Sex, Drugs and Science Museum

Trip Start Jun 20, 2010
Trip End Jul 14, 2010

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Where I stayed

Flag of Netherlands  , Noord-Holland,
Tuesday, June 22, 2010

This entry is rated PG-13 ;)

One of the nice things about staying in a residential neighborhood is the peace and quiet at night time. We slept so soundly that we got up late and were scrambling to make it to the hotel's breakfast by 10am. We got up and ready fast and were there at 9:58am, with a full two minutes to spare before breakfast time was over.

After breakfast we walked a few streets down to the Prinsengracht canal to catch a canal boat tour. The tour we had wanted to take was in a small boat, but once there we found out that this type of tour only runs on the weekends, so we went on the canal bus instead. The ride was not very interesting, although it did go through parts of Amsterdam that we had not ventured through yet. Sofia was bored quickly, and soon everyone else followed.

We got off at the train station dock and walked to the Nemo, a science and technology museum for kids near the harbor. The Nemo has similar hands-on exhibits as the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia that teach about electricity, physics, astronomy, and biology. The visitors today were mostly Dutch kids on field trips or with their parents. Just as I was starting to think--well we could be seeing the same things about 10 miles from our house back home, we walked up to the third level where there was an entire section devoted to "Teen Facts", a number of frank yet tasteful exhibits on sex education. I don't think the Franklin Institute will set up an exhibit like this any time in the near future.

Our inner science and engineering geek satiated, we left the Nemo and headed back to the Jordaan neighborhood to visit the Anne Frank house. The house is on the picturesque Prinsengracht canal a few steps from the Westerkerk, a church that has the highest tower in Amsterdam. Anne and her family hid in the house's secret annex for over two years before they were arrested and sent to concentration camps. You enter the secret annex behind the same bookcase that was there during Anne's time. The occupants of the house were always in fear of being discovered, so the windows were kept covered with black curtains and they made as little noise as possible. Even standing in the dark rooms of this typical narrow Amsterdam house, it was hard to imagine living for two years in such a small space without ever going outside or even able to see out the windows. The Anne Frank house is a must-see when visiting Amsterdam.

Sofia was almost flattened by a bicyclist as she crossed the street in front of the Anne Frank house. Even though we had reminded her many times to watch for bicycles before she crossed streets, she bolted across before we could stop her. She was like one of those kamikaze squirrels that runs in front of your car and there is nothing you can do. The young man on the bicycle slammed on the brakes and barely stopped inches from her. I think she will be more careful in the future.

The rest of the day was spent walking through some of the neighborhoods of central Amsterdam. It is a great city to people watch. The bicycling culture in particular is fascinating. Stand at an intersection near a canal and you can see all types of people riding by from all walks of life and ages. The Dutch have some of the same bad habits riding bicycles as Americans do when driving a car. They read books, talk on cell phones, and even text while on their bikes.

Dinner was at a small restaurant a few blocks from the hotel. The food was great, and Sofia ate her first real dinner of the trip -- ravioli stuffed with eggplant and ricotta cheese. She didn't know that she was eating eggplant, but she ate every bite and could have probably asked for seconds. A black cat that evidently lives at the restaurant would walk by every once in a while probably hoping that some food would get dropped on the floor. Not a chance.

After a really good meal we ended the day by walking over to the Red Light district. It was packed with tourists gawking at the women in the sex shops who would tap on the window pane and beckon customers to go in. There were lots of museums in the district too -- the Cannabis museum, Vodka museum, and Erotic museum, just to name a few.

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