What would you do with a day in Amsterdam? The first time I found myself in the Netherlands, I was visiting my then girlfriend’s (now my wife) family to the north. As usual, we had a packed itinerary and only had a small window to make our way into the city.
While the main point was to walk around and enjoy the city, there were a few obvious pointers I’d hoped to cover. I wanted to make my way to the Heineken experience, to Anne Frank’s House and of course to nip through the red-light district for a quick peek. Mind you I was with my future father in law and wife, so this is definitely not one of those ‘Aussie in Amsterdam’ stories)
I saw what you might expect; as many bikes as you might think have ever existed, canals that improve the feel of the city but that you’d never dip a toe into, and a city that is traversable, interesting and simply pretty!
Having only a day, we only got to walk on the green around the museum district (I’d later return and see the Gallery of Modern Art, but the Van Gogh exhibit still eludes me).
We stopped at the house of Anne Frank, but it’s a small place and it seemed that every English and History teacher in the world was there, so this too awaits me in the future.
Despite my list of things that I hoped to see, it was that which I did not expect that stayed with me most. There was the little liquor store managed by a bloke from Adelaide, the Homomonument to those persecuted during World War 2, and the aesthetic stack of apartments on the canal that define Amsterdam to me after an afternoon of walking. Who knows what the next visit will bring!
As an interesting aside; this was the post I was in the process of writing and preparing when I suddenly lost the will to write and post in 2018. After writing this, I found in a pile of drafts, the original post. I figured, “why not post that too – just for a laugh?” For that reason, you can read on to the last thing I wrote in 2018!
I have not spent a great deal of time in Europe. In fact, I have been to the region exactly once since I was two years old, when my dear mother was kind enough to drag me across the world when I was far too young to appreciate – or even remember – the experience. When I did make the trip; it was thanks to Linh, who was born in The Netherlands. We took a Christmas trip to see the friends and family from whom I had snatched her when she came to Australia to study. The journey involved a brief dalliance to England and Wales, a snowboarding trip to Austria, as well as a road trip to Paris and a city stop in Berlin; all in the pursuit of family and friends. With so much hopping about from country to country, we weren’t in one place for very long.
Seeing as Linh grew up in the Netherlands, we did spend a fair amount of time in Holland, so it stands to reason that we visited Amsterdam; and I can now add my voice to the plethora of travelers who adore the city. For me it was not the Cafes (not really my bag), or the bicycles (definitely not my bag). In fact, I’m not quite sure what it was about Amsterdam the made me love it. Perhaps it was the chilly, wintery charm, or the canals, or just the opportunity to wander around in a city that was so much older than any I regularly frequent.
Again, my time in the Netherlands was brief and broken up by short trips to other nearby nations, so I only spent a couple of days in the city. During that time, I went indoor snowboarding, toured the Royal Palace, and even lined up in front of Anne Frank’s house (next time I’ll try to make it inside). All of these things were great, but it was walking around the largely pedestrian-friendly city that was the treat.
Beer was a more prominent feature than I expected, with the Heineken factory tour rating highly when compared to other breweries I’ve visited. However, it was the boutique craft beer shop we chanced upon that turned out to be my highlight. Craft beer has become a massive deal in Western Australia in the past few years and I was only moderately surprised to walk in to the store – that proudly announced ‘love beer’ on a sign out front – only to hear the familiar twang of an Australian accent.
We stopped in on the Rijksmuseum, only to find that the green open parkland that surrounds it was the highlight of the location. Running out of time to get in to Anne Frank’s house, I rounded a corner and came to what is known as the Homomonument, a memorial to those subjected to persecution because of homosexuality. Again and again, it was the things I saw on the streets of Amsterdam, rather than the places we specifically visited that connected me to the city. I look forward to returning and spending a great deal more time exploring in the near future.