“Amsterdam has more than 150 canals and 1,250 bridges,
but it never seems crowded,
nor bent and bitter from fleecing the tourist” – Julie Burchill
Amsterdam was not only the first stop on my interrailing trip, it was also the first time I found myself in a non-English speaking country without company. This was down to the fact that the two people I was travelling with wouldn’t arrive until the evening of the 15th; I arrived in the morning.
Day 1: Milton Keynes – Amsterdam (via London) 15.08.15
Plan of Action:
- Find Hotel Inner
- Explore Amsterdam
- Meet up with Faye and Sarah
It was a ridiculously early start to make sure I made my flight to Amsterdam, but make it I did. Being on my own was a bit nerve-wracking, which wasn’t made any easier by how easily I was baffled by the transfer from Schipol Amsterdam to Amsterdam Centraal. After that it was the short matter of rapidly working out the tram system to find my way to my hostel, Hotel Inner. Fortunately, this proved easier than my trip from Schipol due to Hotel Inner being just around the corner from the Van Gogh Museum, placing it on the line of trams #2 and #5. As it was still a couple of hours before I could check in I headed over to Vondelpark, one of the must see sights. However, rather than see much of it, I fell asleep in the sun by a small pond. And do you know what? It was quite wonderful 2hr nap.
It was whilst walking back from Vondelpark that I really started to notice Amsterdam, a city built for a purpose that still retained much of its original charm. The most noticeable thing is the distinct lack of traffic, thanks mainly to the Dutch love of bicycles and, to a lesser extent, the extensive and well though-out tram system. Now, I’d always heard that the Dutch rode bicycles like it was going out of fashion but until you see it with your own eyes it’s quite difficult to actually comprehend the sheer quantity of cyclists out there. I mean, they even have a 7 story parking lot built for bicycles down by the river, it’s madness!
The rest of the day was pretty simple. Despite some delays to their flights my two travel companions, Sarah and Faye, eventually arrived and I met them at Centraal. It was getting quite late by this time so our attention turned towards dinner and a quite wonderful Mediterranean restaurant that really tickled the taste buds. Following this it was back to the hostel where we all played a few hands of cards before turning in for the night.
Day 2: Amsterdam 16.08.15
Plan of Action:
- Van Gogh Museum
- ‘100 Highlights’ Canal Cruise
- The Red Light District
- The Erotisch Museum
Unlike Faye and Sarah, this was my first time to Amsterdam and I was truly desperate to visit the Van Gogh Museum so I went there whilst the other two wandered off to explore Vondelpark. It was then I learnt my first lesson about Amsterdam; book your attraction tickets in advance!
Despite the Museum opening at 9am and my getting there at 10am it was over two and a half hours before I was able to walk through the museum doors. Most of this time was spent watching those who had pre-booked tickets turn up after me and get in before me, which was extremely frustrating indeed. Even still, the 17€ entrance was a steal and the wait was justified by what was held within.
The Museum itself is made up of four floors. The ground floor contains his self-portrait collection, including the well-known ‘Self-portrait with a pipe and a straw hat‘. The first floor contains his early work including his work on the peasants, whilst the second floor holds work from when he began to develop his own style, including my favourite piece of his titled ‘Head of a skeleton with a burning cigarette‘. The third floor contains the works from the lead up to his death as well as a selection of letters that he wrote to his brother, Theo. As I have previously mentioned, the price of entry was a steal because of both the artistic content and the information you learn. For example, when he began painting at the age of 27 it was without any form of training and his “career” lasted only a decade.
The next step in the day was the ‘100 Highlights’ Canal Cruise which, like is advertised, shows that Amsterdam truly is best seen from the water.
From the Nemo Building, to Anne Frank’s House, to the bicycle parking lot I mentioned earlier, the Canal Cruise really does show you a lot. It also demonstrates just how vital the canal system was and still is to Amsterdam’s success and development due to its use as a trade route.
A poor dinner was followed by the decision to visit the Red Light District, something I found didn’t live up to expectation, I may have been naive, but I was of the belief that there would have been a bit more of a theatrical element that surrounded the Red Light District, considering both its legality and popularity. However aside from the design – which brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “window-shopping” – it really isn’t that much to shout about. On the other hand, The Erotisch Museum provided an interesting counter-balance to the Red Light District “experience”. It was bizarre, bewildering, creepy and weird; something you really must see to really understand. Even now, I still can’t decide whether or not it was tasteful or tasteless. The word I have settled on, is odd.
Day 3: Amsterdam 17.08.15
Plan of Action:
- The Heineken Experience
It’s not often that you are encouraged to drink before lunchtime. It’s even less often that this happens whilst being given a tour of a factory. Although I suppose I shouldn’t have been that surprised. At a chocolate factory you are given “free” sample chocolates so it makes sense that at a brewery tour you are given “free” alcohol.
As you can imagine, the Heineken Experience became a firm favourite due to the alcoholic nature of the visit. The tour itself was interesting and I am sure that on a sunny day the views from the roof would be staggering but for us, alcohol was the winner.
We had begun to sober up by late afternoon and, since we were moving on the next day, we decided to just have a relaxing evening. It was a nice time and we had fun. It’s a good city is Amsterdam, one well worth a visit!