Is anyone else worried that the buildings are leaning?
That was one of the first thing we noticed when walking through this stop on our whirlwind tour.
Yes, even the building in this ‘live and let live’ city feel so laid back that, as you wander, you’ll begin to notice buildings that seem to be holding up their neighbors while others have begun to tilt forward or backwards, some to quite an interesting degree. Yet none felt too close to falling over quiet yet, so we just laughed and kept walking on our way.
Still, something fun to keep an eye open for!
But back on track.
After a long morning of travel, we arrived in Amsterdam around mid-afternoon and settled in.
Depending on where you stay here and the surrounding areas, now is the time to warn you: due to the local architecture, the staircases in most of the buildings are narrow and extremely steep.
If you plan on coming with large bags, this will be a truly tying experience. If you have a fear of heights, these stairs may also cause you some serious anxiety—double this if you are going to have to lug luggage up them.
We stayed at Hotel Adolesce which was lovely—minus the stairs (again slightly terrifying)—and I really recommend it. The building sits along one of the canals which are beautiful and inside there are balcony/porch areas where you can sit in the evenings and enjoy the late setting sun, great wifi connection, and a tea and snack area full of cookies and simple sandwich fixings in the lobby which are available 24 hours a day.
Little did we know when we booked, however, was the first site we would see across the canal from our accommodation:
This is Schaduwkade, sometimes translated/ called Shadow Kade, Shadow Quay, or Shadow Walk. This is a unassuming WWII memorial that commemorates the events of—and the lives lost during and due to—May 26, 1943. This street (along with others) was raided by the Nazis and all the Jewish residence taken to various camps. Standing at these memorial plaques, you are able to look out across the canal and see each of the residence buildings—like our hotel—and learn the names, ages, and destinations of these victims which brings a truly unshakable human face to these events.
What was amazing about this site, erected in 2013, is that you could be completely oblivious to it. The street is one of many little canal streets with beautiful views worth strolling down. But once you notice the small plaques, read them, and understand what events you are witnessing all these years later, you can’t escape the fact that you are staying in the shadow of this history—right in the middle of the real world, a world where anyone could – and do – live.
It was truly mind altering, because finding this kind of insight wasn’t something we expected at all.
The next morning, we set out—as most travelers stopping in Amsterdam do—to the Anne Frank House, and if this is your plan, there are a few things to know:
We arrived at around 8 to 8:15 and stood in the 3 hour or so line (which we were fine with), and depending on your plans, this may not work out for everyone. Therefore, if you want to make the most of your time, I’ll lay out some of the advice we learned as the day dragged on:
If you get to this location between 7:30 to 7:45, the wait is generally an hour and a half to an hour-forty-five—although I’m not quite sure if that’s after the doors open or not.
One girl we met recommended coming after 3 pm for about the same wait, but a local vendor swore that if you come at 6pm, you’ll wait about 30 minutes because that’s when people are out doing other activities, such as coming home from work, getting ready for their evening out, eating dinner, ect. If you do go around 6, you’ll still have plenty of time to look around the house and exhibit since they stay open until 9pm regularly—10 during certain points in the summer.
While this is definitely a sight for tourists, I still really recommend spending some time here. Despite the wait, the crowds of (sometimes) really obnoxious tourists, and (again) steep and somewhat challenging stairs, walking through these spaces and listening to the testimonies of people who knew those who lived within the attic, once again humanizes an event which for most of us is a story we either learned in school or through long lost family members who were effected by similar events.
After going through the house, you are led to a room full of excerpts from the diary and more information on Anne. Going through this room more than anything else made me realize how funny, sharp, and clever this girl was—how real. It was also where you can really see her dedication to writing.
One of the reasons for this is you never hear all of the story. I’d never heard that over the radio—which the residence did listen to—there was a call for people to write diaries for publication pertaining to the events of the day—and Anne wanted to do just that; she wanted to be published.
At the end of the tour, there is a room where you can hear more testimonials from visitors, actors, politicians—basically people from all walks of life—talking about Anne, her fellow residence, and the events of the occupation and World War II generally, which I do recommend sitting through.
One quote that really stuck with me was that we have to remember that, while Anne and her story happened, she was not a singular case. We cannot forget all the others who died voiceless; whose stories we don’t know.
Next we wandered over to the Van Gogh Museum and whether you are a fan of art museums or this artist or not, this is a museum that I absolutely loved.
Each level of the building builds on the life of Van Gogh, covering his process, his connections to other artists—including the self-portraits he and his friends sent back and forth in an almost snapchat manner!— an in depth look at his relationship with his brother and brother’s family, and artists inspired by him. I was even able to find new favorites from his work which I had never seen before.
But as someone with a love of language, it was the spattered quotes taken from the artist’s personal letters that really drew me in—I mean, my goodness, this man could write!
My favorite (and new life philosophy)?
“For one must spoil as many canvases as one succeeds with when one mounts the breach each morning…” –Van Gogh, Letter 823 from 26 November 1889
I won’t lie, Doctor Who’s representation already made me have some serious feels for this artist, but reading his words, seeing his life work and all the ripples that have happened because of it: this is easily my favorite art museum—and I’ve been to many.
I did not use an audio tour, but I will definitely be back, and all reports have said that the guide is well worth it.
We ended the day taking a tour of the Heineken Factory—we were lucky to get into the last grouping—which includes a small glass to taste test during the tour and two free drinks in the bar after the tour. If you like these kind of events, look them up because they do shut down earlier than you may expect!
The tour was pretty standard for a beer factory and everyone working there has a great sense of humor so they make it enjoyable as well. overall, I was most impressed with how much I learned! Like why the foam is so important and how to actually taste beer—CLUE: full drink, no wine sips at the foam!—and the best way to help make the foam and flavor last (I still am not a fan, but I love learning!).
We spent a little while in the bar with our free drinks and talking to other friendly tourists and playing with many of the interactive games and screens—seriously this place is a little like an arcade as you head from the main tour to the bar.
So only slightly bubbly from the drinks—some more than others—we ended out final day in Amsterdam wandering, and only a little lost, around the city and its various canals. The city is lovely, so well worth the wander.
So yes, more like a day and a half, but I think two days would have been perfect (at least!) for a city like this with a whole lot of diverse experiences to be had!
But alas, this was a whirlwind adventure! So next time we’ll be all cheese and windmills—any guesses where?
This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.