Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Four things about Amsterdam
1. iAmsterdam card: We bought the 48-hour iAmsterdam card from the information shop in Schipol airport, and we were able to activate it when we wanted to (which ended up being on the second day, at the Tulip Museum). But I have mixed feelings about the card -- it was pretty expensive and while we did use the value of it (and a little more) and got to skip the lines, which made a difference at the Van Gogh Museum, I don't know if all of the museums were worth their entry price. They sounded interesting on paper so I suppose we would have gone in anyway (making the card a good enough deal), but I also left feeling like we spent a fair bit of money and saw a couple of good/great museums (Van Gogh and the Amsterdam Museum) along with a couple of so-so museums and a somewhat dull canal cruise. But then, maybe I'm just down on it because the weather was overcast/drizzly and cold the entire time we were there; perhaps I would have been more entranced with everything in the sunshine.
2. Booking ahead at museums: I can't recommend this enough. Every time we walked past the Anne Frank House, the line was around the corner. When we bought our iAmsterdam card at Schipol, we also bought our entry tickets for the Anne Frank House (you can do it yourself online, but we didn't have access to a printer at that point), and when we went to the museum at our chosen time, we were able to go right in. You can also pre-arrange tickets for the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum to skip the lines, though we found that the lines shrunk considerably around lunchtime.
3. Red light district: With all the fumes pouring out of the coffeeshops, I think we got high from just walking through the streets. I've already gone off on how disturbing I found this area to be, so I'll just quickly reiterate by saying there's nothing civilized or progressive about young women selling themselves, no matter how prettified it is. So why is this a tourist "attraction"?
4. Tulip fields: To end on a bright note, a Dutch acquaintance had recommended taking the train from Amsterdam to Leiden (via Haarlem) as the best way to see the flower fields. I had mentioned this a couple of weeks ago to another Dutch acquaintance, saying that I would still love to bike through the area, but he also thought the train was the way to go. So take the train!