Amsterdam is unlike any other city I have ever been too. Visually, the city is a more modern, industrial version of Venice. The buildings were originally used as storage houses for goods and workers when Amsterdam was still a large trading port. The buildings are long and narrow because they wanted to get as many storage spaces as possible among the evenly divided plots of land. Each house has a hook off the front's top because that was used for lifting large trade items into higher levels, since the narrow stairwells made it impossible to lift large goods. Today the city is still lined with these darkly painted, narrow, houses with steep roofs and bold white windows. Even though it has a gothic feel, I found the city to be extremely beautiful.
Amsterdam is also the most liberal city I have ever been too. Amsterdam and the Netherlands in general are known for being very accepting of different races, cultures, and sexualities. The city is very diverse and people come from all over the world to live there. We met one man that moved to Amsterdam from northern Italy because financially he is much more successful in Amsterdam than he ever was in Italy. He said the transition has been fairly easy because everyone in Amsterdam knows English as well as their native Dutch language.
The first day we were in Amsterdam, Brittany and I walked around to explore the city. As I mentioned briefly earlier, the city has large canals that weave in and around the streets. Brittany and I decided to take a canal cruise through the main canals around the city center. Seeing Amsterdam from the water was interesting because each canal had its own feel to it. Some of the canals were definitely more high end, while others were more industrial. Most of the canals are lined with permanent floating boat houses that give the urban city some charming character. There was also a huge harbor that reminded me a lot of Baltimore's Inner Harbor. I really enjoyed seeing the different kinds of architecture along the main canals and learning about some of Amsterdam's history.
After the canal cruise, we stopped for lunch at a pancake house and tried some of their Dutch crêpes. We both got banana with chocolate sauce. The crêpe was thick with the bananas inside it and delicious.
That morning we also visited the Anne Frank House, which was humbling. During World War II, Amsterdam allowed Jewish refugees to immigrant there for safety. Their welcoming atmosphere explains why the Frank family moved there from Germany at the beginning of the war. When the Nazi's announced they were coming to the Netherlands next, Otto Frank -- Anne's father -- asked the employees of his office if they could help his family and friends to hide. And so, the Frank family and their friends hid in the "secret annex" in the back of the office building for years before being ratted out and arrested. The small rooms were hidden by a moving bookcase as a doorway. Every day, they had to block the windows and could barely make noise because two men working below were unaware of their hiding arrangement. The tour was surreal because I remember reading Anne Frank's diary back in elementary school and now I was actually seeing where she hid in person. I thought the most touching part of the museum was that Anne aspired to be a famous writer and now her diary is not only world renowned, but translated in hundreds of languages. It was even made into a play. Her father was the only one to survive the concentration camps and dedicated his life to making her dream come true.
The second day in Amsterdam we did some more sight seeing. First, we went to the Heineken Factory to see how Amsterdam's famous beer is made. The experience was really fun and we were taught how to properly pour a beer. I also learned that the foam at the top of beer is a protective layer. Good beers apparently have a very thick top so you have several minutes before the beer is exposed to the air. You are supposed to take large gulps with the mug tilted so the foam is above your mouth and you only get the beer in your sips.
After the Heineken museum we walked to the infamous "I Amsterdam" letters. It was really crowded which was a bummer, but we still snapped a couple photos. On our way from the letters to the Van Gogh Museum we made a pit stop at a waffle stand that we just could not resist. The waffles turned out to be incredible, but they also made us late to the Van Gogh Museum. Sadly, they would not let us in because they were closing in a half hour. So we went to the Vondelpark nearby and walked around for a bit.
On our way back to the city center, we got Chipsy King's fries that come in those little cones and have a ton of sauce choices. We got some with mayo because we figured we have to try it the way Europeans eat it. It was really good but I would not get it again. I could feel my arteries clogging with each fry haha. Amsterdam is not known for its health food — that's for sure. I am not complaining, but after a weekend diet consisting of pancakes and fries, I really need to detox!
I really enjoyed my visit to Amsterdam. The people are welcoming and laid back. The city is clean, quiet, and well-run. I would definitely come back to Amsterdam again — but in the spring. The city is known for their tulips and I'm sure they are everywhere during the spring time!
When In Rome
Two of my most cherished hobbies go hand-in-hand. Writing is my favorite way to reflect after traveling to a new country. I have kept this blog ever since I studied in Rome to share my travels with families and friends. I hope you enjoy learning about my experiences and getting a sense for my writing skills. If you have any questions, please reach out!