Why do study abroads and backpackers alike flock to the largest city in the Netherlands? Well let us be honest, young students do not flock to Amsterdam just for beauty but because Amsterdam is a city with more of an open mind than other places around the world. The availability and relaxed laws of Marijuana and hallucinogenic drugs is a huge temptation for young adults that live in places that shun this kind of activity. It is a way for people to enjoy theses substances out in the open. Also people love to flock to the Red Light district where Prostitution is flaunted at you through windows as a legal business. Now I am sure for a lot of cultures this can be shocking, watching people enjoy the influence of drugs and prostitution but for the people of the Netherlands it is nothing special. It has become a part of their culture just like the quirks of your own culture.
I have to say though, if you travel to Amsterdam just to experience these quirks then you did not truly see the beauty of this city. This city is a lot more than prostitution, sex shows, and coffee shops. The history, the art, and the architecture is outstanding. Amsterdam has so much beauty I find it kind of sad that some travelers only explore one part of this city. Do not get me wrong I enjoyed myself as much as the next person in Amsterdam but I made sure that I dove into their museums and spent most of my time exploring the canals and admiring the architecture and history of this city.
As my roommates went off in the morning to the coffee shops, I decided to head to my favorite museum in Amsterdam, Anne Frank’s House. It is dedicated to the life of Anne Frank and the Holocaust. Not only is it a museum to this tragedy but it is also the house where Anne Frank hid with her family in the attic from the Gestapo. You are able to go behind the bookcase and up the hidden staircase which leads up to the tiny attic. This place was extremely emotional. Just like many other American children who in junior high read The Diary of Anne Frank I was familiar with her story and her family’s tragedy. At first the tragedy and enormity of it all does not hit you, but there are the original magazine cuttings that Anne Frank and her sister had put on the walls and you can see that eight people actually lived in this small space for two years hiding from the Gestapo. I could barely believe what I was seeing until I walked back out of the Attic and into the final hallway that shows photos of the Holocaust. Even though crowded with visitors it was silent. It was here that made what happened during the Holocaust a reality. It was enough to silence anyone. This is a truly amazing museum that brought tears to my eyes. It is a must see in Amsterdam.
There are a few other Museums that are also great, the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum. The Rijksmuseum is the Dutch National Museum that is dedicated to the arts and history in Amsterdam and in the Netherlands. It a beautiful Museum that is gigantic and great to explore and is located close to the must see Van Gogh Museum. Now by the name you should know what the Van Gogh Museum features. It has a huge collection of Van Gogh and his contemporaries, both Museums are worth the visit to learn a little more about the Arts in Amsterdam! Now after a day of filling your mind with beautiful art it is time to take the night off , relax and learn about a whole different part of Amsterdam, the mysterious and intriguing Red Light District!
Now I understand that for some going on tours can be a little touristy and I love exploring a city and learning about it on my own but my roommates convinced me to go on the Night Time Red Light District tour. It is a very entertaining tour and you get to learn the history of this lucrative profession. They start you out at one of the many entrances of the district and give you a little history of the red light district. Then they take you around telling you about the profession. It is a very insightful look into this part of the Amsterdam’s culture. Now I’m sure that some of our readers wanted to know about my stories about enjoying the coffee shops but some things are best left to the imagination. If you do enjoy the coffee shops be sure to head to Wok to Wok for the food. It has some of the best to go stir fry I’ve had.
My trip to Amsterdam my freshman year was one of my favorite trips. Spending my days exploring this beautiful city was amazing; this was my first trip I planned without my family and was a great learning experience. I recommend this city for any new travelers; it is a great city to get your feet wet. The Dutch are very welcoming people and are very proud of who they are and they also are very happy to converse in English. The one thing I do regret is not going for Queensday where the city is swarming in a sea of orange for one of their biggest holidays. So go out and explore this beautiful city and culture and remember that Amsterdam is much more than coffee shops. It is a place full of beauty and art filled with welcoming and friendly people.
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