I had already somewhat planned my day, I knew I would attend a free walking tour of Amsterdam in the morning. I was a little leery about the free walking tours because of my experience in Brussels, however today's tour was different, our guide was knowledgeable about Amsterdam's history and Amsterdam's culture today, the tour was fun, informative and I met a few people too.
Sandeman's New Amsterdam organized the tour, a tour guide stopped by my hostel around 10:30 am and asked if anyone was interested in the free walking tour, I was the only one who said yes. We waited a few minutes to see if anyone else showed up, when nobody did we left the hostel and walked towards the city center to Dam's Square, Amsterdam's National Monument was the meeting point for the tour. My tour guide told me about her background, she's an Amsterdam native, spent 4 years living in York England, she enjoyed England but was happy to return to her hometown. She missed the diversity of Amsterdam while living in England. We talked about the US and my trip through Europe too.
Me at Amsterdam's National Monument in Dam Square
There was a large group gathered at Dam's Square when we arrived. The tour guide who met me said there are usually more people, however the cold weather and today being the middle of the week, likely explained the smaller crowd. There were several guides for the tour, I ended up with a Canadian tour guide once we were split into groups. I wandered off to look for a snack while they were organizing the groups, when I came back I did not see the tour guide I met at the hostel so I joined another group. I did not get my snack either, not enough time to get one before the tour began, I should have gotten up in time for the free breakfast at my hostel, maybe tomorrow.
The tour took us all over Amsterdam, I will not recount every detail. We visited Amsterdam's University which used to be the VOC, Dutch East Indian Trading Company. We walked through Amsterdam's Red Light District, we saw the prostitutes scantily clad, standing in the windows, advertising their services. Our tour guide spent a lot of time talking about Amsterdam during the first and second World Wars. Amsterdam supplied arms to both sides during WWI and expected to do the same during WWII, but when Amsterdam was occupied by Nazi Germany, their plans ended.
Our tour guide discussed the discrimination Jews faced in Amsterdam, we saw the area where Rembrandt lived, that became the Jewish ghetto during WWII. The tour guide explained role Amsterdam residents played in turning over Jews in Amsterdam to the Nazis during WWII, she said it is estimated the Nazis would have only discovered 10% of the Jews in Amsterdam, if the residents had not cooperated with the SS & turned in their Jewish neighbors, etc. Our tour guide said Amsterdam is ashamed of the role it played during WWII, aiding the Nazis in locating Amsterdam's Jewish residents. A lot of the tour focused on Amsterdam while occupied by the Nazis and our tour ended near the Anne Frank house.
After the tour ended, we went to a Dutch restaurant for a traditional meal, Stamppot. The meal was delicious and filling, I went with our tour guide's recommendation and ordered the Stamppot with a meatball, the other choice was with sausage. We also stopped at FEBO, a dutch fast food restaurant during the tour, I got a croquette for a snack. This is the most local food I have eaten since my Europe tour began.
Me & Tour Group at Traditional Dutch Restaurant
After lunch I went to the Anne Frank house with a couple of people from the group, two of the people did not want to wait in the line and planned to return tomorrow. Me and a guy from San Francisco stayed, I figured my time in Amsterdam is limited and I was already there, I would wait in the line. We met a woman from Florida in line, I talked to them about how I ended up touring Europe, my experience at CIA, etc. The line moved pretty quickly, it took about half an hour for us to get into the Anne Frank museum. I went to Anne Frank's House when I was in Junior High School, I wanted to see it again as an adult. The Anne Frank museum was a moving experience, an important reminder of the evil humans are capable of doing to each other.
Me at Anne Frank's House
After Anne Frank's house I walked back towards central Amsterdam to find a place to hangout until the Red Light District Exposed Tour began. Sandemans New Amsterdam charges for the Red Light District exposed tour, I wanted to go on it, learn about the history of Amsterdam's Red Light District and legalized prostitution, etc. I found a cafe with free WIFI, ordered Mint Tea and waited about an hour until the tour began.
I returned to Dam Central, the National Monument was the meeting point for the Amsterdam Red Light District Exposed Tour. I was about 3 minutes late, I looked around and did not see any tour guides or anyone waiting for the tour, I got out my map with information about the tour. The pamphlet gave instructions to meet across the street in front of the Dam Souvenir shop if you were running late, I found the group there, collecting tickets, people buying tickets. There were two groups, an English and a Spanish tour.
The Red Light District Exposed Tour was good, I learned a lot about Amsterdam's sex industry and the liberal attitude the Dutch take towards these matters. Amsterdam's red light district is unlike any place I have ever been, legalized prostitution, prostitutes standing in windows advertising their services. Our tour guide showed us the day care the prostitutes children go to and explained a lot of wealthy families live in the neighborhood too. She said residents explain to their children at an early age about prostitution, young children are told the women in the neighborhood sell their kisses.
The Red Light District Exposed Tour ended at a bar, we were given discount tickets for drinks at the bar, I gave mine away. I had a full day and was ready to head back to the hostel, I walked four minutes to Amsterdam Centraal Station and found the Tram back to my hostel. The woman who collects fees for tickets was kind and let me ride for free. i stopped at a Dutch fast food restaurant on my way back to the hostel and bought a croquet and fries for dinner. I ate my dinner and watched the soccer game on TV, I have no idea who was playing and I could not understand the commentary.
I hung out in the common area of the hostel the rest of the night, I am still down here, there is no WIFI in our rooms. Going to head upstairs and get ready for bed, I will probably explore a couple of Amsterdam's Museums tomorrow and maybe do some laundry.
Amsterdam Day 2 Photo Album