|A quiet, quaint street|
The best part about this trip was that we met our friends Charlie and Ayessa there. Team Toler moved to Naples the same day we did a year and a half ago, and lived here for a year before they were transferred to Lisbon. Amsterdam was the perfect place to reunite and have a fun weekend. Their good friend Mark was visiting them, and the five of us got along effortlessly. (From henceforth, the trio of Mark, Ayessa and Charlie will be referred to as MAC.)
We flew into Amsterdam earlier than the others so we decided to rent bikes and tour the town the way the locals do. Riding a bike was so easy there, with bike paths on every street, people using hand signals to let others know where they are going, and cars watching out and moving out of the way of the bikes. I think this was my favorite thing about Amsterdam. We found it to be very refreshing to see a healthy, economically and ecologically friendly way to commute to work, go out to dinner, or go to a friend's house.
|In Dam Square|
After we met up with MAC at a nearby pub we walked over to the Anne Frank House. The visit to the house had such an impact on us as this was the actual house that Anne Frank and her family hid in for two years during World War II. To actually walk through the rooms, up the steep staircases, behind secret doors as not to be discovered, have no access to outside light because of blackout curtains, and watch testimonials of her father and friends, was very powerful and well done by the museum. It really gives you an insight into what life was like for them during that time and even if you have no background knowledge on Anne Frank or have never read her diary you will come out of this experience well informed and very moved.
|The entrance to the museum part of the house. The actual house is on left.|
We decided that a few drinks might snap us out of our somber mood so we changed courses immediately and headed towards Dam Square. Dam Square lies in the historical center of the city and has government buildings, a national monument, a wax museum, a church and a large department store. It is frequently the site of demonstrations, events, and a lot of pigeons!
We then walked towards the infamous Red Light District. Located in one of the city's oldest areas, this district leaves nothing to the imagination and everything that you have read about it is probably true. Scantily dressed women stand in the windows of the tall and thin buildings, with a glow of red light surrounding them radiating onto the streets. There are live sex shows and sex shops around every corner, with owners on the streets advertising the services. Surprisingly though, the district wasn't as seedy or sketchy as we thought it would be and was perfectly safe and fun to walk around in. After watching a matinee of something that I will not describe here and doing other activities, we found a bar in the district, had some local Heinekens, and enjoyed each other's company.
|Red Light District. Taken from here|
The following morning, we had breakfast at a quaint pancake house near the hotel. The Dutch pancake seems to be a combination of a crepe and a pancake. They were delicious!
|Yum! A Dutch pancake with bananas!|
|Brewing up something special|
|MAC enjoying their beer|
|Jon won 10% off with rock, paper, scissors!|
The only thing we weren't able to get to that we had wanted to see while in Amsterdam was the Van Gogh Museum. Jon and I had set aside two hours to walk to the museum, tour it, then walk back before our flight. Unfortunately, we didn't find out that the museum is under renovation through April until we showed up there, and that Van Gogh's works are being held in a different museum across the city. While disappointing, it gives us another reason to come back to Amsterdam (as if we needed another reason). So we spent some extra time walking back to the hotel and took in the beauty of the different buildings on our route.
We had a fantastic time in Amsterdam and being there with our friends made it all the more memorable. Between the old historic monuments, open-air markets, local cuisine and drinks, the Red Light District, and so much more, we were able to experience everything that this city has to offer. We will definitely be visiting this city again in the future, possibly when Jon's out of the Navy ;).