A few weeks ago now (I have been busy at work and had little time to blog), I, along with eight… yes eight, of my family members took a four day trip to Amsterdam. My grandparents very kindly took me and my parents, and my Auntie, Uncle and two Cousins for a city break. Last year, we went to Bruges, Belgium to celebrate the start of their 50th year of marriage, and I think this was almost like a closing ceremony for the year.
I have to admit that although I was looking forward to going with my family, I was rather disappointed that I wasn’t going to be able to experience Amsterdam in the same way my friends had when they had gone on trips previously. However, despite not being able to go out to clubs or visit the coffee shops, the advantage of going with your family is that you do the stuff that you probably wouldn’t do if you went as a group of young people… and they also pay for it!
First of all, Holland looks incredible from the air – so flat and green – like sets of perfect towns in a perfect world.
Second, I found the Red Light District fascinating, so did my grandma for that matter, as it is such a stark contrast to the attitudes toward the sex industry at home. On an evening, with the red lights reflecting off the water, it almost looks pretty – almost, although the men pissing on the side of the streets take away from that. I have absolutely no problem with women selling sex for money as long as it is of their own choosing and they are not forced to do so in any way, and they are happy. I visited the Museum of Prostitution, which is in the middle of the Red Light District. It was relatively cheap to get in and was interesting. They too emphasised the importance of the women workers not coming from trafficking, and one of the exhibits was dedicated to a campaign from the charity ‘Stop the Traffik’.
For the benefit of my 12 year old cousin, we took a trip to the Artis Zoo, which was right opposite our hotel. I find it bizarre that all those animals are kept right in the middle of the city, but as far as zoos go, it was alright. Although, since watching Blackfish, I am going off the idea of animals in captivity a lot!
Some of the highlights of the trip for me were the art museums, especially the Stedelijk Museum, which had an exhibition called ‘Bad Thoughts’. The exhibition was part of a couples’ private collection – incredibly enviable.
We also took a boat tour around the canals – we got off in De Pijp – which is a really cool neighbourhood with markets and cafes – one of which served incredible gluten-free chocolate cake. Yummmm!
Finally, I did what most tourists to Amsterdam do, I visited the Anne Frank Huis. We queued for 2 hours, and spent just under an hour inside. Although the house is interesting, there is not much to the museum. It is a story of Anne Frank, nothing more. If you want to learn more about Amsterdam in the Second World War – my dad went to the Resistance Museum and said that was brilliant – and incredibly informative. Anne Franks’ House was interesting because I had read her diary. There is a video at the end, before you leave the house, in which various celebrities and people of note talk about Anne Frank. One of them talks about a book which is one display which contains all the names of the Dutch Jews killed during the war, they say how below Annes’ name there are 4 Aron Franks – 4 Aron Franks with no museum, and no one mourning them. I found that message incredibly poignant.
I loved Amsterdam, and I am 99.99% sure I will be back there someday – It has a wonderful laid back atmosphere unlike most capital cities. Also, the bicycle is king, so the air feels clean, with the occasional haze of funky smelling smoke.