Easter Weekend: Amsterdam
Amsterdam, it's named derived from the dam created by the river Amstel, felt like a combination of New York flats, Venice canals, and the cleanliness and charm of a small town with almost as many bikes as there are people. After landing Thursday mid-day, we got a 3-day travel card and walked around before heading off to the Anne Frank House at 3:30.
ANNE FRANK HOUSE
I would suggest buying tickets months in advance, or get to the line well before 3:30PM when it opens for those without tickets! Even though we looked to buy tickets a month before our trip, they were all sold out, and although we arrived at 3:45PM, we ended up waiting in line for 3.5 hours before we got inside. I would also suggest packing for cold weather, as Marrissa, Karina, and I would take turns standing in line so one of us could stand in the sun or walk around to keep warm. Here are some pictures I took while walking around:
It was amazing to finally witness the hiding place in person after reading about it through Anne's diary. Although it was bigger than I thought with multiple rooms, it makes sense that she would feel cramped given the situation they were in, and how restricted they had to be in their movements after 8PM. After seeing the physical red diary and reading translated excerpts from it, I reflected on how neat her handwriting was, and how maturely she wrote for her age.
Entrance + exit of the museum.
Despite the long lines, it was a very powerful experience and I would recommend everyone who has the chance to, to visit.
Sunset as we left the Anne Frank House.
For dinner we went to The Pancake House, and unlike American pancakes, they are between the thickness of the American version and a crepe. For something hearty to warm you up, the thick Erwtensoep (Dutch Pea Soup) really does wonders. For their pancakes, there were so many options to choose from, but if you're getting a sweet pancake, I would suggest sharing with someone since it is a lot of food...and sugar!
We started the next morning with brunch at The Corner Bakery, and then headed off to a canal tour.
For guided history of the city as well as protection from the weather, this is a fine choice. However, for photo opportunities, I would rent a pedal boat instead to go at your own pace; just prepare for rainy weather!
Back then, beer was healthier than water because of how contaminated the water was, but now their advanced water systems flush out dirty water to the North Sea and brings in clean water from the Rhine River. Despite the fact that they are very susceptible to flooding, Amsterdam has over 700 years of experience in controlling the tides and learning from past floods, and with their water engineers, this city is one of the most prepared for climate change's rising sea levels.
NEMO: A science museum that also has a beach, grass for picnics, and rooftop concerts for the public to enjoy during the summer.
We went to Museumplein next to visit the Van Gogh and Moco Museum. This is also where one of the famous I AMSTERDAM signs are located, and where you can get food like hot stroopwaffles at the food stands.
I amsterdam sign covered by tourists.
VAN GOGH MUSEUM
Two Van Gogh paintings were stolen in 2003 but were found and recovered 14 years later, hence the exhibit name Van Gogh Returns. Here we also saw many variations of his self-portraits, as well as his Sunflowers and Wheatfield with Crows paintings. Pictures were allowed in certain areas, but not in others.
Van Gogh's paint and palette.
The Moco Museum was right next to the Van Gogh Museum, which is where we went next.
Featuring works from Banksy until August 30 and Salvador Dali, this was the museum I've been looking forward to all day. The first floor and upstairs included pieces of Banksy's thought-provoking work -- some I've never seen before and others saved from the streets. The downstairs housed Dali's dream-like pieces as well as some of his sculptures.
Despite being known as the "king of street art," Banksy also makes art for the indoors on materials like canvas and wood.
Girl with Ballon: Evoking the idea that hope is essential, this image is meant to give people the motivation to continue on in life despite dreary circumstances. Another meaning is saying that love, symbolized by the balloon, is a fundamental human need and must be cherished.
"Raising the Steaks"
Right photo: "Love Hurts"
Bomb Hugger on Traffic Sign: The innocent girl is hugging a bomb dropped by military airplanes, trying to challenge the press and politicians who portray warfare in a positive light:
Love Is In The Air: Reminiscent of images from the 1960's campus and street riots. There is anger in the posture of the man, bombing the establishment with flowers, with the flowers symbolizing a hope for a peaceful resolution of our conflicts:
Forgive Us For Our Trespassing: "Forgive us our trespasses" is the 7th sentence in the English Catholic Lord's prayer. Trespassing is an act strongly associated with street art and graffiti as they have to trespass private property in order to get a certain area, and Banksy uses a very literal approach depicting a church window with a boy in front praying for forgiveness:
Barcode Leopard: Depicting a tiger that escaped from his cage, this piece can represent anti-consumerism, but can also be seen as commenting on illegal tiger trading on the black market:
Laugh Now Monkeys
The museum also included quotes by Banksy and Dali on the walls which I thought was a nice addition. After viewing Banksy's art, we viewed Dali's art downstairs:
I love how subtle the city landscapes are for the eyes:
Close up of one of the eyes.
The Exit was not through the gift shop (shout out to those who got my reference), but through a backyard that featured a couple more of Banksy's pieces before officially ending the exhibit.
This ended up being one of my favorite museums, and I would suggest checking it out if you have time (the line is really short too!). Afterwards we enjoyed a walk around the canals before dinner.
This park is huge and I would suggest exploring it on a bike. Although I didn't have time to go through all of it, it was a perfect place for a walk and digest the pancakes I had for dinner!
The tulips in this park also got me excited for the tulips that I would be seeing the next day.
The next day started with the tulip gardens. The transfer to the garden starts at the airport, and before arriving we drove by tulip fields; I have never seen so many variations of tulips at once, and I might have gone a little overboard when taking photos.
The park included so many sections of beautiful color palettes that I felt like any one of the bouquets picked from a plot would be stunning.
To see the rest of the garden, click HERE!
After coming back I went to Yoghurt Barn, a cozy area with a great yogurt selection and many toppings to choose from. I ended up getting one of their specials (mango with brownie bits and walnuts), but if yogurt is not your thing, they also have coffee, smoothies, acai bowls, and even high tea. Their frozen yogurt is also very smooth, creamy, and light!
Surprise surprise, a carnival in the center of the city! Marrissa and I went on the swings that went higher than the ferris wheel, and its a great way to see the city. It was very cold though with strong winds so despite the swings being my favorite ride, would not recommend going on a second time.
There are also carnival games to play, and lots of food to eat!
As a newly renovated tram depot, foodhallen is a indoors food market with a variety of cuisines to choose from. Get your bitterballen at De Ballenbar, and dessert at I-Scream Waffle. There is a Yoghurt Barn here as well!
RED LIGHTS DISTRICT
Prostitution is legal in Holland, and as one of Amsterdam's major tourist attraction, we decided to check it out before it got dark. Photography is limited, and the police stationed along the streets made the area feel much safer in case anything unusual happens. Although we only spent a short time here, if you're interested about the culture, they have a museum dedicated to the Red Lights District to learn more about this old profession and how it came to be.