What do you associate with Amsterdam??

My absolute favorite quote to sum up our time in Amsterdam was said by someone who didn’t even accompany us.

“French fries, Heineken, red lights, pancakes and “coffee shops” … And that’s all in one photo!”               (Thanks, Uncle D. ;))

Amsterdam City Street

Amsterdam usually holds some pretty strong associations for people.  In other words, its reputation proceeds it.  It’s the combination of all the aforementioned items along with the history and architecture that makes Amsterdam such a thoroughly awesome place to visit.

Luckily we could share this experience with brother, Nate,  and sister-in-law, Hayley, as a stop on their European vacation.  In the midst of their city-hopping (literally–from Madrid, to Paris, to Rome, to Venice, to Barcelona…)…they ended up in Heidenheim.  We spent a couple nice days relaxing, took a bike ride through the German countryside (with a stop at a Biergarten, natürlich), explored the castle, and ate some delicious meals at the local favorite biergarten.

Nate and Hayley in Heidenheim

On the 3rd day of their visit, we hopped a plane to the capital of The Netherlands for a nice 3-day holiday weekend.  One of the most interesting things about Amsterdam are all the canals running through the city.  Nicknamed, “the Venice of the North,” the city of Amsterdam originally built the canals in the 1600’s, it seems, as a means of handling a high level of immigration into the city and thus aiding residential development; the canals also provided a small means of defense.

Amsterdam Canal

Residential Buildings built alongside the Canal

Bustling Amsterdam

Nowadays because of a housing shortage (and because people are crazy??), there are a lot of houses…on the water.  Houseboats line many of the canals.  It was quite interesting to see the elaborate get-ups of some houses and the decrepit status of others.  Lots of people spent time sunning on their boats or, in the evening, sitting on their “decks,” watching over the canals, and sipping a drink of their choice.

Houseboats

Houseboat on the right

The first thing we did when we arrived in Amsterdam was head to the Anne Frank House.  Unfortunately no pictures were permitted, so there are none to document the museum.  Going through the house, though, was quite an experience.  Anne Frank’s Diary is a memoir that I think almost everyone has read in school or otherwise.  It’s also a story that people don’t tend to forget given that the truth of what was happening to Jewish people was told through the eyes of a young girl who should have been running outside, playing, and growing up instead of silently huddled in hiding to escape persecution.  The story resonates, but the sad truth of it all really comes to light when touring the house.  Actually seeing where there were 8 people in hiding, tip-toeing, restricting water usage, blocking out the windows and living without light; viewing the steep staircase where several workers risked their lives and the lives of their families to bring the Frank family food and supplies; walking underneath the bookcase that doubled as a door to the Frank hideout; it all seems even more despairing when seeing it in person.  Eventually the Frank’s were betrayed and were sent to various internment camps.  Otto Frank, Anne’s father, was the only survivor.  The Anne Frank House is not a happy place; it seems to exist outside the realm of all the other frivolities available in Amsterdam.  But it is incredibly important to take time and remember.

On to a lighter note….BEER.

Heineken everywhere!

Heineken!  Everywhere!  Heineken actually has a museum in Amsterdam that isn’t even called a museum; it’s an “experience.”  So, we took the bait and headed toward the Heineken Experience.

Nate and Hayley--Heineken Experience

The “Experience” included a tour of the history of Heineken, a look at the brewing methods, a taste of barley and water (without the hops), a 4-D ride where you yourself get “brewed” into beer, a tasting of the finished stuff, and 2 free beers.

Copper Kettles

Hayley cooks the barley

Looks....delicious?

Oh! And there were Heineken horses. This one's "Gerard"

Nate and Russ wait for the 4-D Ride

Let's be real, I didn't drink that. I hate beer.

See that Pepsi in the background? Yep, that's mine.

Unfortunately for Heineken and their “experience,” sacrilegious discussion was held at the table while drinking Heineken beer.  It kind of went like this,

“You know what?  I hate Heineken.”

“Yeah, it’s really not good at all.”

I think that is probably not what Heineken is trying to accomplish when offering up the “experience.” 😉

Ok, so what you’ve all been waiting for…the Red Light District. Yes, Amsterdam is just as advertised. Lots of “coffee shops,” lots of debauchery, lots of prostitutes.  We spent some daylight and some night hours touring the Red Light District.  (Ok, perhaps gawking is a more appropriate word?).  The street is, as advertised, lined with red lights and windows of scantily-clad women trying to get your attention.  Awkwardness ensues when they rap on the glass to get your attention.  Well, unless you’re looking for that kind of thing.  Plenty people were.  When they found what they were looking for, a curtain was pulled closed.  There are no pictures of the actual windows; the working women do not appreciate that.  But there were plenty of lurkers hanging around, plenty of smoke pouring out of surrounding cafés, and plenty of awkward eye contact.  ::look away::

Entering the Red Light District

Red Light

Red Light by Daylight

Russ finds it amusing to steathily capture a man in negotiations

We had a fantastic time in Amsterdam with Nate and Hayley!  I’ll share some more of my favorite pictures from our weekend below.  The rest you can check out on Russ’s photo website, as always.

In front of the Museum Quarter

Train Station

Superb 3-course dinner spot

Typical Pic

Tulip Markets

Venice of the North

along one the canals

Nate and Hayley--Sunset in Amsterdam

Lauren and Russ--sunset in Amsterdam

Goodnight, Amsterdam

 

To see more pictures of our trip to Amsterdam, please visit:

http://rlabarca.smugmug.com/Travel/Amsterdam-June-2011/17384360_NWJv6z#1321487253_ww9QHPx

 

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by mom on June 15, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    I loved living vicariously through your tour of Amsterday! Thanks for the commentary, Lauren. Thank Russ for the photo journalism. Such pretty people in the photos, too!

    Reply

  2. Posted by Elizabeth Edwards on June 15, 2011 at 10:51 pm

    When we saw the tulips in April of ’79 they were all in bloom – what a difference two months makes!
    Heineken tour was a great one. Glad you made the most of your trip to teh Netherlands!
    Did you get to the Anne Frank House?

    Reply

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