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Amsterdam, Netherlands August 11, 2012

Posted by ryanmsimpson in Travel Log.
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Hey all again,

So this last weekend was the first 3-day weekend of the summer. And wow was it busy. So a friend of everyone in my traveling group used to live in Amsterdam, and so when we told her we were headed there and asked what would be a ‘must-see’, she decided to send us a 2-page list of museums, churches, and other cool stuff in and around the city. So we decided that we’d do as many of them as possible.

However, in order to do cool things in Amsterdam, first we had to get there. Well, when we had gone down to the train station to get tickets for this trip, the guy behind the counter told us that he couldn’t book any train (that needed a reservation) outside France. And since we needed to go through Germany to get to the Netherlands, that meant we were in a good bit of trouble. So we searched and searched (using bahn.com, Deutsche Bahn’s website – the German train company) and finally found a series of trains that for sure wouldn’t need reservations. And so in order to get to Amsterdam, we had to start traveling Friday evening, May 25th, and travel through the night. This would have been fine were it one train, you known – you get on, you sleep, maybe toss and turn a bit, sleep some more, and then get there in the morning, not a big deal. But instead it was 7. And of course, the night before, I get an email from Lojack (a company that has software designed to locate your computer in case it gets stolen) saying that my computer is about to lock down because it hasn’t contacted their center and basically told them that it’s fine and not stolen and stuff. And I need my computer for my work. I can’t do half my homework for Tech if I don’t have it anymore. So that required me being up until almost 4 in the morning in order to finally get that (and my Thermo homework) finished and sorted out.

So then the trains to Amsterdam. The first train left Metz at 7:25 to Saarbrucken, Saarbrucken to Frankfurt, Frankfurt to Koln, Koln to Monchengladbach – the most sketch/cold 3 hour layover from 2:30 am to 5:30 am I’ve ever had and probably will have – Monchengladbach to Venlo, (frantic 3 min transfer across half the station to the next train before it left) Venlo to Nijmegen – where I almost got off at the wrong station – and finally Nijmegen to Amsterdam Centraal Train Station (and yes, Centraal is spelled right).

Once in Amsterdam and having gotten lost and un-lost in the train station, we hit the tourist info center for maps, picked up some city passes (50 euros) which let us see tons of museums for free, and gave us access to the trams and buses through the city, and then started off. First thing I noticed: TONS of bikes. Bikes EVERYWHERE. You’d see 5 bikes go by, almost get run over by 2 or 3 trams, see another 15 bikes, 1 car, 8 bikes, 2 trams, then another 18 bikes, 1 car… and so forth. And that doesn’t even count the THOUSANDS of bikes locked to anything cemented to the ground. There were bikes locked to bikes locked to the bikes that were actually locked onto rails or bike racks. There was a 4 story BIKE parking garage right next the the train station that had at least twice as many bikes on it as it was supposed to hold! (And I’m still sad I didn’t get a picture of it…) It was crazy! There were bike lanes on every road, bike crosswalks and bike traffic lights, bike parking lots (though small and few and far between because of the city’s space restriction), and more bikers than there were tourists on foot. Although we did see hundreds (literally hundreds, no joke hear) of tourists on bikes getting bike tours around the city. So that was crazy.

Second thing I noticed were the canals. I’d never realized that Amsterdam was an entire city of canals. Amsterdam’s altitude is actually an average of like 4 or 5 meters below sea level, and since Amsterdam is located on the sea that wouldn’t work out too well without some careful dike and canal-work. Which had been done quite well. But yeah, so canals everywhere, tall, thin buildings that went back quite far, and small, narrow streets (filled with bikes). After that realization (which pretty much came while I stood in the middle of the way of an oncoming tram going like 20 kph) we started walking around haha.

We walked through the city, saw the Oude Kerk, the Old Church, which was the oldest church in Amsterdam (shocker) which was also right across an alleyway from a preschool (that wasn’t unsuspected), except that the preschool (and church) were sandwiched in the middle of the Red Light District, and so had strippers and prostitutes on both sides… (not somewhere I’d send my kids…)  And that was interesting. Kind of surprising when we realized that the Red Light District was active at 10am… So we left there fairly quickly. Went and toured Our Lord in the Attic, a famous Catholic church in the attic of 3 adjacent buildings – very very cool church, a lot more ornate than you would expect, even through the renovations that were going on when we were there.

From there, we went to Verzetsmuseum, the Museum of the Dutch Resistance – a really cool museum about the Dutch resistance that went on during WW2. The only picture I have there (since pictures weren’t allowed inside the museum proper) is of a camera from one of the men from the time who risked his life to take pictures at a time when taking pictures was outlawed.

