Amsterdam Tue 24/1/12

I’m sitting at a window table in the Hard Rock Cafe and looking out at a family of ducks as they swim along the canal. As they disappear from view, I realise this is the third HRC I’ve been to in eleven days. It’s not exactly a cheap eat, but the meals are big and super yummy. The service is fast and friendly and it’s obvious the staff either really enjoy the job or they’re darn good actors. The other great thing about Hard Rock Café is that I can get yet another pin for my yard duty sombrero. As a canal boat glides past I wonder: How many ducks are run over by canal boats each year?

Rewind five hours.

Forty-three minutes after the train pulled away from Den Haag, I stepped out of Amsterdam Central station and thought “Oh crap!” There were trams, road works, building works and people EVERYWHERE! Thankfully the tourism centre is within spitting distance of the station (I’ve realised this is always a good place to start in an unfamiliar city), so I grabbed a local map and began my trek to the Freeland Hotel. Having been checked in, I quickly headed for Anne Frank House. I had my entry ticket for 4:15 and didn’t want to be late as I’d have to wait half an hour and that would defeat the purpose of having bought the ticket online to avoid queuing in the cold. Fortunately, I got there with a few minutes to spare 🙂

The ‘House’ actually consists of two parts – the old and the new. The old is, of course, the building that Anne and her family lived in, which included offices at the front and the secret annexe behind and above. The new part is the neighbouring property which, connected to the house, contains short AV presentations, glass-encased artefacts, a bookshop and cafe. It’s easy to imagine just how isolated and trapped Anne felt in the annexe. Have a look at the website www.annefrank.org if you want to know more.

By the time I left Prinsengracht, it was dark and all the museums were closed. Although I’d love to see the amazing artworks they possess, I’m just as interested in the external architecture and have learnt that prominent buildings are lit up well at night, so with the streets alive, I felt no fear wandering about the city centre and exploring. There are so many incredible places to see and I’m impressed that older buildings have been maintained, now often housing clothing stores or souvenir shops. Souvenir shops themselves attract attention, if not for the entire wall of clogs they sell, but the clogs also hang from the ceilings. It reminds me that I’ve not yet tried Kwak, a Belgian beer that requires you to hand over a shoe to the barman as a security deposit for the unique glass in which the amber fluid is served. That can be one of Saturday’s tourist tasks!

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