Travelling, Germany

Amsterdam…

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Welcome to the blog entry on my time in Amsterdam! I have been super excited to type this to you and it is a few days late as I am still so tired and not really managing to catch up on lack of sleep, but I couldn’t put it off any longer!

So me and my team KW took a trip to Amsterdam last weekend as we are staying pretty close to the border. We are staying in Ibbenbüren (I’ve blogged from here a few times before) and this meant that it would take us around 3 hours to get to the Dam via two trains. Easy PEASY!

I had booked an AirBnB with Sean and Kathi which cost us £109 each for the two nights. Pretty costly but as I’ve found out the city is pretty costly wherever you go and what we got for our money was amazing!! We stayed 3 tram stops away from the centre and a stones throw away from the tram stop itself and the night bus stop which was fantastic! It had 4 floors! I was on the top top floor in a queen size bed 😉 a thank you! and that had a balcony looking out. Kathi was in the ‘childs’ bedroom in a single but that had a sink and its own hammock! Sean was on the very bottom, being the man we nominated him to sleep in the room next to the front door so he could beat up any axe murderers ! The living room was on the second floor which was massively open planned with a HUGE window and allowed us to wave to passers by. Most friendly.

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Friendly window.
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Passers By.
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Oh how sophisticated..excuse the peeping tom 😉

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My room 😀

On our first night we had a glass or two of the complementary red wine and went out for food. We went to the main touristy area for the first night which was ok but so so loud and we were more looking for the unique places off the beaten track really. But we went to an Aussie bar and grill and all had ribs and burgers to stuff into our faces. After this, we then took a stroll to the famous Red Light District. We couldn’t wait to have a PEEP!

I had read that there was something you could go and see whilst at the Red Light District that wasn’t just girls in windows..So for curiosity I told my group that we should go to Peep Show Palace and see a peep show. For anyone that doesn’t know, you pay €2 for 2 minutes in a booth and watch whatever they have on the other side of the glass. This could be male and female together, just females or a single female on a rotating bed giving you a peep! Well we got there and it was absolutely packed full of tourists ,all looking for a goggle and it was mainly people of my age just wanting a look and there was a lot of couples there too.

So me and Jim queued up at the door and watched girls and boys coming out after their 2 minutes looking either shocked or bemused…then it was our turn. It was a pretty small space with a coin slot and a black window at first, we put our money in..me giggling like a teenager and Jim not really sure what to do..and the screen then turned into the two way window.  We had a male and female show. The funny thing was you could see other people in the windows opposite haha which was hilarious all watching these two going at it. Well I say going at it, it was more a Sunday stroll after a massive roast dinner. What a SLOG. It was the longest two minutes I’ve ever had to sit through and it’s safe to say Jim felt the same..aha!!

We saw EVERYTHING. Nothing was left to the imagination. The woman in there looked like she was thinking about her food shopping later and he looked like well I don’t know. It was so uneventful and so boring that it was a bit of a disappointment. I’m not sure what I was expecting but I was hoping to be grossed out ! and I didn’t feel even that! It opened my eyes really because the woman was more interested on who was watching and who was paying their €2 or more then what was happening. It felt very business like which is exactly what it is isn’t it? She seemed to have very cleverly mastered the ‘Oooh’ ‘Ahhh’ faces.

So after strolling around the RLD, which I really enjoyed. It was fascinating watching them girls in the windows. All shapes and sizes. I could have stayed there and watched the bargaining going on all night. One man was up against a woman’s door clearly being a pest and she grabbed the door handle, yanked it open and screamed:

‘FIFTY EURO, TWENTY MINUTE!!!!’

SLAM went the door!

He still didn’t go away.

I later went back to the RLD on Sunday morning with Sean and James to see ‘The Red Light District Secrets Museum.’ It was a great museum actually and gave you a true insight into their lives. The museum itself was actually inside and behind a window of a once working prostitute. They gave you the history as well which was really interesting. One fact that stuck in my mind..

In the early days of prostitution, when hygiene wasn’t at it’s best. Women didn’t wash their gussets for more than a month.

Hope you’re not eating whilst reading this haha.

So from the window where we could have our picture taken, it then went through to the bedroom area and then into the luxury room. The luxury room had a bath tub, and a huge bed and a tv screen. You have to pay extra for the luxury room and you get more time in there as well which is a good thing because the bathtub might not fill up in 20 minutes and then your time is up haha!!

I learnt that a woman that worked in this room was murdered there, to which the murderer was never found. It just shows you how vulnerable these girls are even in somewhere as busy and protected as Amsterdam.

It also had a dominatrix area. I put Sean in one of the cells just for a laugh because after reading this below I wasn’t going in..

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Me in the window..IMG_5631IMG_5632

Toward the end of the exhibition there was a confession wall. You could go into a confession booth and right down your sexual confession. Now, some of them on the wall were shocking to say the least.. but hey not judging. Was quite a giggle reading some of them though..I won’t go into details but lets just say there are quite a lot of people around that have had things stuck up their bums!! HAAAAAA.

