A little more than a day was spent travelling to and from Amsterdam in the low-priced but painstakingly long and uncomfortable Eurolines bus. But then, that applies for bus journeys world over for yours-truly, so we shall let that pass.
While there was no fixed itinerary, there were a couple of places I wanted to see – Anne Frank Museum and the Tulip garden at Keukenhof.
I didnt see either.
To digress a bit, this was my first Couchsurfing experience, where, as the name goes, you ‘surf’ on a couch (or a mattress) at a local’s place. After weeks of contemplation, I finally mustered the courage to stay with a ‘stranger’ who had agreed to host me through the website. (Must admit I did some background research – courtesy google – results of which made me wonder whether I’d return in one piece)
But it turned out to be an awesome experience. My host, a 50ish year old lady with a heavy Yorkshire-accent has spent a major part of her life in Amsterdam, has a small but cosy apartment tucked in a quiet locality away from all the noise and crowds of the touristy city centre. She welcomed me with a warm hug followed by a delicious ginger-carrot-parsnips soup (recipe duly noted) and further went on to share experiences about the city and to a large extent, how its ‘vices’ undid and did her life. I had a small room to myself and was completely at home. It was an enriching experience and only made me wish I had couchsurfed in my earlier travels.
We chatted on and on with me having lost track of time. When I finally left her place and reached Anne Frank’s museum, it was 4pm and suddenly it seemed as if the whole world had congregated in Amsterdam on this long holiday weekend. The queue must have been about 250-persons long. Took the alternative option of visiting the ‘Heineken Beer Experience‘, that included an hour long guide to beer-making along with simulated and interactive stuff ending rightfully with 2 complimentary beers. Anne Frank was momentarily forgotten.
A Sunday morning attempt to revisit the museum was in vain with the queue having doubled. Ditched even the one-hour drive to the famed Keukenhof to see tulips. I was content with my own little tulip corner in Strasbourg rather than seeing a field interspersed with millions of tourists posing or clicking photos. So the miserably cold and rainy day was spent loafing around canals, a quick glimpse at the red-light area (which is literally, at the heart of the city) and a small ‘dig’ of a chocolate ‘hash’ brownie at a coffee-shop (we are in legal territory, remember? :D).
In hindsight, Monday was best day spent in Netherlands. A quick online research made me decide the best option was to get out of the city and its madding crowd. Reached the train station and bought a return ticket to Delft along with a currant bun and raspberry smoothie. The hour-long journey was perfect, the country-side dotted with a few windmills and acres of tulip fields that I’d missed seeing earlier. Delft, a city known for its blue-pottery making was postcard-pretty with a magnificent church at its centre. I was even party to an Easter choir, thanks to a volunteer who instantly gave me a handout in Hindi! Later, was involuntarily pulled into a cheese shop that allowed me to taste 5 flavours of cheese, all drool-worthy. Happily left the place after investing in a small jar of organic cranberry mustard!
The return journey included two more quick stops – at Leiden (a canalled city like Amsterdam but smaller and far prettier) and Haarlem (once again pretty, but eerily deserted and I almost lost my way back to the station, phew!)
I would definitely want to revisit Netherlands some day and explore the many mind-numbingly pretty towns. And finally drop into the Anne Frank museum on my way out 🙂