Had a smooth and easy trip from Dar to Amsterdam. Dare I say that when you're traveling Business Class you almost don't even want the 9 1/2 hour flight to end! People have been incredibly friendly to me all the way. One of my suitcases was extremely damaged (read: ruined) and a wonderful porter helped me file a claim and get a taxi. He was awesome.
My hotel is located right at the Central Station so it's a (pretty noisy) hub of public and tourist transport. There are lots of places to walk to from here, including the popular Dam Square. Yesterday when I arrived I first took a 3-hour nap. That was pretty great. Then I bought a "hop on/hop off" bus ticket and rode around the city to get a feel for it/see some sights listening to an audio tour on headphones. I tried to visit the Anne Frank House but the line was already 2 hours long and I would have missed the last bus back if I waited. Plus there was absolutely no way my feet were up for standing in a 2-hour line before even getting inside and climbing those stairs.
So this morning I started bright and early and was among the first visitors in to the Anne Frank House when it opened at 9 am. Having studied "The Diary of Anne Frank" in high school and acted in the play, also in high school, I felt some connection to this special place. I have heard people say that they were surprised at how "big" it is...which sounds strange, because it is not really big, but it is actually bigger than you do imagine it to be. I can see that now. It was a little eerie to be in the same place where Anne and her family were hiding. It felt sacred in some way. Surprisingly to me, the thing I found to be the most emotional was seeing her actual original diary. I have no idea why that affected me so much, but it did. The museum is very nicely done and is a truly loving and honest tribute to her life and experience and the symbol she has come to represent over these many decades. I am so grateful for the chance to visit.
I then moved on to the Van Gogh Museum. There are lots of recommended museums here in Amsterdam, but this one seemed to be the "must see" that everyone told me about. It did not disappoint. It was very well organized and planned, and the audio tour I listened to was interesting. This is my favorite piece that I saw:
Almond Blossoms (1890).
Van Gogh painted this upon learning that his brother, with whom he was very close, had a baby boy. The almond blossoms are meant to symbolize new life and I just love the way he painted the close up instead of the whole tree. I think the prego in me liked the symbolism for the baby, as well as the fact that almonds make me think of Kristoffer, who loves them. It was interesting to see up close that Van Gogh actually painted the blue "background" after he painted the rest of tree and blossoms...so even though it is the background, he painted the blue parts last and up close you can see the layering.
Anyway, the museum was lovely. I spent the next couple of hours sitting in a park, reading my book, eating various snacks, people watching and walking around a bit (mostly just to find my next bus). I got back to my hotel neighborhood a little bit after 2pm and then walked around this neighborhood for another hour before my feet were too angry with me to continue. I am proud that I managed to not only take the tourist bus, but also the public tram and public bus. It is always a great accomplishment to figure out the public transport system in a new city! Luckily, people here a very friendly and helpful (as a friend in Nairobi wrote me, "it's not France!"), and I'm sure my big belly helped garner a little empathy.
Two other things I've noticed: the city looks really clean despite not that many trash cans around. How are they doing that? And, I have seen absolutely no signs of poverty here. No homeless people anywhere. Where are they? I mean, truly it is wonderful if there is not a LOT of poverty here...but I don't totally believe that there is none at all. But go Amsterdam for making a great, clean impression of an equitable city!
Tired now, I've been reading and writing and watching a little TV in my room. It feels a little too quiet without the kiddos, if you know what I mean. I think I could spend days in this city - there is SO much more to see and do. Next time I'll bring Kristoffer with me though, and for now I'm glad I had the chance to get a feel for it here. There is just something I always love about walking around a city on a beautiful day. But I am ready to get my travel on tomorrow and once in Massachusetts, I'll stay there for awhile.
Back on the home-front in Dar, I hear life is going well. Kristoffer sent me the best video ever yesterday...have you ever heard sweeter laughter?!
See you on the other side of the pond.