Tulips and Cheese
Amsterdam is a Tea Party advocate’s hell. Which means that I loved the culture. Locals and tourists sported body art and colored dreads. Same sex couples mirrored heterosexual couples, holding hands and kissing in the streets. All races, genders, and ethnicities seemed equal and all were having a good time. We arrived Thursday night and ended up walking around the main square of the city, Dam Square. Rows of shops lined the narrow streets and vines and chandeliers of lights hung above. Dam Square was large and impressive. On one side was the Royal Palace, simply beautiful, and on the other side was the National Freedom Monument recognizing the victims of World War II. Lit up at night, it was ghostly and haunting. We then headed to the hotel to get some rest before the weekend started.
National Freedom Monument
Friday morning Christina, Tyler and I got up early to tour the Anne Frank House. As a Jew, this was the main attraction I wanted to see in Amsterdam. The tour took us through each room in the apartment, through the secret passageway and into the annex where the Frank family and friends hid during the Holocaust. The rooms were empty, left how the Nazi’s left them, furniture and goods looted and thrown away. Otto Frank, the only survivor of the family, made models that showed exactly how each room had looked. While the apartment was small, it wasn’t as cramped as I had imagined when reading Anne Frank’s diary. Still, I cannot fathom staying in there for months. The most shocking part was Anne and Margot’s growth chart marked on a wall, something that my dad used to do when I was younger. That tore at my heart. Her diary was also on display, which was of course emotional. However, seeing Anne Frank’s house definitely completed something within me. I felt closer to my Jewish history because of it.
Anne Frank House
Afterwards we made our way to the Homomonument, a memorial to the GLBT community that perished in the Holocaust. Three triangles representing past, present, and future, sat jutting into the river, decorated with rainbow flags and flowers. It was one of the most beautiful and unique monuments I have seen.
We then met up with the rest of our group and decided we wanted to relax this trip, and not get sucked into touring from dawn until dusk. We wandered the winding streets and bridges over the canals. We stopped and ate waffles covered in fruit syrup and of course tried the ‘famous’ Amsterdam French fries. The fries came covered with your choice of mayo or cheese – I chose the latter of course, and it was delicious. It wasn’t your typical melted cheese, but a sharp cheddar-like cheese that made me crave more and more.
Cheese is huge in Amsterdam, something I did not know about before the trip. There are cheese shops almost every block, and all of them give out slices for sampling, which we took advantage of. My favorites were the goat and sheep cheeses, as well as a red pesto cheese that went fabulously with their special Holland mustard. We even went to the Cheese Museum which showed us how cheese was made throughout the years.
Sasha, Christina and I hanging with the cow
In the late afternoon we wandered upon a street performer. He had volunteers wrap him with saran wrap and then chains, locking them together. He meant to escape from the entire thing in a timely manner. While he got out of the chains easily enough, his trick failed when the saran wrap was too tight around his waist and ended up pulling down his pants. Though the trick failed, he shrugged it off and the audience had a good laugh.
After dinner we wandered more and, unintentionally I promise, ended up in the Red Light District. Two streets on either side of a canal boasted about women and booze, and the red lights reflected in the water. Red neon signs, red string lights, even red street lamps shone through the streets. The crowds were mostly male, young and old. Without going into too much detail, many half naked women danced behind glass and beckoned the public into their respective strip club. It was certainly a sight, but we did not spend much time in the Red Light District before moving on.
Red Light District
(Saturday, Christina and I took a train to Bruges, which you can read about in my next blog post!)
Sunday was a gorgeous, sunny day, perfect for more walking around the city. It also happened to be St. Nicholas’ Day, so the city was busy with locals and their children, dressing up and watching parades. We tried to avoid the big crowds and went straight to find the Letters. The Letters are just that – they are large, white, sculpted letters that say I AMSTERDAM, with the I and first AM painted red, reading I am Amsterdam. We took a ton of pictures there, with everyone posing with their favorite letter. Afterwards, we walked past the massive Heineken Brewery and stopped for lunch. We didn’t tour the brewery, but I’m sure the technology would be incredible.
Tyler with his 't'
Lastly, before heading home, we went to the Blumenmarket, a floating flower market which is supposed to be spectacular in the spring and summer. Unfortunately, it being winter, there were not many flowers in bloom. Each stand was selling flower bulbs, mostly for tulips, which Amsterdam is famous for. Tulips are also my favorite flower, so I was excited to see the hundreds of different types of tulips one could buy. I also stopped in the Tulip Museum, which talked about the history of the tulip. After, we grabbed a quick dinner and headed to the airport to fly back to Prague.
Amsterdam was certainly a relaxing weekend. I would love to go in the spring or summer and see the massive tulip gardens and famed flowers. It was a good trip, but I was happy to get back to Prague.