Wednesday, October 29, 2008
amsterdam: an eye opening experience
after managing to snag a nice room for a good price at this artsy hotel, we were more than excited to visit 'the venice of the north.' it was a little chilly with rain and wind, but that didn't stop us from getting out and seeing the sights in amsterdam.
first stop on our list was the outdoor market. i loved this place. name something you would like to buy; they have it.... in multiple colors. my favorite booths were packed with fresh flowers or handmade jewelry. as you will sadly note in this video, our travelers budget only allotted 'necessary' purchases like socks and leggings (cade argues leggings are not considered 'necessities'and secretly i agree, but they were a great price). we did manage to find room in the budget to purchase a plethora of warm, honey-filled waffles. this is for sure a necessity we both agreed on.
after making our purchases, we headed towards the city. we found a strange little uruguayan steak house that had a little stand outside stating the special of the day. 'tourist special: sirloin steak, salad and fries 9.95 euros.' cade loves steak and the price of meat here has made us involuntary vegetarians, so we ventured in. we both ordered the special despite our server telling us over and over how small the steak was and recommending the 25 euro option. the steak wasn't bad at all- but the experience made me miss american restaurants where the customer is king.
the next day was colder and rainier but again- you can't let that hold you back. we managed to make it to the anne frank house where we huddled in line under our little umbrella while tuning into a little more harry potter.
we loved, loved, loved the anne frank house. this is the actual place anne and her family hid during the war. we climbed the narrow steps up to the room with the movable bookcase, slipped through the opening and found ourselves in the middle of her book. it made history real for me. i felt a complete loss as we saw how the war changed everything here. it reminded me of the time in japan when my family and i were touring nagasaki at the exact place they dropped the atom bomb. they had a plaque which coldly stated the death toll along with other statistics of that horrific day- but it didn't feel as real until a little woman approached us and explained that she was the only member of her family who lived that day. the death toll on the plaque no longer looked like a massive statistic, but rather this poor woman's mother, father and siblings- real people. anne's hiding place had the same effect. the number of people who died is staggering, and amongst the statistics is anne, margot and the rest of her family. they had small excerpts from anne's diary written on the walls and old photographs of the families who shared this space as you walked from room to room. we weren't allowed to take photos, so... we didn't. all we have to prove that we were actually there is this picture of the sign in front of the door.
after anne, we came to know a little more about amsterdam than we anticipated. we had heard from so many travelers that amsterdam was a 'must see' in europe. i will agree- with a disclaimer: it is definitely not a place for the faint of heart. with the legalization of marijuana, various soft drugs and prostitution, amsterdam prides itself on being one of the most tolerant countries in the world. i will give them credit- they for sure get an 'a' in tolerance.
as cade and i were wandering the streets we found ourselves in the infamous 'red light district.' sure, i make it sound like an accident but we decided to take a quick walk through the 'tame' part of the district during the day, just to see what all the hype was about. this sleazy street is packed with brothels- yes, even at 3 in the afternoon. the worst part is, the prostitutes sit in the windows and wait for someone to come 'choose' them. i was a really disturbed by this and honestly the women were giving me the willies. i could not understand the lure of this place or the reasoning of it all. most of the prostitutes were pretty old, one was covered completely in tatoos and- i'll just say it- for the most part, they weren't attractive. it all seemed so worthless. i just wanted to yell through the window that there is something better out there to do with your life. needless to say- we didn't stay here long. cade spent the majority of the walk looking down at his shoes while i stared with gaping mouth at the craziness of it all with no shame for my look of disgust. places like this really make me realize how important the simple principles of the gospel are. principles of real happiness. lucky for you, we passed on taking pictures here. you're welcome.
i hope this last part doesn't leave you with a sour taste in your mouth about amsterdam. it really was a beautiful place. the dutch are very nice. anytime we pulled out a map, someone would offer to help us find our way. the buildings here are so old and charming and just outside the city you'll find miles of tulip fields. cade loved amsterdam because the bike to person ratio is nearly 1:1. it has one of the highest rates of bike riders in the world and bicyclists have the right of way- even over pedestrians. with miles and miles of bike lanes in front of him, cade was in heaven.
would we go back to amsterdam? in a second.