Amsterdam Day 2 (Part 3)

After the quick noodle meal, we came face to face with the Tuschinski Theatre. Despite the neo-Gothic-cum-Art-Nouveau façade, it is actually a modern cinema. We did not have time for movies, so a quick photo was all that we took.

The craze turned into a tulip-mania, when fortunes were won and lost through tulips

At the end of the street we came to the famous Bloemenmarkt (Flower Market). This busy area is where you could find cut flowers, plants, bulbs, seeds and garden supplies. Quite the place if you have a green thumb. Surprisingly, the tulips did not originate from Amsterdam, they were actually from Turkey. The craze turned into a tulip-mania, when fortunes were won and lost through tulips. Luckily the bubble burst way back in the 1600s, otherwise we would be dealing in tulips rather than cash.

It was still drizzling as we made our way through the flower/tulip shops. “We could have bought a couple of these bulbs if the weather back home was much more favourable to support them,” claimed the wife. It is her favourite flower after all. Next to the Bloemenmarkt is the Koningsplein. Here you can find the raw herring, one of the commodities that put Amsterdam as a vital trading post.

“I wonder how did they built their houses?” asked the wife.

“Why?”

“They don’t look straight enough,” came the answer. Well, as you can see for yourself in the next picture.

No rulers used (click to enlarge)

We walked all the way to Huidenstraat to find Chocolaterie Pompadour. This place came recommended by a Spotter. Too bad we were still full from our lunch, but we got ourselves a couple of raspberry a la neige for breakfast tomorrow.

Tarts on display

Het Grachtenhuis

We made it just in time for the last visit. The Het Grachtenhuis — Gateway to the Canals, reopened in March 2012. This is one of the museums covered by the iAmsterdam card. Although photography is allowed, it is of less use when the display is in multimedia format. Yes, this is a multimedia museum. It tells the story of how Amsterdam was built. How the canals were dug and how they fortified the city while undergoing construction. You will be stepping on sand, watching interactive videos and having a human guide to take you through the journey. At the end of the multimedia extravaganza, you could even map out your itinerary and have them printed it out for you!

Westerkerk

Using the tall steeple of the Westerkerk as a landmark, we began to walk along the canals, lined with small cars and bikes. Most of the shops were closed for the day. We could still peep into their windows though. The walk was a pleasant one albeit a little windy for our liking, the rain has stopped and people were either walking home or going for dinner.

Westerkerk (click to enlarge)

The church was built back in the 1600s, and probably famous as an abode for Descartes who wrote his Treaties on the Passions of the Soul.

“Nowadays it is famous for being a windbreaker,” I said.

‘Wind what?”

“Windbreaker”, while pointing at a couple of teenagers crouching beside the church walls trying to light what I hope is a cigarette instead of what it really is.

There is a tourist kiosk at the Westerkerk for the LGBT community

The area around Westerkerk is also famous for a few other things. Number 1, there is a stall outside the church underneath the branches of the tree that serves as an ‘alternative’ tourist guide. Yes, this is not your traditional touristy kiosk, this is for the LGBT community.

“The what? LGBT?”, exclaimed the wife. “Yes, because the Westerkerk is also home to the Homomonument”

“Homo-what?”

“Homomonument. A tongue twister and you are sitting on it.”

“No way, I am sitting on a triangle, nothing LGBT about it.”

“Well, it is part of 3 triangles that make up the Homomonument. Come closer to the water’s edge to see where they place the flowers,” I urged.

The last icon about the place is that it is very near to Anne Frank Huis. Yes, the famous Anne Frank of Anne Frank’s Diary. How about that? Three ‘Anne Frank’ in a row.

Anne Frank Huis

The queue is always long every day when it is open for business. So if you want to visit, try to come early or come just before they are about to close. Unfortunately, despite visiting Amsterdam twice in the last 10 years, I never came close to visiting it.

Tip: Don’t be fooled by the new wing pictured here. Anne Frank’s original address was No. 263, which is two doors away from the corner.

Anne Frank’s real house is at No. 263

Huis met de Hoofden

“When are we visiting the 9 Streets,” asked the wife.

“Wait, let me visit one more interesting house first.”

“Where?”

Find the Heads (click to enlarge)

If you have the time, go and look for Huis met de Hoofden or House with the Heads, located on No. 123 Keizersgracht.

From left to right: Apollo, Ceres, Mars, Athena, Bacchus and Diana.

9 Streets/Jordaan

I have forgotten which streets make up the 9 Streets, maybe someone could help out in the comment section. But the area is known as the Jordaan. We started off at a little cobbled street known as the Anjeliersstraat. Here the buildings are smaller than their counterparts along the much expensive Golden Bend area of the Keizersgracht and Prisengracht.

If you are the nosey type, you could even peek through some of the apartment windows at the ground level! Spot the speed bumps along the road.

Tip: If you are bored just walking along the residential area, try to spot the mail slots along the walls. Nee (No) and Ja (Yes) indicates to the postman what types of junk mail that they will accept or refuse.

Try to spot Nee (No) and Ja (Yes) on the mail slots

We then made our way among the small streets, turning here and there, playing a bit of football with some local Dutch kids, peeping into the windows and avoiding the cyclists to find ourselves at Egelantiersgracht.

Named after the eglantine rose or sweetbriar, this is one of the most elegant and tranquil canals in Amsterdam. It is lined with trees and 17th-18th century houses.

Tip: Try to look for No. 107-145. This is Sint-Andrieshof. There is a small courtyard inside surrounded by a few residences. This was how some of the widows and pensioners used to live, subsidized housing of the olden days.

The canal along the Bloemgracht is one of the grandest as they used to house the workers for the dyes and paints. This is also the place for any architecture buffs to go ooh-and-aah at the buildings lining both sides of the canal.

The Jordaan is also famous for housing various boutiques, art galleries, antiques stores, cafés and restaurants. You do not really need a map here, just make sure you look up to find the Westerkerk’s spires and you won’t be found missing.

Our next destination? Elandsgracht. Stay tune for the next post to find out why.

Amsterdam Day 2 Verdict

Plenty of walking and visiting the various museums covered by the iAmsterdam card. It rained right after lunch but cleared up just as we were about to explore the Jordaan. Too bad it was almost closing time for most shops and all we could do were window-shopping.

We went through the difference between the upper class canals and the workers’ class canals along the Jordaan. It is quite starking. On one hand, you have roads that could fit cars and parked cars by the side, to the small and narrow canals, suitable for cyclists and pedestrians. The upper class have windows above the average human height, so you couldn’t peek through them as compared to those we saw around the Jordaan.

It was a bit disturbing to see and smell the standing public toilets along some of the streets. They should probably do away with all those.

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