Friday, April 28, 2017

Amsterdam in an Afternoon

Our plans for Easter weekend originally included making a trip somewhere. We hadn't counted on the expense involved with traveling to another country on such a popular weekend though, so we spent most of our weekend in Muenster, but decided to book a FlixBus to Amsterdam on Tuesday. It got us there at 10:45am, and then everyone went home on different trains. 

One little note about the FlixBus: if you're crossing a border, they will require a passport or residence card. Nothing actually happens at the border and there doesn't even seem to be a border station, but if you're traveling over a border on FlixBus, they will require that passport with no exceptions. Jordyn was going to join us in Amsterdam but discovered that her passport wasn't in her bag when she got to Muenster, so she ended up just going home. 

We arrived in Amsterdam Sloterdijk, a station that's west of Amsterdam by a few miles. We purchased one-way train tickets into the city at a ticket machine (we weren't planning on using more than a ride there and back, so a day ticket wasn't worth it to us) and were soon on our merry way into the city! The journey from there to the central station took less than 10 minutes.

This is the central train station (Amsterdam Centraal). Isn't it pretty? Everything had this very detailed, charming look to it. The architecture in Amsterdam really was beautiful. 

Our first stop was this church: Church of St. Nicholas (Sint-Nicolaaskirk)

Because we had such a short time in the city, we utilized a walking map that I found on Pinterest, from the site Jet Setting Fools. This was such a great resource that allowed us to see many places in Amsterdam on our limited timeframe. Of course we'd like to return and not have to rush around, but this was perfect for us. We were able to take our time and make little detours, or stop a little longer at the flower market, because we knew where we were going. Carson was our main navigator, and he guided us using Google offline maps, which we've found to be wonderful in our travels.

Damrak is a busy street that took us to Dam Square. There were lots of touristy places there, and a big old warehouse.

It's possible that you didn't know this, but I should probably say that in case you weren't aware, marijuana is legal in Amsterdam. They seem to be really profiting on the fact that they are known for this as there are all sorts of novelty products widely available there just in case you should choose to indulge. I feel like real ice cream would probably taste much better than this stuff.

Nieuwendijk - Pedestrian shopping street
I didn't know that Amsterdam was also known for cheese, but I'm guessing that it is because we saw dozens of cheese shops. Sadly, we didn't get a taste.

Dam Square 
This square isn't far at all from the train station, where our tour technically started, and it is located in the historical center of Amsterdam. It's a rather busy plaza, and there are lots of restaurants and tourist places right on the square. There's also a Madame Tussauds if you're into that. The Royal Palace is located in the square, and is available to tour for about 10 Euro. We were just doing a self-guided walking tour, so we didn't go inside. 
Outside the Palace was a big carnival thing that looked very much like the Weihnachtsmarkts we enjoyed in Germany. I know Easter markets are a thing, and I wonder if that's what it was.

From the square, we began walking into the cutest little areas. The houses and canals were just so picturesque! 

De Oude Kirk (The Old Church)

We were hungry for lunch, and enjoyed Wok to Walk, pick-your-toppings Asian takeaway. I had rice noodles with veggies and a pepper-garlic sauce with peanuts on top. 

Amsterdam is filled with lovely waterways and canals, and I took far too many pictures of and with them!

We also noticed that many of the buildings in Amsterdam are crooked. Some buildings seemed to lean into the next one in the row, while others just leaned on their own. I wasn't sure if this was intentional or if things have just shifted over time.

We walked through Chinatown next, but the only pictures I have of that are Carson and Jaime petting this cat.

De Waag
This building is an old weighing house. It's among the oldest buildings in the city, and dates back to 1488! It is now a restaurant.

It was hard to take this picture because the building leans SO MUCH!

Next, we walked to Waterlooplein Market, which used to be a Jewish market, and now is used to sell a variety of things, from antiques to touristy t-shirts. (I don't think I have pictures of it!)

We walked past the National Opera and Ballet next.

Our next stop was the Bloemenmarkt, a floating flower market, full of stores that have all kinds of tulip bulbs, wooden shoes, faux tulips, and gifts to take home. We found a pretty store full of Delftware that was quite inexpensive! 

We really wanted to see the "I Amsterdam" sign at the Rijksmuseum, so we made a little detour from the walking plan and headed in that direction. It was very crowded, to say the least, but fun to see.

We walked past the Westerkirk, which is a big church that also has a statue of Anne Frank outside it. Next to this, the longest line ever had formed and was wrapped around the church and over to the next street where we saw...

The Anne Frank House! When I was in Amsterdam in 2009, I visited this and I didn't remember the line being so insane (it was January so that might explain it), but this was nuts (no good way to explain, but in the picture below, the line basically wraps down the block past the front of the church and then the back of it can almost be seen on the other side of the church). 
You must have a reserved ticket for the museum from the time it opens until around 3:30 and then from 3:30 to close, it's sort of a first-come, first-serve situation. It was almost 3:30 when we started walking by, and the people at the front of the line said they'd just been waiting there for 2 hours to guarantee they'd get in. So if you're going to Amsterdam, I think the trick is to go very early and be okay waiting awhile, or to book tickets online. They're about 9 Euro. I do remember this being a very "worth it" experience.

Time was running out in Amsterdam and Jaime had a train to catch before 5, so we started heading to the central station again. We had to stop for pictures first though! (Jenna took a group picture on her camera, but I haven't seen it yet!

This Dutch boy and girl kissing can be seen all over Amsterdam, so we did our best to recreate that. Carson picked a dandelion since we didn't have any tulips handy.

Jaime left first, and waved to us from a few platforms over. Jenna's train didn't leave for several more hours, so she explored Amsterdam on her own, and Carson and I got on a train back to the Sloterdijk station for our 5:30 FlixBus. We were able to grab dinner at the station, and our bus back to Muenster was pretty empty, so we stretched out on the seats and relaxed.

We're hoping to plan another trip soon, but this was a great way to quickly experience the beautiful city of Amsterdam and get our bearings for the next time around!
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