We visited Amsterdam on our way back from Norway, and we were lucky enough to stay with our friends Pete and Erin who had just moved there from Brooklyn (and met up with us a week earlier in Belgium). They have a spacious (huge by NYC standards!) apartment in a neighborhood called Amstelveen, which is a 30-40 minute bus ride from Amsterdam proper. Amstelveen is a quiet and attractive neighborhood that feels much more livable than Amsterdam. We were big fans.
But that’s not to say that Amsterdam wasn’t impressive. The canals were beautiful, and it was neat to see the narrow houses stacked together along the water. Many of them were built in the 17th century and, having long since given up on right angles, lean gently into the street. The cobblestone roads and narrow sidewalks added a hefty dose of charm to early morning wandering before the crowds, but made it feel a little more like busy NYC as the day wore on and more and more people arrived.
On Matt’s and Jill’s advice, we got to the Anne Frank House at 7:45 to join the queue for the opening at 9:00. Only a handful of people had arrived before us, and by 9:00 the line behind us was snaking around the block and out of sight. Getting there early was well worth it. It took us 90 minutes to make our way through the museum, which was pretty incredible to witness. The written and videoed statements from Otto Frank and the helpers were powerful, and seeing the spaces in which Anne and the other 7 people hid and tried to maintain a semblance of normal life gave a new appreciation for confinement and what we take for granted. The rooms were empty as per the request of Otto, but some small reminders of the lives spent there remained on the walls. Especially moving were the careful pencil marks to note how tall Anne and her sister were growing, photos from smuggled fashion magazines that Anne hung on her bedroom wall with a pot of glue and a paintbrush, and the small map of Normandy on which Otto placed pins over the towns that the Allies had liberated from the Germans.
We left the museum and took a breather on one of the many benches lining the canals, and we caught a glimpse of the “Amsterdam Cheese Museum” across the street. It seemed as good a place as any to re-enter our day after a thought-provoking morning, so we checked it out. We’re no experts, but it seemed much more of a massive cheese shop than a museum, but with the superfluous amount of delicious samples (lavender gouda? pesto gouda?), we weren’t picky about semantics.
After sampling far more than our shares of cheese, we wandered up to Dam Square and found the part of Amsterdam that college kids and bachelor parties dream of. As our friend Erin put it, Dam Square seems to be Amsterdam’s Times Square and should be avoided. Apparently we no longer share in the interests of college kids since the seediness and throngs of pushy people quickly made us dash back to the Nine Streets area for some canal quietude and a couple of nutella croissants.
As the rain clouds became more and more threatening, we made our way down towards the Museums area where we’d visited the day before with Pete and Erin (and discovered a gelato festival complete with alcoholic gelato milkshakes, which were free thanks to a kind lactose-intolerant stranger willing to give up her tickets!). As the rain began to fall, we jumped in line for the Rijksmuseum just in time to avoid having to scramble to put on a raincoat. Though we were able to see a good portion of the museum, you’d really need a good five to ten visits to absorb all the exhibits. There were multi-room displays of weapons, ship models, classic paintings and sculpture, the Dutch Masters, fashion, etc. It was absolutely worth the time and money, rain or no rain.
Pictures of Amsterdam:
Walking by the Rijksmuseum with Pete and Erin
Rijksmuseum from the reflecting pool
Beautiful canals, though not all the buildings on them are tiny
More beautiful canalsExcuse us while we block foot traffic for a hot minute to get a picture on this canal…
What’s that? Oh you know, just your average run of the mill brewery in a windmill. Nicely done, Brouwerij ’t IJ.
Houseboat outside of the Anne Frank Museum
Morning reflections in the canals
Are you sick of canals yet?
Good, we’ve got one more…
Steeple along the canalAwesome shutters like the ones we saw in Gouda
Model ships in the RijksmuseumPaintings by the Dutch Masters
Laurel loves baby Jude