It’s finally coming together this whole dream turned reality turned into a confusing emailed flight itinerary. I flew KLM and this red-eye flight began to the long list of sleepless journeys across vast bodies of water. However, on this flight I managed to befriend the stewardess who was overseeing our section, delivering wine, food, and water to the inhabinitants of her area—I owe her a pretty big thank you, she was from Holland and was kind enough to write me a brief, but thorough list of the things I should try and do while I was in the Netherlands. I managed to tick off a lot of them, for anyone curious here were her suggestions:
Canal tours/cruises –Volendam!
Zaanseschans (nearby Ams)
If you have time à you can take a train from central station to Maastricht. It’s a total different place in Holland. With such great views! It’s only 2-2.5 hours by train and I really recommend it!
If you want to go shopping go to Utrecht (15-20 min by train). Also a lovely city, just to walk around…
In most places there’s wifi, just ask access codes.
www.iens.nl to check out restaurants/ see rates/ prices
Amsterdam is fun, but don’t stay more than 3-4 days. There’s so much to see and do in other cities: Haarlem, Alkmaar, Utrecht, Den Haag, Leiden (just less than 20 min from Amsterdam)
If you go to Maastricht you definitely need to see the Valkenburg, you can take a blue tour through cavesà beautiful.
Good Luck and Enjoy your stay!
I landed in Amsterdam before the sun managed too. And spent an hour in the airport stealth googling my hostel and emailing that ‘I am alive’ message home at the Starbucks (It sort of saddens me that these are still in Europe where there is infinitely better coffee to choose from –especially since the prices look suspiciously similar and then you remember that’s in Euros.) —they do have free internet though, and comfortable couches, and if you’re quick you can avoid paying for anything.
It took me somewhere in the embarassing range of two to four hours to figure out the train schedule, tram schedule, where to get a map, and where on earth my Hostel was.
My IAmsterdam map has seen better days.
I am not particularly great at navigating Dutch transit, or Amsterdam’s streets and pre-map I was pretty helpless. (Taking the tram to the hostel was possibly the best decision I could’ve made–in Haarlem and Maastricht I managed to get lost for at least 2 hours hunting them down.) For some reason the labyrinth of streets named Noorderstraat, Nieuwe Looiersstraat, and Van Ostadestraat (STRAAT- I have come to assume means street..) never really seemed to stay in my head in an organized manner.
When I arrived at the hostel, I was told in short that I would have another couple of hours till my bed was ready and I could check in. SO, I stashed my backpack in a locker, and headed out to explore and this is some of what I found meandering Amsterdam’s streets.
Some Background, and How I sort of Followed the White People’s Path to Africa.
Amsterdam used to be a giant swampy mushland—sorry marshland, and the majority of the city is not actually above sea level. Several districts and buildings (including the airport) are actually sitting on top of big pieces of wood, and pillars that have basically filled the holes and lifted the city up to a respectable ground level. Despite being discovered by the Romans fairly early on in history, no one really cared very much. They basically took note of the geography and peace-ed deeming it to challenging and useless to settle this mushy region. However, this eventually changed as Amsterdam became an ideal passage for trade between the Hanseatic League (Germans) and the Baltic Sea. It became a capitalistic society of individuals and the whole country sort of built itself up around the idea of commercial trade. (There is however a royal family in Holland thanks to William of Orange who you can go read about if you’re interested/bored.)
The city grew slowly, but their golden age is roughly considered from 1580- 1700. This was the time period for example, that the Dutch East India (VOC) began trading between Asia and Europe and headed towards the next country I’m going too—South Africa. Amsterdam was basically at the center of the worlds shipbuilding industry, and the majority of ships sailing around where filled with Dutch sailors. And while the Dutch were not the first to consider building a permanent base in Cape Town, they were the first to actualize it.
Things to Do/ Stuff I did
Heading out into Amsterdam, there was basically something to do within 500 meters in any direction: namely museums, bars/breweries, prostitutes, coffee shops, and a lot of bicycles and flowers.
This picture was taken inside of the Rijksmuseum.
Sex, drugs, boat, art, history, it doesn’t really matter what you like, Amsterdam’s got a museum on that. Some of them are fairly big deals like the Van Gogh Museum which was under construction while I was there. Luckily, they’d moved a large portion of his paintings to the Hermitage Amsterdam and that exhibit was pretty amazing. The collection included Van Gogh’s irises, several self portraits, and the bedroom painting. They were staged chronologically so you could see how his influences changed and how he developed as an artist.
