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5 Fabulous Days in Amsterdam

I just returned yesterday from 2 weeks in Amsterdam, Vienna and Budapest and will report on each city separately. My job does not allow travel in summer so previously I had been going in mid to late May, this year I left 4/19 and spent the next 5 days feeling very cold indeed in Amsterdam, average daytime temp was 45-48 and sometimes a light rain, so not the most ideal weather for enthusiastic exploration. But it's such a spectacular city that I kept at it and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Since inquiring minds always like to hear about packing, here's what I took that worked great for me:
LeSportsac messenger crossbody, Deluxe Everyday Bag--excellent compartments & storage, lightweight & sturdy
2 pairs blue jeans
2 pairs oxfords, both by Fluevog. One navy/cream and one black/white.
Navy Michael Kors hooded mid-weight rain jacket
Black INC asymmetrical zip mid-weight sweater
6 tops-black, grey and navy Ts, black pullover sweater, navy stripe, blue/orange print Boden wrap top
3 scarves
4 pairs each socks (Wrightsocks and Smartwool) and undies.
3/4 sleeve nightie and slippers

I flew KLM this trip and really liked them, will definitely choose again. I arrived at Schiphol and was on my way to the hotel by 9:30 am. I had researched both the airport shuttle and Airport Express bus #197 and without a reservation I'd have had to wait 45 minutes for the shuttle so I paid 5 euro and got on 197, which was perfect--about 30 minutes to the Rijksmuseum stop, then 3 blocks to my hotel on Vossiusstraat, the Piet Hein. Very quiet as it looked onto the short end of Vondelpark, and I had an upper floor room as requested. Choosing the Museum Quarter was the right thing, for me; a nice area, pleasantly busy but not the overwhelming crowds in the more central Amsterdam area of the canals, which were easily reached in 5-10 minutes via tram. Buying a 96 hour transit pass made using the trams very easy.

I didn't end up buying a Museum Pass as I thought I might, and it seems even if you had the pass there would still be a wait to get in at the Van Gogh unless you bought a ticket online. I was jet-lagged and must say that standing in line for 1 hour in 45 degree weather really kept me alert! This was around 11 am, and when I left around 2 there were only maybe 20 people in line; as I passed the museum several times I noticed the line varied throughout the day. Definitely worth it, the museum was one of the more excellent ones I've seen devoted to one artist, along with a special exhibit of Prints in Paris 1900. I rode tram #2 to get oriented, and then got dinner from a café called Blushing across from the Van Gogh.

Friday at 11 was my time to visit Anne's huis, and I arrived a bit early to explore the neighborhood and get breakfast. The huis was quite an experience, I'd read her diary at age 10 and it had an enormous impact on me, leading to a life-long interest in WWII and the experience of the Jews in various countries. They make an attempt to control the crowds in various areas, but I must say that sometimes it was hard to really appreciate what I was seeing, and much of it was quite dim and hard to read some placards. After that I wandered the 9 Streets area, and then to Spui to see the Friday book market. Several shops there also with English books. Dinner that night was at a cozy corner café on Van Baerlestraat called Small Talk Café.

Saturday I visited the flea market at IJ Hallen--tram #2 to Centraal, then a free 15 minute ferry ride from the back of the station. I had expected more vintage stuff and was quite disappointed; of the 700 or so vendors, 650 were selling tatty clothes, shoes and purses. I did find some vintage 1950s Steiff for a good price, so all was not lost. Then I went to the Antiek Centrum at Elandsgracht 9--someone on the forum recommended it & it had a huge offering of interesting stuff at good prices.

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2602 posts

Part 2--Sunday was Keukenhof--rode the 197 to Schiphol and waited just 15 minutes in line to get on bus 858. It was crowded but bearable, quite the display and I spent about 3 hours before heading back at 3:30. I wanted to find the stork nesting platform in Vondelpark so on the way back I got a packaged salad from the Albert Hein market at Museumplein, huge selection of picnic goodies, sandwiches, salads, etc. It was chilly so I thought, why not put my bag with salad, cheese and beer on the window ledge to keep cool? Explored the park, stork platform is totally off-limits and can only be seen from a distance, just a head would occasionally pop up. I'm a bird lover so was happy to see kingfishers and some unusual crow varieties. An hour later I was ready to eat and discovered a crow had opened my bag, pulled out the salad and eaten all the chicken, cheese and some vegetables! Left the olives. Came back and gave me a saucy look through the window. Lesson learned, just glad they can't open beer bottles.

Monday was my last day and I visited the wonderful Dutch Resistance museum, very well-done display and I highly recommend it. I also managed the Rijksmuseum, no line at around 2 pm, and then the Stedelijk for just the older modern art. The Rijks, for me, was a lot like the Louvre; the building was more interesting than the art, as I am not at all a fan of the Dutch Masters, though of course there's always something of interest and thus worth visiting. I had read Jessie Burton's "The Miniaturist" and was pleased to see the exquisitely detailed dolls' house that inspired the story.

I took the Airport Express back to Schiphol Tuesday morning and must say they have the most thorough security process I've ever seen, took a good 35 minutes to get through, they rifled through carry-on, did second scans of several items, opened umbrellas, etc.

I loved Amsterdam, such a uniquely appealing and beautiful city and while I did spend some time in the over-crowded tourist central area, I much more enjoyed the time I spent exploring in the neighborhoods a bit away from that, including the Museum Quarter and 9 Streets. The trams were easy to get the hang of and I found the people very kind and helpful overall. I was prepared for the bikes, but, wow--they are everywhere, day and night, ridden by everyone, even women in business suits and heels. Between them and the scooters one must always be on alert. Didn't notice marijuana smoke more than a couple of times and I didn't visit the Red Light district. I did eat a lot of cheese and stroopwafels, though. I will definitely return, though in warmer weather.

