Some people would think I'm a fool to travel from one cold city to another. It was a frigid 29 degrees Fahrenheit in New York when I left and landed the next day in similarly freezing Amsterdam where I was just transiting. There I was pondering what to do: do I stay for the next 8 hours inside Schipol Airport or wander out into the city? Despite having not slept well on a KLM night flight, I decided to just hit the city and hope the cold will keep me awake. After passing through immigration, I went into the train terminal waiting for a train that will bring me to Amsterdam's Central Station.
With a 7 euro return ticket in hand, I found myself waiting for a train in the wrong platform. There were signs but none that resembles to where I was heading. A friendly local woman helped decipher a rather long list of destinations on one wall and then said that due to weather problems, there were train disruptions to the city. Oh my, sounds just like New York - which isn't a surprise: the Big Apple was originally called New Amsterdam back in the old days of the Dutch settlement. Twin cities with similar transport problems eh? So the kind lady told me to go to the other platform where a train bound for Amsterdam was arriving in a few minutes. And it did.
The train ride was non-stop, taking less than half an hour. At the huge terminal, I asked another friendly local where the general direction of Jordaan was - I followed his finger and went out into a blustery mid-day in Central Amsterdam. Outside, I couldn't believe my ears when I heard Tagalog being spoken! Three Pinays working in the city were giggling over something and I just went straight to them asking the most scenic way to my only destination in Amsterdam: the Anne Frank House (somewhere in Jordaan). One of them said I should take one of the trams but I was keen on walking. The little map I had photocopied from Lonely Planet showed it's actually walkable. "Pero huwag naman sa ganitong kalamig na panahon" ("But not in this cold weather"), one of the girls said. "Naku, naging polar bear na yata ako" ("Oh, I'm already a polar bear"), I countered.
From the imposing Neo-Renaisssance train station, I walked the length of pedestrain-only Nieuwendijk and ended up in Dam Square, a huge square right in the very heart of the city . I followed another street, dodging many locals on bicycles (the "silent killer" I'm told!) and turned another way crossing a bridge over a canal and then another bridge over another canal. Now I know why Amsterdam has been called the Venice of the North. There are canals aplenty! Each local I encountered has been so helpful in giving directions that I wouldn't mind getting lost in this city. When I finally saw the looming spire of the Westerkerk, I knew I was close to my destination.
Gogh and Rembrandt but I was limited on time so I chose the one whose story really caught my attention since I was in High School: that of the young girl whose diary moved a lot of people. From outside, the Anne Frank house looks just like one of the houses along the canal. Entrance ticket cost me 8.50 euros.
Anne Frank and her family lived for two years at a secret annex in this building hoping to evade Nazi persecution. Living with them in this rather cramped clandestine arrangement were four other Jewish people. However, someone betrayed them to the Gestapo and their hideout was exposed, leading to their arrest and imprisonment in concentration camps. Anne died of typhus while incarcerated. The only surviving member of her family was her father Otto Frank who upon his return to Amsterdam after the war, was given her diary found in the same building where they lived. Anne's diary was eventually published into a best-selling book "The Diary Of A Young Girl" .
The visit was short but it was worth it. There's still much to see and experience in Amsterdam - like the museums of Old Masters, the Red Light District, the cafes selling drugs and the iconic windmills - but I know I have to come back in the future. At least not on another freezing weather.