Thursday, April 19, 2012

Adventures in Amsterdam

Amsterdam in one word = bizarre. I knew things there would be very different but I still did not completely expect the things I encountered. First off, it's important to know that Amsterdam is extremely liberal in its views. For example, it was the first place to legalize gay marriage and create a monument in its honor. Also, prostitution and marijuana are both legal there. On our walking tour we learned that Amsterdam was always a very merchant and religious city. Because of this, there are many churches around. While we were strolling through the red light district on our tour we passed some minimally clothed ladies behind glass doors, only to walk another 50 feet to come up to the front door of a church. It's hard to initially get over this kind of drastic cultural difference.

As for another cultural difference, the consumption of marijuana is completely legal. We quickly realized the extent of this legality the minute we walked into our hostel. It was clear that most of the tourists, as well as the hostel staff, were clearly under the influence. There was even a little room downstairs labeled the smoking room, where people could smoke cigarettes, cigars, and weed while they casually ate their morning cereal. Yum. The hostel itself was pretty strange, especially in the way it was decorated. There was also a creepy black cat that roamed freely around, successfully scaring all of us as it seemed to constantly stare at us, no matter where we were.

Even so, Amsterdam was also very beautiful. It has tons of canals that run throughout it and people rent boats or paddle boats to travel down them. We took a tram when we first got there, which was also pretty cool. Parts of Amsterdam, like Prague, remind me much of Disney World. Here are some pictures:
Part of our hostel room
 The most moving thing a few of us did in Amsterdam is visit the Anne Frank House. I remember reading her diary a while ago and visiting her memorial museum is something I've always wanted to do. We were able to walk around the house she and her family hid in, starting at the business front below and going through the swinging bookcase-door up to the Secret Annex at the top. Reading about these things is one thing but actually seeing them is an entirely deeper experience.

The Anne Frank House

On a more positive note, Amsterdam, though a very short trip, was a success. Since the school portion of my internship ended Friday and the camp portion doesn't start until April, I have this whole week off! I'm leaving for Brussels Wednesday morning then heading over to Paris Thursday evening for the rest of the weekend. Onward!

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