'Imagination will take you everywhere'
Amsterdam is stereotypically known as the place of prostitutes, Marijuana and canals – a city where almost anything seems to be legal. In Britain it is mostly regarded as a cheap holiday destination for stag dos and hen nights – somewhere you can really let your hair down. Some say it is like Venice only less spectacular. Except that I’ve discovered quite the opposite. The Dutch capital is far more than a place of cheap and dirty thrills (although you will find many Brits completely wasted come midnight). It is a city bursting with energy, culture and excitement, with a vibrant, quirky and trendy atmosphere which pervades through the cobbled streets (check out Dutch Design Year, the coolest interiors shop). The architecture is elaborate and sophisticated with a rough edge – simpler and less complex than the maze of smelly canals and dingy alleyways that make up Venice.
Art is the main attraction within the city, with some of the best museums in Europe exhibiting artwork from the great Dutch masters (Rembrandt, Vermeer, Van Gogh) as well as outsiders (Monet, Grayson Perry, William Klein). When I was visiting I was lucky enough to indulge my love of art – I went to the Van Gogh Museum, the Stedelijk Museum, Foam Photography Museum, EYE Film Institute, Utrecht Central Museum and Gemeente Museum (the Coco Chanel exhibition) in Den Haag. By the end I felt like a brainwashed zombie walking around the museum with dry eyes – to say it was a museum overdose would be an understatement. But I saw and learnt so much about art that I would have never dreamt of viewing in the flesh (I admit I felt a certain rush when examining a Van Gogh self-portrait). Nothing can compare to seeing the artist’s brushstrokes up close – no photograph can do the real thing justice. I’ll post reviews of the exhibitions very soon. The public library is also worth a visit purely for its size – not to mention the dramatic modern architecture and splendid restaurant at the top with views over the city.
The history of the city is also impressive. Anne Frank’s house is a tall and uncomplicated façade which hides the sad, yet fascinating and inspirational story which went on behind the grey brickwork. A small, shining silver plaque on the outside is all that alerts passers-by to this famous house. Inside the hiding place in which her family hid, it’s hard not to be moved by their courage and determination to defy the Nazis’. Upon entering Anne’s bedroom you are met with a normal teenage girl’s room; family photos are stuck on the wall next to newspaper cut-outs of beautiful screen sirens, handsome men and even pictures of a young Princess Elizabeth II. In the basement Frank’s original diary lies protected under a glass dome – an astounding demonstration of her talent and wish to become a writer. In the end her wish would come true; she is now world-famous for her writing.
I urge anyone to visit Amsterdam – the people, sights and cultural attractions are incredible. Just mind you don’t get hit by a cyclist (the city is crawling with them).