Monday, April 8, 2013

Amsterdam Day Two: Anne Frank, a Boat Tour & a Little Shopping

 A common sight in Amsterdam: a canal bridge, lined with bikes.

  The first night in Amsterdam had given me one perspective of the city known for its Red Light District. The craziness, the circus-like atmosphere, the anything-goes feeling, had left me a little unsure of the Dutch capital.

  But with two more days to explore Amsterdam, I was anxious to see the other side that I knew lay somewhere in the city. 

  One sight that was first on all of our lists to see was the Anne Frank House. Without a doubt, being Easter weekend, and with a lot of tourists in town, it would be a busy place. The plan was to head to the museum right away, and see how long the line was to get in. We knew the house, and attached museum wasn't all that big, so surely, not very many people could be inside at once.

Sights from the boat tour. Draw bridge near the Amstel River.
Tram Adventures
  Just as we had the night before, we hopped on the number 13 tram, and headed towards the city center. Our ride, roughly 12 hours prior, had been a smooth one. And since we were going to the same place, I expected this ride to be just as easy. Only this time, I wanted to buy a 24-hour pass, instead of paying a pricey 2.80 € for a single-hour pass each time we rode the tram throughout the day. 

  It was here that we encountered the only language issue of the weekend, and in return, got a pretty funny story. As I boarded the tram with Rene slightly behind me, I told the tram attendant I wanted a 24-hour pass. He replied, 'five ten euros'. I reached into my wallet, and thought there must have been a weekend price, because the price listing in front of me said it was over seven euros for a 24-hour pass. Nevertheless, I gave him 6.10 €, and waited for my ticket and change.

A pirate ship! A replica of the 1749 Eastindiaman Amsterdam.
  The attendant then shot me the 'you dumb tourist' look and said, 'no, FIVE TEN euros' in a stern voice. Confused I said, 'yes, and I'm giving you six ten'. 

  This exchange repeated at least five times, with the attendant getting louder and more agitated with each passing second. 

  He eventually started flashing a five and a ten with his hands. I laughed cause I still had no idea what he was asking for. The tram was getting busier, and we were still no closer to an understanding.
Cruising through the canals.

   Suddenly, it hit me: FIFTEEN euros! He thought I was buying two tickets, one for myself, and one for Rene. I shrugged it off, gave him more money, got our two tram tickets, and laughed to the back of the tram.

  Ahhhh, adventures in a foreign land!  

  Westermarkt was our stop for Anne Frank, and all it took was one glance to see that we were in for a long wait.

  With temperatures hoovering around freezing (Spring remains a distant wish in Northern Europe), we decided to pass on the museum that morning. I'd read the night before that lines for the Anne Frank House tended to be much shorter in the evening. So we'd return later that night, and give it another try. But to be sure, we didn't want to miss the Anne Frank experience.

Touring the Streets & Canals
  Second on the the to-do list was a boat tour through the canals. Amsterdam has 165 canals surrounding the city, and is known as the 'Venice of the North'. To visit Amsterdam and not see the city from the canals would be as tragic as not taking a stroll through the Red Light District.

More sights from the canals.
  There were countless tour companies to choose from, but we opted for Blue Boat Tours. Now all we had to do was get from Westermarkt to Leidseplein.

  Even though it was a chilly morning, the mile walk wouldn't be all that bad. And it would give us the opportunity to see a bit more of the city.

  As we strolled south towards Leidseplein, we stumbled upon a little shopping. De Negen Straatjes ('the nine streets') is a shopping district that consists of nine side streets lined with local boutiques, cafes and art galleries. We explored the shops for a bit before heading back out to find our boat tour. My friends and I would return to De Negen Straatjes a little later in the day.

Tracie & Tera outside the cafe.
The boat tour! 
  The Blue Boat Tour was like every other boat tour I've been on. Nothing really special, but a convenient tourist stop. It was fun to quickly see the city, and see the sights from the perspective from the canals. 

  The tour took us out to the IJ (the open water, that I initially mistook for a river, north of the city center), and through the various waterways surrounding the city. You could see the forward-tilting houses, the many houseboats (2,500 of them in Amsterdam), and bridges (1,281) that line the canals. 

  There was a lot to take in during our 90-minute tour; definitely a worthwhile experience!

Lunch Time
  After some research by Rene, we had a lunch spot already in our sights. One of the harder things about traveling in a group is deciding on where and what to eat. People might have a different idea of what sounds good, especially in a foreign land. 

  Rene read off a rave review of a local place called Singel 404, and all four of us decided it sounded delicious. So once off the boat, Singel 404 was our destination.

Delicious -- Singel 404.
  We easily found it (convenient naming your cafe after your address), and just happened to beat the lunchtime rush (even though it was well after the lunchtime hour). Almost immediately after we got in line to wait, the tiny cafe was packed.

