On returning from our recent short break in one of the top European cities, as is usual after my travels, I was inspired to pen a blog, or two, in this case. The reason is simple – I fell in love with Amsterdam, not once, but twice!
The idea of going to Amsterdam thrilled me, bringing fond memories of my very first visit there some 16 years before, when I was a PhD student and traveled to Holland from Hamburg with my then German boyfriend. It was a short, four-day visit but it had left a lasting imprint on my memory.
“Amsterdam is unique in a number of ways – it has 88 canals and you can go everywhere by boat. A lot of people live in boats, and most are illegal houseboats! It is also a very flat city (a flat country indeed without any hills) where people travel by bicycles – one can easily hire one and there are special cyclist lanes and traffic lights.
Sex shops and museums are dotted around the city, and one striking impression has been that prostitution seems to be civilized and presentable, with many beautiful girls sporting sexy underwear to attract customers – they stand in front of glass window, posing in different postures, showing most of their breasts and legs – they are of different colours and some are exceedingly pretty and charming. Our tour guide informed us that they were not expensive and easily affordable. Since curiosity was my middle name, I wondered how many tourists actually used the services and what it was like living a life behind those glass doors and windows. It was indeed an eye-opener about the Dutch people’s liberal and tolerant approach towards sex workers.”
That visit was during Easter when we were blessed with lovely spring sunshine, with flowers in full bloom. Outside the city, there were fields of vibrant tulips, welcoming visitors from all over the world, whilst the city itself was beautifully decorated with spring flowers, on the streets, in the shops, as well as in gardens and parks. During the day, we did the usual tourist stuff, dipping in and out of souvenir shops, taking photos of the sights of windmills and wooden clogs, sampling many of its variety of cheese, as well as the City’s many fabulous cafes and snack bars, as you can see from the picture above where I indulged my sweet tooth with a yummy cake – seriously, I do not remember if it was one of the famed hash cakes, or just a normal offering. Whatever it was, I enjoyed it very much !
During the evenings, we tried different eateries, which Amsterdam was not short of, rivalling with many major European capitals. Depending on how deep your pockets were, you could eat anything from Indonesian to Parisian. I made a fairly expensive mistake by trusting our guidebook – the Chinese restaurant Sea Palace came highly recommended, a big boat wonderfully lit, glittering at night on the canal, luring customers from near and far. Apparently it was a copy of the famous Jumbo Restaurant in Hong Kong,
“I was quite annoyed when J (my boyfriend) decided to order a lemon chicken – so boring and unadventurous! Never even heard of that dish when I was in China! I opted for a frog dish as it was something I liked but haven’t had it for years. Shock horror when we paid the final bill – we ended up paying every penny we had between us, equivalent of over 100 Deutsch Marks. They cleaned us out!
Expenses aside, I fell in love with this mega city, head over heels. Over the years, I have travelled far and wide, exploring many pulsating urban delights as well as more remote hideaways. Amsterdam stood out, like Van Gogh’s sunflower paintings, becoming more and more valuable and sought after as time went by. Unlike Venice, a pretty film-setting like city which has remained unchanged and stagnant with time, taking her visitors back to 100, 200 years and further back in history; Amsterdam’s pulse is beating with a modern, energetic rhythm, spinning time in a vigorous forward motion, taking us to the future, which is bright, orange in fact, as the Dutch national colour.
Unlike London, where there are more cars and traffic jams, hence congestion charges. Amsterdam is a friendly city of bicycles and boats, where you see more cyclists than car drivers. On both occasions, I toured the city in a sightseeing boat on the canal, taking in amazing sights and sounds of this urban gem, feeling the sunshine warming my face and the gentle sea breeze caressing my heart.
Amsterdam is unlike any other city.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the pictures – please come back soon, as John and I will continue our Dutch Expedition: Amsterdam – City of Arts, Canals, Cycling, Rembrandt, Van Gogh and Dutch Masters, together with a short video at the end showcasing more of Amsterdam’s amazing sights!
Amsterdam – City of Arts, Canal Cruises, Cycling and Red Lights