My last stop on the Journey was Amsterdam. Amsterdam was only about a three hour train ride from Ghent.
In Amsterdam I also stayed with a couchsurfer. His name was Jabu and he was oringially from South Africa. He has lived in Belgium for the past 10+ years and works as an artist. He was extremely friendly, like most people I have met couchsurfing and very laid back. We had some long conversations about art and what it means to be art. He lived in a perfect location, not far from the city center, only about a 20 min walk or an easy tram ride. There were also other couchersurfers there while I was, so it was cool to chat with and hang out with other people.
My favorite things I did in Amsterdam were, exploring the city, visiting the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum and the Ann Frank house.
Amsterdam is unlike any city I have visited before. There is a unique blend of all forms of transportation among the canals that are lined with beautiful 17th century architecture. In a world where cars have the priority, it is strange to see the bike and the moped reigning. You’re more likely to get hit by a bike than a car. Sometimes, I would be walking on what I thought was a sidewalk, only to hear someone yell at me to move out of the way from behind. Crossing the street was equally as dangerous as walking. You have to be particularly careful because bikers don’t seem to acknowledge green or red lights; unless they had their own system that I missed they never seemed to stop. Then there is also the tram system that runs between and through crowd with ease. On packed streets the tram somehow gets through without hitting people. You had to be equally as careful with the trams. And of course, there’s also the canal boats. You didn’t have to watch out for them, but it’s another form of transportation available. I didn’t actually go on one because I felt that I had seen enough of the city walking and on the trams. Aside from transportation there is the whole coffee shop and red light district thing that add to its allure. The red light district is actually a beautiful part of the city. It’s a very charming part lined with cobble stone streets and some 14th century architecture. Of course there is also a plethora of beautiful and some not some beautiful women to look at while you explore.
Visiting the two Museums was awesome. The Van Gogh museum, while small offered a great deal of information and insight into Van Gogh’s life. It took you on a journey through three floors, starting with the early part of his life and his inspiration and ending with his mental instability and ultimately his death. One of the reasons why we have so much information about Van Gogh and his works, is because he wrote thousands of letters to his friends and most importantly his brother, describing in detail his creative processes and his thoughts. I didn’t know this, but Van Gogh was a remarkable writer. So great in fact, that they are considered to be works of literature.
I honestly didn’t really have a strong desire to visit the Ann Frank’s house, but I thought it was something you had to do and see, so I decided to give it a shot. I had to wait in line for a little over an hour, but I met an Australia girl, so it wasn’t as bad as standing alone. I am really glad I toured it because it gives amazing insight (due to the documentation of Ann Frank) of the struggles and troubles one family had to face during that time. There were thousands more families who experienced the same thing, but don’t have any documentation. If not for Ann Frank, the realities during this time for many families could have been forgotten. The house is meant to replicate how it looked during that time minus the furniture. I think the father wanted it this way. One thing I was surprised about was the size of their hiding place. It was in the annex (the back of the house) concealed behind a bookcase and consisted of two floors. I remember reading the book as a child and thinking they lived in an attic, similar to the one in my home. Nothing but a place for storage. It was a self guided tour with videos readings and photos. It was extremely moving and emotional.
I only had two full days in Amsterdam, but I feel like I saw as most as I possibly could. I would like to visit again and experience Amsterdam in the Spring or Summer. The same goes for all the places I visited. People act differently in different temperatures, thus creating a different vibe.