Amsterdam is nothing short of beautiful. Looking up as you emerge from the central station, you can see the tops of the buildings, the gorgeous architecture and gold-accented roofs. The central station itself is one of the most awe-inspiring of them all, with its brick work and clock tower, it takes your breath away. But as you take in the landscape in front of you (while attempting to avoid moving trams) you can’t help but imagine you’re in a fantasy land. The houses are so narrow, and different colours, like nothing you’d ever see in England and it works. The porches crowded with authentic bikes with baskets and flowers, welly-boots and shoes. The canal sits in the middle of the centre, allowing you an option of wandering left or right. Right takes you down the main strip where pasta and pizza bars encourage your appetite and souvenir shops call you with funny, novelty tat. The left takes you to the pancake house and shows off other buildings of magnificent architecture. The canal follows you everywhere, like a way-finder, taking you from where you’ve been to where you want to go and making it easy to find your way back again. We were there for four nights, three days worth of exploring and still I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of Amsterdam. Though we fit a lot into such a short time, it still calls to me, telling me to look deeper, to appreciate it more.
On the first day we went straight into the city centre, ready for breakfast. After realising that some places only take card payments, we had to wander about until we found a lovely little breakfast place. We both had crepes, with classic lemon and sugar, and they were amazing! After breakfast we went to the Bodyworlds museum, costing €17 each. You start at the top and work your way down to each level, which made so much sense I couldn’t help but wonder why museums don’t do this more often. The museum tells you about the body, how it works and what happens to it during certain ailments, using real bodies and body parts as examples. The capillaries really stuck in my mind, maybe because I never realised how many there were in the body, or because the bunch of red feathered-looking veins looked relatively pretty. It told us how happiness works, through chemicals in your brain throughout your body, promoting healthy lifestyles without stress. Those who are happier in their life are more likely to live longer than those who aren’t, who are more likely to get cancer, depression and heart problems. We took our blood pressure, played on swings, made a skeleton move in time with our bodies and wrote notes of encouragement for all to see. In the end, I learned a lot and was fascinated with the palatinates. If you aren’t faint of heart, I recommend going to this museum, because even though it mostly tells you of basic biology, you will learn something or be inspired to be healthier or happier in your life, and nothing can really be more worth it. Afterwards we walked about the city centre, looking at the shops and marvelling at everything we saw, before spending some time in a cafe with a coffee.
The next day we woke early and headed to the Anne Frank house, which was an amazing experience, after standing in the cold for and hour and a half. We realised they only let people who have booked online in before 3:30pm so we had time to kill but wanted to be early before the queue became huge. After another breakfast of pancakes, maple syrup and bacon, we stood in the line, our umbrella bending in the wind, playing eye spy and the supermarket game. We got chatting to a coupe of Brazilian travellers while we were waiting. Once inside, you can feel the heaviness of the air around you, as if the house itself knows something significant happened here. I never realised she was such a good writer, and as an aspiring author myself, it inspired me to write about real life, about real things, even though I’m a YA fantasy writer. She has a beautiful script, saw the world through eyes of optimism. The beauty of her writing makes her situation seem so much more heart wrenching as you read her quotes on the walls and exploring the rooms she once stood in. Anne Frank was real, and through her diary and home she shines clearly through as a teenager who acted her age. She wasn’t a sorrowful, mourning little girl who wrote for fear of silence. She was a fourteen year old, who saw hope wherever she was, who wrote because “when I write I can shake off all my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived.” and if that isn’t what writing is all about, I don’t know what is. The shock of the way her and her family were treated is unimaginable, I audibly gasped at some of the laws put in place. Jews weren’t allowed in public swimming pools, they had a time slot for their weekly shopping and children were moved to different schools. It’s saddening, but still this girl wrote and laughed and cherished what she had. It’s incredible. We stayed in that little part of town for a while, grabbing some coffee and wandering the streets, appreciating the view of the canal.
On the third day we decided to wake up later and allow ourselves a lie in. In the early afternoon we rose and went to the central station, booked a canal cruise and scouted out some lunch. In an adorable little cafe called The Exchange, we had coffee and toasted paninis. Then we started the canal cruise, with an audio tour telling us about the buildings we were seeing, how Amsterdam was in the past, describing the architecture choices, the why and how the building work. They had hooks at the top of the building to make moving household items in and out easier. It all made so much more sense. The canal itself is beautiful, with 1,500 bridges adorning it. It was fascinating to listen to the history of the city as we floated past the significant buildings. After the canal cruise, we decided to find a little corner we spotted from the boat, a little ways away from the city centre, and near the “Silly Jack” tower. We sat there for several hours, eating and chatting, watching as boats wave past and the sun slowly dipped in the sky. It was like something out of a fairytale, I can’t describe how magical it felt.
This gorgeous little city is worth it. People of every nationality swarm to it, because the locals and non-locals are so friendly and welcoming. Every person we met chatted to us for a while, telling them about themselves and helping us on our way. I’ve never met a culture so inviting. The stunning views and magnificent buildings alone make me want to go back, but the friendly, non-judgemental people are a plus, along with the history, and of course, pancakes!