I’ve been on a blog hiatus due to the holidays, but I’m back! I spent Christmas at home in Florida (sunshine and shorts) and took a flight out to Amsterdam on the 1st. I spent the past several days in Amsterdam, which you may have guessed from the post’s creative title.
In short: I loved the city.
I arrived on Friday morning and made my way on over to the Rijks Museum. The only Dutch Golden Age artist I actually like is Vermeer (they only have 4 of his paintings in their collection), so I wasn’t the biggest fan of the museum. After, I went to the Van Gogh museum, which was filled to the brim with breathtaking paintings. I love impressionist art–there’s something special about seemingly nonsensical dabs of color form an entire picture. I never noticed how much Van Gogh uses blues and yellows together in the same painting. My favorite is this one (although the online picture does neither the colors nor brushstrokes any justice):
Saturday morning, I made my way over to The Anne Frank House. There was a painfully enormous line, but I thought, “Hey, I’ve waited for 6 weeks for a Duke Basketball game. This was ANNE FRANK’s hiding place for 2 YEARS. How bad could this be?” So I waited. Bad, bad decision. It started raining. And it continued to rain for the three hours I waited in line. My socks were wet and I was visibly shivering so much that the couple behind me bought me a hot chocolate. (I promise, I wasn’t trying to throw a self-pity party in line!! I would have gotten myself a hot chocolate, but I was afraid to move out of the line and lose my spot!!) The museum was really well done with video interviews from survivors like Miep Gies. I spent way more time than I originally allocated for the Anne Frank House due to the long wait and me sitting at the museum café attempting to defrost/actively avoiding having to go back out into the cold, rainy weather.
After a small self pep talk, I left the museum and began to wander Amsterdam’s Nine Streets neighborhood. It was full of cute shops and picturesque canals. This is when I stumbled upon the BEST COOKIES I have ever tasted from Van Stapele! Now I really try to limit my use of the superlative “BEST” because each time one uses it, the value it carries decreases a little bit. But I can wholeheartedly (or wholestomachly) say these were the best cookies. Firstly, they only sell one type of cookie. Secondly, they make them fresh every 30 minutes. (I had to wait 15 minutes before my cookie was ready.) They make these thick, fudgy chocolate cookies that have a crispy outer shell. But wait, that’s not all! In the center, there’s a chunk of melted white chocolate! When they’re piping hot, these gooey, melt-in-your-mouth sugar rushes are little pieces of heaven on earth.
In the evening, I walked through the red-light district (I had to…). Yikes. Not what I expected. There were women in underwear standing/sitting in shop windows, as if they were a commodity. Well, I guess they are a commodity…it was still a jarring scene. I booked it out of there as soon as I arrived, but I figured I at least had to see what the deal was.
Sunday morning, I left bright and early for the Resistance museum, which chronicles the Dutch Resistance movement during WWII. I didn’t check the museum hours before going and I arrived two hours before the museum’s opening. Luckily, Amsterdam’s Zoo was literally across the street! Thus to kill time, I went to the zoo. Turns out I enjoyed the zoo a lot more than the Resistance museum. Did you know…
-Penguins have black backs and white bellies, making it difficult for predators to find them since animals from the surface of the water have a hard time distinguishing the black coats from the dark water and animals underwater have a hard time finding the light coat in the sunlit backlighting
-Servals have saucer like ears that allow them to hear their prey (often rodents) that hide underground
-Electric eels have lungs, requiring them to surface for air. The eels I observed surfaced approx. every 20 seconds. Also, they use low voltage pulses to sense their surroundings
Now, I had to catch a plane back to Geneva and I carefully planned out what time I needed to leave city center. But before I left, I HAD to make my way back to Van Stapele for cookies. On my way to get the cookies, I saw a sign outside one of the beautiful canal-side buildings, with a sign saying, “Learn about Amsterdam’s Canals in 40 minutes,” which was very alluring. So I walked in. It was a very neat museum, with an interactive audio guide and an exhibit showing drawings of many canal-side buildings and pictures of the corresponding interiors. I also learned that the foundation under the old town is made of wooden poles, up to 20 m! Isn’t that crazy? The city, back in the day, didn’t have enough wood so they had to import a lot of it from Poland and Sweden. Walking around today’s Amsterdam, you sometimes see leaning buildings. This is due to the rotting wooden foundation. Oops.
Well, the canal museum detour made my trip to the airport a little tight, but checking in went smoothly. Everything was fine up until security. Coming from the states, I was able to check-in two luggages. From AMS to GVA, I only had one free check-in luggage. Well, my luggage was too heavy so I moved my 4 jars of peanut butter into my carry-on luggage. When I got to security, all 4 jars were confiscated!! How on earth does peanut butter classify as a liquid? If peanut butter existed in liquid form, I would know, trust me. Because my bloodstream would not be a bloodstream–it would be a peanutbutterstream. Sigh. Well, I made it back to Lausanne, safe and sound, albeit I may have lost a bit of my sanity in Amsterdam when I lost my 4 jars of Crunch Time Peanut Butter.
Also, after unpacking my check-in luggage, I found a TSA announcement at the bottom stating they opened my bag. This means that someone flipped through a box of twinkies, three bags of 3lb M&Ms, two boxes of nutty bars, two boxes of brownie mix, a block of Velveeta cheese, a can of spray cheese, and marshmallow fluff (all for people in lab/other Americans in Switzerland). Hope TSA enjoyed my patriotically-packed bag!
Overall, I really enjoyed Amsterdam. I like how you can have both the large, bustling city feel near the city center and the small-town, cozy European city feel just several blocks out of the city center. The architecture is gorgeous (gables galore!) and the massive, lofty windows maximize natural light inside. The Dutch are very friendly (and tall!!). Oh and the city is easy to navigate with just English. I didn’t get the chance to go on a biking city tour (I was too cold!) or paddle boat on the canals, so this will have to wait until March, when Angela comes to visit!