Old world charm meets spirited youth in Amsterdam.
From the time my overnight bus rolled into Duivendretch station on a foggy morning to my evening flight the next day, I had around 37 hours to explore Amsterdam. And some of that time was spent sleeping; I’ve had much more comfortable, roomy 9 hour bus rides in the past (Eurolines, I’m looking at you). I had no time to waste and once the sun was finally up, I set out determined to make the most of my first visit to the Dutch capitol city. I have to admit, one definite advantage of arriving before dawn is being able to see the city at its most peaceful and then watch it come alive. Amsterdam wakes to the rattle of old metal bikes on uneven cobblestones.
No world traveler can accomplish anything on an empty stomach and if there’s one thing I can’t live without its breakfast food (which is why I have such a complicated relationship with France’s petit dejuner). So when I found The Pancake Bakery, a dark underground cafe claiming to have the best pancakes in the city, I knew I was going to love the Netherlands. While I wanted to eat everything on their menu my heart was telling me to go for the classic Dutch poffertjes. Smaller, lighter, and possibly fluffier than their American counterparts, poffertjes are tiny pieces of sugar coated heaven.
Photographs weren’t allowed inside the Anne Frank House and my own words could never capture what it was like to walk through those haunted halls yet alone what it must’ve been like to live there. Having stood inside the young diarist’s room myself I still find it difficult to imagine the strength it took her and others in similar situations to live in such conditions and with constant fear. She lived with 7 other people in dark rooms hidden behind a bookcase in an old Dutch canal house for 2 years. It was an experience I’ll never forget. Yet, if her diary reveals anything, its that she remained an admirable optimist and never let go of her hopes and dreams even in hardest times
With a few hours to kill before heading to the airport the next day I had just enough time to stop by the Van Gogh Museum. Boasting the the largest collection of his works in the world, I was quickly reminded of why Van Gogh is regarded as one of, if not the greatest painter. The museum displays his art chronologically in a way that not only shows Van Gogh’s progress and evolution as an artist but just how determined he was to be successful despite consistent rejection. Which makes his story all the more tragic but also insanely inspiring. He never achieved any sort of fame in his own life, his art was too far ahead of it’s time to be appreciated, he worked tirelessly to master his craft. How many other artists can fill a giant museum all on their own?
Amsterdam was the only city where I found myself waiting in worse-than-Disneyland-lines. It didn’t bother me much but I could’ve easily avoided said lines and had more time to for exploring. From opening to mid-afternoon you can expect a 2 hour line minimum at the Anne Frank House. Unless you have prepaid timed tickets (which sell out quickly so plan ahead if possible) you’re going to stand in line no matter when you plan your visit. However, the best time is about 2 hours before closing; you don’t risk not being able to get in and this is when the line is at its shortest (around 1 hour). As for the Van Gogh Museum, prepaid tickets timed are the way to go. They can be bought online (much easier than the Anne Frank House) and you get to skip the nice little maze of a line that awaits you if you don’t. Either way, both places are well worth the wait.
Amsterdam is vibrant and creative city has innovative spirit that seems to flow through the Dutch, especially the younger generations. Every street is filled with the trendsetting shops and offices of small businesses that I couldn’t seem to stay away from. It was like getting a peak into all the coolest new things before anyone else. Except of course the Dutch who just seem to know where its at. While I don’t imagine myself living there one day (unlike several other cities I’ve visited- seriously I have a problem) I love Amsterdam’s bright atmosphere. Based on first impressions, I sincerely hope to return one day and discover what other secrets this charming city hides.