Sunday, September 14, 2014

Netherlands Adventures!: My First Time in Amsterdam

Note: this post is going to be quite long, mostly due to the number of pictures I included.

On Friday, I went to Amsterdam with Abby, Kristin, Marika, and our program director, Steef.  We woke up really early in order to get to Leiden Centraal (train station) by 9am.  It was weird bbeing at the train station-- I haven't been to the train station since 27 August when I arrived in Leiden.  It was really nice to be there and not be hyper-stressed the way I was that Wednesday.

From Leiden Centraal to Amsterdam Centraal was about a 30 minute journey one-way.  Not bad at all.  Since we arrived at the train station in good time, Steef stopped and showed us how to manage the Dutch train system-- it's much easier than I thought.  I have yet to hop on a train by myself, but the prospect of taking a train somewhere no longer terrifies me.  So that's nice.

Canal Tour By Boat

Once we arrived in Amsterdam and got off the train, we immediately hopped on a boat for a boat tour.  Here are some pictures from that part of the trip:

Parking garages for your bike :)

It's a peculiar bird.

Lots of boats tied up here!  Also, there were a lot of houseboats.  Some legal, and some illegal.
A very adorable car :)

The roofs are all different from each other.  Also, there are beams sticking out of the roof.  I found out that that beam is used
to hoist furniture up to different floors.  Because the stairwells are so tiny, it's much easier to lift things up and put them on a different floor through the window.
Our Lord in the Attic

After the boat tour (I don't think I'd like to do boat tours any more, by the way), we hopped out and started walking around the old part of Amsterdam.  Yeah, that also happens to be the Red Light District (I'll talk about that later in this post).  The next thing we did was go visit a place called Our Lord in the Attic.  Our Lord in the Attic is a formerly hidden Catholic church.  There was a time in Dutch history when Protestantism was becoming a bigger thing than Catholicism.  So Catholics were forced out of their churches/cathedrals so they could be used for the protestant denominations.  After that, Catholics went and built small places of worship that were set way far back on the property (that way, if you looked around the corner, you wouldn't see it-- you'd have to be standing right in front of the church to see it) or they created churches that were hidden in houses.  That's what Our Lord in the Attic is.  In the attics of three homes that stand next to each other, a complete church was built and over 150 people attended each Sunday while the church was operating.  Here are some pictures:

We had to put on these fancy foot covers to protect the floor.
They managed to fit a whole organ in this
hidden church!!!

God was just chilling on the ceiling.

Actually, side note: I don't think I've ever seen God as part of church decoration.  Jesus, yes,
but never God.  So that's a new thing for me.
There was even a confessional!
An altar for the Virgin Mary.  On the audio tour we were on, it said that there was a tradition--
after a bride was married, it was customary for her to come back to this altar (behind the sanctuary)
and pray to Mary, giving her wedding bouquet as tribute.  I thought that that was beautiful.
Yeah, try moving house on these stairs.  You're not to get a couch or a bed frame up that.
The view outside one of the windows of the church.
The Red Light District

I think one of the most talked about things when it comes to Amsterdam (after marijuana and Anne Frank, maybe) is the Red Light District.  The Red Light District takes up most of the old part of the city, which was where we did most, if not all of, our walking.  So yes, we did walk past the well-talked about windows with the women standing/sitting behind them, waiting for someone to come and solicit their services.  A lot of the women in the windows looked really bored.  They were on their phones, talking to the lady next to them and... that's it.  We saw one man come out from behind a window and another guy go up and knock on the window before leaving (either being sent away or changing his mind, I'm not sure).  This is a really interesting part of Amsterdam for me, because I don't understand it.  I have a lot of questions.  I want to know how many people are working in this industry in Amsterdam, what the ratio of men to women in this industry is, how many people were forced into this system and how many people are in the industry by choice... I'll have to do a little research.

There won't be any pictures for this section.  As Steef told us before we walked past the first windows, if you try to take pictures, the women will come out from behind their window and throw your camera in the canal or throw you in the canal (paraphrased, of course).  I knew that pictures were not allowed, but I didn't realize just how much pictures weren't allowed.

Around the City on Foot

This is closer to a more touristy part of the city, but look!  So many flowers!  This is a really striking shop!
Traffic jam on the canal... oops.
Me, Kristin, Marika, and Abby
Oh!  We found a macaroon shop and decided to stop it.  Macaroons are the last things I expected to see here.
I had a champagne-flavored macaroon.  It was smooth going down and had a very rich aftertaste.  So good!
This artist is anonymous.  Apparently sometimes art like this just shows up.  This one is in the government building.
How Dutch-- so many bikes in so many colors!

I wish I could remember the art museum that this is apart of... I'll have to return and explore.  But when we walked into this museum, there was a carpet outside that said "Walk on Art" and I didn't really understand what that meant until we came in and saw this giant carpet.  It turns out each square on the carpet represents a different country, although not all countries are represented.  I found the U.S. (upper right) and France (lower right), among others.
This is what our excursions/tours are like.  Steef went to school for history and art history, so he's an excellent guide.  Our group is incredibly small, so it's an even better set up.  I can't even imagine what it would be like to walk around with a group of fourteen people through Amsterdam.
So that was my day in Amsterdam!  I'm definitely going back soon.  My friend Marie, from France, is coming to visit me this weekend.  I might go with her, although I haven't figured out what she wants to do while she's here.  If we decide not to go back this weekend, I will go on the 23rd when I don't have classes.  I really, really want to see Anne Frank's house, and soon.

Amsterdam is a great city to visit and explore, however I'm glad that I'm living in Leiden this semester.  Amsterdam is loud and bustling, but Leiden is a pretty quiet place.  Well, there are more quiet places, any way.

Until next time!  Tot Ziens!



  1. Your dad and I just looked at all your pictures together - what a FUN day for you! We can't wait to see some of these things too! Love you!

  2. I love the "Our Lord in the Attic" - I have never seen that. Foot covers are common in Europe - it actually is a smart idea. You take great photos, and you really must allow your family to go on a canal tour - even it you wander the RLD when you do that.


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