Friday, April 25, 2008
Amsterdam: Day 3 -- Exploring
Today we had a full day in the city. With map in hand, we took the ferry with some local commuters back to Centraal Station and continued south on foot. We ate breakfast from a local coffee shop, and then we were off to the Anne Frank House.
The house looks like any of the million houses lining the canals of Amsterdam, aside from the line of tourists out front. We were told to go early to beat the crowds, but as it's not yet peak season, there wasn't too long of a wait. The house is very well-preserved, and it had some nice exhibits in the front house before you head to the hidden annex. All of them were available in English. Just before entering the secret staircase, there is a model of how the annex would have looked when Anne lived there. I appreciated having this view to get an idea of what I was looking at, but I think I would have preferred to see it at the end after having been in the rooms. Then, we entered the annex. I was shocked at how small all the rooms were, and to think that these people were there for two years constantly trying to be quiet so as to stay alive is a very sobering thought. Beyond the annex there's a video of Mr. Frank talking about the discovery of Anne's diary. The exhibit was done nicely, and the visit was a very moving experience.
In the afternoon, we took a spin through the famous flower market floating along one of the canals. As noted in our guide book, it's not a fantastic attraction, as most of the merchants just sell flower bulbs for you to plant once you get home. Aside from the wooden ones being sold here, we still had yet to spot any tulips (or windmills, for that matter)!
The streets were abuzz with preparation for Queen's Day which would occur the day we left. Everybody buys bright orange clothing and wigs, and there were carnival rides set up in Dam Square.
Then, we decided since we couldn't beat 'em, we'd join 'em! We rented a couple of bicycles from MacBike and hit the streets. Luckily, our guide book provided us with a nice route along the Amstel river. Although we made one wrong turn, the ride was very nice and took us out of the city and into the countryside. We took a quick stop at a windmill south of the city, which was soon mobbed by tour buses. Biking back into the city was fun, but it was rush hour, so the bicycle lanes were a bit crowded!
Here, Jon makes the mistake of forgetting exactly where he parked his bike:
That evening we were back at the houseboat for a relaxing night. I even managed to catch an episode of "Peking Express," which is the Dutch version of The Amazing Race. The show was in Dutch, but the contestants were in India, so they spent a fair amount of the episode communicating with locals in English.
We went to bed early, since we'd be up early on Saturday to catch a train to Arnhem.