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After Belgium, I made my way to Holland. Unlike most visitors to the Netherlands, though, I did not base myself in Amsterdam. Of course, this wasn’t exactly by choice. My main motivation for making the trip to the Netherlands was to visit an old French exchange student who lived with my family and is now at university in Rotterdam. So naturally, I based myself where I had free accommodation.
But of course, you can’t visit the Netherlands without going to Amsterdam. So on a day when her schedule was full to the brim with classes, I hopped on a train to Holland’s most popular city.
The Anne Frank House
When we decided what day would be the best for me to make my day trip to Amsterdam, the first thing we did was look up tickets for the Anne Frank House. We thought there was no way there would be any available, but somehow, the night before I went, I managed to snag the second to last ticket online. By the time we had checked out, the tickets were gone. We were pretty astounded.
Once I got off my train the next morning, I still had a little bit of time before my designated time slot, so I took a roundabout route to get there. I was immediately greeted with those classic picturesque Amsterdam canals and a million bicycles lining the sidewalks. Yup, I was definitely in Amsterdam.
The Anne Frank House itself was downright amazing. I don’t remember the last time I felt so moved by something as I was by the Anne Frank House. Like most people, I have a personal connection with World War II. My grandmother and her family had to flee Germany and return to Switzerland after not supporting the Nazis. So the whole thing really hit home. To be honest, I don’t think I have the words to describe the experience with the eloquence that it deserves, so I’ll leave you to discover it for yourselves. Just make sure to book your ticket ahead of time.
An Afternoon Spent Wandering
After my time in the Anne Frank House, I didn’t have anything definitive planned. At least not until the boat tour I had booked later in the afternoon. So, naturally, I wandered. It’s what I do best.
I worked my way past canal after canal before eventually stumbling upon the Amsterdam Tulip Market. I can’t really tell you how long I stayed on this street, perusing the tulip stalls and popping in and out of the various stores on the other side.
At one point, I bought 20 tulip bulbs for €4 from a pick your own stand. After I had paid, I realized that you can’t bring unidentified and unlabeled plants into the US. So there went my dream of planting a Dutch tulip patch in my dad’s front gardens.
After getting my fill of Dutch tulips (and mourning my imaginary tulip garden), I made my way past more canals and to the Rijksmuseum. The second I sat down in the museum’s garden, though, I looked at my watch. That was when I realized that I was about to be late for my canal tour. Shit.
I nearly ran to the nearest bus stop and hopped on the next bus that would take me close to where I needed to be. I stood, nervously shaking and hoping that I would make it. Then, at my stop, the door didn’t open. The universe was definitely working against me.
Finally, I escaped the demon bus and sped walk to the meeting point for my canal tour. I made it with one minute to spare, and wiped the sweat off of my forehead.
A Canal Tour with Those Dam Boat Guys
I researched different canal tour companies on the train ride from Rotterdam to Amsterdam. When I came across Those Dam Boat Guys, I knew there was no way I was going with any other company. Even though their tickets were nearly twice as expensive as the others, I was lured in by the promise of off the beaten path canals and hilarious guides. And hey, if I was going to be taking a much smaller boat with a small company and a longer tour time, it made sense that I would have to pay more. So I booked my ticket online and eagerly awaited the 4pm start time throughout the day.
And seriously? I couldn’t have made a better choice.
We were met by one of the Dam Boat Guys outside of Cafe Wester. Once the whole group was there, we took a short five minute walk to our boat. Our guide Julian was waiting for us there, and all 10 of us eagerly climbed aboard. We were an eclectic group of an older couple retracing their college backpacking days, a young expat with her parents, two younger couples (one on their honeymoon), and me; the solo twenty year old.
I could already tell how much better this was going to be than one of the big tour companies.
Just because we had introduced ourselves to each other. Instead of sitting and staring out a window all by my lonesome, I got to enjoy my time in the beautiful May sun with newfound friends. I loved it.
Our guide, Julian, was such a great addition to the party. Instead of learning scripted facts about the city, we got to see Amsterdam from his own perspective as an Australian expat. I loved hearing about how he followed a girl there and decided to stay, and how he had to learn Dutch in order to become a citizen – and then hearing that Dutch in use as he called out to other boat drivers.
And all the while, beautiful scenes were passing before our eyes. Many of them had stories to go along with them, which Julian was only too happy to tell us.
We all parted an hour and a half later with a newfound view of the city of Amsterdam.
Now obviously, I barely even scratched the surface of what Amsterdam has to offer. But I know that I’ll go back one day (probably very soon, considering how cheap flights from Edinburgh to Amsterdam are). And when I do, I’ll have a hell of a time.