Not my favourite city, but interesting nonetheless.
After pitching tents, showering and resting we headed into town. We know the reputation the city has, and the atmosphere on the campsite did nothing to dispel it! The ride into town didn’t either, and we were reminded immediately that it was Saturday Night as hoards of drunken Brits, on stag weekends and lads weekends etc, filled the street bars, shouting obscenities, being sick and generally celebrating the expected hedonism of the city.
We headed for the tourist information office which turned out to close at 6pm, so without a city map or any direction of where to go to see cultural sights or places to eat, we set off to ride around. We soon found a large noticeboard map close to the Anne Frank Huis, and it had ‘i’ labelled at various points around the city. Some of these minor info offices may still be open? It turns out that they were not general tourist info, they were gay tourist info, who became hostile when we asked for general information.
So still without a map, we managed to find a Falafel shop for tea, and sat by the river eating. Then headed back to the campsite, a little overwhelmed and disappointed.
The next morning we went to a church we had seen on the internet and after the service we spoke to some of the locals to see what we should head for. How do enjoy the city without engaging in pornography, drugs and homosexuality? The confirmed that it is difficult, but pointed out a few places on a vague map we had found, one of them being the Museum Quarter. A guided walking tour is often a good way to get to know a city, but all of the tours we saw were proud that they spent much of the time exploring the red-light district, somewhere we did not want to go to, so Jonny and I headed to the museums.
The Van Gogh museum was ‘sold out for today’ according to the ticket office in the park, but further investigation revealed that you can queue up for tickets, which is what we did. So 40 mins later we enjoyed an overview of Van Gogh’s work through his life. It was interesting to consider what influence a simple chap has had on the cultural history of Europe. As he sat on that dune experimenting with colour, did he know that one day thousands of people would be queuing to see his work?
[It seems that I never finished this post originally, and only now some years later (9/6/17) have I come across the unpublished draft. That seems a shame, so I will publish it now, and I may even add a few more thoughts that linger in the memory.]
In the Museum quarter there was also a large I AMSTERDAM sign, as there was at the station. It was full of people having their photographs taken, so we followed suit. But we also made a plan to get up early the next day to try and get one without other people in it! We succeeded.
And since we were up early we were also able to get in the queue for the Anne Frank Huis before it got unbearably long.
At some point we also attended a geocaching event, not for long, but my first international event!
I also remember arriving back at the campsite to someone singing opera well into the night.