February is not high season in Amsterdam. Still, my sister and I made the most of our first day here, despite cold, foggy, drizzly weather.
As we walked the cobbled streets along the canals, the inescapable fumes of pot permeated the air in nearly every block. Locals take this weather in stride as bicycles dominated the streets, while tourists stood in a long line even in the rain in Feb. to see the Anne Frank House Museum. We sampled the famous pancakes for lunch and took a canal cruise in a thankfully warm and dry boat.
One of the oldest pubs, The Papeneiland, provided a warm and welcoming respite to the drizzly weather.
After the rain stopped we walked from the oldest pub to the oldest church, the Oulde Kerk, Amsterdam’s oldest building established in 1306. It is right in the middle of the red light district, and a beautiful old church.
We walked around the inside of the church with its beautiful stained glass windows, wooden barrel vaulted ceiling and a floor made of carved memorial stones. The church is a covered cemetery with 2500 graves. The gravestones tell something about the people who had been buried there, but now all graves have been excavated and filled with white sand.
There was a modern art installation on display inside the church, video clips by Tony Oursler. I found it rather disturbing, almost creepy, and not at all to my liking. The brochure described the installation as follows: Oursler “hacks” the church, using digitally produced performances that emphasize the evolving character of the architecture and the cultural usage of the monumental building.
I guess I just didn’t get it.
The square around the church is lined with sex shops, window prostitutes, pubs, and all other assortment of commerce. The world’s first condom shop had a delightfully colorful window display, and no lack of customers.