KT’s Adventures in Europe: Amsterdam Netherlands (Part 1)
I’m back! I’ve returned from the jaunt in Europe, and had an incredible time! I was lucky to visit some amazing countries in 10 days- 5 in all (crazy whirlwind tour, with 2 day stops in each place). The 5 places in I visited were:
Dresden, Germany (day trip 8 hours)
Prague, Czech Republic
Why these countries, you may ask? Amsterdam has been on my bucket list of places to visit before I die. The others were because they are all in close proximity to ones another, and easy to travel to by plane or train (under 3 hours). I was able to visit all by taking Easy Jet (under $70 for a ticket one way) and the rail/train system (under $50 one way). I also traveled on a budget, and when all was said and done with plane fares, hotel rooms, tours, and food, my trip came to under $3000 (my plane ride from the US out of Newark Liberty airport to Amsterdam was under $450 round trip, including a free upgrade to Economy Plus to Amsterdam). Most of the hotels I stayed in were 3-4 stars and right in the middle of everything. As an American in a strange country (biggest issue was trying to understand street names and using the public transportation), everyone was so welcoming, and the majority of all of these countries spoke English. The sights, sounds, and tastes of my European adventure will be a long lasting memory….
For my first 2 posts, I’ll talk about Amsterdam and Budapest (Budapest hands down was my favorite place of all, with Prague coming in a close second. Prague at night is much like New Orleans- PARTY!).
The first stop on my trip was to Amsterdam. I flew into Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, and then took the Metro (subway) to my hotel- The Ibis Amsterdam Centre Hotel, which is in the heart of the city, and within walking distance of everything. The Ibis is a very affordable hotel, which has breakfast included in the price. Most of the hotels I stayed in included breakfast with the room. The only downside with the Ibis is the single room is small and only has a twin size bed (the same type of room I had in Budapest). The employees at the Ibis were very friendly and helpful. Also Amsterdam takes Euros. The exchange rate was very low from the Euro to the dollar (For every euro, the dollar as $1.06!). Amsterdam was the most expensive of all the cities I visited, but still reasonable).
Mho Fho, my blog mascot enjoying his hotel room at the Ibis
There were 3 specifics things I wanted to do while in Amsterdam. Take a canal ride on a boat, pay my respects to the Anne Frank House, and check out the red light district. I did all three, but the big downside, the weather in Amsterdam was less than ideal- rainy and overcast.
The infamous Red Light District is more than one section. There are 3 RLDs in total in Amsterdam. I visited one, and was surprised but how many red lights were on but not many Red Light ladies around. The Red Light District is filled with many restaurants and bars. As for the “coffee houses” where one can enjoy a certain smoking substances that is not yet legal in every state in the US, I was disappointed. The coffee houses aren’t coffee houses. They are bars that are much like bars that sell alcohol. I visited one, and the set up is much like a typical bar. Only soda, juice and water is sold, and there is a menu you can order from to smoke hash or marijuana. You can also order hash or pot brownies and chocolate muffins. Some would say these type of “coffee houses” have a dive bar feel to them. If you aren’t a smoker to begin with (meaning cigarettes) or a big fan of dark and somewhat dingy bars, the coffeehouses in Amsterdam may not be the place to hang out for you.
Dining the dark has become a big dining phenomenon. “Dark dining takes place in a dark restaurant, where the customers do not see the food they are eating. The basic concept is that the removal of vision enhances the other senses and increases gastronomic pleasure.” I had the dining in the dark experience at Ctaste. The concept is you eat in total darkness. The waiters are blind or seeing impaired.
- Fish and fruits de la mer: fresh, every season
- Meat and poultry
Each set meal of EUR 39,50 comprises of a starter, main course and a dessert.
I had the three course surprise menu with 3 wine to match my menu- Appetizer, entrée and dessert. I loved dining in the dark, and surprisingly didn’t have too many problems finding my wine glass (always at twelve o’clock) and my utensils. The big downside of me was I was less than thrilled with my dinner. I found the food to be suitable but didn’t wow me as I was expecting. Some would say the menu is basic because the food served was more underwhelming.
Anne Frank Memorial Statue
One of the most popular places to visit in Amsterdam is the Anne Frank House and Museum. The Anne Frank House (Dutch: Anne Frank Huis) is a writer’s house and biographical museum dedicated to Jewish wartime diarist Anne Frank. This museum is where Anne Frank and her family hid for 3 years during WII. Because the lines can be very long, it is highly recommended to reserve tickets to visit the Annex, which I did online. Tickets are only 9 euros. Visiting the Anne Frank House was a very moving and poignant experience I can’t describe. It was very emotional, and depressing and shocking because of how Anne and her family had to hide because they were Jewish. A wave a sadness, and even shame hit me as I toured where Anne and her family and the others who hid in the Annex because other than Anne’s father Otto, they all died. Just because of their religion. Murdered in concentration camps. If you visit Amsterdam, you must visit the Anne Frank House and Museum to remember, to reflect, and to heed the warning of what could happen again, much like what happened to Anne Frank, a talented writer with an incredible future cut short at 16, murdered because of her religion.
Amsterdam is seriously the land of bicycles. There were more bicycles than people! If you didn’t watch where you were walking, you might get hit by a bicycle. Also Amsterdam is full of cannels. A common sight in the canals are the houseboats docking there, which if you wanted to own one, you not only have to fill out a permit to do so, but might cost you upwards of $500,00 euros for the pleasure.
Coming up next, my adventures in Budapest, Hungary, and the amazing architecture I spied, plus a winery tour that was out of this world!
Hungary’s parliament building, the biggest in the world