Here we go, another update on just what I’ve been up to the past… nine days. I promise I’ll start doing these more often.
My first full day in Amsterdam, and what a day it was. Amsterdam is a beautiful city, and preservation laws keep it that way, property owners cannot change the facade of their building without express permission from governing bodies, keeping a vast majority of the buildings in the central area looking almost exactly like they did centuries ago.
I went to my number one Amsterdam sight first. The Anne Frank House. They don’t allow photos, and to be honest, I probably wouldn’t have taken any out of respect, so I can’t share it with you. Suffice to say, it is a very moving experience. Well worth waiting in line for an hour.
I then walked to the Rijksmuseum, which I honestly found a little underwhelming. For the price, I was expecting a multiple-hour experience like the Louvre or Musee d’Orsay. Instead, I was through in just over an hour. Sure, there are masterpieces there, Rembrant’s Night Watch, a Van Gogh Self Portrait or two, Vermeer’s Milkmaid, but a lot of the art just gets kind of same-y. When you’ve seen one portrait of a minor Dutch nobleman, you’ve seen them all.
I started late today, and found myself at yet another slightly disappointing gallery. This time the Van Gogh Museum. I wouldn’t be so mad about it if they didn’t charge so much, to basically see three paintings. All of Van Gogh’s major works are in other museums, Musee d’Orsay, New York Museum of Modern Art, Rijksmuseum and the J. Paul Getty Museum, to name a few. The Van Gogh Museum has everything else.
That night, I met up with my friends from Paris and together we checked out the infamous Red Light District. We basically pubcrawled until we found a cheap place. But along the way, we saw exactly what the Red Light District is famous for, and, quite frankly, it’s pretty weird.
So basically, there are these glass doors facing out into the street. Standing in the windows are prostitutes, in their underwear, tapping on the glass to get your attention. Every now and then you see a guy approach, ask how much, and go into the room, where a curtain is drawn and… well, I don’t have to paint a picture.
I’m all for women doing whatever they want with their bodies, it’s their right, but it just seems incredibly demeaning to me. Standing in a window like a literal product… It’s just creepy.
This day, my mate and I decided to check out some of the seedier museums in Amsterdam. We started out at the Sex Museum, went on to the Museum of Erotica and finished up with the Museum of Prostitution.
To be perfectly honest, the first two were kind of boring. You can giggle at the art, the mannequins and whatnot, but eventually the novelty wears off.
The Museum of Prostitution is actually interesting. It’s a proper museum, with information, recreations of the rooms behind the window, first-hand experiences and the history of the industry in the district.
Not-so-fun Fact: It is estimated that between 10 and 90 percent of the prostitution in Amsterdam is forced. Which basically means authorities said “Stuffed if I know, it definitely happens, but I’m pretty sure some of them are willing”. They do have a hotline to call if you suspect your prostitute is being forced into it though.
Ended the day with a canal cruise, combining my three favourite things: sightseeing, dinner and drinks. One of the cruise companies runs a pizza cruise together with Heineken. So you basically get a full 90-minute tour of the city, eat a personal pizza, and drink bottomless beer and wine.
Day 16 was a bit of a cruisy one for me. I wandered around the city on foot, got a closer look at some of the places I saw on the cruise the previous night, and just enjoyed my surroundings.
Day 17 I took a day trip out to The Hague, the centre of The Netherlands’ government (Amsterdam is the official capital, but all the government buildings are at The Hague).
I walked around the city centre for a while, and looked at all the 17th century buildings, but the main reason I made the trip out was for one special lady, Vermeer’s Girl With A Pearl Earring, which is housed at the Mauritshuis Museum, along with a number of paintings by the Dutch Masters.
This one was a travel day, as I caught an early train to Rotterdam. I did manage to get a bit of sightseeing done, not that there are too many big-ticket items within Rotterdam, it was just nice to walk around and look at a city, without having any expectations.
The one must-see item around Rotterdam is the Kinderdijk. It’s UNESCO World Heritage listed, and is really quite impressive. The series of windmills, reservoirs and dams is part of the massive, nationwide effort to keep the country’s vast swaths of land that is below sea level, dry.
And that brings us to today. It was a travel day today, I’m now back in Belgium, but this time in Antwerp. I had a quick walk around, but tomorrow will be my main sightseeing day.