Over the weekend, I experienced Amsterdam for the first time. Amsterdam is one of those towns you cannot describe in words. You have to see it to believe it’s enchanting charm. The streets are separated by canals and the houses are so unique. You never see the same one twice.
Amsterdam is the heart of The Netherlands and as soon as you leave the train station and enter the city, all of it’s culture is overwhelming. We took a free walking tour for the start of our day in Amsterdam. Our tour guides name was Berber. She was dutch and one of the greatest people I have met since I have been here. She was so enthusiastic about Amsterdam and the history that revolved around the town.
We started the tour by the palace, where the royal family lives. The palace is in the center of the city. Around the palace are stores upon stores. The great thing about our trip to Amsterdam was the fact that they still had all the Christmas decorations up from the holidays. What I have learned about the dutch is that they are never in a hurry, unless they are riding a bike. Nothing in Holland gets done in one day. They are very relaxed people. Probably because most of them are going to “coffee shops” on a regular basis. Berber, our tour guide, explained the beginning history of Amsterdam. It was one of the first port cities of Europe. It was the hub of all trade. As we walked and listened to the history, it was so crazy to think that the streets that I was walking were hundreds of years old.
Berber explained that Amsterdam was built on swamp. She explained that building on a swap was not the smartest idea. As you walk through Amsterdam and look at all the buildings and houses, you notice that some are leaning forward, backwards, to the side and all different sorts of direction. Because Amsterdam is on a swamp she said that people have to adjust their homes. This means they have to shave the bottoms of their doors often for them to shut, or they can’t open their windows because their house is virtually sinking into the ground. The history of Amsterdam is overwhelming and that isn’t even the beginning of it.
Our next stop was the Red Light District. Everything in Amsterdam is very open. People are open about everything from drugs to sexuality. Before we walked into Red Light District, we were warned that we could not take pictures otherwise the ladies in the window would come out and crush our cameras. So unfortunately, I do not have pictures to do it justice, but like I said before words cannot explain the city. Hearing about the rules and regulations that Amsterdam has, it seems they have it all figured out. Berber explained to us that years ago, the government realized that instead of persecuting people for doing drugs, being prostitutes, they would make it legal and regulate it. Pretty smart right? I was experiencing history first hand and it was such an exhilarating moment. The tour was incredible. We walked through the Red Light District, The Jewish Quarter, The Jordan District, we saw the East-India district and much more. And we did all this in the rain. We walked the tour in the pouring rain and I actually did not mind it at all.
At the end of our tour, we ate a traditional dutch lunch. We had croquettes (bread crumbs and sausage mixed together and then fried) and pea soup. After we finished the walking tour we went and did the tour of the Anne Frank house. The Anne Frank House was unlike anything I have ever done. I walked the same stairs as Anne Frank. I was in her bedroom, looking at the pictures, standing where they hid from the Nazis for five years. It was something that you could not prepare for. The feeling that you get reading about this history and learning about it in school, but then actually experiencing it and being in the middle of it is indescribable. I wrote in the book at the end of the tour and I felt that I had left a little of my mark on history.
After walking through the Anne Frank house, and being trenched from the rain, we decided that we would walk the streets, shop a little, and try some tradition dutch food before we left. The good thing about being so close to Amsterdam is you don’t have to rush to do it all in one day. It is a 20 min train ride from Leiden. Beside the rain, in Holland the people on bikes are ruthless. Leiden is nothing compared to the people riding bikes in Amsterdam. They will not stop for you and they will yell at you if you do not get our of their way. We experienced this first hand. Not a fun one to say the least, but it was bound to happen. As we walked back to the train station we found a Christmas market.
I could not leave Amsterdam without eating fries with i mayonnaise. This is a typical dutch street food and it was one of the most lekker (delicious) things I have tried. We then went to the famous clog and got our touristy pictures taken in the clog.
We left the city with lots left to explore, but I cannot wait to go back and see the rest of Amsterdam. Although Amsterdam was definitely new and exciting, Leiden, in my opinion is 10 times more beautiful than Amsterdam. Something very hard to beat, but every time I wake up and look out my window it justifies this thought.