I was thinking whether ‘Amsterdam – Sex and the city’ would have been more apt a title for this post. Will tell you why this thought crossed my mind as I progress . To begin with, let me take you around the city through the same route I took a few months back.
Amsterdam – a city 2 meters above the sea level derives its name from Amstellardam meaning a dam on river Amstel. The largest city of the Netherlands, Amsterdam is not only the capital city but also the financial and cultural capital.
The first thing that hits you as you come out of the central railway station is the number of bicycles on the road. It is unbelievably high. All tourists have an option of exploring the city on a bike, however better sense prevented me from hiring one!! Coming from a non biking culture I would have either got run over by the seasoned racing cyclists or would have ended up inviting unwelcoming stares. So I stuck to what I was best at – Walk!
The architecture of the building and houses in Amsterdam are quite unique. Don’t think it as a trick of the eye, if you find most of the buildings tilted, for that’s because for a fact they are! The city is fairly large and hence I had to prioritize what I wanted to do in my three days of stay in this Dutch city.
I had read the book – Anne Frank’s diary, so the visit to the famous Anne Frank Huis or Anne Frank’s House topped my list of things to see. Situated in a peaceful area in front of a beautiful canal is located the Ann Franks Huis. It is hard to believe by the look of it, that almost 50 years ago at the same place a Jewish family had hid themselves from the atrocious Nazis. Walking tour of the house costs approximately 9 Euros and takes you through all the rooms that were then occupied by the Frank family. A particular look at Anne’s room gives you the proof of the hope the little girl had despite the darkness around, for her room had posters and colorful clipping from magazines she read and painted a happy picture than rest of the rooms. The interiors in the Anne Frank House have been maintained close to original with blackened windows etc. Most of the museums in Europe have the option for you to send a live video to your friends; Anne Frank’s museum has it too. But you hardly feel cheerful after the tour to send your friends a happy note!
Having interest in art – my next destination was the Rembrandt House museum, the famous Dutch painter and etcher whose paintings I saw in many of the art museums across Europe. Rembrandt lived in style and did many of his paintings in this huge house for many years before he went bankrupt and all his household possessions where sold in an auction. There still exists the original etching room where there are periodical displays of the working of this form of art for the curious visitors. The room where Rembrandt painted is fairly large as compared to rest of the rooms and airy. You can take a picture of yours here along with easel and paints! The entry to the museum costs you around 4 Euros.
The Dutch land has produced so many renowned painters. Another prominent one is Vincent Van Gogh who has a huge museum to his credit. The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam holds the largest collection of Van Gogh’s paintings and drawings in the world. Three of his most famous paintings Sunflowers, Potato eaters and the Bedroom in Arles are on display in this museum.
Though there are more options of museums, I decided to see just three of them and utilize the rest of my limited time in exploring other facets of the Amsterdam city. The idea was to get a taste of everything.
The Westerkerk is the Protestant church in Amsterdam located very close to the Anne Frank’s Huis. Mention of this church and its chiming clock is found in Anne Frank’s diary. The painter Rembrandt was buried in Westerker in 1669.
Another attraction to the city is the number of canals meandering through the city. Various canal cruise operators are in operations where you can board the boat and take a tour of the busy city from the serene waters!
I was curious about few of the buildings which I noticed during my walk around the Amsterdam city. Old but extremely colorful with graffitis, pictures and symbols painted all over the walls. On checking, I learnt that those where actually squat buildings, a concept I never herd of back home. Squatting is an act of occupying an unoccupied or abandoned building for the time s/he called squatters want. Squatters neither pay any rent nor own any part of the building. So people who do not have a place to stay just squat and move out once their hunt for a house is over or in other case…never move out? I don’t know!
One thing I learnt post my visit to Amsterdam was that a coffee shop is the not the same as a café. There is a big difference. Here’s how…any coffee shop in Amsterdam is actually an establishment which legally sells permitted quantity of cannabis for personal consumption! The coffee shops need to have license to be operational. Few of the coffee shops, I was told sold non alcoholic drinks and food but not all. So, just like me if you are in a mood for a steaming cappuccino look for a café and not a coffee shop . Btw this was the second place after Freetown Christiana in Copenhagen; I found Cannabis sold out in open.
Another thing I was attracted to in almost all the cities in Europe was the local weekly market. I happened to visit one in Amsterdam too and the colors around made by various knick knacks on sale are any photographer’s dream besides the shoppers!! Here are few pictures…
If am telling you about a place, how can I not mention food, for I truly believe that no experience is complete till one tastes the local food. So, what to eat when in Amsterdam? Haring Fish is a local delicacy and can be tried from small stalls. Its for the real experimenters only, as it’s a raw fish which is given to you, and they will even show you how to swallow it!!
Poffertjes, the sweet baby pancakes are a must try. Warm and dusted with sugar powder, these pancakes are quite a hit with kids of ‘all ages’…and since I satisfied the criteria I tried some Another one for the ones with sweet tooth is the Slagroom – cake / pastry with rich topping of whipped cream. All the restaurants have veg options as well, just that meat is more popular, so vegetarians can survive in this big city, so worry not!
Who doesn’t know about the red light district at Amsterdam? This infamous part of the city is a major tourist attraction. 10 minutes walking distance from the central station, the red light area is full of sex shops, museums, brothels,… etc. Night is the time to go, if you really want to experience the pulse of the area. Though for the needy person sex as a commodity is available through the day!! Just walk the streets and watch out for the Red lamp outside the buildings, if its glowing – its business time!! The skimpily clad women behind windows flashing fluorescent red light are as there as if mannequins in a big shopping mall! As the night progresses, the area gets busier. The sex museum on the main street 200m away from the central railway station offers vivid details and pictures from the world of sex. Gays, lesbians, straights with their fantasies are pinned up as photographs for the visiting public! So overtly open is the city about the subject that they don’t stop just here. Walk in to shops and you will see chocolates, pastas, candies,..etc. in different shapes!! (read between the lines).
There are few pics I took especially for all you pasta lovers (which includes yours truly)
Btw I love penne and farfalle…:)