Then we could have our picture taken in the window..this was Sean, James and me in the booth! I quite suit blue hair, don’t you think??

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Here are some facts I learnt whilst at the museum:

  • The red light is used as it makes the women’s skin look better. Makes it look smoother and more appealing.
  • A blue light is for transgender and there is a whole street for transgender people only.
  • The average time behind the curtain is from 6 to 12 minutes.
  • Woman can go to the prostitute as well.
  • It’s €50 for 20 minute and €100 for more!
  • It is one of the oldest professions.
  • The women can work 4- 6 days a week.
  • They have to pay €150 to rent the window and the rooms.

So lets move away from the RLD! It was fun and somewhat classier then the ReeperBahn that I had the unfortunate time of witnessing in Hamburg…

Anyway, the next day I got up early and went to find the Anne Frank museum. I read her book when I was about 14 and since then been in absolute love with her and her story. Her book was such a great read and things I could relate to at that age too. It is such a heartbreaking story but she is someone that inspires me to do well and to be a more open person to people in today’s society. We didn’t manage to get a ticket so it was a case of having to queue from 15:30 to get in.

Kathi, Sean and I had breakfast just next door to the museum which was centre of Amsterdam but slightly out of the way. This tiny café was beautiful and I managed to score an English breakfast with English tea! WINNER!

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After finding the Anne Frank house we then went into a museum further into the city called ‘The World Press Photo Exhibition.’ The photos were taken by a selection of photographer around the world, which consisted of happy pictures, normal everyday pictures, wildlife and then the horrific. It was a really nice exhibition actually, set up in a church. Some of the pictures were really harrowing as well, especially ones taken from Syrian refugee children. Need I say anymore?

Away from the exhibition they had a globe made out of wood and the countries carved into it.

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After the exhibition we went our separate ways as we all wanted to see different things. I went back to the Anne Frank house as it was right by the canal and I just fell in love with that part of Amsterdam. The areas around by the canals are just stunning and the houses and the shops are beautiful too.

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I also went to the Tulip Museum…don’t ask me why because I don’t know why. I paid €5 to go through it and it was tiny and actually if you like tulips and flowers then it would be fantastic for you. Me on the other hand went round it thinking ‘I don’t even like flowers that much…’ I did learn one fact… that actually the Tulip is not native to Holland and it is actually middle Eastern. They don’t actually know who or what bought the Tulip over to Europe but that lead to Tulip Mania and the cultivation of Tulips in the Netherlands.

I’m bored just writing that. Soz.

 

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Well here is what I really want to talk to you about…Anne Frank. I got into the queue at 2:15pm to make sure I got in there at a suitable time. I wasn’t prepared to travel to Amsterdam and not actually get to see where she lived and wrote her famous diary. I was close to the front but not close enough but happy with my choice .I started queuing and I met two lovely Welsh people who were on a trip and were actually queuing for the 4th time..This gave me no hope! but they were lovely all the same and were chatty and asking me about who I was etc. Then I met the girl behind me, who was a lawyer from Mexico who was on a trip with her Mum. She said that she worked for the government in Mexico as a lawyer but left as she found it too corrupt..! Oooh errr.

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I was standing in the queue for about 45 minutes (on my own..as the rest of my group that were going to queue then decided not to) when a woman walked past asking if anyone was travelling on their own..to which I said that I was. She had a spare ticket! and was giving it away. I jumped at the chance and sadly left my new friends in the queue without much of a goodbye to then enter the Ann Frank house. Hannah, the lovely girl, didn’t even want any money for the ticket and said that I was to pass on the good deed to someone else one day.

I am still so humbled by this gesture from her. We spoke a little bit in the line but after that but then she was gone and I didn’t get to say goodbye or thank you again to her. It all happened so fast and before I knew it I was in the house and swallowing to hold back the huge lump I had in my throat.

There were quotes from the book everywhere and screens showing you interviews from her friends and her dad who survived her after the Holocaust. Anne’s Dad, Otto, didn’t want the house furnished which I found a little hard to visualise them in the house because of that. They were just empty rooms and had the odd picture on the wall showing you what it did look like. It would have been nice to see her bed, or even her desk where she is pictured writing her diary. They had left up some postcards and pictures she had stuck to the wall in her own bedroom to make the walls looks brighter. During the day they had to have the windows blacked out and thus meant that it was very dingy and dank in the secret annexe. She is quoted to saying that her Dad had bought over magazines etc and so she was able to use the pictures from that to make her room look a little happier.

Going through the bookcase into the annexe itself was really special and so sad at the same time. The bookcase has been kept the same but it is half covered by glass for protection. It just made me so sad to think the last time Anne would have seen that book case was when she was being dragged out by the Nazi officers towards her death.

After the house there was an exhibition where you could learn more about who Anne was. Her diary was there for you to see the originals of and I must say she had lovely handwriting! Not that I could read it being in German but it was so swirly and it didn’t look like she had got tired after writing two pages; it still remained neat. Not like mine, after writing a page or two my hand writing goes massive and lazy.

