Amsterdam

Community Highlights Europe Amsterdam

Amsterdam

Well, here we are back in Amsterdam, a city we first visited in 1975. Although that was a fleeting visit, I remember being quite shocked at how liberal it was, with its red light district and a bohemian kind of vibe. While it seems somewhat more refined today, it is still known for its progressive attitudes. It was the first country to legalise gay marriage and euthanasia , has legalised prostitution and has a relaxed policy on the use of recreational drugs.

Some trivia about the Netherlands.
- the Netherlands means ‘low country ‘ with 25% of the country being below sea level. When we arrived at Schripol airport in Amsterdam, we were 4.5 metres below sea level. At its lowest level near Rotterdam it is 6.7 metres below sea level.
- the Dutch are the tallest people in the world (we’ve noticed this, with lots of long and lean people around)
- it still has about 1,000 working windmills
- it has the highest Museum density in the world
- there are over 35,000 km of dedicated cycle paths
- there are more bikes than people, with 17 million people and 22 million bikes

It seemed that a good percentage of those 22 million bikes were parked at the station when we arrived in Amsterdam and a good percentage of the rest of them were on the road trying to run us down as we made our way to our accommodation, a 15 minute walk from the central station. We learned very quickly that they are king of the road and don’t give way to anyone, rather just ring their bells loudly and expect you to move.

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These look a lot more friendly.

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This fine building dating from the 1890’s is Central Station Amsterdam

We did however, make it to our Airbnb accommodatioon and our host Judith kindly cycled up from her workplace to let us check in early which was much appreciated after our long 34 hour trip door to door.

How pleased we were to have come to the world’s most watery city and have thoroughly enjoyed our four days here. It has a distinct and exciting personality given to it by the network of canals from the 17th century which fan out from the Central Station and radiate around the city core in concentric circles. Twenty five percent of Amsterdam’s surface area consists of navigable canals, which are criss-crossed by 1,281 bridges, making it a very walkable city. And we have done just that, walking 53.8 km in four days!

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As well as spending lots of time walking the city and exploring the different neighbourhoods and canal areas, we also did a 90 minute canal boat tour which gave us a great appreciation for the beautiful houses and buildings, many of them centuries old, which line the streets beside the canals.
A combination of narrow profile, fancy gables and architectural quirkiness makes the canal houses unique and interesting and an iconic feature of the city.

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Called the Drunken Houses due to their lean

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This quirky house, at just 1.6m wide, has the distinction of being the narrowest house in Amsterdam

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Interesting rooflines, typical of Dutch architecture

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A row of distinctive colourful shuttered canal houses

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Princes’ Canal at twilight with the historic 1631 Westerkerk Church (seen in the distance) and Anne Frank’s House on its shores. Like most of the canals, it is lined with some of the city’s estimated 2,500 barges. Once cargo ships, they are now sought after residences and some of them appear to be quite elegant.

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This canal not far from where we were staying. Rainbow flags fly proudly in many places around the city

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Everywhere - canals and bikes!

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One of the 1,281 bridges with its beautiful display of spring tulips

It’s also a city rich in culture and history with several significant art galleries and museums. We visited the most famous of these, the Rijksmuseum where there is currently a Rembrandt exhibition running. We visited on the afternoon of our arrival and got there too late to see the full exhibition, but not being avid gallery goers we were happy just to see Rembrandt’s Night Watch along with some of the large collection of art produced by Dutch Masters during the 17th century and to enjoy its 19th century home, the Rijksmuseum, with its stained glass windows and beautiful surrounds.

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Rijksmuseum

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Rijksmuseum - back view

On Friday we ventured out of the city on a half day tour with guide Herman to the Zaanse Schans, an area of historic working windmills in a polder landscape about 20 minutes from Amsterdam by train. The windmills and distinctive green wooden houses were relocated there to recreate the look of an 18th/19th-century village with artisan workshops demonstrating wooden clog carving, and cheese and chocolate making.

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The windmills at Zaanse Schans

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This path on the right is a dike constructed to retain the water in the polder below. Polders are land below sea level. Dikes have been built around them to prevent flooding.

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Keith chatting to the sexy guy in the chocolate shop

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Cheese making display

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Cheese tasting

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Decorative clogs at the Clog Museum

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Part of the fairytale Dutch village at Zaanse Schans

We’ve thoroughly enjoyed our four days in Amsterdam at the beginning of our holiday. It has all the advantages of a big city - rich culture, historic buildings and a vibrant atmosphere - yet it is quiet and relaxed, due to a population of just 854,000, and its extensive canal system and little road traffic (but watch out for those damn bikes!) . As well as that, it’s inhabitants are very personable and it has served us up the most amazing four days of spring weather.

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Yes, it’s springtime in Amsterdam.

Tomorrow we begin our barge and bike Tulip Tour, a seven day loop of the southern region of the Netherlands, which will include some of its most iconic towns such as Gouda, Leiden and Delft. Our trip notes describe the tour as ‘historic towns, picturesque villages in a rural environment abounding with water’. We’re hoping there will be the odd windmill or two, and of course, the tulips! Can’t wait to begin!

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This is the route we will be taking, starting and finishing in Amsterdam.

Happy Easter to all. We hope you’re enjoying yours as much as we’re enjoying ours here in Amsterdam.

Bye for now,
Maggie & Keith

This featured blog entry was written by themaggiej from the blog Travels by barge, bike & boat.
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By themaggiej

Posted Sun, Apr 21, 2019 | Netherlands | Comments