I Left My Heart in Amsterdam
A couple weekends ago, I hopped on a plane and headed to Amsterdam with two of my friends. I booked my ticket very spontaneously, and until then, I was sad that Amsterdam wasn’t included on my list of places I would visit by the end of my program. But I had a major lapse in impulse control a week and a half before my friends were set to leave, and I’m so grateful I did because Amsterdam is hands down my favorite place I’ve ever been. Amsterdam is very tolerant and I think this creates a very laid back mentality among the locals which creates a very cool, relaxed atmosphere for the tourists to take in this small but vibrant, thriving, historical city.
We arrived in Amsterdam on Thursday afternoon, and were excited to start adventuring right away. Unfortunately, we ran into some troubles with the transportation system from the airport to our hostel. First, we got on the wrong train and were heading away from Amsterdam rather than towards it. Fortunately we realized fairly early on into our journey and were able to correct the matter by getting off at the next stop. Then, we boarded what we thought was the correct train to Amsterdam, but realized as we tried to exit at Amsterdam Centraal Station that we had really ended up getting on the metro and didn’t have the right kind of ticket to get out of the station! Fortunately the person we asked for help was nice enough to let us out without administering a fine, which is apparently pretty hefty for taking public transportation without a ticket. Finally, we found the tram that would take us from Amsterdam Centraal directly to our hostel. The thing about the trams in Amsterdam, and I think Dutch culture in general, is that they love to maximize efficiency, and as such trams have doors that serve solely as entrances and doors that serve solely as exits. We didn’t realize this, however, and got yelled at as we tried to exit through an entrance! After too many public transportation fails in an hour, we had finally arrived at our hostel and could start exploring!
The girl who checked us in at the hostel told us that they always recommend their guests see the city three ways: on the canals, on bikes, and on foot. We decided our first order of business would be to see the city from the canals, so we hopped on the first canal tour we saw. It was a unique way to get first impressions of a city because everything was viewed from below, but it was wonderful. The boat took us in a huge loop around the city, so we were able to see it all.
The next morning, we woke up bright and early to visit the Anne Frank House, which usually gets a pretty big crowd in the middle of the day. We arrived 25 minutes after it opened and the line was already wrapped around the building, but the wait went by quickly as they keep the line moving as best they can. I was very excited to visit the museum because I had heard it was an incredibly moving experience. It is hard to put into words the emotions I felt while walking through the Anne Frank House. Yes, it was moving, just like I had heard it described many times before. But it was so much more than that. I think it is one of those things that you truly have to experience for yourself.
After the Anne Frank House, we did a free walking tour of the city, which took us all around Amsterdam – from the Red Light District to the Jewish Quarter to the old headquarters for the Dutch East India Company to the Anne Frank House. Our tour guide’s main message was that Amsterdam is a city of toleration, which is something made very evident as you walk around the city. It’s tolerance for just about everything made it a different experience than any other city I have been to.
After the three hour walking tour, we headed to an open air market, where I got a homemade stroopwaffel! I have been obsessed with stroopwaffels since I first had one when I was a freshman in highschool, but this homemade one was unlike any other I’ve ever had! Since the wafer-thin waffles were hot of the iron, the caramel was melting and delicious! And to top it all off, it was dipped in chocolate. It was a dream come true.
For our last hurrah on our three day visit to the Netherlands, we headed to the tulip fields in Keukenhof. The weather was perfect, and at one point I described it as my definition of a perfect day – spending it in the sun with the best company enjoying a necessary but low-key tourist attraction. If I could pick a favorite day I have had abroad, my day checking out the tulip fields at Keukenhof is definitely a top contender.
Amsterdam was perfect, but there was one major flaw: we eventually had to leave. Amsterdam was the first place I’ve been since coming to Europe (besides Dublin, which doesn’t count because I am here long term) that I could see myself being long term and I was genuinely sad to leave. I accidentally left my heart (or at least a little piece of it) in Amsterdam.