April 2, 2012

SIGHTSEEING: 24 Hours in Amsterdam

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In the future, there may come a time when you may find yourself in Northern Europe with 24 hours to spare. Perhaps dazed and lacking in sleep — thanks to an all-night electronic music extravaganza in Belgium, such as I was — your body will crave one full day’s worth of complete indulgence and some whimsical fun. Holland, my friends, beckons you.

If you have one full day to spend in a single city in the Netherlands (or even the world), Amsterdam is not lacking for incentives.

Once one of the wealthiest cities in the world during the Dutch heyday in the 1600s, Amsterdam still paints a remarkably charming picture today – stately, 17th century townhouses line the streets, intersected by serene canals and brick and wrought-iron bridges. For a second it seems as if you have stumbled onto the set for Rivendell (I kid you not). Once you get past the fact that every word in the Dutch language is impossible to pronounce, 24 hours can be spent happily partaking in the wealth of activities in one of the most carefree cities in the world. Whether taking in some history, cruising the canals or lazing in sweet oblivion in one of the infamous café’s, good times are sure to be had as long as you play by Amsterdam’s rules.

To begin, as any day should, one must start with breakfast. Although my hostel, Flying Pig Hostel Uptown, comes highly recommended and serves free breakfast, there are plenty of places to grab a quick bite in town. My hostel was idyllically located on the Vondelpark, so I grabbed some coffee and a piece of toast and strolled in the sunshine through the expansive and beautiful park. Just a short walk south was the Van Gogh Museum, a cultural high point for the trip. Featuring 200 paintings by the troubled artist, the Van Gogh Museum houses the collection of Theo, Vincent’s younger brother, and gives an enjoyable and informative view of the artist’s tumultuous career and progression. A quick walk back to the center brought us to Leideplein, a bustling square filled with street artists, for a healthy alfresco lunch along the canals.

The next leg of our journey took us hopping from café to café, criss-crossing through the city as we went. Rookies is an Americanized bar-café, commendable for its helpful service, easily decipherable menu and loud, groovy funk music. Green House is located on a quaint little street just a few minutes’ walk from the Red Light District; this café stood out thanks to its communal attitude and variety of supplies. Lastly, Asian-inspired Goa was reminiscent of an opium den with its low-lit lanterns and seating cushions. If munchies should hit, one could hop outside to the nearest Febo shop – a traditional type of Dutch fast food, where walls lined with vending machine-like compartments house different types of gloriously fried cheese, meat and potatoes.

Caught up in the hazy sprawl of wandering around town, 24 hours will pass in no time. End with a tram’s ride to the commanding brick Central Amsterdam train station — the city’s point of departure for journey’s elsewhere.

Sarah Angell is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She may be reached at sangell@cornellsun.com . Notes from Abroad: Sightseeing appears on Tuesdays.

Original Author: Sarah Angell