What tipped me to nearly breaking point, was there was a classroom picture of Anne and her friends when she was about 5 or 6. Some of them were numbered and next to the numbers where what happened to them. It went something a little like this:

  • 1- Sobibor 1944
  • 2- Auschwitz 1943
  • 3 – Sobibor 1944
  • 4- Survived
  • 5- Bergen Belsen 1944
  • 6- Auschwitz 1943

To see their little faces in the pictures so happy and innocent and then to know how they ended was absolutely heart breaking and I can’t really think about it too much now without getting upset. I’ve said this time and time again on here and too many people I seriously can’t get my head around what happened during World War 2 and the hate that was spread so quickly and to be able to persecute your own species and own people for belief and looking a certain way is absolutely absurd. I can’t even think of the correct word for how it makes me feel.

There was also a media installation of famous people  expressing their thoughts and feeling on Anne Frank and her life. Many actors had been to the house itself and delivered speeches. One that stuck in my mind was Emma Thompson. She was at the Anne Frank house a couple of years ago and said :

All her would haves, are all our real possibilities. All her would haves are our opportunities.

To hear the full 5 minute speech please visit:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2XhGv9xLT5U

It was so thought provoking. It’s another place everyone should visit. It’s a place of hope but also a place of heart break.

Oh and read her book if you haven’t. You will laugh, cry and ponder with her.

After Anne Frank I met Sean in a park called VondelPark which is right near the Rijksmuseum. It was gorgeous there. Sections of water with geese and ducks on it and so much park that everyone was just laying around and enjoying the sun..and of course not far from the smell of weed. *BORK*

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On our way through the park we noticed this…

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‘Who are you when you see me? Who am I when I see you?? Have a seat & BREATHE!’

This gentleman was just sitting there. So as I use Sean as bait for most things, you know in case something scary happens Sean can highyah them, I sent him to sit down on the chair haha! Not much happened really apart from a lot of staring and some breathing. As the close was clear and Sean lived to tell the tale.. I decided to have a go…I said Hello when I sat down and he didn’t reply or give much acknowledgment and then he breathed, we breathed. I suddenly got realllly conscious of everything..Did I have any eye bogeys? Was my mouth cackey? Did I have any food on my face or a bit of dribble?? Who knows!!! I licked my lips in a hopeful non seducing way! and he licked his lips back..I’m not sure if this was an invitation or just a coincidence so I shortly got up after that !! It was interesting though. I was trying to really study his face and picture more of him as much as I could but felt too shy and uncomfortable to sit there any longer. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to chat after to ask any questions about the reasons behind this but it was still pretty fun.

On the Saturday evening Sean, Kathi and I went for food. Sean found a restaurant called ‘Cafe-Restaurant Van Kirkwijk’, where you didn’t have a menu and didn’t know the prices of the food until the end. All we knew that the price would be between €12 – €35 each excluding drinks. It was a great little place just outside of the touristy areas and the staff were really friendly.  I had beef with strawberry and goats cheese, Sean had Hake and Kathi had the same as me. I did have to take my beef back as it was pretty raw for me to eat in the middle but they were more than happy to take it back. Apparently the Dutch like it raw. The whole bill for three of us including a drink each, a starter and our main meal was €103.00 so it came to about €35 each. not bad at all. I would have paid more for the service we received as well.

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The street where the restaurant was on. 

After the dinner, we then met Jim and went to a nice little bar, again outside of the touristy areas and right along the canal. It was great and we were pretty much the only people in and stayed until we got bored. They weren’t even fussed at kicking us out! It was a great way to end the weekend.

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The next day it was time for Sean, Me and Jim to go to the ‘The Secrets of Prostitution museum’ as mentioned above. But…in order to get there in time to meet Jim, me and Sean dropped our bags off at accommodation office first and then hired bikes!! It was so fun and a great highlight of the weekend. Amsterdam is absolutely teaming with bikes and you have to be really careful not to get killed by one! Never mind the cars.

We hired the bikes from Mikes Bikes on Kerkstaat and it was only €7 for 4 hours with insurance, they even gave me a super fashionable red poncho incase it rained (I had to give it back).

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There’s that poncho…a tent on a bike!!

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On yours marks…get set…..

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Taking a quick nap after my bike ride..

 

I really did have the best time in Amsterdam from start to finish. I got to see Anne Frank’s house which was something I’ve had on my bucket list for years and years. Everything else I got to do was a bonus and I shared it with great company.

Thank you again to mystery stranger ‘Hannah from Edinburgh/Worchester.’ Your kindness will stay with me for a very long time and I will definitely be sharing the good will wherever I go.

Amsterdam was an absolutely beautiful place to go, well maybe don’t visit the RLD in the day as the rubbish is HORRENDOUS! but visit the canals, they’re stunning. If want to party you can, if you want to view art you can, if you want to visit a park and lay on the grass you can! You can do anything you want! They even speak English and they are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met.

I am so totally in love with Amsterdam and the Dutch and I can’t wait to visit again in the very near future. Kaaaarl…can we go please?? 😀

I’m going to leave you with my favourite picture in the entire holiday and sums up my happiness and glee from the whole weekend…

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