Yes, yes, we all know what we think of when we think of Amsterdam. BUT, seriously guys, despite the massive number of "coffeeshops" in this town (which has been brought down from 700-something to 200-something in recent years, fyi) Amsterdam is one of the most charming cities I've ever been too.
One thing I suggest you do if you go to any major European is go on one of the free tours offered by Sandeman's. A lover of fun facts and cheap things, these tours and I are a match made in tourist heaven. Plus, here in Amsterdam, our guide was a middle-aged British man wearing a Pabst Blue Ribbon baseball cap. Can't go wrong there.
You would not believe the number of bikes there are in Amsterdam. Ged the Tour Guide said that most people have a couple spare bikes at home in case they end up at a pub after a few drinks and can't ride home, or better yet, you've been at the pub and you're fine to ride home, but other drunk people have thrown your bike into the canal. Ged also said that a couple times every year, a big machine will float down the canals to scoop up bikes (and whatever else) from underwater. Then companies will fix up the bikes and resell them.
|See? They're everywhere.|
|You don't even know how happy I was.|
In Amsterdam, I also went to the Anne Frank museum, which is in the house where the Frank family hid. It was kind of weird being inside the house and knowing so much about the background and fate of the people who were there. Per Otto Frank's request, the house has been left exactly the same as it was when he came back after the war ended because he knew nothing could ever replace anything that had ever been there. After the SS found everyone hiding in the annex and took them away, they ransacked the house and took everything they could that would be of use -- so everything that was metal, wood, etc.
One really interesting thing I learned at the museum was why Otto Frank published Anne's diary in the first place. I've heard so many people say things like "How dare people invade this little girl's privacy!", but Otto was just doing what he thought Anne would have wanted. During the war, the Dutch government made an announcement asking Dutch citizens to keep any of their records, diaries, or journals from their experiences in the war, because they wanted to compile them all together. Anne heard this announcement and rewrote her entire diary, editing and taking things out and adding things in, because she hoped to one day have her work published. Otto wanted his daughter's dream of becoming a published author come true, so he had it published.
I've also heard people ask we we focus so much on Anne Frank's story and not anyone else's. There was a quotation from a Holocaust survivor on the wall at the last part of the museum that I thought was incredibly insightful. It said something to the effect of "If we had more stories like Anne Frank's, with each and every detail, we wouldn't have the strength or ability to bear all that pain." Makes you think.
But on a lighter note -- other things that I absolutely loved about Amsterdam:
1. Their adorable language.
3. Children riding in buckets. (Some bikes had room for up to THREE children with crazy attachments in the front and in the back. The Dutch are amazing!)
4. Beer-mobiles!! This is the reason I will go back to Amsterdam. With seven friends.
Next stop, Paris!!