Amsterdam has been an equally relaxing and exhausting experience. It pushed me very far outside of my comfort zone by forcing me to meet new random people at my hostel, adjust my travel itinerary, and suffer through the cold rainy weather. Compared to how I usually am on trips, I was pretty flexible with my plans and didn’t create or follow a strict itinerary. I compiled several books, maps, and advice from people who have been here before into a loose “must see” list.
On Thursday I began my mornings with the museums and shops, braked to unpack some of my stuff at the hostel, and then just went walking. I set my mind on checking out a market many blocks away from me but took my time getting there. The thing about Amsterdam is that all the roads connect and intertwine so you can easily find your way somewhere even if you take a few detours. I stopped at several shops, ate at a small family owned bakery, and even stopped at the Hermitage Museum on the way. The Waterlooplein market is an outdoor bazaar that was originally a Jewish flee market that was the most important one in Amsterdam. Nowadays, it is very popular for purchasing second-hand clothing and random “hip” items. I found the coolest shirt for Mia there! After I browsed, I checked my map and realized that I was walking distance from Rembrandt’s house. In reality, most things in Amsterdam are within walking distance from each other.
The rest of my afternoon progressed as such. I would walk, see what was nearby that interested me, and then make my way there, checking out and experiencing everything I saw along the way. By the time I finally made it back to my hostel that night around 10pm, I felt like I truly had experienced the city. I had seen all the little shops, restaurants, people, and parks along the way. Walking down the side roads that were purely residential was peaceful compared to the streets that were bustling with thousands of people.
One of my favorite things that I did, which seems small in comparison to everything else, was to visit a cheese shop. Amsterdam is known for its Gouda cheese, but all the other kinds were equally as yummy and interesting. I tried every single one of the samples they had out, it was practically a meal! The most interesting flavors I tried were: Goat cheese with lavender, Coconut goat cheese, and cheese with homemade pesto. My favorite flavors were their 12-month old goat cheese, Buffalo cheese, goat cheese with herbs, and homemade Gouda (absolutely delicious). In fact, I loved the cheese so much that I am going to write an entire blog post about it once I do a little background research.
The next day, I was able to meet up with some friend’s from high school who are in the middle of this amazing bike trip around Europe. It was so cool to hear about all the people that they have met and things they have been able to do on their trip. We went to see the Anne Frank house, where we waited in line for almost two hours, even though we got there before it opened. You start by entering the actual house that Anne Frank and seven other people hid in to escape persecution. Otto Frank, Anne’s father and the only member of the family who survived the concentration camp, did not want furniture to ever be placed in the house again after what had happened there. Therefore, the rooms are bare but contain pictures on the walls of recreated scenes for the rooms and little model houses to show where everything was when the Frank family was there. The only things left were the pictures Anne plastered onto her bedroom walls. These pictures show her changing interests as her time in hiding progressed. At first, she was interested in the magazines with famous singers and actors of the time. However, she gradually became more interested in historical figures. Her dad mentioned in one of the videos playing at the museum that he felt as if he only barely truly knew his daughter, despite how close they always were, before he saw what developed and mature thoughts she had written in her diary. Seeing her actual diaries was amazing to say the least. For me, there is nothing cooler when traveling than to see or experience first hand something you had learned about in school. To reflect on everything that your teachers taught you, or that you read while looking at it. I have read Anne Frank’s dairy several times and sat through countless play practices when my mom directed the high school play interpretation of it. One of the various things I will take with me after visiting the house is a piece of a speech Emma Thompson delivered once at the Anne Frank house, “her dreams are our opportunities.”
After we left the house, we searched for a Dunnar place. This is essentially a chicken Gyro. My friends were telling me about how amazing it was and that its one of their new favorite meals they discovered on their trip. We found this place with great reviews that was such a long walk, but completely worth it. The shop was tiny and so crowded that we couldn’t even get in for a couple minutes. My review for Dunnar? 10/10. It was so delicious!
I took a canal cruise that afternoon which came with a free audio tour. While I had already heard most of the facts, there were a few fun new ones. The most interesting part though was the new view you get of places from the water. It is a unique perspective that also sets up a pretty cool picture
Getting back to the airport was a little more complicated than it needed to be. Once it was time to leave, I packed everything up and said goodbye to the friends I had made at Cocomama. On my way to the airport I learned that the train that goes directly to the airport was not operating and I had to take a different train to a stop where I switched onto a special bus that would take me directly to the airport. My hotel was in the airport, which was super convenient because my flight was at 7am the next day. The man at passport was laughing at me because of how early I showed up for my flight even though I was already there. He was also extremely helpful and helped me find my check in gate and everything since he said I was stressing him out by being stressed myself!
Overall, I loved Amsterdam and would absolutely go back at some point! Look out for a post later this week where I will give a more in depth review/ description of all the places I visited there. I am now in Berlin and starting classes tomorrow!