Day one in Amsterdam
I arrived in Amsterdam at 6 in the morning. The streets were slowly being cleared of all remnants of the night before. Brothel windows were empty and being thoroughly cleaned- ready for the occupiers to ‘set to work’ in a few hours time. And it was dark and quiet- the only time I’d see the red light district in an eery silence. First thoughts of Amsterdam- freezing cold, beautiful and mysterious.
The coach journey wasn’t that bad from Paris- I slept most of the way. We arrived in the outskirts of Amsterdam and after putting another jumper on – it was SO cold – I followed the other passengers hoping they’d know where to go. I’d stupidly forgotten to take down directions to the hostel – but luckily I did have the road name. I chanced it and took a tram to the central station presuming that would be a good starting point. I also remembered that I’d installed an app on my phone called ‘Stay’ which is brilliant! You can download the maps for offline use, and it uses GPS without using 3G to pinpoint me on the map. After a bit of hunting I managed to locate the street, slap bang in the middle of the red light district. The hostel was great – it’s run by Christians – they have Bible studies and prayer meetings in the evenings. Staff were lovely too. After dumping my stuff I ventured out into Amsterdam.
I spent most of this day on foot. I wandered around, soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying the beauty of the many canals, the bridges that are full of bikes locked to the railings, and the tall thin houses – that are often not straight – that are crammed along the streets. It’s rather odd walking 10 minutes from one part of Amsterdam that is quiet and residential, and then suddenly hitting sex shops, drug dens and brothels. It’s such a cramped city, , everything in the centre is within walking distance and there are way too many people – it does start to get a little claustrophobic after a while.
In the afternoon I headed over to the Anne Frank’s Huis museum. I’d cleverly booked this online so avoided the long queue! If you’re interested in the life of Anne Frank then you simply have to head here. Not only do you discover more about her life, diary and the others who lived in the annexe – and those who helped them – but you also get to walk around the actual annexe. All of the furniture hasn’t been replaced, Otto Frank wanted it this way, as it displays what little was left behind of the people who were brutally and forcefully sent to their deaths. Despite the lack of furniture you really get a sense of what it must’ve been like for them. The rooms are a lot more spacious than I imagined, but with the curtains constantly closed and not being allowed outside, it suddenly dawns how oppressive it must’ve been. They spent 2 years in that place. I can’t even begin to contemplate what living there would have been like. With the same people everyday. Breathing the same, stale air. Just – wow.
After this visit I headed towards the Rijks Museum. I decided not to go in – a whopping 15 euros and I’d already been museum-ed out in Paris – instead I looked around and took some pictures of the ‘I Amsterdam’ sign. Way too many people climbing over the letters to get a decent photo though. I headed back to the hostel for an early night and to just hang out. I chatted to a lovely guy from Spain who was volunteering for the hostel, he wasn’t a Christian but was interested in hearing more, and asked some very difficult questions! I tried to explain things in a way easy enough for him to understand – this was quite difficult, especially when he asked about the trinity and he couldn’t understand my English!
I decided to hire a bike today – money well spent – it was so much fun! The back pedal to brake and extremely high handlebars took some getting used to. As did the extremely overcrowded bicycle lanes, which are basically like mini roads. The Dutch all seem to ride the bikes with high handlebars, and a lot of them look rather ancient – they seem to not care about having snazzy road bikes like me, probably because a lot of them get stolen.
Firstly, I cycled out to the windmill, and whilst I was taking pictures a car exploded behind me. I turned to look and the car was on fire with thick black smoke billowing everywhere. Loads of people had stopped to look – it proved quite an attraction!
I then cycled to Vondelpark, the largest park in the Netherlands, and just chilled here for a while – it was great to escape the hustle and bustle of the city centre! For the rest of the day I just cycled around the city, exploring the sites and smaller areas by bike – it was a lot of fun! I was sad to hand the bike back at the end of the day, and walking back to the hostel felt so slow after I’d been zooming around the city on a bike. No wonder the Dutch cycle everywhere – the Netherlands is so flat and it’s much quicker!
I headed back to the hostel for another early evening and tried to figure out my next steps travel wise… This proved a little difficult as I couldn’t book the bus I wanted for Berlin and ALL hostels on Amsterdam were booked for the weekend. Without a bed for the night, I had to settle with lovely Rotterdam (ha) and booked my bus to Berlin for the next night. I’ll tell you all about it in my next post – this has been a long one!