Sunday, 1 July 2007


Well, the mystery departure was actually to Amsterdam which Jenny and I had never been to before. So many people recommended it we thought we'd give it a try.

But although we both enjoyed ourselves, we didn't think it was that special. It just didn't live up to its hype as a super-cool, super-stylish city.

Some parts were very beautiful (mainly along the canals) but other parts were grotesque, especially the roads round Centraal Station - just long tourist strips of shabby hotels, tacky restaurants and souvenir shops.

Smoking was still rife in cafes and bars, something of a shock now it is so restricted in the UK and Ireland. There was little sign of any green consciousness, with few of the recycling bins common in other cities. The only exception was the huge bike usage, with hundreds parked in every street - we were practically knocked over every five minutes.

But the atmosphere was very relaxed and stress-free. Everywhere people were sitting outside cafes having leisurely meals and drinks and long rambling discussions. The quality of the food was high and we had some delicious vegetarian dishes. There were lots of astonishingly thin women, who would have been labelled anorexic in the UK - do they eat anything at all?

Amsterdam also has some excellent museums. The temporary Stedelijk Museum site had some amazing modern art and the Van Gogh Museum has loads of his masterpieces.

But what really moved me was the Anne Frank House and the secret annexe where she hid from the Nazis for two years before being betrayed and sent to her death in Belsen. Lots of visitors were in tears as they inspected the mementos of this horrific story and saw how courageously Anne had always kept her spirits up and looked forward to a brighter future.

What also impressed me was the Verzets (Resistance) Museum which explained how hundreds of thousands of ordinary Dutch people had resisted the Nazi occupation in any way they could. Some 300,000 went into hiding while others risked their lives and jobs and families to defend their way of life and defend those the Nazis were hunting down.

So while Amsterdam had some spectacular highlights, that magic quality that other people rave about eluded us. We had a lot of fun but not enough to be going back.


Conortje said...

Should have gone to Milan instead :-)

Nick said...

Milan? You must be joking, Conor. Milan has nothing going for it at all. Just lots of traffic and congestion and nasty modern buildings slotted in between the beautiful old ones. Plus we were fined E50 on the train for not validating our ticket. Un' esperienza brutta.

Medbh said...

I've never been there, Nick, because all the people I know who've been there seem to go for the herbal refreshment. Mr. M and I don't smoke it, so there's no appeal.
The Anne Frank house might make it worth the visit. Most girls read that growing up and shudder. I saw that there were newly discovered photographs of her and additional papers.

Nick said...

Having tried a drug or two in my youth when they were just starting to be fashionable, and not getting much out of it, I'm not interested in that side of Amsterdam either. Nor the red light district, as I've moved to the rather hard-line position that prostitution does far more harm than good and should be entirely banned.

Gaye said...

Thank you for sharing your experiences in Amsterdam. I hope it was a nice break for you and Jenny. I would love to see especially Anne Frank museum. I cry too easily though, I'd probably just ball my eyes out and make everyone else quite worried that she was my great great auntie or some other relative.

Nick said...

I don't think you'd be out of place. I wouldn't be surprised if quite a lot of the visitors had relatives who died in the concentration camps or were otherwise crushed by the Nazis.

bye bye bellulah said...

Have had 2 short breaks in Amsterdam, firstly as a student in a Youth Hotel, more recently in one of the swishest places at a work conference. Got the same impression both time. It felt like a theme park for adults (not an 'adult' theme park).
I would definitely go back again because it was just such an easy place to be, and I don't drink much or smoke or do drugs.

Finally though, something you've said that I disagree with! ;)
'Prostitution should be banned'.

Wisewebwoman said...

Yes Nick, that would be my only desire in going there too, to see the A.F. museum. You made me smile, though, as my father was fond of the place and used to send me these tongue-in-cheek postcards about how astonishingly friendly these Amsterdam women were, he was always being invited into tea and the welcome lights were always an interesting red shade. My father was such a strait-laced kind of guy it made it all the funnier.

Conortje said...

I feel like I should stick up for the place now. The whole drugs and prostitution thing is really only for the toursists. The Dutch tend not to smoke pot themselves - or at least those that I know. It's just not a big deal. All you have to do though is walk two streets away from that and you can discover the real city. Amsterdam has an awful lot to offer, you just need to get off the beaten track to find it. The Anne Frank house is moving indeed but you can feel that spirit and history all over the town (and country) - or at least I can. Mind you I've had years to get to know the place not just a weekend:-)

Nick said...

Bell - I wouldn't have said a theme park, but definitely an easy place to be, as you say. Must explain my prostitution stance some time....

www - love your dad's description of the red light district. Didn't bother to go there as I lived in two RLDs when I was in London. But they tell me the transvestites look uncannily female.

Con - yes I suspected that was all tourist stuff. And yes I'm sure there are all sorts of hidden delights that only the locals know about and never get into the official guides.