic break through with the Sunflower series. I love the sunflower series paintings; of course there are many versions to it. The best one is in the National Gallery in London and the one in the Van Gogh Museum was very similar just not as bright (yes neither is my knowledge with paintings so much as you can tell). All in all it was interesting to see the transformation of the works of Van Gogh from his drawings to his paintings which all just seemed very structured and gradually improved with the years. It’s also ironic because a person who suffered from anxiety and mental illness through his life and who was unable to maintain an orderly lifestyle had surprisingly managed to capture the growth of his passion in a highly disciplined way. Van Gogh killed himself at 37.
Anne Frank’s Haus was my next stop, it was the last thing I had chosen to do on the Sunday and I was insane because there was a huge line outside and people including myself were crazy enough to stand in the strong winds and fierce rain storm with nothing but an umbrella. I was cold, I was shivering but this was something I absolutely wanted to do. The book chronicling her experience during the World War 2 had grazed more than one classroom over the years so it wasn’t surprising so many people wanted to see the place she talked about in her diary. An hour later I was inside, it was the most depressing feeling ever. It felt like all the words in the book started to gush right through me; the secret entrance, her room, her sister’s room, the tiny washrooms, the boarded up windows and the infamous tree. Secret Annexe was only a fiction of my imagination when I read the book but now I could actually picture it right here in front of me. It was so touching to see so many people gasp during the tour and some started to cry and one or two even broke down. I think that’s the beauty of the book. She was ONE girl, part of ONE Jewish family that went through the tragedy amongst a million others. I would personally recommend reading just this ONE book because I don’t think any human being has the capacity of sinking in the torture of the million others. Just ONE was enough to break us down.
(Pics are not allowed inside, but I just had to take one of the secret entrance, it was my fav part of the book so here it is)
There is so much more to the city if you don’t like to do boring stuff like museums and art galleries, you can keep walking on the famous Leidseplein which is a district with all the shopping and all the international restaurants to eat in, also lots of salsa clubs you can just take a peek in and practice your moves and run out before you start to look like an amateur in front of all the professionals (haha yes indeed), you can walk along dam square district which is the historical district and landmark of Amsterdam, take a tour around the inspiring historical churches and buildings in Amsterdam such as the Oude Kerk (old church) Amsterdam’s oldest parish church, located on the borders of the red light district and the Royal Palace, former city hall, built in 1648 and situated in the west side of Dam Square.
Finally, Saturday night, a visit to the red-light district became an important part of my experience in the damn city. I would love to write about what I did and where I went but all I can say is that the place is probably their own little times square of Amsterdam; people come from all over the world just to visit this district. It’s supposed to be an area that Amsterdam is actually super proud of. A tourist attraction, a place filled with tons of people all happily and cheerily wandering about in the city in the middle of the night like newly freed spirits with that absolute high knowing that no one can touch them here. In a place where woman are showcased in their bare necessities in these little red rooms who ignorant tourists point at trying to make negotiations or just float by as smooth talkers. No one ever wonders what got them there in the first place, no one ever thinks about these women during the day, no one knows if they are forced into this, no one knows about the cruelties that take place in the brothels. Why bother? Everyone is here to have a good time right? Maybe this will catch your attention – No one knows that the prostitutes working in the red light district of Amsterdam are not required to be tested by law. No one knows what a disgusting, filthy and criminal sewer it really is. So next time, you take a stroll down the red light district of Amsterdam, you should know that no one not even Amsterdam has the right to be proud of such an area.
I learnt that the best kept secret of exploring Amsterdam (actually any city perhaps) is just to have an idea of a couple of places that you really want to visit and then let the rest pour in on an instinct basis. There is literally something new on every canal street and if you keep exploring you are bound to find a little surprise of your own just around the corner.