I left Waterford at 4:30am and crossed over the River Suir for the last time. I was on my way to Dublin Airport, where I would fly out to begin my twenty days of travel. First stop, Amsterdam.
I arrived in Amsterdam and made my way to my hostel and then onto the city. I arrived in the city at the Central Station and took off down the main street, Damrak. I made my way down to the National Memorial that commemorates all those that lost their lives in WWII and to the Royal Palace. Both the palace and the memorial sit on Dam Square, the original spot where the Dutch people put a dam in the River Amstel, thus creating Amsterdam. At the square, I admired the many bicycles that where around before making my way across the square and towards the Anne Frank House. I got to Anne Frank House and noticed the long line, but decided to wait anyways. I only had to wait about 1.5 hours and it was worth it. The apartment where the Frank Family hid during the Nazi Occupation before their arrest is in the same state that Otto Frank found it when he returned after the war. The rooms are bare of any furniture, Anne’s room still has the pictures she pasted to the wall, and the original bookcase that served as the secret entrance is still in the exact spot. All of this was required by Otto Frank. Inside the museum is also original copies of Anne’s diary and the re-workings she made to it. Anne Frank’s House stands as a stark reminder of the persecution of the Jews during WWII. What I found interesting is that not even a block away from Anne Frank’s House is the Homomonument. A monument for homosexuals and the persecution that have faced and still face to this day. These two memorials are right next to the most important church in Amsterdam. It is quite funny how everything co-exist in this city. This wraps up day one in Amsterdam.
To start off day two of Amsterdam, I decided to take a free walking tour of the city. The tour started on Dam Square, but our first real stop was the famous Red Light District. The district is of course known for its “coffee shops” and “sex workers”, but the history of the district and what it is home to is quite interesting. Fun fact: Marijuana is completely illegal in the Netherlands, buying, smoking, selling, the Dutch government has decided though to not enforce the law and to instead tax it. It is kind of weird, but they are happy with it. The Red Light District is soon to become much smaller though as the government plans to confine it to only one canal so they can better police it. Believe it or not, people still sell bad weed and not all sex workers are there on their own accord. From the Red Light District, we continued our tour around the city and learned more about its history and past. The tour ended by the Anne Frank House, near my favorite area, the Jardaan. After the tour, I ended up having lunch with the tour guide who took me to a place that served traditional Dutch food. The guide was from Ireland so we had a lovely conversation. After lunch, I caught the tram across town and went to the Dutch Resistance Museum that tells the story of the Dutch Resistance during WWII and the some of the stories of the many people that took part. It was a very good museum and helped bring to light the fact that not everyone who fought the Nazis were in a formal army or even fired a weapon. There was constant resistance by people and much of it was non-violent. After the museum, I walked to the Auschwitz Memorial, which is made of broken mirrors, before getting back on the tram and going back to the Jardaan area where I stumbled upon a delicious pizza place. It was a good way to end day number two.
I started day 3 off in the museum district and the first attraction I saw was the famous “i amsterdam” sign. I also walked passed the very crowded Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum, the Louvre of the Netherlands. This was all on my way to catch my canal tour. Of course the boat left as soon as I was arriving so I had to wait an hour for the next boat so I walked around the neighborhood a bit and went past the old Heineken Brewery that now houses the Heineken Experience. I made my way back around to my starting point and then hopped onto the boat that was going to take me around the canals. The canal tour was great and it gave a new vantage point to the city. On the tour we got to see some of the sights I had already seen, but some new ones as well like the famous “skinny bridge”. After the canal tour I took a stroll through the beautiful Vondel Park. After walking through some of the park I made my way back to Dam Square and took a tour of the Royal Palace. The main highlight from the palace tour was the Citizen’s Hall which beautiful and had extremely high ceilings. Before becoming a palace in the times of Napoleon, the Royal Palace was actually the City Hall for the city of Amsterdam. After my palace tour I decided to spend some of my last hours in Amsterdam just walking around the canals and really enjoying the lovely architecture and tranquility. I ended up settling down in a pub and sitting outside along a canal and enjoying a beer and thought that was a perfect way to end my time in Amsterdam.
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