Amsterdam is an interesting mix of history, culture, and over indulgence. It is clean, safe and modern. I didn’t really know what to expect, but after spending only a weekend there, I can tell you without doubt that I could live there.
The first thing I noticed, besides the tall connected brick buildings, was the massive amount of bicycles! The population is 800,000, but they have almost a million bicycles. They are parked everywhere and you have to watch out or you will get hit! They even have parking garages for only bikes!
I arrived at my quaint little hotel to find that I had to hall my luggage up a flight of stairs just to reach the lobby. Then I was shocked at the size of my room. I knew it would be small, that’s how it is in Amsterdam, but it was the smallest hotel room I’ve ever seen, probably no bigger than 8 by 8. Good thing I didn’t plan on spending much time in my room!
I set out by foot into the city to see what adventures I could find. Within 10 minutes I came upon one of their infamous “cofee bars” and decided to go in and check it out. Marijuana smoke hung like a thick curtain in the air. So much so that it stung my eyes and made it hard to breath. I decided to hurry through my purchase and take one of the tables outside. They presented me with a menu, broken down by the strength of the pot. You could buy it pre rolled or roll it yourself. I opted for some “Power Plant” and enjoyed it outside where I could people watch.
At any given time in Amsterdam about 40% of the population are tourist, and it was obvious by watching the people go by. I heard many languages I didn’t recognize and saw people dressed in everything from urban hippie chick to London Punk Rock. During my stay I met a number of cool people, an older couple from France, a bachelor party from Belgium, a bachelorette party from Paris and a street vendor named Casper. Cool characters are everywhere and engaging in conversation was wildly entertaining!
The city is shaped like a giant half octagon and is connected by numerous city squares where people hang out or shop amongst the street vendors. They have over 50 parks where people jog, roller skate, skate board or just relax. It is easy to get around and you can easily walk from one side of the city to the other in just a few hours. So if you visit Amsterdam wear good walking shoes or even yet rent a bicycle!
I spent the afternoon in a Power Plant haze, shopping and dining and taking in all Ansterdam has to offer! Amsterdam has amazing cheeses, chocolates, pastries and candies, and since I had the munchies I over indulged. But I was on holiday, so why not?
That evening I took a dinner cruise through the canals and listened to some of the rich culture Amsterdam has to offer. I got the chills when we drifted quietly by the Anne Frank house. I can’t imagine that such a peaceful city was once immersed in such tragedy. My how times change. The food on the cruise was a spectacular 5 course dinner that would rival the best resteraunts. It was absolutely delicious!
After the cruise I noticed a sign pointing to the Red Light district and decided to wander through. Beautiful scantily clad women stood in the windows under the glow of a red light, waiving to the crowd and trying to entice shy observers. The streets were crowded and business looked good. There were also sex shops and live sex shows to entertain the less adventurous people. The place made the Portland strip clubs seem very vanilla!
The next day I visited the Van Gogh art museum and the Rijksmuseum, a famous art museum. I can’t claim to be an art buff, the significance of the works are lost on me. But I was impressed with the fact that the paintings were hundreds of years old and looked so real and perfect. Some were also a bit twisted and distorted and I’m sure depicted the trends of the times. There are a ton of famous museums in Amsterdam.
I also visited the Sex Museum and found it most entertaining! It was fascinating to see erotic art pieces and “tools” that were hundreds of years old. They even had nude pictures taken in the late 1800s! I guess people have been getting their freak on throughout time in all kinds of interesting ways! One thing I learned (as is the point of going to a museum) was about Mata Hari. How did I not know the story of that tenacious woman, the original striptease artist accused of being a spy?
That afternoon I went on my most favorite activity while in Amsterdam. I took a tour bus to Keukenhof Gardens, a spectacular gardens that I would second only to Buchart Gardens in Victoria B.C. The tulips were the main draw, but they had flowers of all kinds; Daffodils, lilies, Freesia, giant Amaryllis, Lilacs and the most beautiful orchids! It smelled like heaven and was a feast for the eyes! The sun came out and I walked around for hours enjoying the neatly trimmed hedges, displays, fountains and even climbed up one of the giant windmills! Somehow amongst the young lovers stealing kisses, and families taking selfies, I suddenly found myself missing my mom. She was a flower junkie and it would have made her positively giddy! After spending months in Delhi the blue sky, fragrant scents and sheer beauty brought me to tears. It really was paradise!
In summary, Amsterdam is a lively city, full of things to do and see for everyone. It’s an interesting mix of healthy lifestyle and over indulgence. The weather reminded me of Portland/Seattle and it was clean, safe and fun. I could easily live there!