Amsterdam (May 2016)

I was keen visit Amsterdam, if for nothing else, but to see the city behind Jacques Brel’s poetic rendition of sailors on shore leave.  Like all tourists, I had a must see list. Before leaving, I purchased tickets for, Anne Frank’s house, the Van Gogh museum and Rijksmuseum.

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I stayed at Amsterdam City Camp.  It is basic, but has services and wifi included for a reasonable €62 for 3 nights.  It is situated near the NDSM shipyard and requires a ferry crossing to reach the city.  One ferry is a ten minute walk, plus a further ten minutes to cross the IJ and runs every 30 minutes.  The other is a 25 minutes away, but runs every couple minutes, even through the night. Both dock at Central Station and are free of charge.

I was aware that cycling was a popular mode of transport in Amsterdam, it’s reputedly a cycle friendly city, but I didn’t find this.  Having lived in or near Oxford for the last 8 years, I assumed there would be some similarities, where the rules of the road are by and large observed.  In Amsterdam, there is only one discernible rule, survive!  In fairness, the cycling madness did ease as the weekend progressed, but finding somewhere to park the cycle was difficult.  Apparently, it is forbidden to lock a cycle to poles and bridges in Amsterdam, not that you would ever know it.

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Anne Frank’s House

I arrived at Anne Frank’s house at Prinsengracht and walked straight in with no queuing, courtesy of my pre-booked time slot. The house has no contents remaining from when Anne Frank was there and walking around was more of a procession through the various rooms. Despite this, it does manage to portray the tension that hiding in the annex must have had on the occupants.  I can see where the house symbolizes the events that occurred during the second world war.  I often find that my favorite locations leave me wanting more, but I found one visit to Ann Frank’s house was enough for me.

It’s 2 km (1.2 miles) from Ann Frank’s house to the museum quarter.  My first port of call was the Van Gogh museum; here you can find his key paintings, such as The Potato Eaters, Sunflowers and innumerable self portraits.  I enjoyed my visit, but one does get a sense of deja vu after a while.  A local shopkeeper told me that the Van Gogh is the museum that tourists visit, locals go to the Rijksmuseum.

The Rijksmuseum is across the park from the Van Gogh and again armed with my ticket, I again walked in without queuing.  I thoroughly enjoyed the variety here, the big draw is Rembrandt’s the Night Watch, but there is a lot more to this museum than Dutch art.  I liked the history on display, especially the Navel history of the Netherlands, but there is certainly something for everyone here.

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I would also recommend a visit to Dam square, where you can visit Koninklijk Paleis and Madame Tussard’s.  The exteriors of both buildings are magnificent,  I’m sure this would continue inside, but with only a weekend visit, I didn’t have time to explore further.

Of course, any trip to Amsterdam would not be complete without the obligatory canal boat trip.  I didn’t manage to take a ride on a boat this time, but this is all the more reason to return in the future.

Once the light starts to fade, there are plenty of squares in Amsterdam to sample the culinary delights of the city.  Dam Square seems popular with Hen and Stag parties, I preferred Leidseplein Square, but the fun of Amsterdam is in finding your own favorite location.

Amsterdam at night is a transformed city, I found myself captivated by the crisp reflections on the water, especially in the Red Light District.  It is here where prostitutes stare at you through small doorways and large windows, hoping to catch your eye and entice you in.  Watching their would be customers barter with them is almost voyeuristic in nature.

I thoroughly enjoyed my road trip to Amsterdam.  Would I return?  Without a shadow of a doubt, I have a canal boat trip to take.

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