Part 10 of Our Winter Holiday Road Trip
I’ve been sharing the story of our big, 3-week Christmas and New Year vacation over the past several weeks. Last week, I shared how our car broke down in Rugen, Germany and we ended up spending a few days stuck on the island. I left off last week with us having rented a car ready to continue on our trip. As I mentioned last week, we had planned to drive to Sassnitz, Germany and take a ferry to Sweden then proceed to Malmo, then Copenhagen. Following Copenhagen, we had planned to head to Hamburg via a combination of driving and ferries. Due to our car breaking down, we changed our plans to drive from Rugen to Hamburg then to Amsterdam. After spending a few days in Amsterdam, we would head back to Rugen via Amsterdam to pick our car back up before continuing on our journey.
After transferring all our gear to the rental car, we hit the road around lunch time for Hamburg. The trip was pretty quick on the Autobahn and we arrived at our hotel on the Reeperbahn. The Reeperbahn is Hamburg’s red light district and one of two centers for nightlife. While I had been to Hamburg before, Ryan had never visited. Unfortunately, we didn’t really have much time to visit because we arrived around dinner time and were heading out first thing in the morning so we could still have plenty of time in Amsterdam.
We spent a bit of time wandering around the main stretch of the Reeperbahn by our hotel in search of dinner. The main stretch of the Reeperbahn is an interesting mix of bars, culture (the opera for instance), restaurants, and adult stores. Even though I’d seen it before, it was still a bit of a shock to the system because Geneva and the US don’t really have red light districts like that. Now though, comparing the Reeperbahn to Amsterdam, the Reeperbahn was much tamer!
In the morning, we got back on the road pretty early so we could have plenty of time in Amsterdam. We arrived at our hotel in the center of the city by the main train station around 11 am. Unfortunately, they were exceptionally full the previous day and our room wasn’t ready. So, we dropped off our belongings and grabbed a covered boat tour of the canals.
We were really glad the boat was covered because it was nice and cozy and warm inside even though it was rather cold outside. While the captain steered us through the narrow canals, we listened to the audio tour telling us the history of the various canals. The boat tour was a great way to see all of the main canals from the water. Apart from seeing the main canals, we got to see the Anne Frank house from the water, the skinniest house in Amsterdam, some very historic bridges, and we got a general sense of the city.
After our canal boat tour, we grabbed some lunch and then our room was finally ready. After bringing our things up to the room, we headed back out to explore the city further. We wandered through the central and red light districts in search of China Town. I thought that the city architecture was really neat and I enjoyed constantly encountering water in the city. One thing is for sure though, Amsterdam has a lot of bikes! There are giant parking garage structures just for bikes and you have to be really careful when walking not to get run over by a bicycle!
One thing that really struck me was the feeling that the city had two disjoint personalities. There was the typical beautiful old city with great architecture, pretty canals, and lots and lots of museums and then there were the “coffee shops” and red light district areas. It amazed me just how close and intertwined the main tourist areas are with the very racy red light district areas. We just sort of wandered, but one minute you could be on just a normal touristy strip with a few “coffee shops” and souvenir shops and the next street, you walked down a very racy red light district. Even though the red light district was a bit of a shock for me, it was really interesting to see how different people reacted to it.
After wandering for quite some time, we found China Town and had fun wandering through the shops. We also found some good food for dinner and a bubble tea shop. Believe it or not, it was my first bubble tea experience, but now I’m hooked! On our way back to our hotel after dinner and bubble tea, we found a little bookshop that sold prints of old maps. We were so excited to find it because we love collecting old maps from our travels and we found a great one of Amsterdam!
The next day, we ventured further from the center of town and wandered toward Jordaan and Rembrantplein to see some other neighborhoods and the Iamsterdam sign. This area was really packed so we didn’t stay too long because we wanted to avoid the crowds flocking to the museums. After wandering around a bit more, we headed back toward the train station to catch a train to Haarlem to meet some friends, but more on that next time!
Read more about our Winter Holiday Road Trip:
Part 1: Liechtenstein & Neuschwanstein
Part 2: Innsbruck, Austria
Part 3: Munich, Germany
Part 4: Salzburg, Austria
Part 5: Vienna, Austria
Part 6: Bratislava, Slovakia
Part 7: Prague, Czech Republic
Part 8: Dresden, Germany
Part 9: Rugen, Germany
Part 10: Amsterdam, The Netherlands (you are here!)