My flight from Dublin, Ireland to Amsterdam, Netherlands left at 9:40 am on the morning of Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012, and arrived in the Netherlands at 12:15 pm of the same day, meaning that I had to be packed, checked out of my hotel, and at the airport by 6:45 am. My plane ticket cost me a total of $207 Canadian dollars, and I was flying with Aer Lingus on an Airbus A320, narrow bodied jet. After a long wait in the airport, which I survived solely from remembering to pack my book in my carry-on luggage, we finally boarded the plane. It was a 1 hour and 35 minute, non-stop flight, and since I was completely exhausted from my adventures the previous day, and a lack of sleep, I slept the entire flight. When I awoke, I was slightly disappointed that I neglected to take advantage of the opportunity to converse with the people sitting next to me, as I am always eager to learn and discover new things from locals or even other tourists. But at least I was now well-rested, and ready to take on my day in Amsterdam!
When I arrived in Amsterdam, Netherlands, I took a taxi (driving on the opposite side of the street is a little nerve-wracking, to say the least) to my hotel, the Lloyd Hotel and Cultural Embassy, located close to the Oosterkerk, Artis, and Amsterdam Chinatown. Here, I paid 73 Euros a night, and was able to use the free wifi, and downstairs restaurant and pub, which serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day. I settled in to my room, which was spacious, but still very cozy, cleaned myself up a little, and then set out on my first day of sight-seeing around the beautiful city of Amsterdam, Netherlands.
The first thing I chose to visit in Amsterdam was the Tuschinski Theater, located only .7 kilometers from the city center, where my accommodations were located. The famous cinema theater was built in 1921, in blatant Art-Deco style architecture. There were no guided tours available on the day that I visited this fabulous theater, and the patrons were free to explore both around the exterior of the building, and the gorgeous interior atrium. I snapped quite a few photos of the Tuschinski Theater, and spoke to as many informed locals as possible to try and piece together the history and heritage attached to this site. I even came across a great many informational packages, and soon realized that this theater was home to a large number of world-class film premiers in the time that it was prominently used, and is continued to be a facet in the culture of the Netherlands, while modern films are still regularly shown, despite the fantastically renovated interior of the building. I was blown away by the pride taken in even a movie theater in Amsterdam, and thought back to my home town, and the drastic contrast between the things we take for granted and what I'm discovering the European citizens value most. Although I didn't spend a great deal of time at the Tuschinski Theater, I will hold with me the message that I've taken away from it throughout the rest of my travels, and that is that we should take pride in what we have, because we truly are infinitely blessed to have the opportunities we do, whether it be an extravagant movie theater, or the simple fact that we have a roof over our heads every night.
From the Tuschinski Theater, I continued toward the Anne Frank House, a museum dedicated to the life and story of Anne Frank, a young girl who was forced to hide in the attic of a home for an upwards of two years, to avoid capture by the Nazi soldiers of World War two. It cost me roughly 19 Euros to embark upon the tour, and I was lucky enough to be part of a smaller, more intimate-sized tour group, which only added to the experience. Our guided tour of the museum explained the hardships that not only Anne Frank, but all non-Ariyan citizens faced at the time of the second world war, and much of what our tour group learned was not the easiest to stomach, to say the least. Although it was a very emotional experience for all of us, being able to be that close and connected to the little girl who wrote and shared her journal with the world was an experience that I will never, ever forget. Photos were not permitted within the Anne Frank house, but that meant little to most everyone on the tour, as we all left with enough information to be able to share the overall experience with whoever we please, solely due to the volume of what we saw and heard. The history and heritage is ever-present all around the city of Amsterdam, and I found that as I continued on, the more I learned, the more I almost didn't want to continue on to my next leg of the journey.
After building up quite the appetite during my first two stops of the day, I decided to have some lunch at a local eatery called the Keuken Van 1870, located in the Old City Centre, Amsterdam. Here, I experienced some delectable Dutch cuisine; I ordered something called 'erwtensoep' which is a a sausage-fortified, extremely thick pea soup, along with a slab of lamb, and roasted potatoes. There was much more food on my plate than I could finish, (as guilty as I felt, I thought it'd be even less polite to explode all over the walls, haha), the entire meal cost me only €9.50, far less than I was expecting to pay.
With a full stomach, I continued on to the Van Gogh Museum, something I had been looking forward to for years! It cost me €25.87 for admission, but I couldn't have cared less. I was far too excited to witness the world's largest collection of Vincent Van Gogh works. The museum is home to more than 200 paintings, and 600 drawings by one of my biggest artistic inspirations. For obvious reasons, photos were not permitted within the museum, but just like the Anne Frank house, I took thousands of mental photographs, which I will always remember. Guided tours of the museum were available, but I found it more efficient to make my own way around the museum, so that I could focus on the pieces I really enjoyed for as long as possible. I learned even more about Van Gogh's life, artistic inspiration, specific works and compositions, and truly felt connected with the artist whom I have idolized for years. I left the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam feeling inspired, and generally just blown away by the velocity of what I had just witnessed.
The final stop for the day was only a short walk from the Van Gogh Museum. The Museum Het Rembrandthuis or Rembrandt House is another site which I have been dying to sink my teeth into for years. The 17th century house is where Rembrandt lived and worked from 1639 to 1658. It has been restored and turned into a museum that is open to the public, and honors his life and artistic works. It only cost me €10.00 for admission to the museum, and once again decided to tour around the grounds on my own, learning, and actually getting fairly misty-eyed along the way. I lost track of the time while visiting this truly magnificent Dutch site, simply due to the fact that I was absolutely in awe of what I was lucky enough to experience, all in one day.
I returned to my hotel at around 9:30 pm, although I had left the Rembrandt House an hour and a half earlier. I decided to become familiar with the area, and took a decent chunk of time simply walking around, snapping photos of the beautiful local architecture, speaking with other tourists about their travels and experiences while in the Netherlands, and of course sampling some classic Dutch cuisine, as I became friendly with local merchants. Most people would agree with my mind-set prior to setting out on this trip, that there would be absolutely no way anyone could experience the full effect of the lifestyle of any country in only one day, but by the time I was lying on my comfy Dutch mattress, reminiscing about all the things I had done and seen in only a span of about 14 hours in the Netherlands, I realized that if you put your mind to it, and stick to the plan, one can do all there is that interests them in a certain destination, if they plan it out properly. I believe that if I had stayed in the Netherlands for a few more days, even though I'm sure I would have loved the food, people, and places that I got to see, I really had the right amount of culture infused into me in the one day that I had in Amsterdam. I saw and did things that I have been dreaming about since I was a young teenager, and don't feel as though I rushed through or was unable to experience all that I wanted to. Sure, I could have went out and lived the famous (or infamous) Dutch nightlife, woke up the next morning and went on a guided historical church tour, and finished the day off with a cheese sampling event, but that really wouldn't have interested me. I'm so glad I picked the nine destinations that I did, and decided to stay only briefly in each of them, as I would have spent the same amount of funds on extended stays in only two of three destinations! Eventually, I was able to shut my brain off enough to get some shut-eye, and likely dream about the exciting things I was about to experience in my next destination, Paris, France!