Originally posted August 14, 2011.
Sorry it has taken me so long to post about my trip. First my dad forgot to bring his laptop home, then I had work, and then I wanted to catch up with my friends at home. And a billion other lame excuses. But, without any more ado, here is my recap of our first stop: Amsterdam!
From the minute we walked out of the train station, I felt comfortable in Amsterdam. It was so easy to get around. It’s not too large, so we could walk to most places, but they also had a great tram system. And, my favorite part: everyone rode bicycles. When we exited the train station, one the first things I saw was a huge, three-level barge filled to the brim with bicycles. I guess they needed the extra space for parking. Most of the time when we stopped for meals, I would keep an eye on the closest bicycle lane and watch all the people coming back from work, riding to meet friends, or picking up their kids. I wish Bee Caves had bicycle paths because I would definitely ride my bike more here if we had the same accommodations as they do in Amsterdam and most of Europe.
We spent a lot of time walking around, shopping, and getting our bearings the first day. Most of the markets had gorgeous tulips and other bright flowers. I would’ve loved to take some home, but I know they wouldn’t have let me back into the United States with any foreign plants. My sister really liked all the wooden shoes. She tried some on and we laughed about it, but in the end she didn’t buy any. When would she really wear them? Despite fighting jet lag, we did find time to visit the Van Gogh Museum on that first day. It was crowded with tourists, but I loved getting to see some of his lesser-known works. Some of his later work dealt with tree roots, tangled and knarled with lots of paint built up on portions of the canvas. I could see the painter’s struggles to survive in those knotted roots. The museum was cool, but the boat ride we took after that was even better. It gave us a much-needed break from walking and a different perspective of the city. There were so many houseboats. Some of them looked run down, but most of them were decorated with flowers, statues, and other eccentric furniture. I think it would be really cool to go live in a houseboat in Amsterdam. Although, many of the boats tended to have cats and if that’s a requirement, then I think I’ll pass …
The second day we woke up early to visit the Anne Frank House. I was excited to see the house where Anne Frank, her family, and four other people hid for a little over two years. It was a moving experience. I almost cried during the information session that we attended before touring the house. The story of the Frank family is so inspiring. They did so much to protect each other and other Jewish families. When we first started walking through the actual apartment, I started to get annoyed by the other tourists. They kept bumping into me and taking forever to read everything. But then I stopped and thought for a moment: I may be uncomfortable for an hour or so, but Anne and the other seven inhabitants had to deal with the same people for months and years without any way to escape and get some privacy. And when you tour the house, there’s no furniture (it was all seized in the Nazis raid/arrest) so I can’t even imagine how tiny those rooms were with chairs, beds, and tables taking up space, too. You could easily tell which room was Anne’s; she decorated the walls with postcards, pictures of movie stars, and other cut-outs from magazines. It reminded me of the posters back in my room, which was nice, but also creepy. She was a normal thirteen year-old girl who happened to live in this horrible moment in history. It’s amazing that her diaries survived and that they have been so widely read, but it’s horrible that she and so many other people had to die for her story to be published.
While in Amsterdam, we did embrace the role of “American tourist” and did some pretty campy things. On day one, we visited Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. I had never previously wanted to visit a wax museum. I like movie stars, rock stars, and funny pictures as much as the next person, but I thought the fake people would freak me out. They did a little, but it was pouring down rain outside and we laughed so hard at some of the pictures we took. We had fun taking silly fangirl pictures with Robert Pattinson and Justin Bieber, but we probably had the most fun taking pictures with Spiderman at the end. They paint the floor and the wall so it looks like the side of a building and we took pictures like we were climbing with Spiderman—or falling down to the street below. And another day, we visited the Heineken Brewery (or as they call it there, The Heineken Experience). Even though we were in the middle of Holland, the entire tour was in English, and that should tell you something. They definitely pitched this toward Americans. But again, I must admit it was really fun. I learned about where they get the ingredients for making their beer and how they have turned Heineken into a major brand with commercials and placement ads in major movies. I even won an extra beer in the tasting room for answering a question correctly. The best part: I don’t even really like Heineken!
Of all the cities we visited, Amsterdam is one of my favorites. It had such a relaxed, cosmopolitan feel. I really liked Venice on my last Europe trip. Maybe I’m just a sucker for cities with canals. One plus to Amsterdam though: they aren’t sinking into the ocean.