Monday, December 30, 2013

Amsterdam, Netherlands - Part Een

Actual date of this event: 6-8 December

Luke and I had been planning a visit to Amsterdam for a long long time, and we finally got around to it! It was Luke's third time in Amsterdam (the first was during his two week backpack trip after college, the second was for work), but it was my very first time. I was really excited for this trip because I absolutely loved Bruges (Belgium), and I was told the two cities were similar. Very true, but two completely different vibes!
{maybe not that kind of vibe, but we definitely succumbed to Amsterdam!}
We met up with our friends Kelly and Billy who live in Stuttgart, Germany. It was also their first time visiting Amsterdam, so we enjoyed exploring together. There is not a whole lot to do in Amsterdam, so it was a relaxing weekend, but we filled our bellies up to the max of Heineken! The four of us stayed at Bed & Breakfast Margot where it was just the four of us, plus Margot. We really enjoyed that we were the only ones in the home, and Margot made us breakfast each morning at the time we wanted. She was a super sweet lady! Because the homes are so tall and narrow, the stairs were extremely steep and one of us may have face-planted one night after too much Heineken. I will let you ponder on who that was. And this same person also accidentally walked into Margot's bedroom one night...

{view out of our window}
We didn’t have much of an agenda for the trip. We had about three must-do activities, and the rest we knew we would pass by at some point. We mostly wanted to enjoy hanging out since it had been seven months since we saw each other last.
The first MUST DO on our list was go to the Heineken Experience, the brewery tour. This place was like an amusement park for adults! It was shiny and interactive and not like any other alcohol-making tour I have been through. It was quite expensive and far away (like a 15 minute walk, which is far in Amsterdam!), but it was fun! Halfway through, visitors got a half pint to drink. And at the end, visitors traded in little tokens for two full pints to drink. 

The Festival of Lights was going on while we were in Amsterdam. Our second MUST DO was a canal tour... can't go to Amsterdam without a canal tour... so we decided to do the Festival of Lights tour on Saturday night. It was fun being on a boat, but it really wasn't the greatest tour. We couldn't hear anything the commentator was saying, and we couldn't see the beautiful architecture along the waterways. I'd recommend NOT doing the canal tour when it is dark outside.
{this was the only picture worth of posting... a terrible iPhone selfie}
Thirdly… Did you know the Anne Frank diary was written in Amsterdam? I didn't until recently (even though the diary clearly states "in Amsterdam"... I just didn't pay attention). It was one of my favorite stories when I was in school, and I still love it to this day. The home where her, her family, and a few others hid was located not too far from our B&B. I purchased tickets ahead of time, so we walked right in for our tour. The home is pretty large and the hiding space is not too much smaller than the flat I live in. I was shocked by how much space they had, and its amazing they were able to keep that secret for so long! It must have been miserable to stay locked in that small space for so long! At the end of the tour, we got to see Anne's actually diaries and notebooks (she had a few). Did you know that Anne Frank began revising her original diary with hopes to publish it after the war ended? Her father Otto Frank was the only survivor of the annex (lived until 1980), and published her entries after he returned home. The tour was crowded, but everyone stayed in a nice line so it was not unbearable. (Note: No Pictures allowed inside the home.)

As we walked around the city, we admired THE MOST amazing architecture! The streets and canals are lined with homes that are built separately, but so close together it looks like one long building. Each structure has a different design to distinguish one from the next. 

As I was doing research before the trip, I came across the location of "the narrowest home in Amsterdam". I got really excited because this certain website said it was located directly across from our B&B... we could see it from our window. Well, then another website gave us the location of "the narrowest home in Amsterdam" which was not the same place. So confusing! Well, the debate is that some homes are very narrow from the front, but wide in the back and some are the other way around, so which do you go by? I say the front! Like many other cities around the world, homeowners got taxed based on the width of their home (based on the front), so this lead to skinny, but tall home with very steep stairs. The narrower it is, the less tax. Ironically, what is said to be "the narrowest home in Europe" is across the street from the widest home in Amsterdam.
{"The Narrowest Home in Europe" (with the red door) at Oude Hoogstraat 22}
The most amazing part is that some homes were so obviously crooked! Some leaned sideways, and the some leaned forward, so that the front of the top was sticking out by a foot. Will they one day collapse? Word has it that the homes were built so close together to keep each other upright.
{look at the angle in the center above the circle on the black building!!!}

{look at the top to see how far forward it is leaning}
I also found the location of the oldest home in Amsterdam. Surprisingly, Amsterdam's "old structures" aren't that old... in my opinion of course. Way back before everything either got destroyed or burned, most homes were made of wood. Built in 1528, the oldest home sits in Begijnhof, a small courtyard with other homes, a Chapel, and a secret church. Although it is open to the public during the day, the courtyard is very secluded and quiet with secret entrances.
{we walked right by this door without knowing it was an entrance until we got inside}

{the oldest home in Amsterdam}

 {a secret Catholic built from two homes - Catholic churches were forbidden in Amsterdam}
Amsterdam is a great weekend trip, and it is PERFECT to do with friends. I would love to go back in the spring (for the flowers), but I gotta say I enjoyed the leafless trees. I feel it made the architecture much more visible. I am thrilled that we were able to coordinate a weekend away with Kelly and Billy! What a great time we had!

Other post on Amsterdam: Part 2

Around the corner from the Anne Frank Museum is the Homomonument. It was the first monument to commemorate gay men and women who were persecuted and killed by the Nazis.

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