Saturday, September 15, 2012

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Before going to Amsterdam I went to Bruges for a day trip with some other faculty members. We took the morning train and wandered the streets of Bruges, which of course involved a stop for waffles as we walked along the canals and buildings built centuries ago. The highlight was definitely the canal ride, as we passed under low bridges and viewed the city from a different perspective. The next day I woke up a little tired from a night of live music in the alleys of Antwerp, but I decided that going to Amsterdam was a priority. Even though I didn't have a hotel room booked and I knew little about where I would want to stay, I walked to the train station and arrived in Amsterdam a couple of hours later. The trip would eventually become a highlight of our Antwerp stop, perhaps because I planned so little, traveled by myself for the first time during this voyage, and felt a sense of accomplishment in how I made my way around the city of canals and bridges and saw as much as I did, but initially I felt a little disoriented. For the previous several weeks I had been surrounded by friends and large groups on the ship and in port; all of a sudden I was in an unfamiliar city on my own, which was a necessary experience, especially in the sense of exploring, processing, growing, and leaving my comfort zone. Fortunately I had a break from my independent travel when I met up with Annalyn and Kate the second evening and third day. Interestingly, my independent self seems to be seeking less time with me, which isn't such a bad change. Amsterdam is a unique place. I stayed in a converted apartment in a quieter residential area along the Prinsengracht canal. The canals and bridges are entirely charming, and equally so during the day and lit up at night. I walked along the Prinsengracht the first night, peeking into beautiful homes along the canal. I had dessert in the Leidseplein and experienced the smell of marijuana that drifts through the streets. (For the record, I only had tiramisu.) The next morning I took the tram to the Dam Square, and viewed the Nieuwe Kerk, the 15th century church that replaced the early 14th century Oude Kerk, which I viewed next. Afterwards, I was moved by the powerful experience of visiting the Anne Frank house. My heart was affected most by seeing the pencil marks on the wall indicating her growth in height during the 2 years of hiding, and the attic window where she dreamed of riding a bike and playing outside. I felt a reminded sense of life's fragility and brevity. From the Anne Frank house I went on a canal ride and drifted through the canals and under bridges as the sun set and lit up the sky. I was by myself, but it was still quite romantic. Later at night I met up with Kate and Annalyn for dinner and a walk through Amsterdam. The walk through the Red Light District was unlike anything I had ever seen before. Seinfeld fans might appreciate the thought in my head for the women in the windows tapping on the glass at me, to not tap on the glass. At times I felt uncomfortable when drunk people in the streets became aggressive, when I was clearly spotted as a tourist, and when the narrow alley led to a much quieter street, but the uncomfortable feeling was in a way what I was looking for and only added to the Red Light District experience. The next morning Annalyn, Kate, and I met up to view the Van Gogh museum, which was a well-organized journey through his life, viewing his paintings in chronological order, where we could clearly view the brush strokes and feel more connected to his work and life. Afterwards I went in a houseboat, had a delicious Dutch apple pancake alongside a canal, and returned to Antwerp. The Amsterdam trip was an unexpected highlight of the stop in Antwerp, and a poignant reminder that the best things in life are often unexpected.    

2 comments:

  1. I have visually witnessed, in the physical, several life forms, intelligent life forms, aboard this great mother ship.

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  2. Amsterdam was a highlight for me on my trip--and Bruges during the hours when there weren't so many tourists like me--and both were a surprise to me. I guess I didn't know what to expect beforehand. Bravo for venturing out solo.

    The Van Gogh Museum was the best single-artist museums I saw during our trip. Keep enjoying and keep sharing. I'm enjoying the trip from here!

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