Last weekend, we had a free weekend with no school related trips so my friends and I had the opportunity to plan our own weekend getaway! It was hard to choose a place to travel to since there are just so many places I want to experience. So, after some planning and talking it over, we decided to go to…….AMSTERDAM!
I was so excited about our choice. When I was in eighth grade, I read the diary of Anne Frank for the first time with my english class. We set apart about a month of class time to research the Holocaust so that we would really understand what we were reading. Then, when we were reading the book, we had to keep our own diaries about our reactions to the book. This experience had a huge impact on me. From then on, I have always really wanted to visit the Anne Frank house, so having the opportunity to go to Amsterdam and visit the house where her and her family were hidden and to experience the history first-hand was life changing. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
We landed in Amsterdam, we set out to find the hostel that we were staying in for the weekend which was a bit more difficult than we had anticipated! However, almost everyone in Amsterdam that we encountered spoke English (more people than in Rome) and we were able to find it and get settled in. This was my first real hostel experience since we stayed in an airbnb flat in Florence, so it was a bit shocking. Six of us shared a room that had three bunk beds so it was a bit tight, but we were able to make it work. We really only spent time in the hostel when we were sleeping because we were out seeing all that there is to see in the city for as long as we could!
On our first night, we took a canal cruise all around the city. It was a great introduction to the rest of the weekend and it was so beautiful to see the city light up at night and the reflections on the water were gorgeous.
Then we grabbed some dinner and I had my first Heineken in Amsterdam!
The next morning we woke up bright and early to go wait in line for the Anne Frank house!! We got there about an hour before it opened so we were able to get in with the first group. Touring the house was incredibly impactful. At the request of Otto Frank, the house is empty of furniture to represent the loss of so many people during the Holocaust. However, the house does contain several artifacts from the war. We saw the room where Anne slept, and the pictures she had pasted on the wall were still there. In one room, we saw the pencil marks where the heights of the children had been measured. We even saw Anne’s original diary. At the end of the museum, there was a short film that featured people explaining how the story of Anne Frank had impacted them, and it was amazing to see how the diary of a young girl has inspired so many and brought a message of hope and resilience to the world. By the time we left the museum, the line went around the block at least twice, so we were very excited that we had gotten there early!
Next, we walked to a local market. There were vendors selling just about everything – jewelry, clothing, food, etc. We then went to a cafe next to the market for our first Dutch apple pie. Let’s just say I am now spoiled for life it was that good!!
Our next stop was the Rijks Museum, but on the way we stopped by a flower market! It was still a bit early for tulips to be in full bloom, but we still saw some beautiful flowers!
I had a great time touring the museum. Even though I had only been taking my art history classes, I felt like I could really apply my new knowledge and appreciate so many of the paintings at the museum! I saw some great works, including some by Van Gogh and Rembrandt.
Next, we stopped for a quick lunch and ended up having the best waffles I had ever had. The workers were so kind and welcoming. They hand-dipped our waffles in chocolate!! Leslie Knope really needs to go to Amsterdam!
That night, we walked around the red light district. This was a very shocking experience. Many things that are illegal in the United States, such as a variety of drugs and prostitution, are legal in Amsterdam. So, I felt that I was experiencing a culture that was almost completely unlike my own. To me, Amsterdam was a series of contradictions. If you look one way, you would see a quaint and beautiful town filled with flowers, delicious food, and bicyclists. If you looked the other way, however, you would see a store legally selling drugs that are all illegal at home. The city has amazing history, such as the Anne Frank house, but then transforms at night into the red light district. So, as an outsider, it is hard to understand how all of these things come together to form one cohesive culture. While I was sometimes confused or uncomfortable, it was great to experience the culture of Amsterdam simply because it was so different.
The next morning, we took a short walk around the city before heading back the airport to fly to Rome. Overall, I had an exciting time in Amsterdam and I was very proud of my friends and I for traveling on our own for the first time!