1YoT: Amsterdam

Amsterdam was another destination Inna and I knew we had to visit on this trip. For one, I’d never been there and Inna had only been on a single day trip. Two, I have a friend currently living in Amsterdam. Three, we fell in love with the Netherlands through their performance in the 2016 World Cup. And four, flights from Dublin to Amsterdam are super-cheap. So after we completed our tour of Ireland, off to Amsterdam we went.

Unfortunately, like Switzerland, the Netherlands is very expensive. Because of this, we didn’t spend a lot of time here, just enough to explore Amsterdam and also visit Dutch Design Week.

Other than Venice, Amsterdam is the most famous canal city in the world. That being said, Amsterdam’s canal experience is different than Venice’s; in Amsterdam the canals are large and laid our in a grid pattern, they are part of the design of the city and not simply a city placed on a bunch of canals.

The architecture in Amsterdam is also amazing. This is seriously one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever visited.

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As beautiful as Amsterdam is by day, it is even more beautiful at night. 

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Even Amsterdam’s non-grand architecture was interesting. Like this leaning building, Amsterdam is filled with these. Because of Amsterdam’s canals, basements in Amsterdam tend to get damp. This makes them unideal for storage, so instead, Amsterdam citizens store things in their attics. To raise heavy items to the attic (these buildings were built before elevators), a pulley system is located at the top of each building. Buildings were angled outward so that whatever was being hauled up by the pulley wouldn’t hit the building on its way up.

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Okay, so Amsterdam is beautiful, but what is there to do? First things first, we visited friends! If you recognize her, it may be because she was the lead in my Blue Mornings short film. Also, she recently had a baby, which made our visit extra fun and special.

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Our friends lived walking distance from Vondelpark, Amsterdam’s largest park. So we went there, strolled around, and found (amongst other things) some strange looking ducks.

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Here is Amsterdam’s main square, creatively named Dam Square. This square hosts numerous events, is home to many of Amsterdam’s grandest buildings, and is also home to the Amsterdam’s National Monument (the white monument in the center of the photograph), which honors those who died in WWII and subsequent conflicts.

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Opposite the National Monument is the Royal Palace of Amsterdam. Built in the 17th century, the Royal Palace of Amsterdam is one of three palaces at the disposal of the Netherlands’s monarchy. That’s right, like the UK, the Netherlands still has a king and queen.

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These names memorialize the victims of WWII’s Dam Square Shooting. What happened was, after the Germans retreated from Amsterdam, thousands of Dutch citizens came to celebrate in this square. The celebration angered the captured Germans, who, despite being captured, never had their weapons taken away. These Germans opened fire, killing somewhere between 22 and 43 people. The victims names are now inscribed where their bodies fell. 

If you look closely, the name at the right of the above photograph is Hendrina Koper Frank, a relative of Anne Frank.

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The above brings us to Amsterdam’s most famous destination: the Secret Annex. Anne Frank, her family, and the Van Pels all hid in the Secret Annex, a two story attic in the brick building pictured left (the black building houses the Anne Frank Museum) throughout almost all of WWII.

Unfortunately, pictures are not allowed inside the Secret Annex, but I was able to take some pictures in the museum at the exit. On the left is a picture of Anne Frank, and on the right is the 1959 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, won by Shelly Winters for her portrayal of Petronella van Daan (last name change for the film) in The Diary of Anne Frank.

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Moving on to happier things, the food in Amsterdam was amazing. Here Inna is eating caramel Dutch waffle snacks, bought in bulk from the supermarket. They were the best. Also, cleavage!

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“You know what they put on French fries in Holland instead of ketchup?” “What?” “Mayonnaise.” “God damn!” “I seen them do it, man, they fucking drown them in that shit.” “That’s some fucked up shit.”

Fries go much better with ketchup than mayonnaise in my opinion.

Amsterdam is also home to a famous Eucharistic miracle: the miracle of bread. According to legend, in 1345 a dying Dutchman threw up his host (sacred bread) while receiving his last rites, and per the priest’s orders, his family disposed of the vomit in a fire. The next day, however, the family discovered the vomit wasn’t vomit, but was rather the entire loaf of bread, unscathed and protected from the fire. And the next night, the same thing happened again. After this, the house was declared a miracle site and the chapel pictured above was built where it stood. People from all over Europe pilgrimaged to this site, resulting in Amsterdam’s first population boom.

Here is a tribute to (left) and the house of (right) Netherlands’s most famous artist, Rembrandt. Rembrandt lived and worked through Amsterdam’s second population boom, the Dutch golden age. Not only did art prosper in this time (the 17th century), everything in Amsterdam did. Amsterdam actually became the wealthiest city in the world during this century, due mainly to their ownership of the largest, most powerful, most valuable corporation in history, the Dutch East India Trading Company.

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This museum features the works of Netherlands’s other most famous artist, Vincent Van Gogh. Many of Van Gogh’s greatest paintings (Potato Eaters, Sunflowers, The Bedroom) are in this museum, but entry was expensive and so we chose not to visit (plus, we had already seen Van Gogh’s greatest painting earlier on our trip). 

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Next to the Van Gogh Museum is the Rijksmuseum, another expensive museum we did not visit. This museum, a national museum in the Netherlands, is one of Europe’s great art and history museums; amongst other works, it contains Rembrandt’s most famous painting: Night Watch.

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Despite not visiting the museums in this area, Inna and I are happy we stopped by, one for the famous “I amsterdam” sign and two because this area (Museumplein) just sort of had a magical quality to it. In addition to all I’ve already shown, Museumplein features five additional museums, two additional Rijksmuseum buildings, Amsterdam’s most famous concert hall, the US Consulate, tons of greenspace, several monuments, and a huge fountain. Museumplein, location of the 1883 World’s Fair, is probably the closest thing to the Chicago World’s Fair (something I’ve been obsessing about after reading Devil in the White City) in the world.

Finally, no trip to Amsterdam is complete without mentioning bicycles. Amsterdam is the most bicycle proficient city in the world; bikes are the main form of transportation for all socio-economic classes and there are actually more bikes than people in this city.

This brings us to the end of our Amsterdam visit (if you’re wondering about Amsterdam’s vices, here’s a quick rundown: we don’t smoke pot, the red light district is titillating but super depressing, Dutch chocolate is amazing, and their beer is okay). Originally, we planned to visit Germany after Amsterdam, but after a month in Ireland and the Netherlands, Inna and I were tired of cold weather. Also, we found a great deal on a flight from Amsterdam to Hong Kong, and an even better deal from Hong Kong to Sydney. So after Amsterdam we decided to skip forward, to the Oceania portion of our trip.

However, the deal we found out of Amsterdam wasn’t until two days after our last day in the city. Thankfully, there’s a ton to do in the Netherlands, and so we had lots of choices for how to spend our extra days. We chose to visit Eindhoven because they were hosting Dutch Design Week at the time. To read about this portion of our trip, click here!

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