Amsterdamers love bicycles. There are very few over-weight people there.
If there ever was a list must-see PG-13 guide to Amsterdam, I'd probably be able to answer with that unmistakable phrase. One weekend was definitely not enough to explore this city of contrasts - the deep historical cultures and modern expressionisms, the aristocratic and the sleazy, the order and chaos, traditionalists and liberalists. This city has just about everything for everyone in this world.
One of the over 7000 canals in Amsterdam
We rolled our way into Amsterdam after a 3.5hr train journey from Aachen. Have I complimented the public transport system in Europe yet? I wanna stress again how efficient this system is... trains, buses (and Amsterdam's trams and canal boats) arrive and leave exactly on time. One can almost synchronise one's watches to this system. The city greeted us with a dready low lights and a chilly wind. After scouting around for possible accommodation, we eventually chose a slightly dingy hotel with common toilets (managed to set a new record time in colon block during my stay in Holland). For budget tourists like us this was perfectly fine.
Madame Tussards in Amsterdam. The tram rails were everywhere...
We hit the streets after dumping our stuff in our rooms. Though the intention was to check out the place, the general vector was towards the infamous Red Light District (called RLD from now on to minimise the shock factor). We had to see what all the fuss was about... :) A few hours and space brownies later, all was clear. Window shopping has never been this mind numbing. The brownies took their time but the effects were evident. The city comes alive in the night. There was a gentle mix of races, genders and ages in the RLD. The area was clearly demarked with raised platforms with red LEDs. The smell of weed that floated lightly in the air was mildly intoxicating. I remember gentle hallucinations while catching up with sleep that night… :)
The Dam built during prosperous Amsterdam. The Dam square is popular with street soccer in the night.
We spent the Saturday soaking in the culture of the city. Visited the Rembrandt and Van Gogh museums. It was refreshing to find the art museums filled mostly with young people. The Historical museum provided a fascinating insight into the history of Amsterdam. The first true entrepreneurs of the world were the Dutch East India Company (VOC) – their vision and influence in the world and in their company at the time can be none other than inspirational. Rembrandt was a meticulous artist who served the rich traders of the Netherlands and lived and died following his genius in art. Van Gogh was a demented genius who couldn’t break out of the mould around him and thus resorted to personal affliction to define his journey in life. 2 ‘stars’ of the cultural city that is Amsterdam.
Another spectacular palace on the banks of the River Amstel
We visited a few other museums (;)) and did the canal-boat tour of the city. The houses and canals that connect its residents to each part of the city were the most striking parts of the tour. We rounded the long day, avoiding speeding electric trams and cold winds, with a visit to the Dam amongst many other places…
Amsterdam's RLD. An intriquing mix of beauty and sleaze.
Sunday morning was spent collecting souvenirs and planning the trip back to Aachen. Calf muscles and the skin on the tip of my nose were worn out, and my back was aching, but this trip will always be in my mind. I will definitely come back to this city of contrasts. Amsterdam has without doubt left a mark in me. I Amsterdam.
The bicycle shelter next to the train station. Probably around 500, maybe more.
Watching the Daily Show with Jon Steward on Comedy Central - the host has hilariously slaughtered George W. Bush's state of the nation address last week... These guys are just brilliant. Three cheers to Freedom of Speech.