Took me long enough to write this post... But here we goo!! Amsterdam!!
This is such a beautiful city, the buildings are absolutely beautiful, and the weather was perfect this day! So I took a ton of pictures, so now when I go back I don't have to take pictures of everything like a tourist. In Amsterdam, basically we spent the whole day getting a walking tour of the city. We really walked everyyywhere. Each tour ended up being different though. Although I'm glad we had the guide we did, because she was the one who made the tour, so we got all the history of Amsterdam and saw everything there was to see for a tourist, while some of the other groups didn't have as much of that, they had sillier tours. So I'm happy it worked out the way it did. So Elizabeth (our AFS guide) started off by telling us to look out for two things, bikes, and trams. As a pedestrian, you are basically the equivalent of a bug,
so you have to watch out you don't get smushed by yourself. No one is going to stop for you. Pedestrians < Bikes < Cars < Busses < Trams. So trams always have the right of way, and their rails are right where people walk so... You really have to keep an eye out. So this building is.. nice. I don't remember what it is, all I remember is that its in the Chinese area of Amsterdam, and that it is now a restaurant and the place we were standing used to be underwater.
None of these pictures are in order, but that's okay, it doesn't matter the order. So these buildings, as you can see are crooked. I first thought that this was because they are starting to sink from old age, but it's actually how the buildings were built. They were built this way so that you could bring furniture into your upper levels. Houses in Amsterdam have very small staircases, so it's hard to move furniture in and out. So if you look closely you can see (for lack of a better word) pieces of white wood sticking off of them, just, the things sticking straight out on the top!! These are the pulleys that are used to pull the furniture up. so, these buildings are built so that when the furniture is being pulled up, it wouldn't hit the house, so they're built a little bit unusual, but for a smart reason
And this is the narrowest house in Amsterdam. It is only 2.02 meter wide, and I'm not really sure how one would live in it, but somehow they did! (or still do..?) But it's a very typical tourist attraction now, so living in it would be pretty annoying. I can't remember if I've mentioned this, but the Dutch do not have curtains on their windows. If you do, it signifies you have something to hide from your neighbors, so if you were to live in a place like this now, it would be really annoying to have tourists looking into your windows all day long. So most houses do not have curtains, and sometimes you see a house with half curtains, but you can still clearly see into the house. That's me in the picture by the way, I don't know which countries the kids that are standing near me are from, because they weren't in my group. Oh and that's also
my school bag that I bought here. Which is typically dutch. Most girls use bags or small (key word SMALL) backpacks at school, and well, everywhere else. They take this bag to hockey with their hockey things in it, to school with their books, and to the city or anywhere. They seem to be pretty durable bags though, since most of their life is spent on the back of a bike in the rain. I really like it a lot.
So the picture above is Anne-Claire, Linda and I. Linda is another foreign exchange student, but she is from Argentina. This picture is of the old city hall on the Central Dam Square. It is now a palace, and has been since 1806. But Dam Square is located in the center of Amsterdam and is apparently one of the largest in Europe. This square is named after the National Monument located in the Dam, which is a marble obelisk that is 22 meters high. This monument is dedicated to soldiers killed during World War II. Here is the monument.
So this is a really important square in the Netherlands, because every year on May 4th they celebrate "Nationale Dodenherkenking", which is a remembrance of the dead. This day commemorates all civilians and members of the armed forces of the "Kingdom of the Netherlands" who have died in wars or peacekeeping missions since the outbreak World War II. So, this includes the other peacekeeping and military missions that have happened since this war. The Queen comes here to this square with the rest of the royal family and cabinet members, etc. At 8p.m. on this day, there is two minutes of silence through out the Netherlands. Everything stops. Public transport is stopped (or isn't running at this time), as well as other traffic. Radio and TV only broadcast the ceremonies from 19.00 to 20.30.
This is a building that is a massive shopping center, and its near the square. But the buildings are really so beautiful here. (And if you're reading this Mr. Eckerson I know why!) This is because of the trade with the East by the Dutch East India company. They were one of the richest nations in the world during the 1700's, and this really framed the architecture of the city. Many of the canal houses were built in the 17th Century during the boom time of the Golden Age. Each of them has a gabled roof facade in a shape that is unique to the Netherlands, and they are just beautiful. So the Netherlands has these beautiful buildings that are under-appreciated because of the label Amsterdam has throughout Europe, and everywhere else. I think it's because people don't really think of going to the Netherlands to
see the cities, even though Amsterdam is if not, one of the more beautiful European Cities I have seen in my travels. So go visit the Netherlands! It was more established and secure in its economy a longer time ago, so the buildings are old and nice and not falling apart like in Athens! The Holy Roman empire lasted a long time remember.. the Dutch were already trading in the East before Germany was even a solidified country. But my point is the Netherlands is really a beautiful country that is under appreciated, and it's a nice country to go visit. SO GO VISIT!! There is just as much history as anywhere else, just, Dutch History. Yeah, a rant, I guess I feel some attachment to this country.
So the picture above is the back of the flower markett, and this is one of the insides! They really all look the same, and seem to all be selling the same things. Lots of seeds, all kinds of seeds, of course tulips and then some places sell already grown flowers too. Okay sooo I forgot to upload a few pictures. But I will just tell you about them. One other place we went was the Begijnhof, which is one of the oldest inner courts in Amsterdam. It is a really beautiful and quiet place in the city, and it is a really nice place to see or just to relax from walking in the city all day.
The oldest house is also here, It's an old wooden house that they have restored and it's from the Middle Ages. We also saw the outside of the Anne-Frank Museum which is SO unimpressive I didn't want to put a picture up. It's been modernized on the outside, but apparently a lot of the inside is still the same, but it's not very nice looking on the outside... So this is where we ended our tour, in front of the Rijksmuseum, where this lovely sign I AMsterdam is located. So we of course had to take a picture with all of the foreign exchange students. There might be a few random people that aren't an exchange student, like the guy walking at the end of the picture, but this is all of us. And there is a lott. So it was hard to take this picture because everyone wants to climb all over this art piece. In the picture below of Anne-Claire and I, some random people have already climbed onto the sign, but me and her are below the M arches.
So after this we went shopping in the city with some other AFS kids. It was really fun with Anne-Claire and I'm glad she got to meet all the other students and see what everyone is like and well, why they choose Holland! We navigated the city, me with my map and Anne-Claire by knowing where the shopping street was, leading all of the kids that came with us around. It was a really fun day, and then we all ate and got back on the train to go home. I'm sure I will go back to Amsterdam many times, and see many of the museums there during this year. But that was our day in Amsterdam!