26 February 2014

Venice of the North, Roxanne’s red lights and Dam that's a lot of bikes…

Where did the year 2013 go? Last post was my second Paris trip and; now, we are well into 2014. Loads has happened since then and I promise to quit procrastinating and use this quiet patch to catch you up to date.

Right, let’s take a look back at summer 2013.

Friends were on their own OE around Europe and planning to convene in Amsterdam before taking off to Belgium for a music festival. While they were enjoying their travels, I was back at work and wanting the chance to tick Amsterdam off my own list. 

The plan was set and as per usual I left booking flights to the last minute and left with little to choose from in the time frame before the festival began the trip was going to super short. Lessons learnt!

Here is my favourite photo, of cheese - of course! I'd love to go on a cheese tour after reading about them. The shops are just as excellent. Lots of varieties to sample. I ate so much in that short visit!

All in all Amsterdam is one very cool capital city I would jump at the chance to explore again.

Opting for the shorter nickname, here we go:

T is for Time. Too little time spent in The Dam. After booking the cheapest flight available around the time everyone was meeting in Amsterdam I arrived on Monday afternoon and left Wednesday morning. Total of one and a half days. Wish I spent more time completing the DK Eyewitness top ten, instead of visiting the Van Gogh museum I took a photo of the modern looking building. Any-ways the Sunflowers painting was on loan.

H is for Huis. Anne Frank House to be precise. From hiding place to a museum, visiting the house was a strange experience. Sombre atmosphere viewing the secret annex and seeing the actual diary and various other pages of handwritten stories. The restored, renovated, and expanded building was close to being knocked down. Lucky for everyone a non-profit organisation campaigned to save the site (and retell the history for generations to come). A record 1,195,456 visitors toured the house in 2013, 42,568 more than the previous year! This third popular museum is a must.

E is for Eccentric. Passing a small garden market on the first walking tour and among the many tulip bulbs a variety of “grow your own cannabis” can be found. Amsterdam has a party town reputation and you can see why with a red light district area, club scene, "coffeeshops", and not your everyday museums (Hemp and Sex). Let's use this section to talk about the red light district (and sing "Rooooxannnne..."). The oldest profession in the oldest quarter of the city. Located to two main areas, with creative shops in the previous window spaces. The popular tourist attraction provided our group with entertainment while drinking Heinekin in an Irish bar across the waterway watching guys awkwardly walk by, double back, and 15 minutes later make their escape! 

 D is Dam square. In Dutch the square is simply, de Dam. Amsterdam’s best-known square, and a handy central location to explore the medieval city centre. It’s the site of the original Amstel River dam and now populated with a whole load of parked bikes. Watch out for the domino effect! Venice is known for it's canals, but I've always regarded Amsterdam's canal system a result of conscious city planning, and now a brilliant way to walk around the city.

A is for Amsterdam sign. The I AMSTERDAM logo has become one of the most photographed sights in Amsterdam. Pretty cool for giant red and white letters that you  can climb on top of or sit inside. When attempting to take your picture, try late in the summer evening. Also the same sign can be found at the airport you could visit before jetting off.

M is for Managed to get lost. My first time coming into a new country on my own, navigating the airport to the train platform and to the hotel. However, the first rookie mistake was listening to the train guard. They said the train arriving (I needed to board) did not stop in Amsterdam. Technically, they were correct. Although the train did not arrive in the centre of the city, reading my Google Map instructions I should arrive at Station RAI. Listening to the guard I boarded a train to Station Central. Losing my bearings, walking in the complete opposite direction to the tram, and needing phone map as a guide. 10 to 15 minutes later (what should have been two minutes) including a walk across one bridge and back over another I found the tram, the ticket shop, and was on the move.