Every city we’ve been to so far has had its own feel and atmosphere; it’s no different in Amsterdam! We stayed in a house boat on the Brouwersgracht, a quiet and beautiful canal, situated just north east of the center. On our first day out we had anticipated the weather, so were all dressed accordingly with numerous layers. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. We turned back after 15 minutes outside, to pile on another layer and say take two! We learned over the next week that when the fog rolls in and the dampness gets into your bones, you can pile on as many layers as you want, to no avail. However, the atmosphere is highly enjoyable and the people that live there don’t seem to be daunted. We even saw blankets piled out on benches at night, for the restaurant customers who want to sit outside. We walked around a bit, exploring the neighborhood. By now we’ve learned that if we chose our apartment right, the culture and atmosphere of the city should be close by. Then you can really get a feel for it, almost as if you lived there, which you are more or less doing for a week.
We visited the Anne Frank house. The atmosphere was very quiet and melancholy; everyone was remembering the terrible times. Actually being there, where it happened, in the house, was really weird. The whole time I imagined Anne looking out the window to the same view or gluing her film star pictures on her wall, which are still there. Then knowing her future and what would happen made it worse. If it had worked, we would be walking through the house in a completely different way; it’s a bit nauseating this way. The museum itself was very well done, when it comes to explaining and models and interviews; we learned a lot of things about the time.
The Van Gogh museum was great! I still remember it from when we were there in 2006. We admired all of his paintings and have now compiled a wish-list of paintings we love (and would like to paint on silk). Although I think we will need a lot of silk for that because there are so many!
Something special to Amsterdam is the bikes. No one would believe how many bikes there are until you are actually there! At the train station they have a 3-tiered parking lot full with them, and when the bridge goes up for the boats to pass, there end up being more waiting people on bikes than in cars and walking combined. They are everywhere; locked to every possible pole in any little corner, floating in the canals, stacked in the double decker slots. 20 bikes can fit into the space of one car, plus they are much more green!
The buildings in Amsterdam are also very crooked. They lean forward to avoid having supplies bang into the house as they are brought up by a pulley system. Having also been built on water, the tall houses are also visibly crooked sideways!
Our time in Amsterdam was really fun. We did some more homeschooling, visited the Noordmarkt, and saw the Royal Palace. The park was beautiful and we had a great time visiting all of my father’s relatives. We also visited friends in Harleem, a small town just outside of Amsterdam, which was very charming. Soon we were in Maastricht with my father’s uncle and aunt. Now we are in Düsseldorf!