During this trip it has continually astounded us that Europeans can take a weekend trip overseas! This is something out of reach for Australians – even if it is a long a weekend! Searching Skyscanner we found cheap flights from Bucharest to Amsterdam! So, in true impromptu style, we flew to the capital of the Netherlands!
First on our list was a walking tour with Freedam Tours. This tour took us from the Oude Church through the Red Light District, Chinatown, and across various canals, concluding in Dam Square. Due to the fact Amsterdam was built on swamp lands, many of the buildings have begun to sink and tilt due to the unstable foundations. For us, this just added to the charm of the city! We found the red light district quite touristic, although there was a nursery and church located within this area! In the past, users of the red light district could pay a fee before or after their escapade with the many varied women to relinquish them from all sin. Money was clearly a solution for all problems! Fun fact:- the average transaction time from entry to exit in the red light district is 6 to 8 minutes! Moving towards the Chinatown district, we learned about the road’s sketchy past. Once an area inundated with opium, the government found they had a huge heroin epidemic throughout their population. Interestingly, the government did not crack down on all drugs- “turning the blind eye” on soft drugs such as marijuana. Thus, the “coffee shop” culture was born. Legal to smoke marijuana, the city has a pungent smell that hits you when you least expect it! Our favourite activity in Amsterdam was wondering around the canals, De 9 Straatjes and the Jordaan district. Along the way we would stop for coffee at cute cafes and explore the many beautiful boutiques! You could easily spend days wondering this picturesque city – just watch out for the crazy cyclists!
Also- you must check the Bloemenmarkt– so many beautiful flowers including the famous tulip! Even in Autumn there were so many varieties of flowers- we can only imagine what these markets would be like in spring! We would also recommend sampling the traditional Stroopwafel, a delicious Dutch snack- two waffle stuck together by a layer of caramel filling! Check out Van Wonderen Stroopwafels for a myriad of additional toppings! The waffles are made fresh to order so they are warm and melting. We are salivating just thinking about them…
During our short time in Amsterdam, we also visited the Anne Frank House. Unfortunately, we could not book tickets to this museum online as they had sold out for up 2 months in advance. Instead, we lined up in the cold waiting for the open entrance after 3pm. Over an hour later we entered the museum – luckily it was worth the wait! Inside you can walk through the hiding place where Anne, her family and other Jews hid for almost 2 years. The museum is interactive and provides an in depth account of Anne Frank’s story. This was one of the most moving museums we have visited on our trip. Everyone was quiet which provided and eerie silence – a symbol of respect for Anne and her family. Unfortunately we were unable to take photographs so you will just have to go for yourself to experience this amazing museum.
We also visited the Stedelijk Museum. Whilst we were there, the museum had an exhibition on refugees and their experiences. This exhibit allowed you to listen to various refugee stories which were moving and provoking. Another exhibit worth looking at was that of Zanele Muholi, a photographer whose subject matter is LGBTI people in South Africa. Again, there was a visual documentary and an interview with the artist to help explain her images and her political aspirations. We went into this museum thinking we could kill a few hours before lunch. Instead, we came out at approximately 3.00pm, starving but emotionally and artistically fulfilled!
Two days later and we were to travel by bus to Brussels. In hindsight, three nights was not enough time to see this beautiful city. Amsterdam- we will be back!
Until next time,
AP & DT