A golden rule was established after my family’s immigration to North America: if you make the journey to England, you must also journey somewhere new. Truth is, it would be silly not to, what with the rest of Europe now so seemingly close by.
The first chance to embrace our self made, self satisfying rule came in the summer of 2010 when a much needed month long trip to England was expected. I’m not entirely sure what sparked my particular interest but I knew that I wanted to go to Amsterdam. And so quite simply, I did, with P in tow. We had a wonderful time, we really did; navigating the narrow, cobbled streets, desperately avoiding being run over by the inner city tram. However, we were only there for approximately four days and upon reflection, there are many things I regret not doing with the time given:
1. Journey by bicycle
Why, for the love of god did we not do this? Locations to rent bicycles are as common in Amsterdam as tulips in a tulip field! Although it was on our itinerary, we just never got around to it, instead choosing to explore the old fashioned way – on foot, paper map in hand. This was interesting in itself. I appeared to have been Dutch in my past life, for my feet didn’t see the need to connect with my brain often. They just walked to the correct location, by some unearthly force. Yet bicycles would have got us there faster. Revered as the dominant source of transportation by locals (a city of 750,000 inhabitants with 800,000 bikes), it’s also an important aspect of culture, lifestyle and Dutch symbolism. And you know, I just really like bikes. This is an example of ‘when in Rome’, neglected, and regretted.
2. Visit Anne Frank’s house
We all know the heartbreaking story of Anne Frank, the young Jewish girl whose diary personifies the German occupation of the Netherlands during WWII. The setting in which she wrote most of her entries lay right in front of me – a charming little house (with a drastically less charming history) just opposite the canal. Also in front of me was a huge, winding line.
We’d walked a fair distance from our hostel to get there (re, first regret), seen the hustle on the streets but had still somehow been caught unprepared for the queue. Without sounding hypocritical, we had supposed that it’d be quiet and few, a sobering experience shared by dedicated history lusters like ourselves. However, we were now forced to acknowledge that there would be little chance of silent respect. P and I stopped to take photographs and then seated ourselves by the flowing water in our own moment of solitude and remembrance. The crowd was too noisy to satisfy my want of a quiet memorial and besides, we just didn’t have the time to waste in line. We left to further explore the neighborhood, aware that next time, the cautions of time and season should be duly noted.
3. Visit the red light district
Ok, I don’t mean spend a night in the district – I’ll leave that to the bachelors – but it would’ve been interesting to see how an otherwise taboo profession grows under the protection of legality and licensing. Would it flourish the same way in more conservative country, say Canada or The U.K? What’s the atmosphere like, and who constitutes to it? What style would a similar street in your home city follow? These questions are harder to answer without a constructed mental map of the district and its presence. Just a casual walk is all I’d need to satisfy this cats curiosity.
4. Stay for longer
In hindsight, more time would have remedied all the above regrets (and likely a lot of the worlds problems). If P and I had stayed longer, then Anne Frank’s house, a quintessential bicycle ride and the red light district could have been incorporated into our trip, rather than just our expectations. Why we chose not to stay is a predictable combination of shrinking finances and an ominous departure date – we had after all spent nearly a month travelling in the U.K.
Despite the heavy usage of the word ‘regret’, I do not regret the trip as a whole, by any means. What adventures P and I occupied our time with will be no doubt elaborated in greater detail at a later date . However, I believe it is important to be actively aware of what could have been improved in terms of travel preparation – in this case, time management. Next time, I’ll be more prepared. Save me some hagelslag and a Heineken, Amsterdam! I’ll be with you again someday.