Saturday, March 24, 2012

Amsterdam

Things I Loved In Amsterdam:

Visiting the Anne Frank House
I must admit this was one of the main reasons I wanted to go to Amsterdam.  I wanted to see that Secret Annex with my own eyes and imagine what it must have been like to be a young Jewish girl in WWII.  Our visit there was one of the highlights of the trip.  We booked our tickets in advance to avoid the long queues and walked right in a special entrance.  There were no strollers allowed in the museum and unfortunately, no photography either.

The self-guided tour did a beautiful job of explaining the story of the Frank family and giving the visitors a peek into what life was like during that time.  The photos of Anne and her family brought tears to my eyes, and all of us were so humbled when we got to go behind the bookcase and up the secret staircase.  It was a very moving experience.  The rooms of the annex are unfurnished (as was Otto Frank's wish), but the postcards and photos Anne pasted to the wall are still hanging in her room, and the pencil marks tracking her growth are still visible on the wallpaper.  There was also a small map on which Otto Frank monitored the progress of the allied troops.  It was all so heartbreaking.  The Anne Frank House made a big impression on all of us, including the kids.

Getting to Know the Dutch Masters
My daughter has been studying the work of Johannes Vermeer in school so seeing some of his original work was one of her top priorities in Amsterdam.  Two of his well known paintings are on display at the Rijksmuseum, which also houses Rembrandt's famous "Night Watch".  


Rembrandt's house in Amsterdam has been completely recreated as a museum and we enjoyed seeing how this wealthy artist lived in the 17th century.  Apparently, he lived above his means and was forced to declare bankruptcy.  All of his possessions were carefully documented in court records and those records have been used to recreate his house exactly as it would have been at the time. 

My favourite art experience in Amsterdam was the Van Gogh museum.  It was fascinating to walk through the galleries, arranged in chronological order and see how Van Gogh's style changed throughout his ten year career.  I had read books about Van Gogh with the kids and they enjoyed searching the galleries for their favourite paintings.  At the end of the visit, a docent let each child choose a postcard of their favourite painting.  My son now falls asleep listening to this darling "Bedroom" music box he carefully selected from the gift shop.


Canals and Architecture
Amsterdam is such an interesting city.  There are hundreds of bridges over the many canals.  The buildings are tall and narrow with the trademark gabled roof lines.  We took a one hour canal boat ride and enjoyed seeing the city from the water.  We were all fascinated by the houseboats permanently moored in the canals.  It was a lovely way to tour the city. 

See those hooks at the top of all the canal houses?  Since the doors and stairways are so narrow, that's how the Dutch get the furniture in and out of the houses.  These hooks also provide an excellent distraction for little eyes while walking through the red light district.  "Oh sweetie- look up there at that hook, how many more can you find?"  Keep their eyes focused up and they won't notice the scantily clad women in the windows at street level.  Worked like a charm! 


The Windmills of Zaans Schans
Visiting this recreated Dutch village a short bus ride outside of Amsterdam was a highlight for the kids.  Wooden shoes, working windmills, and Dutch cheese were all on display.  
There's one in every family . . . . .
Pancakes
Yummy Dutch pancakes!  Crispy along the edges, gooey in the middle, available with any type of sweet or savory topping you can imagine.  They're not just for breakfast anymore.



Bicycles
Everyone rides a bike in Amsterdam.  We saw whole families on a single bicycle.  The stacks of bicycles parked along every road adds to the charm of the city.
 

There was so much to love in Amsterdam I was able to overlook all the smokers, and cigarette butts, and litter and grime.  And despite what many people might think, Amsterdam was a lovely city for a family weekend getaway!

5 comments:

  1. I studied abroad in Amsterdam for a semester during college. I would have loved to have stayed permanently! I lived on Prinsengracht, about a block down from the Ann Frank House. I could take two different paths to school - one past the Ann Frank House or one past a random prostitute in her window (she was outside of the red light district) - talk about two different worlds colliding! I hope to make it back there someday with my family - I'm sure my experience would be very different than the one I had as a college kid! - Melissa

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  2. LOVED AF House, M and I went separate of each other and both agree that the house still has a very real energy about it. What do you think? It was so moving for me. I hope I can take the boys one day and teach them all about that awful time in history.
    You guys look like you are having a ball!
    Love LB face in most family pics!

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  3. I love those canals! Amsterdam is definitely on our "Go To" list. I am sure the Anne Frank house was an intense experience, but good to witness. That is one we will have to wait on for a while, though. Glad you had a great trip!

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  4. I have never spent mroe than 8 hours, on lay-overs, in the Dam, butmy list of spots have everything above. I will have a weekend cycling around the city one time-and a visit to the Anne Frank house would be a must too. Sounds like you had a great trip

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  5. Amsterdam is one of my favorite places. So glad you guys made it there!

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