Amsterdam was a revelation to me.
Before spring break, while I was interested in Amsterdam, I wasn’t as enamored with the idea of being in it as I was with, say, Paris or Venice.
Amsterdam is not the stuff of which gauzy, Hollywood-esque dreams are made. After all, the only movie I can think of that involves Amsterdam is Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay. Definitely not a Sabrina or an Amelie.
But when I got off the bus, blinking and disoriented, I saw the canals and the dedicated bike lanes and the charmingly low brick buildings and fell a little in love.
Amsterdam may not have the glamour of the more snappily named London or Rome, but what it does have is a laid-back, quirky personality.
Bikes were everywhere in Amsterdam and by everywhere, I mean everywhere. The central train station had a multi-story parking deck for bikes. Yes, a multi-story parking deck. This is in addition to the multitudes of bike lanes. In essence, in Amsterdam, pedestrians have to watch for more than cars, buses, and trams — they have to watch for bikes.
My friends and I went on a canal cruise. To accommodate different languages, passengers were given the option of listening to audio guides in their native tongues. Nel and Ron were the name of our guides, and the whole time, we kept cracking up. Apparently, despite sounding forty-ish, they had been in Amsterdam for over 60 years and kept squabbling like, well, an old married couple. For example, when passing the fanciest hotel in Amsterdam, Nel would snipe at Ron about not taking her there, etc. Ron, meanwhile, the old codger, graced our ears with terms such as "meat market" when passing the old stomping grounds for courting couples. Ah, gotta love audio guides.
The Rijksmuseum was under renovation so only the permanent collection was out, but we still got to see gems like this violin made entirely out of Delft china.
NEMO was my favorite non-art museum of the whole trip. It's a kids' science museum, and it's so much fun! There were your everyday interactive exhibits to teach you about genetics and engineering and physics and then there was the Teen Facts floor. . .Let's just say it's most explicit show of what happens to teens as they enter puberty I've ever seen, including an animated video which graphically depicts how the male and female bodies change, a huge box with cloth tongues you can stick your arms into to practice French kissing techniques (not kidding), and a section about sexual pleasure not recommended for those under the age of twelve. . .
This tree is in the American Book Center, a lovely English language bookstore in the middle of Amsterdam (pretty much everyone I spoke to in Amsterdam spoke English). The best part, though, was that it had an Espresso Printing Machine where you could get a manuscript over a hundred pages long printed and bound for a reasonable price. I joked about getting a ticket to Amsterdam this fall because of my Senior Seminar project.
The flower market was colorful and entertaining. Besides all the tourist items, there were, of course, flowers and bulbs of all kinds. What caught my attention, though, were these marijuana-growing kits. By all accounts, they aren't much good if you're serious about growing the stuff, and anyway, Uncle Sam won't let you bring any home.
I was lucky enough to have a pancake dinner with Scotties Caitlin White and Kathryn Dean at the Pancake Bakery. These are traditional poffertjes, little pancakes drenched in cherry liqueur, cherries, and whipped cream. Yum!
Hortus Botanicus is the botanical garden of Amsterdam and it has greenhouses for all climates, an herb garden, a cafe called de Oranjerie with a tree growing in it, and a butterfly greenhouse. The butterflies weren't timid at all as you can see here.