Monday, November 26, 2012

12 Things I Learned in Amsterdam

I've never been much of a history buff, or a dates and facts and knowledge buff for that matter, so when I started planning my trip to Amsterdam, I began racking my brain for all the things I thought I knew about the Dutch. They wear wooden shoes, I thought. And make cheese! And there may be something about windmills, but I read Don Quixote in Spanish class and am fairly certain Dutch people don't speak Spanish. That last one really threw me for a loop, but as I reflected on these Dutch ideals, I realized I didn't know too much about our friends in Holland.

While most of my predisposed notions of the Netherlands proved to be true, or sort of true, depending on how you define "wear," I learned so much more! Here are 12 things I learned (and/or confirmed), in no particular order of importance or even in order of what would logically make sense, told inevitably through some of my favorite photographs from the trip.

1. There are wooden shoes everywhere! Take this shoe, for example, just laying on the ground of a farm. A private farm, which begs the question, why was I [allegedly] trespassing on a private farm? But the real point here is that there are wooden shoes. Wooden shoes! Could you believe that? And they are everywhere! Everywhere save for the feet of the Dutch (in my experience, at least).

2. When you consider how young the United States is, it's not too incredibly difficult to then deduce that everything in Europe must be really old. When you tend to keep the US's birth certificate out of the way in your back pocket, which is buttoned so you don't lose things and therefore not easily accessible, you tend to forget and are subsequently surprised time and time again, over and over at every corner you turn where you see a building that has been standing longer than your country has had its freedom.

3. Perhaps in relation to my second learning, as a result of being really old, some buildings are quite crooked and skewed, as evident here.

4. Dutch is not unlike English were you to take the letters in an English word, multiply them by two then add, say, 3-5 additional letters - or words for that matter - preferably some F's, A's, the word "plein," "huis," or "hof," but totally up to your discretion.

5. Now, I'm about to tell you something crazy. It's something I felt early on in the trip and still struggle to come to terms with even now, days after returning home. Anne Frank lived here, people. This should come as no surprise to those of you who diligently studied your history materials and have a memory that holds up over time, but even in knowing prior to my trip that the secret annex was located in Amsterdam, I still can't seem to grasp my mind around it at all.

In all seriousness, though, the Anne Frank Huis was an incredible experience, inspiration and true testament to a beautiful person who suffered so greatly at the cruel hands of hatred.

"Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart." Anne Frank

"Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don't know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!" Anne Frank

6. It's a beautiful idea, really, that a city could exist and function primarily without the use of cars, but the harsh reality is that biking is dangerous and scary. And biking without a helmet poses a serious threat to even the most experienced of bikers, like myself of course. Don't get me wrong, I loved biking everywhere, but as the causer of nearly six accidents with cars and other bikes alike, I think I speak for all of Amsterdam when I say this: biking is hard, y'all.

7. I'm not completely sure how, but flowers seem to have a higher tolerance to cold in Amsterdam. Take these flowers, for instance. It was a windy, chilly, foggy day (classic Amsterdam!), yet they're just hanging outside this building looking all pretty.

8. There's some pretty bizarre fruit in Amsterdam, which is ironic considering I didn't eat any fruit while I was there save for some pears (presumably, or definitely, canned) that were on my pancake. With ice cream. And chocolate sauce. And whipped cream. And powdered sugar.

9. For what it's worth, which is probably only a few euros, I have some advice to those of you looking to bring flowers back to the United States. You see, there are flowers to be found everywhere in Amsterdam, even in the blistery pre-winter months - real flowers, wooden flowers, seed packets, bulbs. As a citizen and resident on likely the most stringent country on earth when it comes to customs and immigration and blah blah blah, the tulip bulbs I so thoughtfully purchased, packaged and carried all the way to the United States for my mom and sisters were confiscated immediately upon my arrival. Here's a note to anyone who tries to do the same: make sure you have the certification paper when you buy. Or just get the wooden ones and call it a day. It's as simple as that. Is this common knowledge?

10. There's something about colorful leaves that just gets me every time. Amsterdam seemed to have a lot of variations of yellow, but not much red, which I'm ok with because red isn't really my thing if I'm being perfectly honest. But, of course, go Dawgs!

11. Windmills serve a purpose of which I am slightly unsure. Something about moving water or bridges, maybe. The oddest part I learned was that there's a man (or woman or family) who lives inside and operates the windmill. Isn't that fascinating?

12. The last of my musings on Amsterdam should come as no surprise: everything is beautiful. And so I leave you with a few more photos.

1 comment: