First afternoon in Amsterdam from arrival in Schipool Airport to Centraal Station at around lunchtime. Myself and my sister first start exploring the famous Anne Frank House, before walking through the canals of Amsterdam from the Central canal ring to Amstel and finish off at the Rembrandtplein.
We arrived at Schipool Airport around lunchtime and caught the blue and yellow double-decker suburban trains to Centraal Station, the main station of Amsterdam. Taking about 20 minutes, the journey was pretty smooth sailing. The trains were surprisingly smooth in ride and very spacious for suburban commuting - we had more than enough legroom and space to keep our luggage.
On arrival at Centraal Station, we left the platform and had to leave the station to get to the tram stops. Before we could board the tram, we realised we had to buy our tram tickets from the tourist office - located along the canal opposite the station. Known as a strippenkarkt, the tickets had 15 strips which you fold for stamping in the ticket machine. One of the passengers on the tram kindly showed us how to stamp the ticket. Basically we fold two strips and then have the ticket stamped, validating it for an hour.
After checking into our hotel on Raadhuisstraat, we took a visit to the Anne Frank House, next to the huge chapel of Westerkerk. Made famous by the accounts of World War II in the Diary of Anne Frank, the reputation of the Anne Frank House as a popular attraction could be seen by its long queue to the entrance. But after 15 minutes, we had entered the museum and toured the house and its network of hidden rooms where the Franks hid to avoid persection from the Nazis for two years. As we ventured into each room, the crampness and limited amenities such as light and water provide an insight into the hardships faced by the Franks. Yet despite this, we also see hope and inspiration through the various photo and paper clippings pasted against the walls of some of the rooms, thus providing a sense of normality for the Franks in such a difficult time.
Leaving the Anne Frank House, we walked along the canal of Prinsengracht. Pedestrians, cyclists as well as the cautious motorist share the narrow streets, so we had to be even more careful not to get run over. Nevertheless, cyclists will ring their bill whenever the odd pedestrian inadvertently strays in their path. Furthermore, Amsterdam has more than half a million cyclists, making it the ideal form of transport for exploring or commuting around the city.
We walked along Prinsengracht, passing the bridges on Leidsegracht, the humpback bridges of Reguliersgracht and the old church of Amstelkerk, now a trendy cafe and office block - the walk from Westelkerk to Amstelkerk taking about 20 minutes. Another few minutes of walking, we arrived at the Amstel River where the famous double-leaf drawbridge known as Magere Burg stands - linking the Plantage and Eastern Canal Ring. Probably the most famous bridge in the city, its name directly translates ironically to "Skinny Bridge", originating from the old narrow bridge of 1670 it replaces. Now wider than the original, the Magere Burg would open to let boats and yachts through, but this did not happen today as we walked around and took pictures. Meanwhile, the sky above became dark and overcast, casting a worrying shadow over our trip that would last for the next couple of days.
Finding restaurants to eat was relatively easy, but some of the restaurants suggested in our travel guide were booked out. Eventually we ended up in Rembrandtplein - named for the statue of Rembrandt erected in the centre since 1876. We felt spoilt for choice at Rembrandtplein - restaurants, cafes and the odd coffee house occupy the square and creating a very cosmopolitan atmosphere. Thus we had no trouble in finding an indonesian restaurant to have our dinner. As we ate our delicious food, it was hard not to notice foreign visitors dining in our area.
In the end, it was a short day in the city of Amsterdam due to our late arrival, but we had already seen some of the main attractions. We had explored the Anne Frankhuis and learned of the adversities faced by the Jews under Nazi Germany before taking the long and pleasant walk down to Amstel River before having dinner. However, the weather was not looking good with the clouds overhead. Just hope our trip to the flowerfields will not be spoilt by bad weather.