I guess I didn’t have any expectations for what Amsterdam would be like since I really didn’t know anything about it before we left (bad, I know. I really should have done some research). But, even if I had high expectations, they would have been exceeded because I fell in love with Amsterdam. You are all lucky I love you so much, otherwise I’d consider moving to Amsterdam.
Like every other city I have visited, Amsterdam has so much character and charm. One of the first things I noticed upon arriving late Thursday afternoon was the prevalence of bikes (Dad, this is YOUR city). Literally everywhere you go, there are stands upon stands filled with bikes. The bikers don’t joke around there as they have their own bike lanes that function more like roads than our bike lines in Sevilla. These lanes even have their own stoplights! Biking is definitely the preferred manner of transit throughout the city.
In addition to biking, there were tons of runners. On Thursday afternoon, we walked through one of Amsterdam’s most famous parks, Vondel Park. There were runners everywhere! We also saw a GIANT running group all wearing matching Nike shirts with “WE RUN AMS” across the chest. Totally wish I could have found one of those. The Amsterdam marathon was on Sunday, so that could have been one of the reasons why we saw as many runners as we did.
Thursday evening, we did a safe, guided tour of some of the historic districts in Amsterdam, including the Red Light District. It is so easy to judge the prostitution industry, which is legal in the Netherlands. But during the tour, I did my best to keep an open mind and respect that people make different decisions than I do. It was so interesting to learn more about the industry and the women’s work since I had absolutely no knowledge beforehand. Our tour was in both English and Spanish. This was great because I got to practice my Spanish, but still had the option to listen to the English translation in case I didn’t understand the vocabulary. I’m really glad we did the tour because I don’t think I would have felt comfortable walking through this area alone. Some facts we learned about the Red Light District, which you may find interesting include:
-There are only two requirements to become a prostitute:
1) At least 18 years old
2) Citizen of an EU country
-The women rent windows from a landlord. However, the landlord is not a boss. Thus, the women are their own bosses. They rent the space on a weekly basis and the cost of the window depends on the location and time they wish to work.
-In the center of the Red Light District, there is the oldest church of Amsterdam, along with a kindergarten.
Friday, we continued with our tours. Agustina found out about a free, guided tour throughout the city that was in both Spanish and English. Somehow, we ended up on a three-hour private tour with a bunch of Romanian high school students. The tour guide noticed pretty sound after we started that we were out of place, but he didn’t mind. The tour was fantastic! We saw so much of the city and really learned more about it—Did you know that Amsterdam is the city with the most canals? Also, at the bottom of the canals, experts estimate that there are 20,000 bikes. Our tour guide joked that a bike in Amsterdam has one of two fates: it will either be stolen (50,000 bikes are stolen in Amsterdam each year) OR it will be thrown into a canal.
After our tour, we grabbed lunch in a local café and then went to the Anne Frank House/Museum. For those of you that know me well, I was obsessed with Anne Frank when I was little. So, it was beyond exciting to finally see where she lived. When I was younger, I never thought that I would end up touring her house. It was, by far, the coolest museum I had ever been in, probably because I find her story and the Holocaust so interesting.
Afterwards, I definitely felt emotionally drained and sort of down-in-the-dumps, but understandably so. We cheered ourselves up by getting a little sweet afterwards. We bought a whole apple pie the previous day (Amsterdam is known for its apple pies), so I decided to try a “hot chocolate waffle.” Although it was good, it didn’t live up to my expectations. Luckily, I had two more waffles in Belgium that were MUCH better.
I LOVED traveling with Mary and Agu. Upon leaving Amsterdam for Brugge, I could tell my Spanish had improved tremendously because we only talked in Spanish (with the exception of our outbursts into obnoxious English songs, like “Call Me Maybe”). I even started thinking in Spanish! It was funny because everyone in Amsterdam speaks Dutch and English and so, for the first time since coming to Europe, my English was super useful. While we were in Amsterdam, however, I kept responding to locals in Spanish…woops! Not in Spain in anymore!
Amsterdam is beautiful and I know it’s a place I that I would come back to. I don’t think I will forget how nice the people are there, the way Vondel parks looked with the colorful leaves falling to the ground, the feelings evoked when touring the Anne Frank house, or the delicious taste of Amsterdam’s very own apple pie. So many good memories from our trip to Amsterdam!