(I recently looked over this blog and noticed my entries for Amsterdam [Amsterdam-travel-guide-1125002] were never written! It is now almost 10 years since that trip and I have forgotten many of the details of this visit. These entries are written based on my photos and ticket stubs and maps. I’m sure I have a travel journal somewhere, but not sure where. I did find my map that I actually marked up with my route around the city! So, here we go…)
I took the night train from Munich to Amsterdam, arriving at 9 in the morning. I like the night trains because I like sleeping in the gently rocking cars. The cost is about the same as getting a decent hotel room, but this includes the travel! We arrived at the main train station, Centraal Station. I was staying at a youth hostel near the Anne Frank House. I don’t recall how I got there from the train station – if I walked, took a bus or tram. The hostel was about 2 km from the train station. It seems likely that I made my way there with the least amount of effort (by bus/tram) to drop off my overnight bag, because I would have arrived before check in. At some point, I purchased the I amsterdam city card, which provided free public transport, free canal cruise and free or discounted entrances to museums. You can purchase it for 24, 48, 72 or 96 hours. Since I wasn’t there long, I got the 24 hour card. It came with a little book of all the attractions you can visit, with the card plus a city map. I most likely got this around Centraal Station when I arrived. I’m not sure I was actually there long enough to get my money’s worth, but I did use the card for several things.
I then walked along some canals and made my way to the Anne Frank House. I enjoyed walking along the canals. They were lined with colorful houses and houseboats. It was still early and there was not really anyone in line. The museum had just opened when I arrived and I was behind a few people. You aren’t allowed to take photos there. There are some exhibits on the main floor, then you go up the narrow stairs behind the bookcase to visit the rooms in the secret annex that those 8 people inhabited for 2 years. The rooms are mostly bare and small. Some of the pictures that Anne had pasted in her room still remain. There are more exhibits after you leave the secret annex. I took my time going through the museum. When I left, the line was about 50 people long and wrapped around the corner. Definitely go early if you can.
In case you don’t know the story, Anne Frank and her family were Jewish. They went into hiding with some others in the secret annex of the building of her father’s business when it became too dangerous for Jews in Amsterdam during World War II. They had the help of some of her father’s employees, providing them with food. Because the business still operated by day, they were not allowed to use the bathrooms, run water, or make any noise at all during working hours. The 8 people remained hidden there for over 2 years, until an unknown person betrayed them. Everyone was sent to the concentration camps.The line for the Anne Frank House (after I left)The end of World War II was near, but Anne’s father was the only one of their group to survive the war. The other 7 were either gassed or died of disease in the concentration camps. Anne’s diary was later rescued by one of the employee helpers and given to her father when it was clear she did not survive.
I walked over to the Westerkerk on the next block. This is the church where Anne could hear the church bells ringing, but couldn’t see the church. The tower was under scaffolding, so I couldn’t see the church either. This church was white and bright inside, with the organ pipes on one wall. I went inside and sat down on a chair. I like to sit in churches to rest and take in the (usually) peacefully scenery. As I rested, I looked down and noticed the floor was actually grave markers! There are bodies under the floor! This is apparently common in these older churches, but it was a little creepy.
I continued walking back towards the center of Amsterdam. I walked through the Magna Plaza (shopping center) and walked by the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) and Royal Palace. The palace was closed for renovations. I was curious about the Red Light District, but again, being a woman traveling alone, I really didn’t feel safe going there after dark. I made my way there with plenty of daylight left. I walked along some canals and past the Waag before crossing a canal back into the Red Light District near the Oude Kerk (Old Church).
A friend highly recommend the Damrak Sex Museum and even Rick Steves mentioned that this one was the better of the two. I must say, I really enjoyed the museum! This one was more of a history through the ages, with photos and memorabilia. Yes, it was graphic, explicit and erotic and not for everyone. I found it fascinating and very interesting. This is such a taboo subject with many people and cultures, yet it is very open and common among others. It was fun to see the photos of certain acts back in the early 1900s, with women in long, flowing skirts. It was also interesting to see the artwork and sculptures from cultures around the world. I can only imagine how inspiring this museum is to those who tour it with their significant other (or find one for rent nearby). For fun, I did give my camera to a stranger so they could take a photo of me by a 7 ft tall phallic sculpture. For obvious reasons, I’m not posting any of the photos I took there. The entrance fee was very cheap, about 3€ and it was well worth it!
Prostitution is legal in the Red Light District. It was still early in the day, but I did see some “wares” on display. I was also warned about pick pockets and that photos of certain sights were not welcomed here, so mostly I walked around with my camera put away and my head down. I entertained the thought of going to a coffeeshop, but in the end, I wasn’t brave enough. We have random drug tests at work, and that could be hard to explain, even if it was legal in Amsterdam. Instead, I found a little sidewalk café and had a nutella crepe for lunch. It was good, but quite a bit different than what I could have had for lunch
After eating, I continued walking towards Centraal Station. I passed Rembrantplein, with a statue of the artist Rembrant. I was passed by many, many bicycles. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people on bicycles before. You really had to watch where you walk! I enjoyed walking along the canals and looking at the interesting buildings along the water. I may have had a couple of bicycle bells ding at me to get out of the way, too. I kept wandering into the bicycle lanes, so I guess it was my fault. I headed back to my hostel for the night, probably by public transportation as it was free and I’d been walking all day!