We Went to Amsterdam!
Well, not for New Year’s Eve. We stayed here in Groningen for that which was an experience in itself. Fireworks are legal here for only three days (Dec 30 – Jan 1) and during that time you can expect to hear them non-stop. The legal fireworks aren’t so huge but they make a lot of noise. To top that off you can easily drive over the boarder to Germany and buy the giant ones we are accustomed to. The difference is they aren’t set off in a controlled situation. They are set off in the middle of the streets and in between buildings resulting in the city sounding like its being bombed. Granted, I’ve (fortunately) never been in an actual bombing so I realize it’s not the same, but the point is it’s non stop fireworks for 24 hours. Enough to scare the sh*t out of the cat and make her needier than usual. Top that off with bonfires (that included bikes) in the streets and ya got yourself a Dutch New Year’s Eve party!
Anyway, back to Amsterdam!
For my birthday Shane surprised me with an overnight trip to….. somewhere! All he told me was to pack a bookbag because on Saturday we were catching a train at 10am. We had to change trains about 30 min away, but until then I had no idea where we were going. We arrived around noon, and started walking to find our hotel.
Unbeknownst to him, the hotel Shane booked is a historic landmark!
We stayed in the Hotel Amstelzicht, on the Amstel Canal, and is one of the “Dancing Houses”. Apparently, when it was built in 1659 (whoa) it was built on wooden stilts. It’s location next to the canal and the sandy/swampy land caused the houses to shift and “dance”. They have been fully restored so you don’t feel it, but you can see the obvious tilt in the house!
After checking in and dropping our stuff we headed out to wander. First stop was Dam Square, which is the historic center of the city. On one side of the square is the Royal Palace which was first constructed as the City Hall during the 17th century. Later it became the Royal Palace, home to King Louis Napoleon, and now is used for Royal events amongst other things. Across from the Royal Palace is the National Monument dedicated to World War II. Dam Square is also home to the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) which we forgot to get a picture of.
From Dam Square you could wander straight into the Red Light District. We sort of knew what to expect since Groningen also has a Red Light District, but Amsterdam’s was much larger, and looked to be… aahem… of higher quality. If you catch my drift. One thing we didn’t anticipate was the number of families walking through with their children. I mean, I realize that we as Americans are very conservative as compared to Eurpoeans with this stuff, but I just can’t ever picture saying ‘Hey! Family stroll through the Red Light District?…. Sure!’.
We spent the rest of the afternoon in Rembrandt Square people watching and playing around. Oh, and we found a hole in the wall (yes, sounds sketchy) sushi place which ended up not only being delicious, but our table overlooked the canal.
In the evening we headed back towards Central Station for Shane’s surprise birthday activity. A canal tour! Amsterdam is currently holding it’s third annual Light Festival, and Shane booked a tour specifically to see the various art displays. Needless to say, I was excited!
It was hard to get good pictures in the dark on a boat….but it was fun! Each piece of art was representative of the city in some way, and a lot of them were interactive with the public. For example, the tulips are originally under the water, but as pedestrians pass by they can pedal certain bike pedals on the bridge. This causes the flowers to rise up out of the water and light up. They stopped pedaling, and the flower went back into the water. We both agree we would like to do another canal tour, but one that is more focused on sightseeing or history of the city.
Day 2: Woke up to SUNSHINE!
This is kind of rare this time of year so we were up early to take advantage of it!
First stop, the I amsterdam sign at the Rijksmuseum! We unfortunately didn’t have enough time to go in this museum because we THOUGHT we were going to see the Anne Frank house (more on that soon), but its a must see when we come back.
Next stop, Anne Frank House!
Just Kidding! Yeah, if you look closely across the canal you will notice the line to get in. It turns the corner and goes all the way to the next block. We heard it was this crazy during peak season, but we thought we would be ok this time of year. Didn’t take into consideration it was a holiday weekend. Oh well. Note to self: buy tickets ahead of time. I guess technically we did seeeeeeeee the Anne Frank house. (1st house on the left in the picture above).
Since that was a fail, we decided to get breakfast then check out the Amsterdam Museum. This was nice since we were both wanting a little history after the canal cruise the night before. Wrap your mind around this: Amsterdam was an established city 789 years before the United States had it’s first president. It’s crazy to think about it like that!
After that, we headed home. For only 28 hours I think we really packed in a lot. We certainly walked a ton, and we didn’t even get close to seeing everything there is. Hurry and come visit so we have an excuse to go back!