Monday, 10 March 2008

A city with a bit of everything

Last weekend, Tane and I joined some other couples for a fabulous weekend in Amsterdam. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and have decided that Amsterdam really is a city with a little bit of everything. From fine art to men dressed up as toilets, it really is a place where everyone seems catered for.

1. High brow culture
Amsterdam is the home of the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh museum. I especially loved the Rijksmuseum, it had a fabulous collection of art by famous Dutch painters such as Vermeer (also known as Colin Firth in "The Girl with the Pearl Earring") and the most amazing dolls houses I have ever seen.

2. Canals
Doing a canal cruise was one of the highlights of the weekend as we got to see the city from the water while learning interesting tidbits of information. Like, that Amsterdam has 2500 houseboats. Most of them seemed so small though I don't imagine you could live in them with more than three or four possessions.

3. The opposite to High brow culture
In the book 1001 Places to See Before You Die, Amsterdam's red light district is listed as one such place. And, while I won't be recommending that other people rush out and see it if they are at all prudish, it certainly is unlike anywhere I have ever seen. Women stand in shop windows beckoning at passers-by to buy them, brightly lit signs promise all kinds of r18 activities, and British men on stag parties prowl around in packs egging each other into the women's rooms. And, just to make the place even more surreal, large groups of elderly do walking tours of the district wearing facial expressions that are a mixture of disgust, fear and fascination.

A fabulous lolly shop near the Red Light District. Not that this has any real relevance, but I didn't want to use any dodgy photos!

5. More canals
According to one local we met, as a result tourist shenanigans in Amsterdam an amazing number of the bikes ridden by the locals find there way into the canals. Poor bikes.

6. Anne Frank's house
A highlight of the weekend was seeing Anne Frank's house, where she and her family hid from the Nazis for over two years. The house is a bit of a tourist mecca, but well worth visiting in any case. It's so cramped inside it makes the story of what happened all the more tragic, as I felt claustrophobic inside after only about 45 minutes and cannot even begin to comprehend how hiding in such a confined space for such a long period of time must feel.

So, Amsterdam really was grouse. It may be one of the most popular stag party destinations in Europe, but once you get used to the public urinals and Red Light District there really is some great stuff to see.

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