Amsterdam, the Netherlands
My first time in Amsterdam was back in sophomore year in college when I was studying abroad in London, circa 2004, with my friends Jackie and Sharon. My second time was in 2012, while I was teaching in Madrid, to visit my friend Lillian who was in art school there at the time. And, both times, I never smoked or ate a specially made brownie. Instead, I was more interested in…
…the drinky drinky of the Heiney Heiney. That would be the Heineken Experience. I normally like Heineken, though it’s not my favorite beer, but, the beer here tasted as if your taste buds literally rolled around and laid upon the fields of barley (guess the song and singer reference…). Included in the price of admission were 3 drinks and a “free” branded half-pint glass. I could’ve spent all day here. Instead, we hit up a cheese farm and a clog factory which, in retrospect, was kind of a waste of time. It was definitely catered to tourists. But, I guess as a 19-year old, it was still fun in some way.
But, nothing was as memorable as the Anne Frank House. I saw my 5th grade required reading become beyond real and into surreal in front of my eyes. Seeing the actual diary, the very pages she wrote on, was unreal. It was hard imagining the neighborhood or even the city with its Red Light District being once occupied by Nazi soldiers. It was hard imagining this house as a secret hiding place when it is now a public museum. But, I guess you could say that about a lot of other places, where it once was a place of war and is now a place of freedom and capitalism or, vice versa. Every piece of land has seen its share of changes, both destructive and productive.
At night, we did the touristy walk through the Red Light District. It’s against the law to take photos of the windows where the women posed and ‘marketed’ for business. Apparently, there were times when people did take photos and one of the women’s bodyguards came out and threw his or her camera into the canal. I get it though. To them, this is their livelihood, not a spectacle. You could, however, take a picture of the general area, as long as it didn’t involve the women. We bumped into this small Asian girl who was walking around the district while holding up a large sign that said “JESUS LOVES YOU!” I chuckled because it was cute and useless. I wondered if anyone ever paid attention and was touched by the sign? I guess I’ll never know. Just like how I’ll never know Amelia Earhart’s final whereabouts, what happened to the colony of Roanoke Island, if the Bermuda Triangle really did gobble up boats, if the Loch Ness monster really exists and who really murdered Hae 15 years ago in Baltimore (listen to the Serial podcast if you don’t know what I’m talking about). I need to stop thinking about all these unsolved mysteries or, I’ll drive myself crazy.
Back in 2004, I didn’t care too much about going to art museums. I had limited time to roam around the city and obviously opted for the brewery instead. I can now say that my views on that have changed, and I’m talking about viewing artwork, not drinking great beer. My views on the brewery have not changed and if I were given a choice today, I would still choose the brewery over the museum. But, I got to visit the Van Gogh Museum and I really enjoyed it. No photos were allowed inside so, the above photo is all you get.
I’ve been wanting to check out the tulip fields for awhile and so I was really happy to finally visit the Keukenhof. The park was beautifully filled with flowers, from tulips to orchids, gerber daisies, hyacinths and more.
How to get here: You can check out the website to find out the directions. I took the bus (line 858) from the Schiphol train station which was really easy to figure out.
Just gorgeous. The weather in Amsterdam is usually gloomy but, on this day, the sun managed to come out most of the time. Otherwise, it was definitely a chilly day (it was in April) and I was getting over a pretty bad cold. But, that didn’t stop me from taking a bike ride with cold air blowing against my face for a good 3-4 hours. Again, I like subjecting myself to questionable circumstances that end up torturing me for a bit before I get my satisfaction at the end, whether it be gorgeous scenery or who knows. Although the park was filled with every flower imaginable, what I really was interested in seeing were the actual farms where the tulips were being grown to supply the market. To see this, you need to get there by bicycle or car.
Right outside the Keukenhof entrance, there was a bicycle rental stand called Rent-a-Bike van Dam. For the day, you could rent a bike for EUR 10 and they’ll supply you with a map and suggested routes. You just needed to make sure to return the bike by 7:30pm before they closed. I followed the route pretty well and almost rode off the path into some bushes when trying to look at the map and ride at the same time. There was a point where I got lost or, I thought I got lost because I had to ride across a major roadway and then into paths that either felt shady or like I was trespassing onto some private grounds. I finally passed by someone I could ask for directions. He, of course, led me the wrong way turning my planned 1 hour bike ride into about 3-4 hours. It’s okay, though…
…because I finally made it to my destination. SELF HIGH FIVE!