Amsterdam

After the craziness that was our five days in Scandinavia, we arrived in Amsterdam and found our way to the place where we were staying — a repurposed train that serves as a hostel. I felt like I was a character in “North by Northwest” as I got oriented in our understandably tiny cabin and settled in for the night.

Our first full day in Amsterdam was cold and rainy and full of mistakes that made the day simultaneously hilarious and frustrating. We were determined to see the Anne Frank House, so we woke up early to get in line and see it first. This, my friends, was mistake number one. We should have thoroughly researched it beforehand, because if we had, we would’ve found out that you have to have a ticket at a certain time to get in before 3:30. After that, you can wait in line to get in, but it’s typically a two or three hour wait. We walked an hour and a half in freezing rain to be told this. So we regrouped and went for our backup plan, which was to visit the Van Gogh Museum. We went to a tourist ticket counter next door to buy our ticket, but it had a similar system as the Anne Frank House and all the time slots to visit that day were filled. So we bought a ticket for the next day.

At this point, it was about 9 a.m. and we had a lot of time to kill before our Heineken Brewery Tour that afternoon. So we stopped in a bagel shop and enjoyed a nice breakfast before getting on with our day. We explored and walked around as we could, even joining a free walking tour for a bit before heading to the main event — Heineken.

We had a blast drinking the three beers that came with our ticket (!!!) and learning about what makes Heineken special. Comparatively, I think we both liked Guinness more. It was slightly more interactive and informative than Heineken, even though we got more beer at the latter. We walked home with our stomachs full of hops and yeast and water and took a slow night to prep for all the sightseeing the following day. Even though the day didn’t go at all as expected, we were still feeling excited about our time in Amsterdam.

We started off our next day in Amsterdam with a subway ride into the city center. Most cities have left luggage areas where you can store your things, so we took care of that and headed into the city. We took pictures with the “I Amsterdam” sign and visited the Van Gogh Museum, which was extensive and fascinating. After that, we headed for the Anne Frank House to wait in line for a few hours and hope we got in. We both came prepared with our kindles to read and watch Netflix during the wait, so it wasn’t as bad as we expected. When we finally got in, I was so excited to see the place where Anne Frank hid from the Nazis. Growing up, my mom always encouraged me to write in a diary because she said that’s what Anne Frank did and it became a huge part of history. I think everyone is a little fascinated by World War II and how such awful things could possibly happen, and I always loved reading about it from the perspective of a child. Even though it was a hassle to get into, I was really glad we did it.

We were exhausted by the time we finished — close to 7 pm — so we went to grab our stuff. That night, we met up with four new travel companions: Sami, my best friend from high school, and three of her friends from Princeton — Joana, Mitchell, and Josh. We all stayed in an airbnb together that night and had a great time chatting and laughing and getting to know each other. We’d be spending the next two weeks together in Europe, and our first stop was Berlin.

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Things I’ve learned

  • Buy your tickets to the Anne Frank House way in advance to avoid the long line to get in. I made this mistake so you don’t have to!
  • Everyone in Amsterdam rides bikes and it’s super cool because it’s good for the environment and means there’s usually less traffic
  • Marijuana is actually illegal in Amsterdam, which is why “coffee shops” are where it’s sold. Citizens just follow the plausible deniability theory and pretend like they don’t know about it.
  • Amsterdam was actually built on a dam, hence the name.
  • It rains a lot there.
  • Planning ahead is a good thing.

Tips for your travel

  • Refer to the first bullet point in the above list. Plan accordingly.
  • The Van Gogh Museum is well worth the time.
  • And of course, my “When I Return” list: Rent a bike for a day, go to the Rijksmuseum, go to the Moco Museum, go on a riverboat cruise
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