  We shared soup to warm up, each got our own delicious sandwiches, and shared a giant piece of homemade apple crumble for dessert.

  The quaint cafe was also the first time we saw the popular mint tea. Instead of tea leaves served in hot water, it is common in Amsterdam (or so it seems, after we saw it at every other cafe we went to) to have fresh mint tea leaves. Something fun and different, and the smell was amazing.

Shopping along Leidseplein.
  If fresh ingredients on yummy bread appeal to you, Singel 404 is highly recommended!

Organic Market
  After lunch, it was back out into the streets for some more exploration and shopping. We found De Negen Straatjes again, and I made a few purchases. 

  I like getting things that are unique to a place, and not from the run-of-the-mill stores you can find in every city in the world. So the local boutiques were perfect. 

  Tera, Tracie and Rene wanted to visit a local brewery, so as we tried to locate Arendsnest (a suggestion from high school classmate, Ariel, who now lives in Amsterdam), we got the chance to see more of the city. Arendsnest proved to be a difficult find, so we actually ended up seeing a lot more than we originally had planned.

Lost in Amsterdam??? Yes, we were.
  During our search for the brewery, we walked the the streets in the Jordaan neighborhood and Haarlemmerstraat. We even stumbled back into the Red Light District, which wasn't nearly as overwhelming in the daytime hours (but still a little questionable).

  We ducked into a market to get the chill off our bones, at a store called called Marqt. I thought our stop actually turned out to be quite interesting. The store was entirely organic, and so 'eco-friendly' that they didn't accept payment in cash, only credit or debit cards.

No cash accepted.
  Breweries aren't really my cup of tea, but I think Tera, Tracie and Rene enjoyed Arendsnest. They had some interesting brews from the sounds of it. But honestly, it's all lost on me because I'm not a beer drinker. 

Anne Frank Huis
  After the Arendsnest, and resting up, it was time to head back to the Anne Frank House. It was 8 pm, and thankfully the line was shorter, but not drastically shorter. We stood in line for 45 minutes, and spent most of the wait huddled together, or jumping up and down, trying to keep warm.

  Once inside, the cold quickly became a distant memory.

  I always find tales of the Holocaust fascinating, informative, and unfathomable. It's such recent history, and I still find it unbelievable that our race (the human race) was/is capable of such horrifying things. To see the house where Anne, along with seven others, spent over two years of their lives in hiding, was truly an interesting experience.

The front door to the Anne Frank House. On Prinsengracht 267
  You were able to realize that they did not see daylight the entire time they were stowed away in the annex. They had to bathe in the dark. They had to trust strangers to keep their secret.

  Anne and the others had to remain quiet and still during the day, but could move around at night. Their hideout was above an office, but they couldn't allow the workers below hear them. The workers were unaware there were Jews hiding from Nazi persecution just above them.

While waiting outside Anne Frank House.
  The museum was busy, so you had to remain patient, but I liked the experience. I don't think I've ever read The Diary of Anne Frank, but I think I will now. (Pictures weren't allowed inside the Anne Frank House, that's why there are none here.)

Late Dinner
  By the time we finished at the Anne Frank House, it was almost 10. We were starving, and it was way too cold to go anywhere too far away. Instead of trying to find the suggested-Indonesian place all the way across town, we decided we'd be happier with a place close by.

  The first place we stumbled upon outside the museum, which was also along the tram line home, was to be our dinner spot.

Rene showing us how to sip tea at dinner.
 Koh-I-Noor. Indian food it was.

  They served us entirely too much food, but none of us had any problem cleaning our plate. I had a delicious Chicken Tikka Masala -- can't go wrong with that!

  With full bellies, and tired bodies from a day of sight-seeing, we made our way back to our house to spend our last night in Amsterdam.

  Day two in Amsterdam was vastly different from the first. It was nice to see the other side of the city, after experiencing the Red Light District the first night. I definitely appreciated the 'normalcy' our second day had to offer. We still had one last day, Easter Sunday, to spend in the Dutch capital -- coming up next blog!


Tracie, Rene & Tera at the Arendsnest brewery.
Ready to head back out to the streets after lunch!
Tera & I awaiting our lunch!
Me & Tracie at Singel 404. Tracie with the mint tea.
I was serious when I say it was quaint!
Rene and Tracie on De Negen Straatjes.
Boat tour sights.
Boat tour sights.
The harbor.
Bourbon Street -- Amsterdam.
Bourbon Street.
Along Nieuwendijk.
See the little red lights? Marks the Red Light District.

The modern harbor.
De Negen Straatjes.
Tilting houses along the canals.
House boats line residential canals.

1 comment:

  1. I really like the architecture in Amsterdam. Another beautiful thing about the place is the canals. A unique and very exciting way to travel around the city or simply to get to places. I've been here before when I tried the dolphins argyll with my family.