We all woke up early the next morning in Amsterdam to meet with a local for a tour. The crowds that had engulfed the streets the night before had evaporated. There was hardly a soul stirring anywhere in the entire city. It felt like it was five in the morning. The sun was out and shining, casting dazzling rays on the canals and flowerbeds. My favorite part of traveling to Amsterdam was its gorgeous mornings. The streets were peaceful and the classic bridge shots were aplenty. I’ve never felt like a city was “wholesome” before, but the gorgeous streets filled me with such a quiet joy that I never wanted it to stop. It was remarkably different from the crowded and anxiety-filled night I’d had the night before. On top of showing us around, the tour guide showed us popular squares and explained the history of the city.
Cultural Rules and Architecture Explanations
He explained some of the cultural rules that Amsterdam has. For example, cannabis use is still technically illegal in the Netherlands. This is why the places where one can purchase cannabis are called “coffeeshops,” which aren’t to be confused with cafes – places where you can actually buy coffee. I’m super glad he explained this to us before we had our free day in Amsterdam. If I hadn’t known, it would have led to a lot of confused conversations that ultimately left me feeling like a dumb tourist.
He also explained some of the rules of the Red-Light District and its history. For example, taking photographs or video in the Red-Light District (during the day AND night) is really frowned upon, and is a surefire way to get you booed and booted from the area. It’s something that tourists and locals alike will prevent in order to protect the privacy of the women working and the people who are visiting. The privacy rules are taken extremely seriously in Amsterdam. This is one place you definitely shouldn’t try to “sneak” a picture. Besides – it’d be creepy to take pictures while you’re there anyway.
Although it may not be obvious in pictures, many of Amsterdam’s buildings are “crooked.” The face of the building leans forward into the street. This is all because the stairways of Amsterdam’s old buildings are too narrow! Instead of walking furniture up the narrow stairways, furniture is hoisted from outside and pulled through the window. The buildings were designed to lean forward so that the furniture doesn’t drag along the face of the building as it’s hoisted up. I don’t think I learned as much on any other tour as I did traveling to Amsterdam
Visiting Anne Frank When Traveling to Amsterdam
After our tour, which consisted of the most picturesque views of the city you could hope for, we visited the Anne Frank Museum. It was booked by our touring company, EF. I later found out that it’s one of the busiest museums in the world; it’s almost impossible to get tickets. The museum is located in the building where Anne Frank and her family lived in hiding. She spent two whole years trapped in the upstairs part of the building, which is called the Annex. She wasn’t able to feel those beautiful rays of sunlight I’d felt earlier that day for two years. I don’t think I’d even last a week.
Visiting the Annex was incredibly sobering. There were multiple stairways to get up to the Annex, each narrower than the last. Although I don’t consider myself to be claustrophobic, I could feel myself becoming more anxious as I got stuck in the line that went up the stairways. If you have a fear of tight spaces this may not be the museum for you. Waiting in line in a stairway that I could barely fit my shoulders through was rather alarming, especially as I thought about what it was like during the Holocaust.
A Day Trip to the Red-Light District
After the museum, we snagged lunch at a nearby restaurant. Rachel and Maria, two of our group members, wanted to get a tattoo in Amsterdam. I told them I’d help guide them to the Red-Light District, as I wanted to see what it was like when it was less crowded. Also, Dounia and I were interested in seeing what it was like getting a tattoo! Once we finally got into the district, it was noticeably less crowded than the night before. However, it was a bit more crowded than the rest of the city.
We finally found what seemed like a popular studio, but neither Rachel nor Maria liked the receptionist. I must have been tuning out when they were talking to her because I wasn’t sure what the big deal was. Either way, we found a smaller studio called Ports of Call further down the street. This studio definitely seemed more down-to-earth and the artist and receptionist were both very friendly and chatty. Maria and Rachel both got matching bicycle tattoos (Amsterdam is famous for its bikes), and Rachel got an outline of all the continents. I thought it was a cute reminder of traveling to Amsterdam.
Maybe Some “Ragrets” While Traveling to Amsterdam
I was on the verge of getting a tattoo myself, but I ultimately decided against it because 1) money, and 2) there was a lot of aftercare involved that I hadn’t known about. I didn’t want to worry about a tattoo while we visited the warmer countries, like Italy and Spain. Plus, I could already hear my parents’ comments about impulse decisions and how it’ll fade, etc., etc. I was unsure about getting one then, and I am still unsure about it now. Although it was a bit out of my budget and may have been a little extra work, it probably would have been a really fun keepsake and memory. I wanted to finish my trip without any regrets of missing out on things… but I can’t help but wonder if maybe I missed out on an experience then.
After we left the studio, I decided that being smart and reserved in my decisions all the time wasn’t what was going to make this trip memorable. I’ve always played by the rules and tried to make smart choices. But sometimes impulse decisions – like running out for food ten minutes before the tram home left – are what is needed. Planning every aspect of life might be “smart,” but it’s certainly not always fun. That trip to the studio with Rachel and Maria taught me that it was ok to relax and let loose. They didn’t let silly things like aftercare or parent opinions stop them – they were there for the moment. Although I’ve certainly relaxed a bit more since my trip to Europe, I still wish I could live life as free and spontaneous as they had that morning in Amsterdam!