Amsterdam – a short (or not so short) travel report
After starting early with the car on Saturday morning we arrived around 2 p.m. in Amsterdam. When you drive into Amsterdam, it seems like every big city: A lot of cars and big buildings. With the help of GPS we found our way through the city quickly.
Like I said: Totally normal big city traffic. But then we drove around a corner into the Haarlemerdijk, the street where our hotel was. And the culture shock hit us: There were dozens and dozens of bicycles on the street. And the rider didn’t care for any traffic rules. They were riding like they wanted. Nobody was wearing a helmet (like most people in Germany do, when riding a bicycle in a city), not even the children. They had often not even children seats, but were sitting on the carrier. Some bicycles had a something like a kind of pushcart before the front wheel to transport things. Often kids, even dogs sat in these carts. Welcome to the inner city of Amsterdam! We realised just a little later that the bicycles were more practical here, but right then my sister, my nephews and I just laughed because it was kind of surreal. Especially because we had joked before about the black and white stripped traffic lights in Amsterdam and my comment that they look like right out of a Tim-Burton-movie. And now this. The bicycles were buzzing around us like a swarm of hornets or a squadron of fighters.
But gladly we arrived at our Hotel. The next problem was: There were no free parking spaces. So we drove through some of the really narrow streets and found one around 10 minutes walk away from the Hotel. Next shock: There was no parking space without paying. And even when you parked at the street they wanted 36 Euro for 24 hours of parking! But we were like: “Okay, we’ll risk a fine but we’ll not pay that yet.” and took our baggage and walked to the hotel.
As we arrived in the street, this time on foot, it was more like walking into Diagon Alley (the street in the Harry Potter universe, where all the magical stores are). The street was buzzing of life, a lot of interesting little stores, some pubs, restaurants and so on. We loved it.
Our hotel, the Hotel Ramenas, looked from the outside like one of the old pubs, with wooden windows. We had chosen it because of the cheap price, so we weren’t expecting any luxury. And the rooms are really very simple: beds, a closet, table, chairs. A small TV even (with mostly Dutch channels, but also two German ones). But most important: The sheets and towels were clean. The bathroom on the other side had seen better times. But for the few days it was okay. The woman working at the reception had been very helpful as we asked for a parking space. She was giving us the address and direction to a near cheap Park & Ride place, where you can put your car a little outside and then drive back into city with the urban railway.
So my nephews stayed at our room, while my sister and I walked back to the car to bring it to that cheap parking area. Because the GPS decided that it didn’t want to work, I navigated my sister through the streets with help of the map in my travel guide. Happily we got the last free parking space there. They wanted just 18 Euro for all the four days together. A lot better than the prices inner city. A short train ride of 5 minutes and a walk of 10 minutes later we arrived at our hotel again.
After a small snack and coffee in the pub/café/restaurant in our hotel, we walked into the city. The location of our hotel was excellent. In around 10 – 15 minutes we were in the city center of Amsterdam. This day we just looked around, looked into some shops and were getting used of the multi-cultural atmosphere, Amsterdam is famous for. Yes, there are so-called coffeeshops (they write it in one word), which have a green-white sign at their doors, which is telling that you can buy pot there. We didn’t go in such shops, but you can smell it on the street. Since the last year it is forbidden in countries of the EU to smoke inside public buildings, except they have an extra room for smokers. Most of those small pubs are just one room, so they smoke their weed on the streets simply. In the evening as we wanted to eat something, we found out that the restaurants in Amsterdam are really really expensive. But we found a very good Indian restaurant with excellent food near our Hotel.
On Sunday we ate breakfast in the Hotel first. We had to pay it extra and 7.50 Euro seemed expensive. It included a mug of coffee, bread, one little butter pack, two jam packs, one or two slices of cheese, one slice of salami or ham and one cooked egg. Over the day we checked the menus of other cafés (even McDonald’s) to realise that we had a good deal. They were more expensive everywhere else.
After the breakfast we walked to the Anne-Frank-House. http://www.annefrank.org/content.asp...&setlanguage=2 It’s the building were Anne Frank and her family had been hiding before the Nazis and where she has written her famous diary. They have rebuilt the hiding place and it’s an exhibition about what is describes in the diary. It’s not a huge museum, but nevertheless one that is making a deep impression.
Later, after the museum, we made a sightseeing boat trip through the Grachten, as they call the channels crossing the streets. Amsterdam was built in a swamp area, so the channels are part of a drainage system. So we learnt while the trip that there are three main channels: the “Herengracht” (Gentlemen’s channel), the “Kaizergracht” (the Emperor’s channel) and the “Prinzengracht” (Prince’s channel). Funnily the Herengracht is the biggest with the most expensive houses next to, because there lived the rich merchants while the Hanseatic times, showing that they had more money than the nobility. The rest of the day we spent with walking through the city again, simply looking around. In the evening we went to Chinatown, where we went to eat in a Thai restaurant. Very yummy, very spicy.
On Monday, our third day already, we wanted to go first to Madame Tussaud’s . We were in the line already as we saw the entry prices: 21 Euro per person! We decided that was way too expensive and took the trolley car to the Van Gogh Museum instead. http://www.vangoghmuseum.nl/vgm/index.jsp?lang=en Later we were glad about that. We spent around three hours there. The exhibiton shows the work of Vincent van Gogh as well as of artists who influenced him (like Claude Monet) or artists he has been friend with (like Paul Gauguin and Toulouse-Lautrec). You get headphones with a small advice in which you can type the numbers of the paintings, if you are interested to know more about. And I can recommend the café in the museum: Good food to a normal price. After that we were to a flea market. My older nephew even found a Star Wars t-shirt for himself. It shows four stormtroopers walking over a crosswalk like the famous Beatles cover. After that we went on the search for a comic-book store, I had read about in my travel guide. After a long march we found the store, but it was really just for total experts at it seemed. The comics were sorted after the artists, so it was hard to find the ones we’re looking for. And when we found interesting ones, they were too expensive.
In the evening we found finally an Italian restaurant with normal prices. And in the next morning after breakfast we had to leave already…
Altogether Amsterdam is worth a journey. Even when we spent most of our money for food. The atmosphere in the city is buzzing and multi-cultural, old and new buildings next to each other. They warn often before pickpockets (I guess, like in every city with a lot of tourists), but gladly nothing like that happened to us. And because of the few cars in the inner city, the air is really good. Also a plus is that most Dutch speak English, so you can communicate in the restaurants and shops well most of the time.
I would go there again.