24.05.2016 - 26.05.2016
Goededag from Amsterdam!! I flew from Dublin to Amsterdam on the 24th, quick 1 hour flight and found my way to my hostel. The neighborhood I'm staying in is next to a beautiful park- Vondelpark and right next to the museum district. The most striking thing I noticed first about Amsterdam was all the gorgeous canals lined by boats and bikes and beautiful row houses. I have learned a lot about the history of Amsterdam and how it started as a trading and merchant city which led to the development of the canal system and whose sailors' hobbies led to the development of the Red Light District!
I went to the Anne Frank House which as expected was horrifically sad but a good experience. The museum was very well done and really honored her family and the father's employees who helped them while they were in hiding for two years. Unfortunately of the eight people in hiding, only the father survived. They had a lot of her original pages on display and I was able to walk through the actual annex where they lived. Very surreal and emotional experience I will never forget. I then ventured to the popular Van Gogh museum which houses over 200 of his paintings, sketches, and letters. The most fascinating thing to me was seeing his paintings throughout the various stages of his life, while he was learning and perfecting his art and also through his mental illness. Also I couldn't believe that he painted almost all of his paintings in only ten years! Toward the end when he was most psychotic he painted a painting a day! His use of color and stroke technique was so mesmerizing and I spent almost four hours in the museum and enjoyed every minute of it!
I met a bunch of other solo travelers in the hostel bar that night from Germany, Ireland, England, and India, and we all drank a few too many Bavaria (a Dutch beer) and shared our experiences and travel plans. The next day I did a free walking tour of the city and did some wandering on my own around the Red Light District. I also bought a coffee to go at a cafe, only to realize it was really a smoke shop and then spent the subsequent hour paranoid that it was a "special coffee".... But I think I was just hungry and hungover. The RLD is exactly how I thought it would be. Lots of ladies in windows, some beautiful and some not so much, and tons and tons of sex shops and smoking cafes. I learned a lot about the prostitution industry here in Amsterdam. They are independent contractors, pimps are illegal, it is a very controlled and safe practice; all the rooms have panic buttons and security. I also toured the Prostitution Museum! When in Rome... The tour guide and the workers in the museum talk of the industry in a very respectful manner and say these women work with their bodies just as a doctor works with his mind... Maybe a stretch, but definitely got me thinking.
My favorite part of Amsterdam is the culture of open mindedness and acceptance. As long as you are not hurting or violating someone else you can be whoever you want to be here and there is no judgement. For centuries the city has accepted people of all religions and sexualities and somehow they have found a way to live happily together. I also went to a memorial to honor homosexuals during WW2. I didn't know this but in similar fashion to the Jewish star, if you were gay here in Amsterdam during Nazi control you had to wear a pink triangle at all times. Near the Anne Frank House there is a beautiful set of three pink triangles that honor and remember those discriminated upon at that time and it was really beautiful and I think a nice tribute to a demographic we don't usually associate with the holocaust.
This has been my favorite city so far during this trip! It's beautiful, fun, free spirited, amazing food, and incredible museums! Tonight I'm going on a canal cruise and tomorrow I'm taking a day trip to see some windmills and cheese factories in the Holland country side! Good night 😻!