October 16th – 20st, 2022
How Mel and I ended up in Amsterdam is a funny story. Mel came to Helsinki from Milan on a one-way ticket and had a flight from Milan back to Australia on the 20th. She needed to find a way to go to Milan to take her flight back home. One day in Sweden as we were thinking about how she could fly to Milan, we started counting the major cities: Copenhagen, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, etc.! Amsterdam? hmm….. “I’ve never been to the Netherlands”, Mel said. “I’ve never visited there for some reason”, I replied. Then and there we decided to change the plans and head to Amsterdam.
We decided to dive directly from Tønder to Amsterdam with as few stops as possible. So Mel took the first shift and we immediately crossed the border to Germany. After a few rest stops and refueling, we entered the Netherlands and headed directly to the Campsite we found a few days earlier. After around 8-9 hours of driving, we finally reach the destination. Here we are in Amsterdam and without wasting time, we got ready to see what Amsterdam is all about and get the first Dutch shock!
The First glance
The campsite was close to the metro station and from there, it was a 30 mins ride to downtown. We get off the metro downtown and take the escalator up to exit the station and the first thing we notice is the strong smell of cannabis. Of course, that’s what Amsterdam is known for! Sex, drugs, rock&roll!
At first, we feel lost. We cannot orient ourselves where we are and where the real activity happens. We just followed the crowd and found the busiest walking street. Our instincts were right. We were at the busy downtown Amsterdam where the action happens. Even though it was a Sunday night, it was very crowded. We were starving, so the first order of business is eating and drinking. With our happy bellies, we head out to venture into the wilderness of Amsterdam. Left here, right there, let’s take the next turn, and we noticed a strange change in the environment. No more restaurants and bars, instead there were shops with people standing behind the glass windows. Yes, without planning, we walked into the redlight district! Surely, we wanted to visit, but we did not expect it was so much out there and easy to access. After walking around the beautiful canals and visiting a few pubs, we headed back to the campsite to call it a night.
The rainy day
October 17th, 2022
The bad and rainy weather was a perfect excuse to try and spend most of the day indoors which means it is museum’s day! Mel spent a couple of hours in the morning and went through websites to find out what we could visit and booked us a few tours for Monday and Tuesday.
The Moco Museum is an independent museum with a wide range of inspiring modern, contemporary, and street art. They had some works by Banksy, The Kid, and other rising stars as well as new concepts such as NFTs on display. It is truly an inspiring experience to visit the museum. All the arts there are thought-provoking. Even though I am not a big fan of NFTs as a concept, the artwork there was absolutely mesmerizing. They all refer to social injustice, inequalities, and struggles of modern life and poke the curious mind to take a look at them more than just a glance. The exhibition for “Reflecting forward” is an absolutely beautiful installation of artwork that invites the participant to look forward to endless connections. The pictures and videos cannot do justice to how fascinating the artworks were. Each new angle you look at them reveals a new view.
Vincent van Gogh Museum
The museum has the largest collection of artworks, letters, and personal items belonging to Vincent Van Gogh and other artists inspired by his work. If you visit there, I really recommend you get the audio tour guide. It makes the visit more interesting and gives meaning to what you look at.
Sightseeing out in Amsterdam
October 18th, 2022
Life of Anne Frank and World War II Walking Tour
It was a nice sunny day and we had a 2-hour walking tour starting in front of the Portuguese Synagogue. The tour started with a walk around the old Jewish neighborhood of Amsterdam and a little bit of the Jewish-Dutch history. Then it took a bleak turn into the WWII era and how the Netherlands was invaded by the Nazis and what happened during the war. It was very sad to learn about the life of people there, how they were treated, and the struggles they had to endure. The tour guide talked about the life of ordinary people, the resistance, and the divide in Dutch society in those days. The Dutch people look very similar to the ideas the Nazis had and some Dutch people supported the Nazis and were against the Jews. But some others helped the Jews and provided shelter for them.
One of those Jewish families was Anne Frank’s family. They managed to hide in a back room of a house for some time until they were found by the Nazis and sent to concentration camps. Anne Frank kept a diary of her days. She wanted to become an author and kept a journal of her days. Sadly, she fell ill in captivity and passed away. But the journals that she passed to her friend, survived the ordeal and became a very famous book. Now her house is a museum. Unfortunately, the museum is usually fully booked, and in order to visit there, one needs to book it several weeks in advance.
