Our next stop on our way to Africa was the lovely city of Amsterdam.
Amsterdam is such a special place; it has the charm and easy feeling of a small town and the chaos and energy of a big metropolis. No wonder it’s one of my favorites.
I’m not going to bore you with a description of everything we did because finding a list of things to do in Amsterdam on the internet would be simpler. Of the famous sites, the absolute must-dos on our list are:
The Rijskmuseum with the famous “Night Watch”.
This museum is stocked full of wonderful art and one could easily spend an entire day here and still have more for a second
and even a third visit. Don’t spend your entire day here though as there is too much to do in this city.
For the Van Gogh Museum,
you can either stand in line for two hours or buy your tickets online. Beware though, the only website which gets you instant admission to the museum is their official one. Otherwise, you’ll still have to stand in line for about an hour to exchange the vouchers you got for their official tickets.
Visiting the Ann Frank Museum
which you enter thru the door hidden behind the bookcase as she did, is a sobering experience.
Again, buy your tickets online (up to a month in advance) unless you like standing in line.
Less known but well worth a visit is the Verzetsmuseum, The Dutch Resistance Museum. This museum chronicles what life was like before, during and after the occupation for regular Dutch citizens and poses the question of what would you have done in their place.
This seems eerily similar to what Trump is proposing for Muslims now:
Let’s learn from the past lest we repeat it.
Of special note is their junior section. Although one would be tempted to bypass it thinking it was meant for children due its interactivity, take a long look. It follows the lives of four dutch children, one Jewish, one the son of a resistance fighter, one the daughter of a Nazi, another the child of parents just trying to survive the war. It is an incredible experience to follow these kids thoughts, actions and the events in their lives during this tumultuous time. It ends with a video feed of each of them as adults telling us what they think now of what happened then.
An lastly, for us, was a brand new museum unique in the world: Micropia.
It is an entire museum dedicated to microbes! As you enter, you can see a newly redesigned Tree of Life including all the microbe species known at the moment.
It’s mind-boggling to think that most of the life on the planet is microscopic. In the small circle of light (bottom right) is every animal you know and can see with your naked eye, including us. Everything else is invisible to us without fancy equipment. And to think that we are all connected and we all came from the same origins. We came here because Fernando forced us to, we were so tired and ready to sit down for coffee and people watching but he insisted and when a son asks to go to a museum, you don’t say no. We are very glad we came. The museum is entirely interactive and you can see algae, bacteria, viruses, glow fish, you name it. They have a body scanner which tells you how many bacteria you’re carrying with you. Microscopes to watch as tiny cells go about their lives. Rotting food and petri dishes with a variety of everyday items to scare you with.
In the back you can even glimpse, thru enormous windows, the scientists as they work on their experiments. Absolutely five stars worth.
Other activities in Amsterdam include a Canal Boat Ride
where you can look at the old houses as well as some lovely boat houses.
In the city where everyone, absolutely everyone, rides a bike
you can also rent bikes. The boys did for a couple of hours and came back to the hotel happy but stressed to the max.
It really is surprising that we didn’t witness any accidents. Traffic is chaos with cars, motorbikes and bicycles all going past and thru each other at the same time they try to evade the clueless tourists who tend to stand in the middle of the bike paths because they look so much like sidewalks. Signs such as this
are quite understandable, but the reality is that everyone is super nice and laid back and you hear less honking here than back home.
An easy day trip from Amsterdam is Zaanse Schans.
Tours are sold everywhere but there really is no need to get a tour when buses run every 15 minutes from the Central Train Station
and you can buy your ticket straight from the driver. Several windmills are open for touring but we chose De Kat, as it is the only one that allows you to go up the stairs and walk on the outside of it. This is a working mill, they grind chalk stones into powder which they then mix with different dyes to create paint.
There are different shops which recreate what Dutch life used to be like. Here you can watch a demonstration of how those wooden clogs are made, and buy some as well of course;
or cheese, chocolate, oil. You can even bring a picnic and spend the day petting sheep and avoiding being bitten by the swans.
It’s a picturesque day trip.
An honorable mention goes to the Amsterdam Dungeon which is a new show, part history lesson, part haunted house which relates the sordid past Amsterdam had in the 16oos when trade ships would trick people into signing up for “service” and sailing to the Dutch African colonies aboard the VOC ships. I wouldn’t want to give it away but definitely recommend it. Get your tickets online and take advantage of the savings.
On our last day in Amsterdam we were met by Anita, Fernando’s friend from high school, and one of her lovely daughters, Sophie, at Voldenpark, Amsterdam’s central park. What a shock to meet again now with kids the age they were when they met so many years ago.
Amsterdam is just as beautiful, welcoming and full of life as I remembered. We can’t wait to come back!