Tue 28 Jul 2015 - Tue 28 Jul 2015
I was really looking forward to Amsterdam; several friends that have been there absolutely love it, and a book I'd just read had some scenes in an Amsterdam art museum that I'd like to see. On this particular day trip I was joined by one of my fellow students. (I don't have permission to use his name, and he's not in any photos, so I am not naming him. I will say, however, that we both had very sore feet on this day, but really wanted to see Amsterdam, so we were being kind of stubborn. :D) Remember, it's a day trip, so if you want to see wild photos of the Red Light District, this isn't the blog post you're looking for.
As usual, it was an early departure. We dozed our way out of Germany and into Netherlands, stepping out of the Amsterdam train station into a cold, drippy day. Already tired and in some pain with these shoes, my "I'm here!" selfie kinda says it all:
It is a beautiful train station, though. The face on the left tower is a weather vane, and the face on the right tower is a clock.
Dam Square is the founding spot of the city, where the original dam of the Amstel River was constructed around 1250. Amstel-dam, get it? Along Dam Square, we find:
...at one end, the Royal Palace, with its classic architecture and appropriately sea-faring motif (not used as a residence, but the King occasionally receives guests here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willem-Alexander_of_the_Netherlands)...
...at the other end, the National Monument, remembering 100,000 deported Jewish Amsterdam residents and thousands of others who died during the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam, 1940-45 (look closely; the reliefs are pretty graphic)...
...and in the middle of the square, some Dam Good Coffee. Between the weather and the coffee, I was really beginning to feel like I'd been transported back home to Seattle!
We wandered all over town!
The canals were beautiful, even in the gloom...
...and even when a stone man is staring at you through the bridge's side. I thought of him as a protective troll, but I honestly don't know the story.
Anne Frank's house had WAY too long of a line, so we just took a photo near a statue of her.
We stopped for a quiet moment at the Homomonument, a large triangle of pink granite, made up of three smaller triangles. Each of the three are a different height, and point to a specific, symbolic location. This photo is of one of the triangles, with steps leading to a canal. Note the flowers.
We didn't stop at the Tulip Museum...
...but we did stop next door, at the Cheese Museum, where I just had to snap a photo of this jeweled cheese slicer, mounted on a rotating velvet pedestal behind thick glass.
I felt a little weird taking a photo of someone's front door, but I really wanted to get a shot of the mail slot. See the sticker with the word "NEE" on the left and right ends? That means that the residents of both homes behind this door refuse junk mail. If one resident accepted junk mail, the word would be "JA." America, take note!
We found a "hidden" Catholic church, dating from the 16th century, when Catholicism was outlawed in Amsterdam. It's behind this low-key door on a pedestrian street.
A little further down that pedestrian street, and down this "alley" is the Amsterdam Museum, explaining the history of the city. It's located in a former orphanage, and is quite a maze. We spent a fair amount of time here; by the time we left, I was in such pain that I had removed my shoes and was limping around bare-footed. Anyway... this is the entrance, sporting the XXX symbol that is seen all over the city. No, it's not naughty, it's part of the city's coat of arms. They're called St. Andrew's Crosses; St. Andrew was a fisherman, Amsterdam is a fishing city, makes sense. Exactly why there are three is debated.
(More info here: http://www.iamsterdam.com/en/visiting/about-amsterdam/history-and-society/city-symbols)
Rembrandt lived and died in Amsterdam... he's buried in the big church near the Anne Frank house (which also had REALLY long lines we weren't about to wait in). His statue stands proudly in Rembrandtplein, where children play, musicians perform, and people are generally happy.
We did see a few "coffeehouses," but we didn't go inside. If you're asking, "Why the quotation marks?" all I can advise is to Google it.
As we trudged on sore feet back to the train station, this building caught my eye. I learned later that it is the oldest secular building in Amsterdam, and has quite a history: http://waag.org/en/de-waag-building
The clouds were just starting to break up as we made our way back to the train station, visible on the right side of this panoramic shot.
It was a short, painful, wet day. I would love to come back for a more comfortable experience!