What can I say? I love Amsterdam. My husband and I spent four nights and three days there, together, in May 1999, and at various times have stopped over for a few hours en-route from somewhere else. It is a magnificent city, an interesting blend of the old with the new, and has so much to offer whatever your taste. We enjoyed good weather, good food and good service at our hotel, but as my husband says, he has stayed over at other hotels and has always received excellent service in those, too.
There is much history in Amsterdam, and various museums lie scattered throughout the city. The Anne Frank House, on the Prinsengracht, was the foremost in my mind. The place I had wanted to visit for over thirty years. It is hard to imagine this quiet canalside street, echoing with the clatter of jackboots on the cobblestones, and the harsh, guttural commands as Dutch Jews were herded from their homes and onto trucks bound for who knew where? The tree-lined street looks to have changed little in the fifty years since. It was Otto Frank's wish that the house remain as it was after the Germans looted it, so the living quarters are empty save for a model on each floor which shows how it was furnished, and the pictures on what was Anne's bedroom wall. Despite waiting about 30 minutes in line, and the line of people being ever-constant, there was a silence as we all trudged through. Some quiet sobs. A respectful awe. Anne was one person of millions. Not just Jews, but Romany gypsies, the mentally ill, and any other deemed undesirable in that awful time. Had she lived, how great might her talent have become? And, taking hers as the story of just one, how can we ever begin to imagine the immense talents in all walks of life, that were lost forever during this period?
We visited the Historical Museum, and walked around admiring various churches with a variety of structural styles. A visit to a diamond shop was interesting, as we were given a guided tour, with all the processes involved in the cutting and shaping of diamonds being explained to us. We watched the artisans at work, seeing first-hand , the work that goes into one solitary little bauble that will take pride of place on a piece of jewellery, or be used to accentuate other stones.
Yes, we took a stroll through the Red Light District. Who could visit Amsterdam and not? Our walkabout was spoiled by an attempt by a pickpocket, on my husband, which ruined the evening for me and prompted a return to our hotel. Apparently, as was later explained to me by a native, Amsterdam is as well known for it's pickpockets as for anything else. Sad, but it is because of the tourists. Obviously, tourists have money, so are rich pickings for those wishing to steal for a living.
We visited Madame Tussauds, where my husband had his picture taken with one of his greatest heroes - Benny Hill. I enjoyed a couple of the displays, and realised how lifelike these models actually are.
We enjoyed a variety of different meals while we were there - from an Argentinian steakhouse to a kebab from a kiosk. You can eat your way through Amsterdam and never eat the same thing twice. Although the Dutch do not seem to have any particular kind of cooking that they claim as their own, they have ample offerings of every style and nationality of cuisine available. And no trip to Amsterdam would be complete without sampling one of their delicious pastries from one of the bakeries, as you stroll through. They melt in your mouth.
The trams are quite neat to ride; you can buy a ten trip ticket from various places and then you just insert it in a machine at the back of the tram and it punches the correct amount for the zones that you are travelling. We didn't know this the first time and rode a few stops, waiting to pay and then it was time to get off, and we'd rode (unintentionally) for free. Occasionally there are checks, but for the most part, it seems like an honour system.
We did not see everything. I think you would need at least a week, maybe longer, to do that. But we will return. There's so much that I still want to see - and that includes about 30 museums that we just did not have time to get to!