Flying into Schiphol International Airport, it was quite easy and fast to get to the historic heart of Amsterdam. A short train journey, and I arrived at the edge of the old city.  I headed to my hotel by tram, a convenient option for getting to the various neighborhoods and squares throughout the city.

Use the tram

My hotel

 

After an overnight stay at the art deco Amsterdam American Hotel in Leidseplein (Leides Square), I grabbed an early breakfast in the stained-glass and wood decor of their Café Americain, and headed out to explore as the city was just starting to awaken.  Right in Leides Square, I found the Stadsschouwburg (Municipal Theater).  The English name doesn’t conjure up a spectacular image, but this neo-renaissance building makes quite a statement.  I just wish I had time to see a show. In the opposite direction, the Rijksmuseum (Reichs Museum) was a 5 minute walk. Amsterdam is a city that has strong art influences, and the Reichs Museum has pieces from many masters such as Rembrandt. The Van Gogh museum is across town.

Municipal Theater - an uninteresting name for an intriguing building

 

I wandered through many neighborhoods, albeit avoiding the red light district.  Nothing there that I wanted to see, that’s for sure. My favorite places included the shops and historic buildings around Dam Square (sounds funny when you say it, I know) and walking along the canals.  Calm water, houseboats, walking bridges, and multi-story homes right along the canals.  And bicycles.  There are bicycles everywhere in Amsterdam.  Well, in all of Holland.  The country is quite flat, making it ideal for self-propelled transportation.  I almost collided with a bicycle a couple of times. Look both ways when crossing the street…just be sure to look for cars, trams, *and* bicycles.

One of the many canals - each with its own personality

Bicycles and boats - commonplace transportation

Bloomenmarkt - I wanted to spend more time in the city's flower market

 

Amsterdam is where I discovered the shwarma.  This is one of the great benefits of travel – discovering new food.  After working up a voracious appetite exploring the city, I stopped at a tiny walk-up restaurant just off Leides Square.  There were many toppings to choose from to custom build my lamb and pita bread sandwich. Standing in the street, I ate one of those meals to remember for a lifetime.  So simple. So delicious.  So not Dutch.

The little street where I discovered the shwarma

 

One of Amsterdam’s unfortunate claims to fame is the story of Anne Frank.  This young Jewish girl and her family hid from the Nazis in a secret section of a home in Amsterdam.  After being in hiding for two years, the family arrested after being betrayed.  They were  taken to Auschwitz concentration camp along with the other family that was in hiding with them. Only her father survived.  Anne’s diary, written during their two years of hiding, has made this story famous.  You can visit the hiding place today.  Be prepared for a sobering experience.

The view outside Anne Frank's house (no pics allowed inside)

 

 

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