The best way to follow-up Paris is to head straight for Amsterdam. After 4 days of back-to-back sight seeing; we chose to slow down the pace. Or at-least that’s what we tried to do. Thalys covers the distance – between the two cities – in about 3 hours. Technically, we had 36 hours in hand to explore Amsterdam. But, given the fact that we weren’t located in the main tourist district – we had to limit our trip to under 24 hours.
This time, quite naturally, we opted for the hop-on, hop-off bus. It makes sense taking a 24 Hour (9:15 am – 7:00 pm) pass and using it to see all the sights. Alternatively, the city can be explored by tram, local buses, bike, or foot.
Unlike Paris, Amsterdam seemed more laid-back. It’s perfect to unwind and let your hair down. People are really warm and local tourism – well planned. Walking along quaint alleys that run parallel to canals or admiring the old style architecture of local buildings is just the thing-to-do in Amsterdam.
The Anne Frank House & Museum
Here’s what I truly appreciate of travel. It gives us an opportunity to visit an event in the past; observe, and learn. Maybe, the Anne Frank House may not be on your list; if you want an easy breezy holiday, but it would be a lost opportunity if you do choose to skip it. I had read Anne Frank’s Diary in my teens. I didn’t think I’d be able to visit the location on which it’s based on. Reaching early is the key to avoid the long line that curves around the corner of the house and ends at the end of the street. To maintain the conditions – just the way they were – photography is prohibited. And although it was 5 years back, I still remember the dimly lit rooms with audio/video clips playing and glass enclosures of the original diary. If you have a vivid imagination like mine, it won’t take much to realise what it might have been like. The secret bookshelf leads into winding stairs and turn by turn into each room. The experience is nothing short of an adventure. And by the time you reach the last room – it would be hard to not be overwhelmed by the turn of events.
It’s hard to ignore Europe’s fetish for Museums. There seems to be a museum for every imaginable or conceivable idea in the human mind. Amsterdam has its fair share of museums. For art lovers there is the Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum. Leading the pack of off-beat themes is the Sex Museum.The museum profiles the art of human love-making over the ages and across cultures. Using a series of images, inflated dolls, and audio clips; it’s surprising how much content can be built up on a favourite human pastime.
A Canal cruise is perfect to enjoy a breezy day in summer. The boat passes along many of the arterial canals, giving you a vantage viewing of the old Dutch houses. Floating houses add to the quaint charm of the canal. And the Amsterdam makes for some splendid photographic moments.
With the clock ticking, we didn’t have much time and had to skip the Heineken Brewery. Nothing beats Hard Rock Cafe’s location. But, catching a seat might prove to be a challenge. The local markets have some of the most beautiful flowers – you’d ever set your eyes on.
Street stalls near the ‘I amsterdam’ installation offer small snacks. We stopped for lunch and watched groups gather at the open space. A part of the grounds was occupied for a public demonstration. Oddly enough, not far away from the demonstration, a group had gathered for a music fest of sorts. As travellers, we all have moments wherein we succumb to the traps of local tourism. We aren’t different either. Now, posing with the letters of the ‘I amsterdam’ installation might prove to be fun idea at first. But, when you have legs, faces, and feet making a presence in your frame; it might prove to be frustrating to get a perfect shot. Patience is the key for the right shot.
All in all, the day was well spent and although we hoped we had more time; we were happy with all that we saw, ate, and posed with!