The Rijksmuseum is sadly under construction until April 2013, so they only had some of their collection on display. It’s collection contains over 5000 paintings including Rembrandt’s Night Watch and Vermeer’s Kitchen Maid.
The Rijksmuseum was the only other art museum I went too, and it had works by Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Frans Hals. The outside of this building made it one of my favourites in all of Amsterdam and they also had a kind of funny collection of doll houses on display as well as some delftware. Delftware is a pretty big Dutch thing, and you see it everywhere.
Delftware originated in the 1600s and was based heavily on Chinese porcelain. Only the rich could afford the Chinese pottery, and so eventually Dutch artists began to immitate it and copy the designs. It’s called Delftware because though it was produced all over Holland, the best work was said to come from Delft.
Every other street seems to have the odd store front window filled with a variety of the pottery.
Anne Frank House was surprisingly captivating considering that it’s ‘collection’ is essentially a bunch of empty rooms that had once been inhabitated by an enchanting girl and her story.The house is tiny and the layout has you walking through the beginning, bottom store are of the house up to the attic where they hid. The walls are covered in excerpts from Anne’s diary, and photographs of those who lived in the house. There are models of the rooms, and pictures to show you what it would’ve looked like. I really appreciated the videos in each room where people who knew Anne talked about the family, the holocaust, and occupied Amsterdam. There was a collection of Anne’s notebooks, and interviews with her childhood friends, and the history of how her father managed to turn her story into one of the best selling books of all time, and a symbol of the suffering of thousands of people.
The last museum I found myself into was probably the funnest–in a sense. It was the Sex Museum Amsterdam and it’s I think the biggest sex museum in the world.
This was the sign out front. It was possibly one of the cheapest things I did while in Holland, it was pretty great not going to lie.
The collection included some pretty graphic sculptures, a vast collection of porn throughout the ages, some Popeye comics that I definitely never saw as a kid, and a surprising amount of historical facts and artifacts. Most of the exhibit was accompanied by lots of factual information about sex, and erotic fetishes/toys/pictures/food. (Yes, food.)
They had a whole collection of themed baked goods.
Some of the random bits of knowledge I gained:
1. The term Hermaphrodite comes from a Greek myth where the son of Hermes and Aphrodite declined the love of a nymph and she embraced him with so much passion that their bodies became one. Hermaphrodites used to be thought to have magical powers and were thus highly in demand.
2. Craftsmen in Pompei used to compete with the Greeks in creating masterful pottery. Much of the pottery found when Pompei during the excavation was fairly pornagraphic. I’m not sure why, but I just found it odd that people would want erotic plates to serve food on….
3. History of the pin-up:
1900-1920s –not generally nude they give the impression of nakedness without seeing much (The PG-pinup)
Post World War I —Women have the right to vote now, and pin-ups get a makeover as well! They’re now younger, smoke, work out, and are now formally called “pin-ups”. (still mostly PG)
World War II —Pin ups on crack. Horny men overseas are bombarded with pinups to raise ‘moral’ (because paper girls are just soo motivating). Planes are decorated with them in order to give pilots ‘divine protection’ (because pin-ups are also akin to divinity and possess magic powers). They are young and slim and everywhere. (PG13)
Fifties —No more war means men have to go home! And now pin ups are chubby and motherly. (PG?)
Sixties — Pin ups sort of die out in the wake of a sexual revolution where people are assumely having more sex and therefore not really in need of sexy drawn ladies to help themselves out. (who knows? rated)
Seventies & Eighties — Pin ups are dead due to magazines (Playboy anyone?) now filled with actual pictures of women naked. (R rated) Pin up postures in these pictures are abandoned for straight out porn.
4. In the 1900s there were several campaigns of brochures that were published warning of the lethal nature of masturbation.
5. The original condom was created in sixteenth century Italy by a physician named Gabriele Falloppio. It was made of a cloth pouch that would be tied around the penis, and was later re-made using the guts of goats. (gross) The English later adopted it in the 18th century, but they made their’s out of lamb guts which were dried and rubbed with clay and oil to make it elastic and soft. Later this method was replaced by the use of fish-bladder and finally rubber.
Condoms were not widely used or really even known about at all until the Pope denouced them in 1826 and then everyone started using them world-wide. Go Pope.