From there, we moved on to the Canal tour, where I took a ton of pictures, especially of the bridges and buildings all though the city. If you go look at my pictures on Imgur with the link at the bottom of the page, one of the pictures towards the end of the canal section is actually the only spot where you can see the arcs of 7 different bridges along the track of 1 single stretch of canal. Cool stuff. You can also see the spire of the Church of St. Nicholas (I believe) which was the first Catholic church built once Catholicism was allowed in the city again and made Our Lord in the Attic unneeded after like 150-200 years of church services holding upwards of 100-200 people being held there. In addition to the Church of St. Nicholas, you can also see De Nieue Kerk (The New Church), the second oldest church in Amsterdam, which I have pictures from inside up later in the album.

From there, we got dinner, went back to the hostel, and fell asleep at like 8 haha. Although, to our defense, everything in Europe closes by like 6, so there was nothing left to do.

The next day we started with the Tulip Museum of Amsterdam. Fun fact: tulips were prized so highly at one point in Amsterdam that one flower cost as much as an entire townhouse. Which, when you don’t have much space to live in to begin with, is pretty expensive. That starts in my album with the picture of the model Ottoman Garden. We got a nice tour of that place, stuck our heads in giant flower bulbs to try and determine smells of different flowers, saw some really cool chinawork – including the EPIC FLOWER TANK vase complete with exploding bright red flower blossom – and a model house setup from old-time Amsterdam, we think.. We weren’t exactly sure what that part of the exhibit was for. But we did find a giant bunny on the wall.

Next came De Nieue Kerk and it’s epic stained glass, organ, and general awesomeness. Really cool inner architecture – every single surface had detail, not a single piece was plain or simple.

Then, the general Amsterdam Museum. It was about, well, Amsterdam. History and whatnot. Pretty cool. Some nice facts and interesting pieces. A really cool glass ship in a bottle that I wanted.

Now the Van Gogh Museum, or if you asked one of my friends, the Picasso Museum. Even though it didn’t have single work of art from Picasso in there.. He just couldn’t seem to remember Van Gogh and kept saying Picasso. Anyways, lots of nice paintings, although I will say Van Gogh is not my favorite artist. His works are impressionist (as you probably know, I just know that I’m typically art-dumb), which means it’s hard to tell what he’s painting sometimes (for me at least).. But it was cool. Saw a lot of his famous works, and went through 3 different floors of art, 98% of which was his, and organized by time period, so you were able to see how his worked developed through the years, and then his track downwards with his epilepsy (or they think it was epilepsy, they’re not exactly sure what he had). No Starry Night though, that was traveling somewhere. But we did see his famous sunflower painting (can’t remember the name), his famous blue flowers and yellow background painting (can’t remember the name) and some other nice ones. And of few of his pointillist paintings which I thought were actually quite nice, like his triptych of the Pink Orchard, the Pink Tree (I think was the name), and the White Orchard. So not all bad, haha

Then the Rembrandt Plaza, and chilling on grass in the small park.

From there, we went and made a trip to the grocery store for peanut butter. Not only are the Netherlands the only country in Europe you can get peanut butter without paying an arm and leg per ounce, they have honest to god, PEANUT butter, not corn syrup butter with peanuts. And it’s really good! I got 1800 grams. As did almost everyone in my group.

Then back to the hostel, some more sleep, an early morning, and off to the Anne Frank House. This one was really cool. Unfortunately I couldn’t take pictures inside and didn’t get a picture of the outside, so no pictures at all, but I can tell you about it. Right next to the house that held Otto Frank’s (Anne Frank’s father) store, they’ve built a modern building that holds the pre and post exhibition to the walking tour. The tour is self-guided, but it’s really cool and pretty powerful. They have models of the house and arrangement at the time that it was being occupied by the Franks and the other 4 people, videos of survivors and friends of their memories while it all went on, then you actually walk through the door behind the bookcase, through each room of the Secret Annex, including the main bedroom, Anne’s room, the living room, Peter’s room, and the bathroom, with quotes from Anne’s diary detailing each room put on the walls. After walking through the entire house, you go into a different part of the new building next door via an enclosed bridge and see replicas of pages of her diary and interviews of Otto Frank, and a bunch more stuff. So overall, the museum was certainly one of my favorites.

And then that concluded our stay in Amsterdam. We went to the train station, caught our first train at 12:38, Amsterdam to Sittard, Sittard to Maastricht, Maastricht Liege-Guillemins, Liege-Guillemins to Namur, Namur to Luxembourg, train from Luxembourg to Metz cancelled, bus from Luxembourg to Battenburg, train from Battenburg to Metz, and then a bus back home.

So a really cool trip and all. Definitely jammed pack of stuff, all of which I’m fairly certain I included and didn’t forget anything, although it is entirely possible that I did, what with all the museum hopping that went on.

Once more, if you’re interested in pictures, feel free to check out the ones I took: http://imgur.com/a/IlpRA#0

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