Before all the major immigration dramas occurred (see the last three blog updates), on the 10th and 11th of January Fem and I travelled to and toured around Amsterdam.
It was a very cold weekend as usual. We were up nice and early on Saturday morning. We had breakfast and set off via bus to Den Bosch. From here we then caught the train to Amsterdam. This only takes just over 1 hour so it’s not too far away. Once we get to the main city, we exit and then decide what we want to do. Our hotel was at the south of city near where all the main museums were and the train station was at the north. We had researched on the internet the previous night and we wanted to take a canal cruise. There was a company near the train station that offered canal cruise with dinner at night, which we thought was a great idea. Once the incompetent tour desk operator woke up and realised where and what her job was, we were registered (there was only 2 more tables open for that night!). We then bought a map from the tourist centre and then set off into the city.
Within 5 mins of walking we were in the middle, this was quicker than I had thought. The centre contains a big square with has one of the royal residences on the western side.
Madame Tussauds Wax Museum
To the south of the square is the Madame Tussauds wax museum. I had never been to one of them so off we went. As you would expect it was filled with lots of wax dolls, from singers to movie stars to politicians and Dutch personalities. They were all incredibly well done. I have included numerous shots below.
After the wax museum it was off to the Amsterdam Dungeon to learn about Amsterdam’s shady past. There was a small scary section in the wax museum which Fem did not enjoy, so I was thinking she would not like the Dungeon. Oh well…we had already paid for the tickets so we gave it a try. This was a live museum, so imagine just being shuffled from room to room with actors decked out in middle ages clothes and chatting about the plague, religious persecution and the different types of torture they had back then. It was morbidly interesting. Fem had enough of the dark arts after the first section, so she left and I went through the rest with the remaining group of about 5 other girls. We weren’t able to take photos so I can’t share any here. It was not too bad and I think I had been expecting some more gore but it was interesting. There was a cool maze section which we had to go through where all the walls were mirrors. It was very disorientating but fun at the same time.
Anne Frank House
After the dungeon, we continued walking further south and found our Hotel. After dropping off our gear and having a 5 min powernap we were off again to the Anne Frank house. This time we took the tram back north and when we were close enough we got off and walked west a few blocks to the house. Again I was not allowed to take photos, so if you want more info, click here.
The Anne Frank museum was very good, very interesting and sombre, since you were in the actual house where she and her family hid during World War 2. You were also able to see the original diary itself.
Red Light District
Afterwards it started getting dark, and it was time to go on the canal boat cruise and dinner. We still had some time to kill so I suggested we walk through the red light district. After walking past a lot of pot shops with lots of interesting stuff in them we then walked up the main red light district street. It was still reasonably early (about 6:30pm) but there were already quite a few girls in the windows. And yes it’s just like they say, they try to get you to come to them as you walk past. Some were good looking, others were not and I am pretty sure one was a male (or used to be). There are a lot of live sex shows as well (no we didn’t go into to any), sex shops and pot shops all along the one street. There’s plenty of red neon lights and there were a lot of groups of young men hooting about. Also a few of tourist shops full of shirts saying that you had visited the red light district in Amsterdam. So yeah that’s about it. You can take it or leave it.
After waiting in a heated room for a little while as they prepped the boat, we were then lead down a ramp onto the boat. We had a free bottle of red and white wine for the cruise which I enjoyed. Since fem does not like red wine I almost finished the whole bottle in 2 hours! It was a nice and romantic cruise down the many canals of the city. Because it was that cold there were sections of the canals that had thin layers of ice. The boat found itself breaking through these icy sections to pass through. You could not help but wince at the grinding sounds and seeing big chunks of ice go past your view. I was glad we were not in waters like this!
The tour guide pointed out all the sights of the city as we passed them both in English than in Dutch. The meal itself was pretty average, but enjoyable. I liked the red wine!
It was very dim to create the mood and allow us to easily see outside, so I had to use a very high ISO setting for these shots.
After a pleasurable 2 hours, we left and caught a tram back to the hotel and crashed for the night.
The next morning after a good breakfast at the hotel we were off again. Right next to our hotel is the Rijksmuseum. This is the main art museum in Amsterdam. It is currently under renovation and only a section of all the artworks were available to the public. It turned out this was just enough for us to see (before getting culture fatigue) and it included all the main artworks. Again we were not able to take photos but it was incredible. Some of these artworks are massive and fill an entire wall. You can see some more info from Wikipedia here.
The main artwork is Rembrandt’s The Night Watch. One of my personal favourites was one of a young Dutch couple smiling. I liked it because it was very unusual for that time period to show a couple together smiling casually. Most paintings were of single people in stiff poses. Also because it was so big and the detail in the artwork was incredible.
I always have preferred the photorealistic artworks from the old masters. Some of the modern artworks today which look like a bored toddler’s finger-painting are a joke and an embarrassment.
We came across the Amsterdam sign, and had to wait a good 15-20 mins before we were able to get a shot with just either myself of Fem on the sign. There were always tourists climbing over the thing or getting photos or getting in other peoples photos. We just had to be patient and eventually we were rewarded.
Once we returned to the main central square we got some more shots. There were some costumed people just standing there in the square. You had to pay them some money in order to your get photo taken with them. Hmm.. pass for me. We also went into the main church which was right next to the royal residence. But the church was housing the contents of another art museum. Since we had just been to the Rijksmuseum we were cultured out and passed on it. There were a flock of pigeons in the square too that constantly flew at head level in a giant swarm to the next person who was dropping some food for them. We found ourselves having to duck our heads every few minutes as all these birds just flew at high speed right above our heads!
We hit the shops for a while and had a nice lunch. Then it was back to the train station for our trip home. When we arrived there I was able to get some shots of the thousands of bikes that were locked up at the train station. Incredible to see!
The last photo shows the train station itself. In front of it are the canal cruise boats that we were in the night before.
We caught a train and headed off to Den Bosch and then home to Waalwijk. It had been a great weekend away!