I don’t know what it is about Amsterdam but it’s impossible to get a lot done in one day. The laid-back attitude of the people makes you want to slow down, too.
We got up early yesterday to make sure we got a head start on the day. We were out of our hotel by 10:30. (Yes, this is early for us. Shush.) We headed towards the Pancake Bakery for breakfast, planning on stopping by the Huis met de Hoofden first. The former is a premier stop for pancakes in Amsterdam, offering a huge selection of toppings. The latter translates to “House with Heads” and is a building (now closed to the public) that is adorned with the busts of the Greek gods Apollo, Ceres, Mars, Minerva, Bacchus, and Diana. We got to see (and photograph) the Greek deities but we didn’t get to taste the famous pancakes — the “bakery” didn’t open until 12 PM. So we went to search for another place to eat and ended up in the Nine Streets, a shopping area known for its boutiques and galleries. (Apparently, the locals shop here rather than in the more commercial malls.)
We ended up having breakfast at a place called Cafe de Oude Wester. Alex ordered the English breakfast and I got the apple honey pancake. As usual, Alex polished off his plate of eggs and meat. I wasn’t able to finish my [gigantic] pancake because it was dripping with honey. If it wasn’t excessively sweet, it would have been perfect.
We then walked around the Nine Streets, stopping into some shops but not buying anything. We found a cafe/restaurant, Panorama, in a busy area (not in the Nine Streets) and ordered 2 pints of beer. We sipped on our cold drinks as we people-watched. We then went towards the Westerkerk, a large and beautiful church. We did not, however, go in. Instead, we went to the Anne Frank House across the street.
The line for the Anne Frank Huis was long. Alex almost didn’t want to wait but decided to stick it out. It took about 30-40 minutes to get in. It cost €8.50 per person for admission. Cameras were not allowed inside so we don’t have any photos of this museum. However, photos would not have conveyed the message that the House did. It was incredibly moving to see where the Frank family (along with 4 other people) hid during the Holocaust. Some of Anne’s words adorned the walls, bringing life to the barren rooms. (The Nazis confiscated everything inside the house when they took the people in hiding to the concentration camps. Anne’s father, Otto, was the only survivor and he requested that the rooms stay empty.) More than anything, I think it was Otto Frank who made this museum so sad — photos and videos of him were displayed throughout, his eyes filled with an unspeakable sadness as he looked at his empty home or talked about his deceased family.
Outside the Anne Frank Huis and Westernerk is something called the Homomonument. It’s exactly what you think it would be: a monument dedicated to all the gays and lesbians who have faced criticism or persecution because of their sexual orientations. We took some photos but not of the complete monument. We would have needed a birds-eye view for that to work. (The monument consists of a very large triangle painted on the ground, with each corner being another designed triangle. One such triangle spans into the nearby canal and has steps down into the water, another triangle is a huge slab of marble with words on it, and the final triangle is raised a foot or so off the ground. People were sitting and eating/reading on the raised triangle, so we don’t know if there’s more to it than that.)
Since it was already nearing 2 PM, we decided to head to the cafe atop the Metz & Co. building. This restaurant is located on the 6th floor and offers great aerial views of the city. Photo taking was not allowed so we really had to commit the views to memory. (In a city without skyscrapers, views from the 6th floor are spectacular. You see all of the commotion but the people don’t look like ants!) You pay for such a view, however. For 2 glasses of orange juice, 1 glass of white wine, 1 salad, and 1 tuna sandwich, Alex and I paid €41. But everything was delicious and fresh so we don’t have any regrets. Besides, we’re spending only half of our daily allowance so far — we planned it so that we could spend a maximum of €200 per day but we’ve only managed to spend up to €100/day.
After lunch, Alex and I walked to the Tuschinski Theater, a majestic old-timey movie theater. We took photos of the exterior but did not go inside (where, supposedly, you can watch movies from plush balconies and order champagne). The movies they were playing were American — Alex did not think we should pay to see a movie we wouldn’t watch in NY just to hear it in Dutch and say we watched it in Amsterdam. He’d rather see a Dutch-made movie in Amsterdam. So, uh, we’ll see what happens with that.
After a quick trip back to the hotel for — you guessed it — a shower, Alex and I headed to Leidseplein (another square in the city, with a lot of restaurants and cafes nearby) to meet with Kate and Yehuda. We went to Pancake Corner (a bar) for dinner and were surprised to find so many people in there. Apparently, there was some kind of game on (soccer, I’m assuming). After spending about 1-1.5 hours there, we headed towards the Red Light District once again. This time, though, because Yehuda (for whom this is the 3rd trip to Amsterdam) was there, we were able to see more of it. There are a lot more alleyways with red-lit windows and girls than Alex and I first thought.
After we’ve had enough of the half-clad girls, we walked to the nearby coffeeshop Greenhouse Effect and ordered hot chocolates, which were delicious. (Have I mentioned yet that it rained yesterday and the temperature dropped suddenly? Because, yeah, it rained and got cold at night. Hot cocoa helped warm our bones.)
We then returned to the hotel and slept a deep, long sleep.