We reached Amsterdam in the golden hour, when the sun was setting and the sky’s light was reflecting in the many canals. Thankfully the sun set later in the Netherlands, or else we might’ve gotten very lost very quickly. We swiftly found our hostel, after passing a few red-lit windows, and ascended the very scary stairwell up three flights of perilous steps.
On our first full day, we decided to go on a free three-hour walking tour. But first, we stopped in a bakery for some delicious breakfast. Hanna got a new take on a pizza, and I got a sandwich that was messy but good. In the time before our afternoon tour began, we wandered about and passed the Palace and somehow found our way to the Sex Museum — which is not to be confused with the Prostitution Museum. For four euros, we were able to see it all in an informative, fascinating, and sometimes light-hearted way. There’s even a motion-activated flasher ready to show all should you pass him (and he’s unavoidable, so you will).
We took our tour with a lovely guide named Axel who didn’t like cheese and judged me and Hanna hard for asking him about the best place to get a Nutella waffle (because waffles aren’t Dutch). However, he was very knowledgeable about the city and had a nice disposition, with exception of the whole cheese thing. We also got to see lots of the city, from the Red Light District, to parts of the University, to historic buildings and streets.
After the tour, we went in search for the Dutch pancake place Axel recommended (which turned out incredibly), then we went out for some wine at a place called Vyn. The nicest sommelier greeted us and gave us a mini-tour of the world of red wine after we ordered a lift. Honestly, it was the fanciest I ever felt and I giggled an abnormal amount when faced with such a serious adult-y experience.
Feeling fine from our glasses of wine, we hunted down the “I Amsterdam” sculpture, passing the Heineken Brewery along the way. While the giant sculpture was easily found, it was harder to get back. We must’ve looked incompetent because a kind man on a scooter stopped to help us. Did we have any idea what he was saying? Not really. But the act of kindness made us smile and we made it back to our hostel safely.
The next day, we decided to indulge ourselves and experience the tastes of the city. We found a refreshing and delicious health food place called “Light/Dark”, stuck it to Axel and had waffles, and caved to the cookie shop that was at the back of the New Church. We also paid a visit to the Cheese Museum (which is really more like a cheese basement, but it was very educational and there is an upper floor with as many samples as a cheese enthusiast could desire).
In the afternoon, we visited the Anne Frank Haus, which is the Secret Annex written about in the diary of the young girl. It was a brutal experience walking through the factory and the quarters of the Frank family and others who shared the space. But overall, Otto Frank designed a memorial for his daughter, a warning to not allow history to repeat itself, and a plea to keep hope alive. I purchased the Diary, having not read it before, and found myself enamored with the astute observations and diary entries of Anne Frank. I also recommend everyone re-read it now, as it holds some pertinent messages for the kind of world that’s forming today.
On our final day in the Netherlands, we visited The Hague. While we weren’t exactly sure what to do there without spending a lot of money, we managed to see some cool architecture. By far the best part was the Escher Museum, housed in a converted Palace. The Museum contained three floors of art that seems impossible but delights and punishes the mind and eye at the same time. There was even an interactive portion, which made my brain a little sore. But it was delightful and highly recommended.
That evening, Hanna and I parted ways on a train as she went to catch an airplane to Rome and I went to catch a bus back to London. I am grateful for getting to travel and experience life outside of the U.S.A. I also get chills thinking that I was in the U.K. in its last moments of being a member of the E.U. History is constantly being made, both on a global and individual level. It’ll certainly be interesting to see how history forges itself from here.