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Saturday, August 11

Sightseeing in Amsterdam

First comes the food than comes sightseeing.

Amsterdam is a city built on canals and so anywhere we went, there were waterways.  My dream is to live near the ocean some day and although canals aren’t exactly ocean I was happy to see water everywhere. 

For the tourist spots, we both highly recommend Van Gogh Museum.  Van Gogh Museum will be a short visit in the day because it’s only 4 levels that are spread out but worth the time because it houses many works by him as well as his mentors, teachers and students.  Another key stop for us was the Dutch Resistance Museum- Verzetsmuseum.  This describes the history of National Socialist party (NS or Nazis) occupation in Netherland, against the Dutch's will.  It shows the Dutch eventually coming together (underground) and standing up and fighting for wrongful killings of mass number of people.  I was very much moved by this and suggest all tourists go see it because it’s important to see there were people that questioned and stood up before the Allies arrived.  

We also visited the Rembrandt house.  This museum is in the house Rembrandt lived in for few years while in Amsterdam.  This is also a multi-level museum but small enough to spend few hours.  The first couple floors display works of Rembrandt’s tutors and students or people that followed his work closely. The next few levels are based on Rembrandt’s work on etching. This is etching. It’s a lengthy read but valuable and it explains how he was able to make so many prints in his time as an artist.  There are at least 100 etched prints displayed at the museum.  On one level of the house someone shows the precise technique of etching which we both found instructive.  Anne Frank Haus is well renown and tickets must be reserved in advance for entrance.   Due to the diaries and the story the house is a busy tourist spot, unfortunately that was the exact reason I didn’t like the visit.  It was very crowded and everything in the house is seen in a line full of people.  There were too many people and not enough time to see or read the excerpts.  For those that really want to see it, go but I wouldn’t do it knowing what I know now.  Instead read the diaries to really understand Anne’s day to day life and the small space she and her family lived in at that time.  Another site that no one misses is the royal palace in the main square.  It’s great for photographs.

One place that we wished we could’ve visited but didn’t have time to was the Amsterdam History Museum.  It came highly recommended to us and we hope to go there the next time we visit Amsterdam.

The city’s flea markets are known to the locals as well as tourists.  Spending an hour at one in Jordaan neighborhood was enjoyable especially since many people had antiques on sale.  Additionally, some vendors were selling clothes, shoes, and things you wouldn’t see in a store.  If time permits, pick one of the better known flea markets and check them out. 

almost all forms of available transportation
We took a ferry ride around the city canals and that was fun.  Our ride was reasonable, 25 euros for two and it was 60- 70 minutes.  It was educational so we learned about the city while being on a boat touring the city.  We recommend doing that but only if at a reasonable price.

No trip to Amsterdam is complete without a stop at the Red Light District.  And although distinctive enough to make Amsterdam what it is, I found the central streets underwhelming.  We didn’t stroll through any of the smaller side streets so we may not have gotten the full experience but couple streets were enough to get a taste for the area.  I was surprised to learn that these sex workers work legally and pay taxes like every other working citizen in Netherland.  Another interesting detail was when Amsterdam tried to introduce male sex workers, the city received unwarranted publicity and eventually had to close.

And unlike the female sex workers having legal rights to work in the city, the biggest misconception of Amsterdam is the legality of marijuana.  To our surprise, marijuana is illegal.  Since it is considered a soft drug there is no-enforcement on locals, tourists, coffee shops or public smoking.  However as of January 1, 2013, it will be tough to buy marijuana at coffee shops because the new law prohibits tourists coming to the city just to get high.  Under this new law only locals with Netherland ID can buy marijuana legally.  That should be interesting for the city's tourism industry.  Oh and don’t be that tourist that’s so high they can’t decipher good decisions from bad.  We saw plenty of those people and were disappointed by the abuse of the drug in the name of fun.

I loved Amsterdam for many reasons but one of which is the English speaking population in the city.  All the locals we spoke with spoke fluent English and were willing to help us translate from Dutch.  I was impressed by this act of generosity especially because Germans (at least the ones we’ve encountered) are total opposite of this.  Germans don't like speaking English or helping translate because they think their English isn’t very good.  Most probably not true but it coincides with us feeling like they aren’t very helpful.  None the less, I loved Amsterdam and its people. 

The weather while we were visiting was cold, wet, grey, dreary and not fun.  So it put a little damper on our spirits but it didn’t keep us from exploring the city and wishing for the sun to come out.  We enjoyed seeing the sights of the city, the waterways and I particularly loved the canal houses.  The moral of this post, go visit Amsterdam! 

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