Nom de Plumage

April 23, 2013

Canals, Drugs and Sex You Know Where – Amsterdam

Filed under: Travel Journal — nomdeplumage @ 8:35 pm
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English: The Anne Frank House alongside the Pr...

English: The Anne Frank House alongside the Prinsengracht in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Nederlands: Het Anne Frank Huis aan de Prinsengracht in Amsterdam, Nederland. Français : La maison d’Anne Frank sur Prinsengracht à Amsterdam, Pays-Bas. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A friend of mine once wrote, that you know when you are in Amsterdam when you exit the train station and smell marijuana. I wish that I could write the same thing, but the city greeted me with snow,  heavy grey mist and freezing temperatures that no smell, no matter how strong, could have breathed in such appalling conditions. Considering that the closest I have gotten ever to smoking dope was in Canada a few months back, I really did not miss the usual Amsterdam greeting.

DSC00607     DSC00597     DSC00593The city that has  more canals than Venice; albeit a little frozen over and without the refreshing sulphuric overkill, it is a beautiful city. As I walk the quiet frozen streets, I am amazed away at how beautiful the city is and can only imagine and dream that come summer, it would be even more wonderful. Although overcast and cold, nothing could dampen my mood or my enjoyment.

A place that I really wanted to see first, before all the tourists take my early lead, is the Anne Frank museum. From the outside, it seems like any ordinary house beside a canal in the middle of the city. Until you enter the museum and pay for your ticket, you enter a world where time has stood still. The first half lays out the history of the family and their tragic circumstances, with beautifully preserved pages from Anne’s diary. A child, on the cusp of womanhood and with so much to live for, her dream of becoming a famous writer never realised in her own lifetime. But fast forward the years to our world, where the majority of the world has either read her diary, seen a movie/documentary about her or may have studied about her in school, her realisation has come to fruition and her memory lives on. Her house  was shared by her family and few friends, is sparse in furnishing but rich in poignancy and very moving and sad. A must see when in Amsterdam.

When I exit the museum after having purchased a copy of Anne’s diary, the line-up to get into the museum was well out the door. A great call on my behalf because the house is quiet small and cramped and it is not a place you want to share with a large crowd of tourists. From Anne’s house, I explore the city a little more and come to the famous Rijksmuseum. After my Italian overload of Renaissance master’s, it is refreshing to enter a museum and see some famous Dutch masters. Tired of the religious paintings in Italy, theses masters opened a new world for me of portraits and scenes from everyday life in The Netherlands. This museum also has wonderful representation of ceramics, silverware, paintings, jewellery, sculptures and many other works of art. I spent several hours in a deceivingly small exterior that packs a huge punch internally.

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I go in search of Rembrandt’s house and instead, walk around in circles. In vain I search and in the end, opt for the next best thing; Rembrandt’s Corner – a café. A cosy and very welcoming café, I sit down near the street window and order myself a hot pea soup with sausage, a Dutch apple pie for a treat and a very comforting glass of red wine to knock the cold out of my bones. It was a nice place to warm up and watch life pass by for a while.

Ok, the fun bit at last. When in Rome…….or should I write, when in Amsterdam…….the city famously associated with one of the worlds best ‘red light districts’. I can safely vouch, that I would not have dared even contemplate walking into this risqué place in the evening and on my own. But during the day, it is something else. I do not know what I was expecting, so I really had no idea that I had actually walked into the area until I see the first of many ‘live show’ advertisements. The district is actually really beautiful and divided by a canal in a traditional part of the city. But as you walk further along, the ambiance changes and things really are in your face. The scantily clad prostitutes sitting behind the window, drinking champagne and gossiping amongst each themselves and hoping to tempt customers. The graphic signage at the entrance to the ‘live shows’ and places where sex toys, sex and dope museums are the norm, is a place you have to see to believe.

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I walk to the main shopping precinct or the aptly named ‘birth place’ of Amsterdam, as it is where the vibe increases and so does the populace. A place where the unusual, the fun seekers and the tourist congregate, surrounded by a castle, cathedral, shops and museums. Madame Tussaud’s was the place that I initially had in mind, but the long queue quickly changed my mind and I opted instead for the more subdued Royal Castle. Although, from the heavy scaffolding surrounding the castle, I was not sure what it was at first. Inside, there are no renovations insight and what is quite evident, is the simplicity and elegance of the castle and its furnishing. Very different to the other royal castles that I have seen so far.

The weather is progressively getting colder and darker and my feet are wet and numb. I would love to stay and explore more, but in the end opt to go back to my hostel to thaw out.


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