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2252 posts

Nice report, Christa. Sounds like you did everything just right-well, except for the crow incident. At least he left you your beer and some olives! How generous of you to provide him dinner! I love the Van Gogh Museum, too. One of the best.....Thanks for posting a very comprehensive and entertaining trip report. Eager to read about Vienna and Budapest. Oh, and thank you for publishing your wonderful packing list. Very helpful!

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985 posts

lol christa - that bird! Glad you had such a great time and glad you found the Antiekcentrum worthy. I too love just walking around Amsterdam looking at the buildings and canals. Nice packing list - quite doable!

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6289 posts

Thanks Christa. You brought back a lot of memories. The most recent were of the Resistance Museum, as well as the Van Gogh. Did you make it to Rembrandt's house? (or huis?)

But I was startled by your mention of antiques. Many years ago (decades, actually) I was in Amsterdam for a few days. A roommate, a 19 yr old antiques buff, insisted I go antique shopping with her. I was truly almost broke by that point, had maybe $10 total. I bought a beautiful pewter candle holder that is still have. It couldn't have cost more than a dollar, but I loved it. I took it home as a gift for my own upcoming wedding.

Thanks for the memories.

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3822 posts

Great trip report, we spent 9 days in Amsterdam in July 2015 and loved it. I was there in 1976 the first time and it made me fall in love with travel, especially Europe. My hubby and would go back in a heartbeat, so much we saw, but we also missed a lot. We also found the Dutch Resistance museum very well done and interesting. Will read your other reports to shake those memories of previous trips.
P.S. , the crow story is hilarious, glad you took it in stride.

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1203 posts

Very nice travel report, thank you for sharing. I hope to go to Amsterdam next year so it was nice to have insight on someone who did it on her own and enjoyed the city. I have been to Amsterdam but it has been many years. One of my first trips abroad. It was nice to read that you really enjoyed yourself. I love Vienna so I am looking forward to hearing about that city. I just went for the first time last year and found it to be wonderful! I have not been to Budapest so I look forward to reading about that city.

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11294 posts

Thanks for this great report. Yes, it's one thing to hear about the bikes, but no one can prepare you for just how many there are - and how aggressive they can be! And I'm sorry to hear your meal was eaten by a crow - one of those things that's fun to talk about later, but was probably not so much fun at the time!

Eagerly awaiting the other parts of your report.

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2602 posts

Crows (and storks, love seeing them in Europe) are probably my favorite bird and I have a big flock of them that I feed daily at home--my dad was on crow, squirrel and cat-feeding duty while I was gone--so it really just made perfect sense that I fed one of their Dutch cousins on vacation.

The bikes looked a bit strange to me--more upright, if that makes sense? Very big and sturdy. Between them and the scooters it was like a perpetual game of dodge-em.

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2393 posts

Thanks for the laugh!

Nice report - we will also be there later this year - late August and look forward to our 2nd visit there.

I am really looking forward to the VG museum.

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2468 posts

Lovely report of a city I am longing to visit, maybe next spring. I will file your report. Love the story of the crow!

Judy B

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1113 posts

I was in Amsterdam 2 weeks ago, stayed at Piet Hein and went to the same Albert Hein grocery store at Museumplein where my friend loaded up on stoopwaffels. So fun to read someone else's experience that's similar to mine. Did not have a crow eat my lunch though lol. The weather hadn't changed much, it was 40s during the day. Did you go to the patisserie on Van Baerlestraat on the way from Piet Hein to Museumplein? I hope so! We got our sandwiches and pastries there for our lunch at Keukenhoff.

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2602 posts

Claudette--I did go to that bakery every day, Bakkerij Simon Meijssen, wonderful array of goodies and they always made the perfect latte. I believe it's a chain as I saw others throughout my tram travels. I loaded up on boxes of Punselie's stroopkoekjes at the market, they were given on the KLM flight and they're crunchy little cookies with the caramel-ish filling. I made a point to eat at a couple of restaurants but could easily have found something good every night for dinner at Albert Hein. Overall that neighborhood really suited me and I would choose it again without hesitation.

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9550 posts

Wonderful trip report, Christa. It sounds like you had a perfect, perfect trip. It's been a long long time since I was in Amsterdam, and I think I would enjoy doing it like you did it. I agree that the Anne Frank diary probably marked many of us who read it and gave us an insight into a time and world that we didn't know otherwise. Just last weekend, the Financial Times Weekend did a piece on Anne Frank's posthumous stepsister (from Otto's remarriage after the war). She had been a schoolmate of Anne's as well. In the article, she pointed out she had just been on a five-week speaking tour in the U.S. (she lives in London). She said that Otto had inspired her to find a reason to move on after coming out of Auschwitz (and losing her father and brother, along with of course so many other friends and family members) - he helped persuade her to look to the future.

Jane, love your story about the candle holder that you bought for your wedding!

Here's an interesting article about a couple of Anne's relatives (with a poignant description at the very end by Eva Schloss of when Otto discovered the diary):

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2602 posts

Kim--thank you for the article, very interesting read and it seems her impact on the world continues. One thing I learned from touring the house is that she kept another journal that she filled with "beautiful sentences" from books she had read. As a voracious reader who also loves a well-strung sentence that immediately resonated with me and I've started my own such journal.