Day Fifteen: Amsterdam

Bit of a sleep in finally! We woke to the sound of rain outside which was lovely but at the same time disappointing as we were going out in that weather!

Our first stop was Central Station to the ‘I Amsterdam’ store to purchase our ‘I Amsterdam’ card which gets us into a lot of museums and the use of public transport within the city. It was pricey at €74 for 48 hours but if you’re dedicated to visiting different museums and using the buses/trams, it is worth the money.

Outside of the station, there is the dock for the canal rides. We were lucky and got one straight away. During the journey, we had headphones to listen to the history of the city and interesting facts along the way. The city originally was founded in 1240 but was only officially documented in 1275 when the Dutch were charging foreign boats entering their waterways. At the time, the main forms of trade consisted of cheese, herring and beer. The canals within Amsterdam consist of 250 bridges (half that of Venice) and the widest canal is 170 metres across; the widest canal in the world. It was a lovely trip but because we were all a bit wet from the rain, the windows kept fogging up and it was sometimes difficult to see the attractions.

Our next stop was the Museum Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder (the church in the attic). This Catholic church dates back to 1663 and is built within a regular Dutch house. During the Dutch Golden Age it was prohibited to celebrate mass as the city was predominately Protestant but as long as the church was invisible from the outside, the city allowed it. There were many house churches throughout the city during the 17th century but they have since been removed. Within the house, it had many original artifacts making it feel like you’ve stepped back in time. Even the staircases were original and felt more like a ladder to climb up to the next level.

It was a short walk through the red light district to our next destination, the Oude Kerk (Old Church). It is Amsterdam’s oldest building dating back to 1306 and the city’s youngest art museum. It currently has an Italian artist showcasing his ‘Anastasis’ exhibition which involves fancy red cellophane covering all the windows creating an eerie ambiance within the building. It was fascinating at first but, within the church there are many famous Dutch people buried under the flooring but it was so dark, you couldn’t read the tombstones.

We met up with Jip’s dad and we headed for the centre of the Dam (the middle square that is surrounded by all the canals and the spot where Amsterdam was founded) and walked the many cobblestone streets passing expensive brand lines and diamond stores until we got to the Amsterdam Museum. We firstly had toasted sandwiches for lunch with the yummiest hot chocolate I’ve ever had before we looked around. The site of the Amsterdam Museum was initially an orphanage but closed after WW2 due to parents living longer and being able to care for their children. We saw an exhibition about the Mayor of Amsterdam that recently died but never advanced into the rest of the museum.

Het Grachtenhuis, the museum of the canals, was a bit of a further walk through the city but it was worth it even though it was a relatively small museum. It explained how the city has been expanded to cope with population growth and that the houseing foundations are built using many 12 metre long pieces of pine as the ground is sand and mud. The Royal Palace specifically has over 13,500 pine stumps. Unfortunately about 10 years ago the water levels within the city dropped and when the pine stumps were exposed, they began to rot causing many houses to begin to tilt and to rot, costing many hundreds of thousands of euros paid by the homeowners.

We walked towards the Anne Frank Museum and met with Natalia and Layla. We had heaps of time before our allotted time slot so we went and had a look at the Amsterdam Tulip Museum and learnt that tulips were originally brought into the city from Turkey and were sometimes worth as much as a house!!

We had savoury pancakes for dinner before making our way to Anne Frank House. We were given free audio guides and first entered the museum part that is attached to the original house. It provided information about the people that hid the family and the artifacts that remained after the Nazi’s went through their attic and removed everything. These included the diaries of Anne and postcards/shopping lists from the other family members. I was actually surprised how many rooms were there and the size of them. I always pictured them living in small rooms on one floor rather than over three floors including an attic. It was a worthwhile visit about such a horrific and terrifying event for the Frank family and let’s hope there isn’t a similar war in the future resulting in such genocide.

To make myself feel better, Jip and I went to Primark and bought some cheap PJ’s and other bits before getting home.