After seeing multiple Hollywood flicks portray Amsterdam as the sin city and the only place for the "bad guys", I still had the urge and motivation to see this city. The Amsterdam I knew as a pre-teen was the land of Vincent Vangogh and Rembrant. That's the informal art education I had for over a decade
Early may mornings are the brightest in Northern Europe, for the sun is out by 5 AM. My walk into the city didn't begin until 7. I got off at the International bus station; there was not a single English speaking person at 6.30 on a Sunday morning who could help me buy a metro ticket. I tried to make a conversation with people but the language barrier became more obvious and the people appeared less friendly because I couldn't judge by their emotions. I began to feel if I will enjoy this place at all.
I did get English speaking metro staff help me with the ticket and the tourist center guide me to my hostel which was located in the famous Red Light Area of Amsterdam. Did I mention I faintly smelt the Marijuana joint from a passerby at the same time of the morning?
Being the solo female traveler, I took a walk by myself after breakfast and this is when the city opened up to me with slightly more friendly arms. The area has a charm around it. Old fashioned buildings in alleys, alleys connected by canals, canals connected by roads and roads connected by alleys. This was so confusing that I got lost in 10 minutes of stepping out. I tried to remember the shops and alleys I walked by and before I knew it, I was appreciating the women's style in beauty salons, clothes and hats hung by the souvenir shops, women clad in silky lingerie standing inside glass windows at 10 in the morning (Oh Yes! Sin City had arrived) and the sex shops. Indian as the orthodoxy is, I went into a sex shop and the lady patiently explained to me all the gadgets and their uses with a straight face, as professional as ever. Impressive!
In the evening, I took a walk along with a friend to the Central Station which is at walk able distance from the Red Light Area. There, I saw the first city tram. I felt excited as a kid to see a train on a track, without a platform and on the road as any other vehicle. And I just got on the next tram. I have no clue where it was headed but I knew south of the City which I hadn't explored yet, so it was ok. I asked to buy a ticket but the issuer in the tram probably realized my excitement of first time and said “no ticket”. These are the little things I would cherish always- first tram ride and free.
South of Amsterdam has a lively Art scene. The place I walked around is called Rembrant square. Every other shop is well designed and artistic. There are exclusive Art shops which pretty much outnumber any other store. A walk in Vondel Park gave me another nice perspective of Amsterdam. The real crowds who laze in a park, sit in cafes and run in the evenings are here. So why not be a part of them and their culture rather than be stuck in a tourist area?
Museumplein is the other hot spot I HAD to visit to satisfy the artist in me. Van Gogh musuem, Rembrant Museum, Diamond Museum all caught my eye but not my purse. After much debate with myself over the budget of the trip, I decided to pay my tributes to Van Gogh. After all, his paintings had first appealed to me in class 8 after I saw the movie “Vincent and Me”. I remembered all the paintings I worked on as a teenager, trying to get his style of energy strokes. Energy strokes are vibrant strokes of colour applied onto the canvas while painting. I had finally come to visit the Hero himself and I mentally patted my own back for making this wonderful trip happen.