Thursday, September 29, 2011

Day 13: Amsterdam (Sept. 29)

The set of photos from day is on Flickr here.

The first place I was going to go today anyway was the Anne Frank House. Online reservations were sold out, so I took the suggestion of arriving early before the first admission at 9am so I could stand in line for a non-reserved ticket. It was about a 15 minute walk from the apartment, and at 8:30 when I left it was during the hustle and bustle of morning rush hour, yet it didn't seem busy. I only waited about 15 minutes in line at the house before going in.

The house is a moving, somber reminder of dark days. The walls are bare and the furniture removed - when the Nazis came to arrest them, they took everything away, and when he got out, Otto Frank wanted it left just as it had been when they left. The only things still remaining are the permanent fixtures and the pictures glued to the wall in Anne's room. You get to go through the moving bookcase into the secret annex where it's hard to believe that 8 people lived for years. No photos are allowed inside. There's a statue of Anne in the church yard a couple doors down.

On the way up to Centraal, I noticed some things I had learned last night, like "if the place says Coffeeshop, coffee is not the main product they sell". There are a LOT of  coffeeshops in Amsterdam and you can't walk anywhere without smelling pot smoke. It's still technically illegal, but it has been decriminalized so that there are no penalties for possession. You can literally walk down the open street smoking a joint in front of the cops and they don't care. I stopped in to Los Toros for lunch, tomato soup and a club sandwich (to which they add a fried egg, for some reason).

I walked back through the streets up to the place to pick up the tour bus, near the top of Damark, and sat on the bus through the first part before I hopped off at the diamond-selling spot. Fortunately I didn't have to sit through the selling spiel since the tour guide realized that I had bought the wrong bus ticket (the 1-hour tour instead of the hop on/off bus) and the one I was on wasn't going to stop at the museum district. Instead of listening to a diamond sales pitch, I just waited for the next bus that came along and took it down to the Vondelplein near the Museum district.

Got off the bus at the Vondelplein stop, right next to the Hard Rock Cafe and a short walk from the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum. The Rijks had a special exhibit of Rembrandt and Degas portraits, showing how the former influenced the latter. There's more than just Rembrandts here, they've got things from the Dutch Golden Age in the 1600s when they were a world power to a huge collection of Delft china as well as many other painters. Outside the museums (the Van Gogh and others are right nearby) is the Museumplein, a park with fountains and food kiosks. Inside the Van Gogh (actually pronounced "Hhhock") is the world's largest collection of paintings by Van Gogh (I think about 30% of them). An interesting thing is that the museum also includes paintings by those who influenced Van Gogh and those who he influenced. It has the paintings arranged chronologically so you can trace the changes in his style over the years and see where the Japanese woodcuts had an impact on his works.

Caught the bus back up to Centraal and walked down Damark with time to kill. Sat at a pub near the Dam Square with a beer for a while, watching the people pass by, then wandered down to a Chinese/Indonesian place for dinner before catching my 8:15 harbor cruise. For an hour we went up and down the canals on the south and west (avoiding going down the red light district canals). Nice way to end my abbreviated tour of Amsterdam. Went back to my room and started packing back up my stuff and call my mom for her birthday.

The set of photos from day is on Flickr here.

(Originally posted 10/5/11 at 1:37am, Berlin)

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