Exploring Amsterdam (Netherlands)

It was still dark and cold at 8:30am. It’s a strange sensation for me because at home the sun never rises later than about 6:15am.

After a hearty Dutch breakfast (more on that in the next post) we set off around 9:30am into the dawn light. The canals looks so pretty reflecting the sunshine. I’ve been in Holland about four times since I was 17 years old and each time I’ve experienced lots of rain so to see the sun rising in a blue sky was something special.

We set off on foot wandering the narrow streets lining Amsterdam’s web-like network of canals. We were both taken by how old the buildings are here and how none seem to be standing square to each other any more. Some lean forwards, others backwards while still others seem to be relying on the neighbouring building for support.

Eventually we made our way down to Westerkerk, which is next to the Ann Frank House. We intended to go to the Ann Frank House but when we saw the queue stretching from the famous hiding house around three sides of Westerkerk we decided to try again the next morning. It was clear that the wait would be hours and we weren’t that committed to spending our time in Amsterdam in a line up..

Fortunately, across the road from the Ann Frank House there is the Amsterdam Cheese Museum. It’s essentially a cheese shop that has been set up with a small museum downstairs. Entry is free and you can taste as much cheese as you like. And there’s a lot of cheese to taste. We liked the smoked goats cheese and fig jam best so bought some. We would later leave them uneaten at my godparents’ house so didn’t get to enjoy the purchase. But the tasting was fantastic and I highly recommend visiting the museum.

The Amsterdam Tulip Museum is right near the cheese museum. Naturally, being in Amsterdam we had to go there too. Did you know that tulips actually come from the Central Asian countries of Pakistan, Afghanistan and other “Stans” where they grow wild? It was the Turks who first fell in love with these pretty flowers and started to cultivate them. But now it’s the Netherlands that is famous for these flowers.

We also walked to the Flower Market but at this time of year the only things for sale were marijuana seeds and tulip bulbs. It’s the wrong season for flowers to be in bloom, even though it was unseasonably warm at 13’C (55’F).

We bought beef croquette on bread out of the wall for lunch. I love <em>broodje croquette</em> so it was an easy choice. Not to mention that it was cheap as chips at just 2.20 euros. We ate while sitting in the Dam watching the mimes busking and tourists (like us) taking photos of the famous buildings and monuments.

We ended our day at the Rijks Museum. This is an amazing art gallery that I think everyone needs to see once in their lives. It is curated into time periods, clearly showing the changed in human experience from the 1600s through to today. I could probably write a whole essay about my interpretation of the paintings and what they say about the human spirit and how it bends and weaves with history. When there is war the paintings are darker and more religious, while periods of peace usually show smiling faces and artistic experimentation. It’s fascinating.

We had a fantastic time walking around Amsterdam. And miraculously the sun stayed out all day for us. Actually, it didn’t rain until our final day in the Netherlands one week after arriving so we were very lucky. But that’s all for another post as I slowly catch up on my blog. I have been experiencing writer’s block caused by long days traveling and too many impressions. But hopefully I can catch the blog up over the coming weeks. We’re currently in Warsaw, Poland. The events in this blog post took place on 28 December and it’s now 13 January so there’s a bit to catching up to do.

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3 thoughts on “Exploring Amsterdam (Netherlands)

  1. Ah! I guess the festival of light was a seasonal event then, maybe combining Christmas, Diwali and so on… I just assumed that it was something you had seen after Christmas.

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