Most days I have in Amsterdam are uneventful. On those days, I go through the same routine that I would if I were living anywhere. But, some days, Amsterdam knocks me on my a**. I had one of those days last week.
I think the best way I can share it is to take you through the day with me, hour by hour, and post a few of the photos I took. Notice the contrasts in experiences. (Also, given that I had to resort to profanity in the first three sentences of this post, you might rightfully assume that this post is not for the kiddos.)
8:00am – Got Kahlilah fed, dressed and out to the Tram stop to go to school. Thought I was about to get a second-hand high from the gentleman toking it up in the Tram stop. But didn’t, since the young man–being a considerate fellow–walked down the road a bit while we all waited for the Tram to arrive.
9:00am – Dropped Kahlilah off at school and then caught the Tram again to go to Amsterdam Centrum, where I hoped to catch some cultural sights I hadn’t seen yet.
9:15am – While trying to find my way to the Oude Kerk (“Old Church”), passed by an eye-grabbing window display. I learned it was for the Condomerie, the world’s first condom specialty store. Was particularly entertained by their “seasonal” items. (I didn’t know Rudolph the Red-nose Reindeer was such a lady’s man.)
9:20am – Continued on down the street but had to turn back to follow a positively divine smell of chocolate. Found myself in a cafe that served THE best hot chocolate I’ve had since a trip to southern Chile back in 2003. It was the super thick European kind, that is a bit bitter and so rich that you can only drink the smallest cup of it or you’ll be buzzing all day. (The whip cream on top helped cut the richness, though!)
9:25am – Found the Oude Kerk, the oldest surviving building in all of Amsterdam–from 1306. But, since it was still closed that early in the morning, decided to continue on to Nieuwe Markt. As I was walking around the Oude Kerk, I looked up to take in its impressive bell tower. Then I looked down to see where I was walking and thought, in the split second that I had, that’s a interesting-looking mannequin in the store window. Just then, a pigeon flew up from the ground in front of me, scaring the bejesus out of me. I jumped back, causing the “mannequin” (who was actually a sexworker taking a nap standing upright in her red-light district window) to open her eyes and jump back in fear from the window. She and I looked at each other and then we both started laughing hysterically at how scared we had both been. We laughed for a minute together (although we couldn’t actually hear each other since the glass was between us), and then I smiled, waved and continued on my way.
(Side note: When I read in the guide that the red-light district was near the Oude Kerk, I didn’t know they meant THAT near. I guess in the 700 some years that have passed, the neighborhood has changed a bit.)
9:30am – Found the Nieuwe Markt (“New Market”) which is described by the Lonely Planet as “a district as historic as anything you’ll find in Amsterdam” where “Rembrandt painted landscapes.” Decided to have a coffee in the “imposing, fairytale” Waag (“Weigh-house”), the oldest existing fortification in Amsterdam. Built in 1488 and decorated with candles and garlands for the season, it was an extremely pleasant place for a morning pick-me-up.
10:00am – Left the Waag to walk to the Museum het Rembrandthuis, passing numerous ladies of the…morning who were advertising their services in their scarlet-lit windows.
10:30am – Enjoyed walking through the house where Rembrandt van Rijn lived from 1639-1658, painted and sold his and others’ paintings…before he declared bankruptcy and was forced to move out and sell everything he owned. While most of the art hanging in the house was actually by Rembrandt’s contemporaries or students, saw the Museum’s collection of almost every one of the etchings Rembrandt made.
11:30am – Left the Museum to walk back to the Oude Kerk, passing numerous sex shops and sex show venues. While passing one of the bondage-themed stores’ window displays, saw Santa Claus in a way I would very much like to forget.
11:45am – On the way, was once again drawn into a shop by the smell of chocolate, this one selling truffles. Ate one of the best truffles I’ve ever had, after my mom’s of course – a milk chocolate-honey number.
12:00pm – Toured the Oude Kerk. Particularly enjoyed reading the translations of some of the “morals” carved into the choir stalls. Always interesting to learn what people centuries ago warned against – sometimes they are the same things we struggle with today and sometimes they are totally foreign to today’s concerns.
12:30pm – Took in the statue dedicated to sexworkers, which (of course?) is located in front of the Oude Kerk.
12:35pm – Found a nice lunch spot next to the Nieuwe Kerk, the next place on my list of places to see that day. Saw the Nieuwe Kerk (“New Church”), a late 15th century Gothic basilica that–now secularized–is home to Dutch coronations and rotating exhibitions. That day, they had an exhibition on Jewish historical artifacts–including a segment of the Dead Sea Scrolls!
1:30pm – Walked to the Negen Stratjes (“Nine Little Streets”) to explore an area known for individual, quirky shops, from 50s vintage clothing and light fixtures to high-end shoes and jewelry to tasty cafes and cheese shops. In particular, tried cheese at the Reypenaer, a cheese shop that offers tastings in their dedicated tasting rooms where you can learn to appreciate different cheese as you do wine. Couldn’t join a tasting that day, so just shamelessly devoured the free samples.
3:00pm – Took the Tram back to pick up Kahlilah and return home for the day.
What. a. day. Only in Amsterdam.