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Last updated : Nov 2009
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Rating: (5.00) (1 Votes)

Amsterdam, Netherlands
April 05, 2004

Pros: A warm welcome
Cons: None

Family and Friends

I am about half way through my school semester and classes have stopped for three weeks holiday for Easter. After spending the weekend in Zell Am Ze, a gorgeous mountain village 4 hours from Vienna, I flew to Amsterdam for five great days. I spent this 8 days trip with Rachel, a girl I met from Calgary. Because I had to be back in Vienna for passover and have not yet purchased a eurail pass, flying discount airlines was the cheapest and easiest way to see Amsterdam and London. A friend Rachel met from Holland arranged for us to stay with his sister who has a great flat in Amsterdam. While I was a little hesitant about staying there with someone both had not met, she was amazing and was incredibly friendly. We took a shuttle bus to Bratislava, the capital city of Slovakia and only an hour from Vienna. The airport there is the main hub for a cheap airline called Sky Europe that flies to the Netherlands. While the airport there and likely in most of the eastern europe was archaic and chaotic, we got off the ground without delay and for only 40 euros (70 CDN) We arrived in Amsterdam at around 8 and grabbed a quick train to the Central station and then a tram to Mareka's appartment (the sister of Rachel's dutch friend) She welcomed us with open arms, our own house keys and a great room for us to share in her attic. She ordered us pizza and we chatted for a while before heading to bed for the night. The next day we headed into the city of the tram and began to explore the canal system, the red light district and in the afternoon went to The Anne Frank House. The Anne Frank house was amazingly well preserved and so interesting to actually see after reading and hearing about the secret annex for so many years. I bought some postcards and a book I hand never seen before - the biography about Otto Frank. I found it so interesting that while the diary is so famous and well read, we actually know so little about Otto, the only survivor of the Frank family. I have read almost 2/3 of the book and it is amazing. It talks about life in Amsterdam before and during the two years the family spent in the annex. The scariest part is that Amsterdam has not changed much. Jews were deported from the same central station that is used today, the streets, parks and homes still stand where they did 60 years ago. The whole experience has been an eye opener and I am going to try and find a similar survivor story from a Vienese Jew.

After walking around the whole day we returned to the apartment and rested for a while. It was so beautiful out and we thought it would be a waste to be inside. Mareka's apartment is right on the city's largest and most central park. Rachel and I decided to go for a run and were happily surprised by the number of people just sitting and enjoying the afternoon. That night we decided we were going to join the masses and rent bicycles to see the city. The bikes proved to be a great idea and we enjoyed riding around like locals all day. Rachel got into a bike crash with another tourist but was not injured. I almost crashed at the same time but only because I was laughing so hard at her accident. The dutch people are so friendly and they all speak nearly perfect English. They also smoke far less (tobacco) than the Vienese which is a nice break. After living in Vienna for nearly three months I still don't think I can live here on a full time basis. Strangely enough, after only two days I felt quite at home in Amsterdam. That afternoon I went to see the Van Gough museum while Rachel continued to bike ride. The next day we went with Mareka to the beach near the Hague to have lunch and see a museum called Maduradom. It is a miniture replica of all the famous sites in Holland - cute but mostly for children. We then went back to the city and I read the Otto Frank book in the park. It was a great afternoon and I got some sun. We left the next day for London. This part of the trip will be updated in a seperate entry.

Tonight is the first night of passover and I will be going to the head chabad rabbi's home to celebrate with his family and likely many other guests. I have spent a shabbat with them once before and it is very religious and really nice. Sometimes I am lost with the language and their traditions but they make every effort to include me. I will later post pictures of miscellaneous events that have been ongoing since I last posted in a seperate log tommorow. I wish everyone an enjoyable passover and I miss you all. Be well.