I’ve been to Amsterdam a few times before, but I was too young to appreciate it properly. It is an absolutely lovely city, lined with attractive three/ four-storey townhouses and inhabited by people almost as tall – or so it seemed to me from my 5ft 1in point of view. Although lethal when on their bikes (everyone cycles in Amsterdam), the Dutch people I encountered were without exception kind and helpful to us.
The first day was uncharacteristically warm for the Netherlands, so my fellow travellers and I decided to make the most of the glorious weather. We walked alongside the Bloemenmarkt, home to innumerable tulip bulbs; basked in the sun on a jetty by the canal; and looked over rooftops and church spires from the tower of a church-turned university. We also managed to stumble upon an Auschwitz memorial in Wertheim Park: a set of broken mirrors distorting the reflection of the sky, to symbolise how what lies above us has been irreparably changed by the horrific events of the Holocaust.
We started the second day with a visit to the world-famous Anne Frank Museum, and followed up this sombre event with pancakes (as you do). The impact of the museum hit me later on as I traversed the city, aware that this was a luxury not afforded the Frank family and other Jews living in the Netherlands in the 1940s.
My post-lunch solitary stroll allowed me to really take in the feel of the city. Just to walk parallel to the endless rows of manicured townhouses and become lost in thought, was to me a highlight of the trip. When the afternoon rain made an abrupt appearance, I took cover in a church being used as an exhibition space for a wildly varied collection of designer wedding dresses.
After an amusing-yet-harrowing evening in the Red Light District, off to the Van Gogh Museum we went for a wholly different, but equally surreal experience . Having only really been exposed to his famous sunflowers, it was a pleasant surprise to see that there was so much more to Van Gogh than his better-known still life paintings, including his series of early paintings idealising the peasant lifestyle and a number of works inspired by Japanese prints. I will leave you with my favourites from the museum, chosen because I’m so fond of the vibrant and surrealist colour palette used to craft them.