I love Amsterdam. I have been there twice and loved the canals, the old, old buildings that tilt, the windmills and the beauty of the city. When I read Rita Fridman’s wonderful guest blog she is sharing with Traveling Adventures of a Farm Girl I was taken back. This is wonderful to read about the city through the eyes of a young woman. Rita and I have been sharing stories and I am thrilled that she agreed to provide this insight into the city of canals, bicycles and cheese!
Ansterdam: An Unexpected City By Rita Fridman
From everything that I had heard, read or seen on TV, I envisioned Amsterdam to be a city predominantly dusted with a layer of debauchery, and depravity. Perhaps it was, and my youth prevented me from being able to fully recognize what was directly in front of me. At this time, I had yet to turn the corner from the naivety of my 16-year-old self to the recklessness that my later teens, and early 20’s were known for. Therefore, what I remember most about Amsterdam was the tranquility of the country, the lack of odor from the canals, and the fact that their cheese was astounding! Please don’t ask me what kind of cheese it was, because I spent a good chunk of the last 12 years trying to locate it. At this point, I’ve convinced myself that the cheese wasn’t even that good, but I have just built up this amazing taste in my mind and will be thoroughly disappointed if I ever taste it again. Regardless, it is a fond, and treasured memory.
A small confession: I barely know how to ride a bike. If it is in a straight line, and on a flat surface, I can ride a bike brilliantly. The second you throw in so much as a twig on the road, I am falling over sideways, usually into a bush full of thorns or some other similarly disastrous situation (probably a murky green canal since this is Amsterdam). Though it is common knowledge now, I was surprised at how common bicycles were in the city. As the majority of my companions went for a bike ride down the country roads, I was stranded on a tour bus waiting for everyone to finish with their daring feat of bike riding dexterity. This did, however, allow me to linger at the company that made the aforementioned mind-blowing cheese: the Clara Maria Cheese Factory and Clog Farm. In this old farmhouse, they allow you to sample their various cheeses as well as watch them make them. In a separate little building is a gift shop that sells hand painted wooden clogs in all sizes. Later that night we sat in the hallways of our hotel and ate cheese and crackers.
If you ever find yourself in Amsterdam, one attraction you must visit is the Anne Frank House. The stairs in this house are uneven, and so tiny, and cramped that being 5’9 trying to maneuver my way up to the attic was challenging at best. Despite the effort, it was worth it. Considering that I have Jewish heritage, and this was my first foray into anything having to do with this side of my history, it was tremendously moving. I felt connected in a way I didn’t think I would. But even those without roots in Judaism should visit this house, if for nothing more than to be able to say they have stepped foot in the house that Anne Frank hid in during WWII.
Overall, the trip was 12 years ago and there are aspects of it I remember so vividly, I forget that I am not a teenager anymore. Though my goal is always to visit a new place before going back to a somewhere previously explored, I would make an exception for Amsterdam. I feel that it is hard to appreciate a city as intricate as this at such a young age, and my grown up sense of wanderlust would welcome the second chance to experience it with a new perspective.