So here's what I found: Amsterdam is incredibly beautiful, full of historic and amazing buildings, but (at least its downtown area) is also full of people that would make living in the city intolerable for me. I just kept thinking as we walked around that this city was so gorgeous, with such an awesome feel to it, but flooded by tourists. I had previously disliked this aspect of Stockholm at times, but seeing how Amsterdam was during just a random weekend in March makes me realize that even at its peak touristy time in July, Stockholm can't even hold a candle to this level of annoying tourism. I suppose it's a combination of less people and -- how should I say it -- less odious hobbies. Nevertheless, walking around such a gorgeous city with so much going on was fascinating no matter which street we turned down or where we went. That was most definitely the best aspect -- there was always something new to find around each corner.
When I got in the car, the driver asked me where I was from (which is always a strange question these days, because I have come from Sweden but am not what someone would expect from Sweden, and he could hear it in my English). So I explained and told him I was American. I asked him if he'd lived here all his life, and he answered that it'd only been five years. I could work with that though, so I asked if he had any personal favorite suggestions for things we should check out while here, but he wasn't from Amsterdam, only drove there and didn't know. To break the awkward silence, I asked him how learning Dutch has gone for him, and we laughed about both learning new languages in this part of the world and how annoying it can be. I was relieved to have the conversation back on a nice track. So then I asked where he was from and why he moved there... The answer? He was from Afghanistan and was able to claim asylum for his move. Being American, it was one of those, "Oh... great... I'm going to just hop out this window now..." moments. It wasn't the first time this has happened and won't be the last. I tried not to let it affect the way I spoke and told him Afghanistan has always looked like an incredibly beautiful place and that I'd really like to visit there someday (I debated specifying my wishes to see Kurdistan, but stayed away, in case he wasn't a fan, I didn't need to worsen the situation.) And his reply was not what I'd hoped for either, as he said, "Well, I wouldn't go anytime soon. It's terrible there, with so much war." I don't remember where the conversation went after that, but I thanked him for the ride as I left and gave him a high rating through the Uber app, hopefully helping to get more business in the future.
After dropping stuff off at our hotel, we headed out to get some lunch, happening upon a Spanish-run cafe where we had a delicious meal of a bagel with cream cheese, mozzarella sticks and a panini (all things we haven't previously seen much of in Stockholm and had to have, given the chance), we continued on our way to the sight I'd most wanted to see, Anne Frank's House. As we hadn't been able to pre-buy tickets to get in and hoped that a Friday afternoon would mean a slightly shorter line to get in, and while the line was quite long and wrapped around the block, it moved quickly enough and we were in after a 30-45 minute wait.
|Left: the building as seen in Anne's time (source) // Right: my photo from this past weekend|
After leaving the museum, I snapped this picture, of the view as seen from Anne's house at sunset:
the tree Anne often mentioned enjoying to watch.
After that, we walked around town quite a bit. The canals were seemingly endless, occurring almost every other block or so, with both normal and house boats everywhere. One thing that stood out to me most was the way many cars were parked along it, barely allowing the driver to step out of the car without falling into the water, as there are often no railings on the side. (This idea of falling into a canal was in the back of my mind all weekend, and I'm relieved to say, I never even came close to tripping in.)
I'd read about the issues with unsuspecting tourists dying after taking a different substance than what they'd expected, it was interesting to see the notices about it in person as well -- and they were hard to miss, as they were everywhere. White posters (as shown on right below) as well as electronic signs flashing warnings were all over the city. I was most impressed by the text in the back box on the white poster below though, which reads: "You will not be arrested for using drugs in Amsterdam. Call 112 for medical assistance and ambulance. While you wait, keep the victim awake by walking or pinching the shoulder muscle." I think this attitude would surprise most Americans, but it's so phenomenal to see their commitment to public safety, realizing that many people are sadly too afraid to call for help in a serious emergency, fearful of subsequent punishments as well.
Diagon Alley quite a bit.
excellent Thai, awesome Chinese food, lunch at an Italian place (photo at top right), lunch at a brasserie, and last, enjoyed some hot chocolate outside at a café near the bus back to the airport.
We also visited the Flower Market, which wasn't quite as spectacular as I thought it would be -- but that was probably caused by a combination of it being cloudy and dreary, crowded, and that the things each booth were selling appeared to mostly be the same. I did grab a couple of small, cheap souvenirs and gifts at one of the shops though, so it wasn't a total loss.
|A cat waiting on his coffee?|
|Street party we stumbled upon, which seemed to be related to an art show in an old parking garage next door|
|Our hotel room (here) was quite nice // The cleared tiles -- we walked, a lot!|
I hope to get back to The Netherlands someday soon, ideally to visit some of the Dutch friends I have from the US who have now moved back there. It was an incredibly beautiful city, and just walking around and seeing all the sights was wonderful. I was pleasantly surprised to see I could read much of what was written in Dutch, using my combined knowledge of Swedish and English, although it did feel a bit crazy at times to listen to things and have no idea what was being said -- I'm not used to that anymore!
PS: One last thing I wasn't expecting, Amsterdam is nowhere near as card-friendly as Sweden (which accepts and prefers cards absolutely everywhere)! Yikes, we had more than a few issues paying at times, and one place would not accept Visa or MasterCard, only Maestro. Who does that?! Odd. So, let this be a warning to others!