Thursday, June 11, 2009

Days 21-23: Amsterdam

Sorry that there are no pictures and for the late post. We were very busy in England! Our hotel in London has THE slowest internet and so the pictures just won't load. They'll be up in 24 hours or so!

We started out to Amsterdam on Wednesday on a train from Bruges. We had to change trains in Antwerp. The train was very full, compared to other trains we’ve been on (well, our night train to Prague was a little cramped…). Amsterdam is the place to be! On our train was a large, asian man who had a bit of a problem…Kristy couldn’t even concentrate with him around and so she moved. I was fortunate to get a video of it though. I was worried he wasn’t going to perform for the camera, but he put on a great show.

Imagine this for 2 hours!!

Our time in Amsterdam could be described as cold. We had great weather in Bruges and the weather in Amsterdam was not so great. Our hotel room was also very small. We watched The Pianist on Wednesday and Thursday night and we felt much like we were in the small apartment hiding out from the Nazis when we went to bed on Wednesday night. It was quaint but easily the smallest room we’ve stayed in (although, again, the night train was definitely the smallest).

Our first night we didn’t do much. We walked around a little bit and decided to try Turkish food for dinner. It was ok. We started out with five appetizers which were all very good: Tzatziki sauce, hummus, spring rolls, grilled eggplant, and mini meatballs. My favorite was the tzatziki sauce. We enjoyed so we decided to split a main dish – a lamb and vegetable casserole. I couldn’t get over the fact that it was lamb that I was eating and so I didn’t eat too much. Overall, we felt it was over-cooked. We’re glad we tried it and now I can just eat Tzatziki sauce for the rest of my life.

On Thursday we spent our day at the museums. First, we visited the Rijksmuseum. This is the museum of all the Dutch treasures and art. Only part of the museum is open for now, while they renovate the other half, but they put all the best stuff in one exhibit. It was a great exhibit. Following that, we were instantly chilled by the Amsterdam air so we stopped for some hot chocolate.

We were re-energized and warmed for the Van Gogh Museum. The Van Gogh Museum was incredible. They have an exhibit there now that emphasizes Van Gogh study of the colors of the evening and the night. It travels through his career and culminates with Starry Night (on loan from the MOMA in New York). There were many other paintings on loan there as well. We were so lucky to have been there during this exhibit! We both walked out with a much better appreciation of Van Gogh.

All alone in the Cinema at the Van Gogh Museum

That night we took a touristy-boat ride through the canals. We were the only people on our boat and so it was slightly awkward with our boat driver and the pre-recorded tour. We got a nice view of all of Amsterdam and quick Architectural tutorial. Here are some of our photos from the ride…

Friday we started out at the Anne Frank House. It was a really neat experience to walk through the Warehouse and then the Secret Annex. I thought mine and Aaron’s Wymount Apartment was bad – I can’t even imagine living in a space that tiny with eight other people for two solid years. It really made me count my blessings.
We then went on a city walk from the Anne Frank House to the Dutch Resistance Museum. We stopped at various historical sites from WWII on the way and got a little slice of what happened here during World War II. The Dutch Resistance Museum was very interesting – Kristy thought it should have gotten 3 triangles (out of 3) instead of 2 from Rick Steves. Often we think of WWII as strictly a resistance from the Jewish population and nobody else. I don’t mean often, but we do regularly assume WWII = Holocaust. It was very interesting to see how the Dutch people resisted the Nazi Occupation. By the time we had finished our walking tour and arrived at the museum there was about an hour before closing. We really wished we had gotten there earlier so we could have spent more time there. It was really an interesting museum and movement.

After that we had some time to kill before we needed to get to the airport so walked back to our hotel and then found a place to eat around there. We found a restaurant called Burger Meester. It was definitely interesting – at first there was only Dutch menu, but after we ordered we discovered there was an English menu. We ordered a typical cheeseburger but the meat had something “strange” in it. I can’t really describe what it was but it seemed to be some sort of protein/vegetable stuff. It was alright.

We arrived at the Amsterdam airport 2.5 hours early. We made sure were always at airport or train station early so we could get our bearings and find our way around. This time we thought we could while the time away by watching a movie on Mom’s laptop. That is until we discovered that you needed the internet to activate the movies we had just rented on iTunes. The internet was not free and to pay 6 euros for a movie we’ve already paid for seemed a little ridiculous.

We didn’t even set foot in to the Red Light District, but we got a bit of a taste of that part of town all over Amsterdam (I’m slightly regretting the fact that we didn’t just go to the Red Light District to just peek and say we’d been there but also glad that we didn’t bother with it). There were some explicit sex shops that we passed by with images you’d never see on display in the States. We also caught the smell of Marijuana (Cannabis as the Dutch say) quite a bit. I had gotten somewhat used to the smell of cigarette smoke (ok, not really, but it was at least expected) and smelling pot on every street corner was a different experience.

Overall, Amsterdam was great and I would love to return here. I think there is a lot more of Holland/Netherlands to explore too. I really appreciated the laid-back nature of the Dutch – I operate in a similar way so it was a nice place to be.

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