Thursday: After feeling sick all day and having to write essays on the plane, I was SO happy to land in Amsterdam. Sam and I were so giddy and hyper, pushing our luggage around in carriages and climbing on statues while waiting for Haley’s flight to arrive (an hour after ours). Shelby probably wanted to kill us but we were having a blast. Plus the Schiphol Airport is pretty AWESOME. Way better than Barajas in Madrid. And we found Santa- me-which of course meant that Sam- who is Jewish and doesn’t really even celebrate Christmas- had to sit on my lap… We found Haley pretty easily and met her, as well as the new friends she had made on the plane, by their gate.
We then proceeded to try and get to our Airbnb via public transportation and quickly decided instead to split a taxi. We got into the taxi, which was a TESLA, with a taxi driver who spoke perfect English (but didn’t hate us when we forced him to say random sentences in Dutch) and who played awesome house music. We knew then that this was about to be a great weekend.
When we got to the apartment our host, Leoni, was waiting. She was very sweet and explained the ins and outs of the house for us, as well as how to get around. She showed us the amazing bathtub in the bathroom (which we never even had time to use) and the garden outside. We walked up TWO spiral staircases without railings (not the greatest if you’re as accident-prone as I am) and got our bearings before heading to the city center. Here we had our first experience with public transportation in Holland.
We somehow got on the correct tram and the incredibly nice conductor helped us buy our 2 day passes. We arrived in the city in search of our first coffeeshop, an experience all its own. We then headed to a nearby restaurant for a delicious dinner of pancakes, which are basically crepes loaded with whatever you want.
Friday: One of the main things we were excited about seeing was the Anne Frank House. After a fantastic breakfast at a local breakfast chain, Bagels & Beans, we headed over to the museum where there was a line far out the door to buy tickets. Waiting a few minutes was well worth it. A short summary: What has been converted into a museum used to be the annex where Anne Frank and seven others hid during the Holocaust. It was above the factory/warehouse where her father had worked before the war. Unfortunately, someone betrayed the Frank family and their friends; they were all sent to concentration camps where everyone but the father, Otto Frank, died. Poor Anne and her sister died just before the liberation.
After coming home to realize that his family was gone, Otto decided to publish the diary Anne had been keeping for years. She had wanted to become a writer and, after hearing that all writings during the war were to be kept for possible documentation and publication, Anne had the idea in her head that she would get to tell the world of her time in the annex after the war was over. In addition, he helped convert the buildings into a museum to not only remember his family, but all those that were lost in the tragedy that is the Holocaust. The museum is a beautiful, though at times difficult to stomach, combination of quotes from Anne’s diary, footage from the Holocaust, and reactions of visitors.
Walking up the stairs, we felt a bit like we were straight out of one of my favorite John Green novels (and now one of the world’s favorite movies), The Fault in Our Stars.I couldn’t remember if I had read The Diary of Anne Frank before because I was fuzzy on some of the details, such as how many people were hiding away and that it wasn’t just a cupboard-under-the-stairs sort of deal, but this visit definitely made me want to find my old copy when I get home. This was certainly a very sobering experience.
Later on in the day, we headed to Electric Ladyland. I promise it’s not what it sounds like! When doing some pre-study abroad research, I stumbled across this museum via Off Track Planet, one of my favorite travel blogs. Electric Ladyland is the only one of its kind in the world: a museum of fluorescent art. It is considered to be a form of ‘participatory art’ because you are invited to take off your shoes walk around inside of the fluorescent room.
Owned by this hilarious hippy guy who talks really softly and ends every sentence with “man,” this museum is really more of an art shop with some fluorescent stuff in the basement. Nevertheless, it was still totally triply and we had a lot of fun and I would totally recommend it! The owner is a sweetheart and you can tell how passionate he is about both the science behind natural fluorescent objects, as well as making art with all sorts of man-made fluorescent materials; it makes you feel excited about something you previously never even thought twice about. Definitely a must-see-for-yourself sort of thing!!!
After some delicious Thai food and a day out on the town, we decided to go back to the apartment for a nap before going out that night. Hey, we live in Madrid, what can I say? We like our siesta. Somehow that nap ended in all of us waking up at 11pm questioning how we slept that long, devouring our leftovers, watching Smart Guy and Kim Possible in bed (if you’re me), and then falling back asleep.
Saturday: After getting at least fifteen hours of sleep the night before, you’d think we would get an early start but no… Finally we got into town for a yummy crepe brunch before spending more time exploring the heart of Amsterdam aka eating our way through Amsterdam. The sun sets super early there this time of year so by mid-day it was already dark. We then proceeded to take a nighttime boat cruise on the canal, where we sipped mulled wine and learned all about the gorgeous Light Festival, where every year artists from around the world create light-up works of art to be viewed along the canal.
For some reason, we decided that the Mexican restaurant across from the canal was an absolute necessity. Though, to be honest, I had a pretty fantastic meal. I didn’t know how much you could miss black beans! After a relaxing day, we set out on a mission to find exactly where the I Amsterdam sign was. What we didn’t know is that apparently it moves???? And that there are multiple signs. After coming across a few of the phonies, we finally found the real deal and snapped a few photos (which would’ve been better had it been somewhat light out).
Sunday: Being on a different flight, Haley had already left by the time Shelby, Sam, and I woke up. We took the tram to find one of the Christmas markets I had read about, and had some delicious breakfast pastries there, as well as took a few selfies with the weird statues set up in the center. Then we set off in search of the Red Light District, which we somehow couldn’t locate, before returning to the apartment to pack up and catch our taxi to the airport.
Between Thursday and Sunday we tried out numerous coffee shops. If you’re anti-weed, you are absolutely entitled to your opinions on the subject; feel free to stop reading here (that means you, dad!)… I simply want to explain how this part of the culture works. And to reiterate (as I tried to do to my parents) that legal marijuana is not the only thing Amsterdam has going for it. However, part of traveling is trying everything! Obviously in moderation, and I’m not not not saying to go buy heroin. That being said, SOFT drugs are a totally different ballgame and are used responsibly in Amsterdam. My friends and I decided to try out a few of the city’s hundreds of coffee shops, even a few that are famous.
The first time we went to a coffee shop, we were working with the whole fake-it-til-you-make-it kind of vibe. We didn’t really have any clue what we were doing. Upon entering a coffee shop, which normally looks like a café, you basically walk up to the counter and ask to see the menu. It will usually include the prices of various types of weed- which all have funny names like Amnesia, Girl Scout Cookie, and Cheese- along with notes about the kind of high it usually produces- ie giddy, relaxed, etc. There are also pre-rolled joints for sale but they’re usually a rip off since they’re more expensive and probably made up of random leftovers. You pick what you want, buy a drink or something, and are left to your own devices. Most people stay in the shop to smoke and enjoy the low-key environment.
But if smoking isn’t up your alley, space cakes may be worth a try. Essentially, it’s any sort of baked good with cannabis baked into it. The trick here is that it’s important to note the content as to not overdue it because this is said to be a completely different feeling than a smoking high. Anyways, hope you enjoyed my take on Amsterdam’s coffee shops. Definitely something different!
All in all, Amsterdam was a fabulous low-key last weekend trip with some of my best friends. Even though it was cold, the Christmastime vibes with the ice rinks and lights was really beautiful. I would highly recommend a visit to the Netherlands…