Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Enjoying Danish holidays (in Amsterdam).

Although President's Day, Memorial Day, and (my favorite) Thanksgiving are nowhere to be found on the Danish calendar, since moving here, we have discovered that Denmark has no shortage of national holidays.  And it only took us one month of living in Denmark before we decided to put some of those Danish holidays to good use.  Unlike the US (where you don't usually get any special time off for Easter since it's already on a Sunday), Denmark gets not 1, not 2, but 3 (yes 3!) Easter-associated days off every year (Thursday and Friday before Easter and Monday after Easter).  So it didn't take long for David and I to decide that this was the perfect time to take advantage of the short distance between us and new European adventures.

After a quick flight to Copenhagen, we flew another an hour and a half and soon found ourselves in the land of tulips and canals...the Netherlands.  And (how's this for good timing?) our good friend Matt was able to meet up with us in Amsterdam before flying back to the US.

First impressions..."wow, it's really pretty here".  Every other street had a canal running through the middle of it, and the layout of the canals basically determined the layout of Amsterdam.  Along the canals, trees cast their branches over the water, and the cobblestone streets were lined with old canal houses.  (And that reminds me, roll-y suitcases and cobblestones are not friends.  There's nothing like your suitcase wheels going click-click-click-click-click along those old streets to announce "hello everyone, I am a tourist".  At least, we weren't the only ones.)

Second impression...whoa, watch out for that cyclist!  Like our friends the Danes, the Dutch are very comfortable on bicycles.  And it's a good thing they are because I did not envy anyone I saw trying to drive a car through the streets of central Amsterdam.  In addition to the narrow streets and throngs of cyclists and pedestrians, cars had to park along the canals, and I don't know how drivers got out of their cars without falling into the water.  

We spent two and a half days walking our way through Amsterdam with stops at the Rijksmuseum (ruled by Dutch master painter Rembrandt), the Anne Frank House (still decorated with pictures of celebrities and royalty put up by Anne herself), and the Heineken Brewery (where they not-so-subtly proclaimed Heineken the perfect beer) with breaks for pommes frites as often as possible.  Seriously, the frequency of places selling fries was kinda a dream come true for me.  The popular mayo topping that they put on the fries, not so much.  I tried it once then stuck to ketchup.   
Rembrandt's The Night Watch
Anne Frank statue outside her house
(pictures weren't allowed inside)

Heineken Brewery

In addition to the ubiquitous fries, we were also constantly surrounded by...other tourists.  I guess this is expected since we wanted to see the same things that other tourists wanted to see.  But there were just so many, and so many speaking English.  And on that note, I want to express my sincere gratefulness that somehow the rest of the world decided to learn English as a second language.  Ok, that's probably an exaggeration, but the point behind it sure has made European travel a lot easier for two English-only-speaking Americans.

Since we didn't venture outside the city, we didn't get to see some of the quintessentially Dutch things like windmills and rows and rows (and rows and rows) of tulip fields. But we did pass by the bloemenmarkt which has been bringing flowers and bulbs to central Amsterdam since 1862.

The Flag of Amsterdam
Besides its canals, Amsterdam is usually known for its more...uh...seedier side.  Even the Amsterdam flag has XXX on it (which apparently comes from the city's coat of arms, but what an amusing coincidence).  What surprised me most about the red light district was how normal, even pretty, it looked with its canals and canal houses just like the rest of they city.  I would show a picture, but I didn't take any photos there for, uh, obvious reasons. 


I was gonna write one big blog post about our entire Easter travel week, but this seems like enough for now (and after 4 days in Berlin, I have even more to write about that city).  I'll end with a few recommendations in case anyone reading this happens to be planning a trip to Amsterdam anytime soon.

Amsterdam is FULL of art from the Renaissance to the present.  We only visited the Rijksmuseum (and didn't even have time to go through that entire building) because it had the most in one place and we were only in the city a couple days, but art fans would not be bored in this city.

Anne Frank House was thought- and conversation-provoking, as expected.  You actually walk through the small spaces where she and 7 other people lived in hiding for 2 years.  They also have the original copies of her diaries.  Because this museum is so popular, there's usually a 2 hour long line snaking around the block.  We went at 7:30pm on a Tuesday and only waited an hour but almost didn't get in because they close the doors at 8:30pm.  It's definitely worth the wait.

We enjoyed some delicious Thai food, falafels, beerspancakes (the Dutch kind), and of course, fries.  Amsterdam is loaded with restaurants, but I can vouch for these as being good and not too pricey.  Oh and there are these delicious caramel-syrup-waffle-cookie things that are often served with coffee.  (Just looked it up; they're called stroopwafels.)  We liked them so much we bought our own pack from the grocery store.

I guess that about sums it up.  Overall, I'd say I really enjoyed Amsterdam.  I'm not sure that I'd plan another trip there because, even with only 2 days, I feel like we did everything we wanted to do in the city.  But the trip was totally worth it.  And it was definitely worth it to see one of my favorite people from back in the US here in our part of the world.  We miss you, Matt!  And to the rest of you, come visit us any time!  (And I'll write about it in the blog!)

1 comment:

  1. Awesome!! The flag is hilarious. Looking forward to hearing about Berlin!!