Amsterdam, Venice of the North
This is Katherine Satrom for Travel Explorations.
I was fortunate to be in Amsterdam and observe the celebration for Queen’s Day in Amsterdam on April 30. The observance is like New Year’s and the 4th of July in the United States all rolled into one, and perhaps doubled in exuberance! The holiday commemorates the birthday of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands. The Queen and her predecessors are from the House of Orange. Therefore, the city is a veritable sea of orange with everyone wearing orange: orange balloons and banners decorating the city. Amsterdam is known as the Venice of the North. Boats clogged the canals with people dancing and partying on the vessels that could barely move in the crowded waters. A sunny day and perfect temperatures were a great recipe for the happy citizens . . . and some of us tourists!
A carnival is set up for the festival in famous Dam Square, known as the national square of the Netherlands. On this day, citizens are allowed to set up rummage sales along the sidewalks to sell anything and everything. Vendors sell orange leis and boas and all manner of food including the famous Dutch pancakes. Our party invested in orange leis so we could properly celebrate the occasion!
Amsterdam is a spectacular city, diverse and energetic and full of cultural opportunities.
On a more serious note, not to be missed is the Anne Frank House. This is the house where Jewish Anne Frank and her family hid when the Nazis occupied Amsterdam. Tourists are silent as they pass through the tight, darkened spaces, in the upper stories of the building, where the family was forced to keep very quiet. The lower floor housed the business of Anne’s father and associates. The hopefulness and youthful enthusiasm come through in Anne’s writings even as her despair is evident.
Here are a couple of Anne Frank’s diary excerpts, which are poignantly displayed at the museum: “One day this terrible war will be over. The time will come when we will be people again and not just Jews!” and “I know what I want, I have a goal, I have opinions, a religion and love.”
The Rembrandt House Museum showcases that famous artist’s work in the home he purchased in 1639. The house is reconstructed to look exactly as it did when Rembrandt was at the peak of his career. Many of his works are displayed here.
Don’t miss the Vincent van Gogh Museum. Van Gogh lived from 1853-1890 and was a prolific artist. The Museum’s permanent collection includes more than 200 paintings by Van Gogh and many drawings and letters. Work of other 19th-century artists – friends and contemporaries of Van Gogh – is also displayed. This Museum represents the largest collection of his work.
A canal boat ride is a must and a good way to get your bearings. However, walking is the best way to get around the city. Plan to enjoy one of the thousands of excellent restaurants featuring all types of international foods.
If you want to enjoy a restaurant with a spectacular view of Old Town, dine at the 11th floor Sky Lounge of the Doubletree Hotel, right across the canal from Old Town. It’s a great place to stay as well, with an bountiful breakfast included in the price.
If you want a knowledgeable suggestion for a restaurant, ask a flight attendant on your international flight, since they stay in these destination cities on a regular basis. Delta’s Dawn (that was her name!) recommended Gandhi’s, an Indian restaurant on Damrak Street. It was terrific.
This was tulip time in Holland and we could see the tulip fields in gorgeous, vibrant stripes as we flew in. More on tulips and the connection of the Presidential Roosevelts with Holland on the next Travel Explorations.