We arrived in to Amsterdam in the early afternoon and as we got out of the train station we were engulfed in a crowd of girls dressed up for a night out. And when I say a crowd, I mean thousands. All cycling around and parking their bikes in or by a huge parking lot of bikes (pic below). It was an interesting way to arrive but I still have no idea what they were there for. There were no guys anywhere so I figure if it wasn’t a Justin Bieber or One Direction concert then it must have been a huge feminist cult meeting. We’ll never know.
We negotiated the skirts and bikes anyway and were enjoying the view from our hotel in no time.
Amsterdam has a pretty unique layout with a series of canals snaking their way around the city and we were staying right at the edge of it.
We had struggled to find accommodation and after a few failed attempts via AirBnb, we settled for Room Mate Aitana which turned out really nice if a bit expensive (we booked it back in our “we’ve got plenty of money for travel this year” phase…well before our current phase: “where did all our money go, we’re not going to be able to afford to eat at this rate”).
The bunch of girls on bikes that greeted us to Amsterdam were not the last bikes we saw in our time there. When people say everybody bikes here they aren’t exaggerating. Everywhere we went you had to watch out for speedy cyclists screaming past. You could spot the tourists easy enough as they were the ones cruising around slowly getting in everyone’s way. We chose to do everyone a favour and stay on foot.
On our only full day in Amsterdam we planned on fitting in as much of the sights as possible. We started the day with a stroll along the canals and found a great little breakfast spot where we got to play the classic travelling game of try and get rid of all the foreign currency’s coins before we leave the country.
We had made one big uncharacteristic error on Amsterdam though: we hadn’t researched and pre-booked tickets to the big sights. If you go to Amsterdam, research the main tourist spots and pre-book tickets to beat the massive queues (a must for Anne Frank house, Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum etc). We discovered how big of an error we had made when we got to Anne Frank house. The huge winding queue of people waiting outside would have taken at least 2 hours to get through and as I said to Dayna at the time, I’d rather go sit in the sun and have a beer thanks.
So we settled for snapping a photo outside Anne Frank house and moved on to the next tourist attraction of the day: the Van Gogh Museum.
Van Gogh has been my favourite artist for years and I’ve seen his work in New York and Paris so was really looking forward to this one. On the way there we heard from a friend of Dayna’s whom Dayna had met back in Australia about seven years ago. Turns out she works at the Van Gogh museum and the lines outside were as big as the ones we had just left behind at Anne Frank house. Lucky for us, she was on the inside and organised entry for us that let us skip the huge lines and join the crowds on the inside.
The museum didn’t disappoint either. Although my favourite Van Gogh pieces weren’t there (they’re off at other fancy musuems like the Louvre and MoMA), there were plenty of good ones for us to enjoy. Learning more about Van Gogh’s training and history was also great. Its’ amazing how much he crammed in to such a short time (he took up painting very late in life) and also how little recognition he got in his time. If he only knew how admired he would be maybe he wouldn’t have shot himself at 37 (although I don’t understand how he shot himself yet nobody ever found the gun!).
After leaving the Van Gogh museum we wandered along the canals further and detoured off for lunch and Gelato in the sun near the Heineken Experience, our next stop.
The Heineken Experience is the original Heineken brewery converted in to a museum with loads of fun little videos and games throughout. Once you make it through the museum you also get to taste the product so it is my kind of place. We opted to skip a video in return for an extra few glasses of beer at the end of the tour so we ended up spending a while relaxing and people watching in the bar later.
As a bonus, we also got a free canal ride that would take us over to the Heineken store in a nearby part of the city. Taking a boat ride on the canal was on our list of things to do so that worked out perfectly. Seeing a city from the water is always great so we enjoyed our little ride. We also got to enjoy more free Heineken games at the store (and pick up our “free gift” which was just a branded glass).
At this stage of the day, we felt brave enough to venture over in to the seedy heart of Amsterdam – the Red Light district. It seems like there are three crowds of people that visit Amsterdam: one lot there for the coffee shops (not for the caffeine!), one lot there to partake in the Red Light District and us, the travellers just there to see the city. The Red Light district brings all those crowds together though as we were about to find out.
We were surprised to find young children walking along gawking with their parents as a “worker” offered their services from behind a glass door. Not sure if I would do the same with children but each to their own. Anything to broaden their minds I guess.
After making it past all the sex museums, sex shows and sex tourists, we were oddly pretty hungry so started looking for somewhere to eat. The problem with that is that a good chunk of the surrounding area was made up of only two types of place: coffee shops (that are billowing out smoke and offer all types of Marijuana), and shops that cater to the impaired customers of the coffee shops (so a lot of takeaway waffle places). The coffee shops are everywhere and after a few minutes we got used to the pungent smell.
We had to walk for quite some way before we could breathe clear air and hope to find somewhere good to eat. Falling back on the Tripadvisor city app as we usually do, we found a great Thai place for dinner (after finding a great Indian place the night before). No waffles in site although we may or may not have gone and got a bunch of waffle biscuits after dinner.
And so ended our 4 day, 3 country Easter weekend. I thought we would finish the weekend shattered and needing a break but we both just felt like keeping going and moving on to another country. One day maybe.