On my last night in Amsterdam I was strolling along a canal with my cousin Caroline, who was here on business. We had just finished a heavy Greek dinner and were walking off the meal when we turned a corner near the Red Light District and saw a four poster bed complete with lace curtains and embroidered pillows floating in the canal. Surrounded by murky water, the bed was a somnolent siren calling our tired bodies to rest. Just to make sure we hadn’t accidentally ingested any psychedelics, I asked other passersby if they were seeing the same thing–luckily we hadn’t been slipped any acid. In Dutch, “bed in de gracht” means “bed in the canal,” and I think it sums up the surreal week I had in Amsterdam.
After arriving in Amsterdam late at night from Glasgow, I met Jacqueline the next day and spent a few hours visiting the newly-renovated Rijksmuseum. As you would guess for the flagship art museum of the Netherlands, the collection of Dutch masters is particularly strong, with major works by Rembrandt and Vermeer.
Behind the Rijksmuseum is the famous “I amsterdam” sculpture and I hopped on it for a photo. Then we walked down the canals and entered the Anne Frank House. In the Netherlands–widely viewed as comparatively tolerant even before the Holocaust–an abysmally low Jewish survival rate has left its mark on the public consciousness. At the Anne Frank House, visitors come into close contact with the story of this remarkable young Dutch girl, but I’m afraid one weakness of the museum–something brought to my attention by Caroline–is that although we learn to empathize through Anne Frank’s eyes, we miss the proverbial forest for the trees. Nowhere in the House does it mention the low Jewish survival rates in Holland, and I think this is omitted by the foundation out of a sense of embarrassment. In any case, it was a worthwhile experience and one that leaves visitors asking questions of humanity when they exit its doors.
Rounding off an action-packed day, we ate dinner at the highly-acclaimed Ron Gastrobar, where the namesake chef–holder of two Michelin stars–creates delectable masterpieces such as this simple yet stunning dish and this insane dessert.
The next few days were spent mostly on my own, since Caroline had a lot of work to do. I met some pretty cool people at Cocomama hostel, where I slept on the comfiest bed ever, and we did things that most young people visiting Amsterdam do. I found this alleyway with a laid-back girl named Becca from upstate New York.
I rented a bike from the hostel for only 5 Euro and meandered around the city, taking the obligatory photo of houseboats on the canal. One thing I marveled at was how there are no cars floating in the canal, despite the fact that there are no guardrails to keep them from falling in when they are being parked.
Most days I stopped by Marqt, a boutique grocer with a great assortment of high-quality produce, cheeses, and baked goods. Compared to London, Paris, and Barcelona, I have to tip my cap to Amsterdam for the rich variety of cuisine on hand, and the relative affordability of it as well.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that so many delectable treats are served up in places like The Pancake Bakery when the ubiquitous coffeeshops that have cemented Amsterdam in legend can be found around every corner. Suffice it to say this was not the first time I have ever been acquainted with magical herbs, nor will it be the last–not when delicious munchies abound. And if you’re sitting somewhere on your high horse reading this, perhaps you should pay a visit to Barney’s and calm down a bit.
Rounding off my visit to Amsterdam was a walk through the Red Light District. I found it just as amusing to see clusters of men–maybe boys is the right term–giggling to themselves and occasionally opening a door to negotiate terms with the prostitutes. I would say I’ve seen better looking prostitutes elsewhere, but the truth is that I’ve never been bothered to go looking for them in the first place, so I guess I would say some of them looked pretty . . . and some did not. Capping off the evening was the mysterious bed floating in the canal, and after so many coffeeshop visits and odd capers well past midnight, I think that summed up my visit to Amsterdam quite neatly.
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