1/17/10

Amsterdam


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.


Dam Square

Knowing it's winter, I didn't expect there would be a long line of people waiting to visit the Anne Frank House. Perhaps, just like me, most tourists feel the chill and would rather feel warm inside museums. Amsterdam has loads of them dedicated to masters like Van 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" .

inside Anne Frank's House:
a hidden door
behind a bookcase

It took me just an hour to see what remained of their old quarters. After the family's arrest, the Gestapo took all furniture away leaving the rooms bare. When the war was over, Anne Frank's father Otto preferred it stayed that way as a reminder of what was done to him and his family. In keeping with his wishes, the museum has kept it almost bare of any furniture. Much of it is thus just left to the visitor's imagination. What strikes me is how cleverly they have hidden themselves from view for two years. All that connected them to the outside world was a single door that was hidden by a bookcase - the only photo I managed to take (oops, photography is not allowed inside).

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.

19 comments:

  1. I would have done the same thing, regardless of the weather. 8 hours in an airport isn't really my kind of adventure :)

    Lovely photos as usual.

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  2. You really are a seasoned traveler: you make use of every possible temporal interval to see places, such as a long transit period. I did the same when I was headed for Lima, via Bogota. I got out of the airport, took a cab to the historical center of Bogota, and made good use of 8 hours.

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  3. The Nomadic Pinoy9:15:00 PM

    I wish I'm there in spring or autumn. I was only in transit!

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  4. The Nomadic Pinoy9:16:00 PM

    Bert, I would have wanted to but I was so short of time and besides, the weather was so cold the girls might all be wearing furs he he he!

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  5. The Nomadic Pinoy9:17:00 PM

    I'm in Egypt Eric. Thanks.

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  6. The Nomadic Pinoy9:17:00 PM

    Never saw that movie but I'll take a note of it now Witsandnuts. Salamat.

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  7. The Nomadic Pinoy9:19:00 PM

    you're welcome Doc Gelo. I'm told the Red Light district is best seen at night and I didn't even stay long enough. Hope you'd see it - as long as your wife is OK with it he he he!

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  8. The Nomadic Pinoy9:20:00 PM

    Yup, I really wouldn't want to imprison myself inside an airport that long. I'm glad I went out Photo Cache!

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  9. The Nomadic Pinoy9:22:00 PM

    any short visit to anywhere always give me an idea on what to see next when I revisit it on a longer stay.

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  10. Amsterdam!!! LOL on the sex pasta. :)) Wow on the people pics. Ang ganda!

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  11. Ah Amsterdam... I don't mind Europe in the winter, it's adds to the effect and besides there are less crowds.

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  12. The Nomadic Pinoy6:24:00 AM

    Salamat Cza!

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  13. The Nomadic Pinoy6:25:00 AM

    That's true Anil, off-peak travel usually means less crowd (although Anne Frank's house still got a queue!)

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  14. paulbenedictp9:51:00 PM

    This post reminds me of the movie Eurotrip. o",)

    Can't wait to see Amsterdam in spring or autumn thru your lenses, Nomadic Pinoy.

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  15. Like you, my stay in Amsterdam was brief. I said then that I was going to return and stay there until I am sick of the place LOL. It hasn't happen yet and that was decades ago! I keep checking out places I've not been too, but I think it is about time to revisit Amsterdam. Did you see the girls in the "eskaparate"? LOL.

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  16. Hi Dennis,

    Wow!! These pix of Amsterdam are simply beautiful and astounding. You have captured Amsterdam brilliantly. You sure have an itchy feet that never ceased to travel. So where are u heading now? Since I left New York in July...u must have travelled at least 4-6 places already huh?

    Eric

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  17. Same thought with one commenter, I was immediately reminded of the film Eurotrip. Postcard material photos. =)

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  18. thanks for taking me to amsterdam with your post, dennis. =)
    pain-free, even without a visa, lol.

    ...sex museum? i've heard of this. hmmm, fascinating.
    actually, my youngest brother who joined costa atlantica cruises as a crew before had gained access to his job via amsterdam and toured most of europe. who knows, one day, i'll be in schipol airport too, and wish to see those in "eskaparate" that bertn was asking. =)

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  19. I would have done the same thing, regardless of the weather. 8 hours in an airport isn't really my kind of adventure :)

    Lovely photos as usual.

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