Cruising in Amsterdam’s Canals
Amsterdam’s canals give it a great vibe. It is very nice to walk along the canals and see the boats as they cruise around. Cruising in those canals is also a unique experience. We went on a 1-hour cruise that was magnificent. The tour guides were amazing and they gave us a brief history of the canals. They were mostly used for transporting goods, especially spices. The spices were kept on the top floor of the buildings so most of them have hooks on the roof that overhangs the street. They were used to pull up the spices to the top floor of the buildings.
Another interesting fact was that the housing taxes used to be charged per length of the front facade. So most housed in old Amsterdam were narrow in the front, but long. Having a wide front was a symbol of wealth.
Catching up with old friends
When I was in Amsterdam, my dear friend Ani reached out to me. I totally forgot that she lives in Amsterdam and only remembered when I got a message from her. We agreed to meet on Tuesday. Coincidentally, Mel also was meeting one of her friends at the same time, so it was just perfect. We could go and catch up with other friends without feeling guilty that we left each other alone.
It was amazing to meet Ani after 8-9 years. We were good friends in Helsinki. We headed out for a walk and went to a panoramic restaurant across the bay where old Amsterdam downtown is. The view from up there was magnificent and I had amazing company. Ani and I just picked up where we left off. We have been more or less in touch on social media so we were somewhat aware of each other’s whereabouts. But it was a different feeling when you sit face to face and just catch up with life stories.
I had an online meeting in the evening, so Ani suggested visiting a coworking space not too far from downtown. The place is called Zoku. It is an interesting concept. It is a restaurant where you can just sit at office desks and work. There even meeting rooms available to sit and work. The rooftop was just gorgeous with a fantastic view over Amsterdam. I had my meeting and we just continued our night in the restaurant and had a nice dinner and wine before heading back downtown for crepes and ice cream.
The last full day
October 19th, 2022
Amsterdam is known for the city of bikes. We also had to try biking in Amsterdam. Afterall, the city’s infrastructure for biking is probably the best in the world and the Dutch are known for being bike-friendly. Mel rented a bike from the camp and I took my own bike to head out to our first destination: Rijksmuseum.
The Rijksmuseum is the national museum of the Netherlands dedicated to Dutch arts and history as well as other artworks from around the world. It is a museum where you can easily spend hours and get lost in it. We only had 2-3 hours to visit the museum before meeting Wieke, our friend that we met in a hiking tour in Iceland 2 years back. The audio guide helped us visit the most important pieces and go through them a bit faster.
The timing was perfect. As we walked out of the museum, Wieke was just approaching from the other side of the street. We go to a cafe for a cup of coffee and trying to decide on where to go. Wieke came from the Hague and told us she does not visit Amsterdam that often. She suggested that she could ride the bike and Mel could sit on the rear rack. It is the most Dutch thing you can possibly do. This way we could just go by bike and get to downtown in just 15 minutes instead of a one-hour walk. We were curious about visiting the sex museum in the city center of Amsterdam. Wieke also said that she has never visited it before, so we all headed for more cultural activities.
The sex museum was interesting. It is about sex in different cultures and its history from ancient times up until the present day. I was expecting it to be better but it was worth visiting it once. After visiting the museum, it was time for Wieke to say goodbye as she had plans back in the Hague that she had to attend to. We said goodbye to her and headed out for the last museum visit of our stay in Amsterdam.
madame tussauds museum
Madame Tussauds museum is the famous wax museum of famous figures. Some of the wax statues were so real that it was scary. Here are some of the pictures we took.
After a long bike back to the campsite we started preparing for our departure the next morning. Mel had a flight at 9 AM which meant that we needed to leave by 6 AM from the camp. In the dark, Mel was in the car packing her bags and I was driving the car around the camp to empty the tanks and fill in fresh water. And of course, it is not a goodbye without last drinks and a cheese feast with Kashke bademjun (an Iranian dish with eggplants and whey). There it was! Two weeks of fun with my mate were coming to an end. We had very little sleep that night as we were trying to make the most out of the last hours by just talking, drinking, and laughing. Mel had a long trip back home with 4 flights and almost 2 days on the way. Good night Australia!