Ah, the last stop on my Grand Tour! Thanks for sticking with me the whole way, and I hope you’ve enjoyed looking around these incredible cities with me. My last stop is Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands and one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. If you’ve read Amy’s article about Amsterdam, you should already know a little bit about the place. I’m here to give you some more info, and hopefully a slightly different perspective, as I only had one full day there!
Amsterdam is quite small, so you can walk around a lot. However, if you do get tired, I would suggest taking the tram. This avoids the hectic roads, although you can hire a bicycle if you wish. I haven’t cycled for over ten years, and I genuinely think I’ve forgotten how to ride a bike. I don’t care how many times people say “you don’t forget how to ride a bike”, because I have. So, perhaps cycling in wasn’t a great idea for me, because it’s so busy. While it’s true they have cycling roads, it’s still difficult to find anywhere to park your bike, as everyone else is probably thinking the same thing. I also hate cyclists, and I hate them even more now. Whenever I tried to cross the road in Amsterdam, a person on a bike always rang their bell at me, as if to say “I am better than you, peasant, let me pass”.
One place I could get away from the bustling roads, dirty centre and general overcrowding was Vondelpark, Amsterdam’s city park. We went on a slightly grey day, and it was very easy for us to find a solitary spot. There were still lots of bikes, but not half as many as in the city centre. Vondelpark is full of little lakes, rivers and fountains, and I thought it was perfect for a place to calm down. It’s easily accessible on foot from the “uptown” area, where the Van Gogh and Rijksmuseum (national museum) are. Amy visited lots of art museums, and Amsterdam has many excellent ones. However, I am terrible at art, and a painting basically looks like a painting to me. I couldn’t appreciate the wonderful artwork, so I went to learn about what I do best – 20th century history.
Arguably the biggest destination for tourists in Amsterdam, the Anne Frank House is a must-see. Amy is right, though, the queues are astronomical. We got in the queue about 6PM and didn’t get into the house until around 8:30PM, just over an hour before closing. We were lucky, because when we had just finished all we wanted to see, they closed the museum! Had we arrived any later we probably would not have got in, or at least would have had to miss a lot of the important things. The museum is excellent, and it’s almost surreal to be in the place many of us learn about in school. I haven’t read Anne Frank’s Diary (yet), but the museum had a very profound effect on me. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one, as the video at the end showed people ranging from Natalie Portman to author John Green commenting on the museum.
For many of us, Anne Frank represents the 6 million lives lost in the Holocaust, because it is hard for us to understand the level of human suffering. It is difficult to imagine that each and every person killed was more than just a number, and each had a life as diverse and complex as our own. So, we use Anne Frank as a representative for all of this, as she was a very easily relatable character. If you don’t visit the museum, you’ll regret it. There is a way to avoid the queue, which is to book online in advance.
Please continue on to part 2, where we will reflect on the trip to the Anne Frank House, and take another walk around the city.
Photo credit: Alice Barnes-Brown