Even though Bruges and Amsterdam have endless canals, the two cities are completely different. We arrived in Amsterdam around 9 pm on Sunday, just in time for thousands of excited, happy Amsterdam soccer fans to pour into the train station. We walked off the train into a sea of red jerseys, flags and cheering Dutch fans. It was quite a site. I was tempted to remind them who beat them in the World Cup (cough Spain) but I didn´t want to get beat up so I decided to keep my mouth shut. Anyways, after making it to our hostel we climbed into bed and decided to wake up early to explore the city. We woke up, stepped outside and found ourselves standing in spitting rain that to our disappointment lasted basically the whole weekend. But of course that didn´t deter us from having fun! We started the day by visiting the Anne Frank house, which while very sad, was also extremely interesting. After reading the book several times during middle and high school, I found it completely fascinating to be standing in the same room, the same kitchen and climbing the same steep stairs as Anne Frank. However, I kept reminding myself that she is just 1 of 1000s of children who lost their lives during the horrible events of the Holocaust and was one of many who were forced into hiding when the Nazis took control of several countries. Later that day we followed the endless canals, wondered around parks and discovered the awesomeness of the free samples in the many cheese shops spread throughout Amsterdam. My two favorite were pesto cheese and cumin cheese, I am still mystified as to how they made these amazing cheeses! To end our day, we took a 1 hour canal cruise that brought us to some of the most famous sites in Amsterdam and explained some of the city´s history.
The next day, Amanda and I went on a fantastic walking tour. These tours are technically free, although the tour guide asks for tips at the end. For anyone coming to Europe, I would highly recommend this as the tour guides are energetic and take you everywhere in the city. I went on these walking tours in Barcelona, Madrid and Amsterdam and all were wonderful and beyond informative. The main theme that the tour guide wanted to express to us was the high tolerance and acceptance that Amsterdammers have for people of all different cultures, religions, sexual orientations, languages and ethnicities. Even during the Nazi occupation, many Amsterdammers revolted and fought against the Nazi regime, despite known punishments they might receive. Today, Amsterdam is an extremely diverse city, and for the majority of the time, people from all walks of life get along with each other. As a Peace and Conflict studies concentrator I found this very interesting and hopeful. After the great walking tour, Amanda and I went to the Heineken Museum where we were able to learn about the brewing process and have a few sips of the famous Heineken beer! Many think of Amsterdam as a place that only consists of sex and drugs, but in reality it has much more to offer. While passing through the red light district and smelling the aroma after walking by a ¨coffee shop¨ was very strange and thought provoking for me, I soon realized that Amsterdam has an extensive culture and history beyond the stereotypical ¨sex and drugs¨. The Anne Frank house, beautiful canals, countless museums, international gastronomy and the simple entertainment of people watching are just a few things that Amsterdam was to offer. After my time in Amsterdam concluded, we were quite sad as Amanda and I realized this was our last trip during on study abroad experience. While I have done extremely well in my European travels and have absolutely loved exploring new cultures and tasting new cuisines, there are still dozens of cities I have yet to visit…but I guess I will just have to return. Only of course after refilling my bank account…especially after this year!