Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Amsterdam: More than Just Scandalous Dark Side
The capital of The Netherlands, Amsterdam, is known for the Red Light District, the coffee shops, historic architecture, bike riding, and the canals. Many travelers today are drawn to the Red Light District and the coffee shops, but there's more to Amsterdam than it's scandalous dark side. There are famous art museums, lots of history, and lots of outdoor cafés. A few things I suggest as must see and do's in Amsterdam are the Van Gogh Museum, The Anne Frank House, taking a canal tour, take a day trip to Holland, renting a bike or going on a bike tour, and even go on a guided tour through the Red Light District.
All throughout Amsterdam, you can find "coffee" shops that sell different strains and variations of marijuana. For the record, if you visit Amsterdam a "coffee" shop is a place to buy marijuana. If you actually want coffee, you need to go to a café. I personally never stepped foot into a coffee shop while I was in Amsterdam. You can buy as much marijuana at one time as you wish. You can even purchase pre-rolled spliffs (a mixture of tobacco and marijuana) and smoke in the establishment or in the comfort of your own home. You will not get arrested for carrying marijuana, however, it is known across the city that smoking outdoors can lead to the confiscation by local officials – but that very rarely occurs.
While in Amsterdam I knew I had to visit the world famous, Van Gogh Museum. This art museum is dedicated to the art of, you guessed it, Vincent Van Gogh. Before you get your hopes up, let me be the first to say that his painting The Starry Night, isn't housed here. It is housed in The Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) in the Upper East Side of Manhattan. However, you will see other famous paintings here such as Sunflowers, Irises, Self-Portrait, and Wheatfield with Crows. Even if you aren't big on art, seeing these masterpieces in person is indescribable. I highly suggest buying tickets ahead of time because the lines grow to be very long. Adult admission is 17 euros.
Another must see when in Amsterdam is the Anne Frank House. This is the home of the writer's house and museum dedicated to Jewish wartime diarist Anne Frank. During WW II Anne Frank, her family, and four other people hid from the Nazis at the rear of the 17th-century canal house, known as the Secret Annex. Anne did not survive the war, instead died at the age of 16 years old in a gas chamber in a concentration camp in Northern Germany. Her diary was published in 1947. The building is located on a canal called the Prinsengracht. In the Anne Frank House you can climb up behind the secret bookcase, see the rooms where they lived, slept and went into hiding, and where she wrote her diary. The Anne Frank House is so popular it is suggested you buy your ticket 2-3 months in advance otherwise you could be standing in line for 3 or more hours. You can opt to buy an extra ticket for a 30 minute introduction for adults and youth on the life story of Anne Frank. Otherwise a general admission ticket costs about 9.50 euros . An interesting fact learned from the Anne Frank house is she originally quit writing in her diary, but decided to rewrite in it because the Dutch minister got on the radio and said everyone should keep a journal/diary of what is currently happening. To close on this, Anne's friend, quoted "Anne didn't die. She was murdered because she was a Jewish girl."
I had the opportunity to take an evening canal cruise in Amsterdam which truly allowed me to see Amsterdam and all of it's beauty. The cruise takes about an hour, maybe a little more. There are so many different options of what kind of cruises to take, There's the hop on and hop off tour, there's romantic canal tours, and there's even dinner tours where they serve a meal as you are cruising down the canals. Depending on which canal tour you want, will depend on the cost of the ticket. Generally, the ticket costs about 17 euros.
One thing I was able to do when in Amsterdam was take a day trip to Volendam, Holland. Volendam is a Dutch town on the Markermeer Lake. It’s known for its colorful wooden houses and the old fishing boats in its harbor, which is lined with seafood vendors. Here, I visited a cheese farm, Irene Hoeve, where they also hand-make clogs. The clog maker used a specialized saw to cutout the shape of the clog from a solid piece of wet poplar. It was remarkable how quickly he could make the shape of the clog! In the Netherlands, clogs are registered as the national safety shoe for construction workers because of their durability and strength! After leaving Irene Hoeve, I explored the town of Volendam where I tried on a traditional dutch costume. Perfect day trip to get the real Dutch experience.
Amsterdam is known for as the city of bikes, so naturally you HAVE to go on a bike tour when visiting. After all, there are more bikes than people in this city. The bike tour was probably around 7-9 miles long and it rained the entire time, yet it was still one of my favorite things to do thus far. I loved sightseeing the city, but I also really liked riding through the countryside seeing wild cows and windmills. We even stopped at a cute little restaurant for some Dutch pancakes. I highly recommend doing a bike tour when visiting, to feel like a local as well as getting the full experience of Amsterdam.
Last, but not least, the Red Light District. I knew what the Red Light District was, but it was very hard to truly understand it. I have never seen anything like this before, everything was centered around desire (surprise, surprise). As you walk down the streets, prostitutes stand in windows trying to lure men into their beds for a price, sex shows are available at every turn, multiple sex museums exist, and drugs are readily available. Nowadays, prostitution is legal in the Netherlands but not on the streets. That's why prostitutes in Amsterdam stand up behind a window and have their own room. No pictures of any sort, not even of the buildings are aloud in the Red Light District. They don't even want to see cameras out. I had to hide my camera even when walking around. A suggestion if you plan on visiting the Red Light District, is to go in groups of two or more to avoid attracting any unwanted attention. Leaving the district, all I could think about was how sad it is.
Also on my way to the Anne Frank house, my friend and I met Nigel Barker, fashion photographer from America's Next Top Model. He and his accent are even more beautiful in person. I was tempted to ask him if he'd take a photoshoot of me. :)
All in all Amsterdam was an amazing city and I highly suggest everyone visit at least once!