AMSTERDAM — One of the most interesting cities in Europe is Amsterdam, the capital of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Although it is the capital city for the Dutch, the seat of government is actually at The Hague — not exactly sure how that works, but the people seem to be OK with it.
Cycling and boats are the key forms of transportation in this city that has been basically formed by taking land from the sea. The cyclists are everywhere, so be aware. Many ride their bikes into the city, lock them up for the day, and then ride back home.
In the 17th century, Amsterdam changed from a seaside fishing village to one of the most important ports in the world because of finance and diamonds. The Amsterdam Stock Exchange is the oldest in the world.
Religion is very important in the city, but there is a liberal lifestyle as well with legalized drugs and other sordid activities in its Red-Light District.
Amsterdam attracts about 3.5 million international visitors each year because of its historic canals, Anne Frank House, the Van Gogh Museum and many other sites.
Of course, there are the tulips and windmills, mostly in the countryside. The tulip season is in mid-April.
Our guide took us on a ride through the canals of the city. There are almost 100 miles of canals and more than 1,500 beautiful bridges.
Also, house boats are along the canals. Once — to attract youngsters to stay in the city — government leaders enticed the group with cheap living quarters on the canals. Now, our guide told us many of the house boats go for upwards of $500,000 and are much sought-after.
The canals were planned by the city beginning around the 17th century. There are four main canals — we traveled them all, the Singel (once the moat that surrounded the city), Herengracht (center of city), Keizersgracht (John Adams stayed along this canal at number 529) and Prinsengracht (named after the Prince Orange, the royal name and color of the kingdom). On the Prinsengracht are the Northern Church and Western Church as well as the Anne Frank House.
ANNE FRANK HOUSE
The Anne Frank House is a museum dedicated to the young Jewish girl who kept a diary during World War II.
During the Nazi occupation, Anne Frank hid, along with her family and friends, in their house on the canal.
Although she did not survive the ordeal, her wartime diary was published in 1947.
The museum at her house opened in 1960 and it is one of the most visited attractions in The Netherlands. About 1.2 million visited in 2013.
The Academy Award that Shelley Winters won for her performance as Mrs. Petronella Van Daan (Auguste Van Pels) in the 1959 movie “The Diary of Anne Frank” is on display. Ms. Winters donated it to the museum.
The Rijksmuseum (State Museum) was founded at The Hague in 1800 and moved to Amsterdam in 1808. The current location opened its doors in 1885. It was renovated and reopened by Queen Beatrix in 2013.
Museum officials said they had more than 1 million objects with 8,000 on display at a given time. Some of the art includes masterpieces by Dutch painters Rembrandt, Frans Hals and Johannes Vermeer.
“The Night Watch,” by Rembrandt from 1642, is prominently displayed. It is considered the best known painting in the Rijksmuseum collections, officials said.
VAN GOGH MUSEUM
The Van Gogh Museum, not surprisingly, is dedicated to the works of Vincent Van Gogh.
It is a modern-looking museum that opened in 1973.
Van Gogh, who died at age 37 in 1890, was a post-Impressionist painter of Dutch origin whose work was known for its “rough beauty, emotional honesty and bold color,” officials at the museum said.
The museum’s collection of Van Gogh works comprises 200 paintings, 400 drawings, and 700 letters.
Some of the paintings include: “The Potato Eaters” (1885), “The Yellow House” (1888), “Self-portrait” (1888) and “Sunflowers” (1889), among others.
One of his most famous paintings, “The Starry Night,” however, is part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City since 1941.