Amsterdam is the largest city in the Netherlands with a population of about a million people. Which is to say, that it’s actually not a very large city at all. Still, it’s a very unique place and well worth a visit. For me, it’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world with its endless canals and old rowhouses. In a weird way, I compare it to Las Vegas: It’s really great for 24-48 hours, but you eventually think to yourself “Uh….is there anything else to do here?” And once you have that thought, you are filled with an intense desire to leave immediately. Fortunately, we were only there on a long day trip, which I think is the perfect amount of time. Of course, the weather was Typical Dutch, so it was cold and raining all day and we were ready to get home by the end of it.
The two things that Amsterdam is sadly most known for are two things that we didn’t do. Of course, the first thing Americans think of when they hear “Amsterdam” is about the city’s liberal drug laws. This is a shame because there’s much more to the city than its “coffeeshops” as they are known. Besides, smoking pot (in public, anyway) is very un-Dutch. The coffeeshops are aimed at tourists and they’re filled with exactly the sort of thrilling people you’d expect who engage in drug tourism. There’s also Amsterdam’s famous red-light district, which we didn’t go to this time (again, full of tourists) but I had walked through (AND THAT’S IT) in the past. It’s an interesting scene for about 5 minutes. Windows full of scantily dressed eastern European women all looking incredibly bored talking on their cell phones. The streets thronged with gawking tourists (male and female alike), though I never saw anyone actually go into any of the brothels. It’s weird and unlike anything I’ve ever seen, but again, after a few minutes you get bored and are ready to move on.
The big touristy thing which we did because Kat insisted on it was visiting the Anne Frank House. Kat read Anne Frank’s diary repeatedly as a child and had always wanted to visit the secret annex. I had little interest in it. As a kid, I’d been inundated with Holocaust education and it somehow just sort of numbed me to all of it. I have to say, walking through the secret annex was interesting, but I still wasn’t as affected by it as many others there. Some were in tears, while I was thinking “Yeah, it’s pretty small. Must have sucked to be trapped here. I wonder what we’ll do for lunch?”
Something I DO have to give the Dutch credit for, something that I think should be in all cities: The outdoor urinal.
In Nijmegen, the urinals elevate out of the ground at night and then go back underground during the day. Amazing!
Kat and I touristed for the day in Amsterdam and then met Neil at a fantastic bar specializing in Dutch beers for a few drinks. We then went to dinner for a Rijstaffel. This is basically the Dutch equivalent of how the English would “go for a curry.” It’s Indonesian food – though having been to Indonesia I can confirm that it’s about as “Indonesian” as American Chinese food is “Chinese.” It made me think of being in Melaka, Malaysia, a former Dutch colony, and seeing all the Dutch architecture and historical sites there.
Then it was time for a late train back to Nijmegen to rest and prepare for another cold, rainy day.