I love Amsterdam. It is one of those cities you are always excited to return to, because there are always new places to find and things to discover. I love the Dutch, as they are one of the friendliest people I ever got to meet. They are smiling and always seem to have a joke up their sleeve. And one more thing that always catches the eye (or should I say the ear?) – the Dutchies always whistle. You can hear different melodies throughout the day no matter where you go – hotel lobbies, quiet streets, small shops – whistling tunes are everywhere! And what makes a person whistle? Exactly – happiness and a good mood!
Although most of the hotels in Amsterdam are located in traditional Dutch houses, they are definetely lacking character. Luckily, I have recently discovered Airbnb that gives an opportunity to live like a local in an apartment. I have found an affordable two-bedroom option for 4 people in the Ouid Zuid neighborhood of Amsterdam. The apartment is located on the quiet street of Kanaalstraat. The street name speaks for itself, so the evenings can be spent sitting on a bench by the canal enjoying the piece and quiet of the neighborhood. Located a 20 minute walk from Museumplein, our new home for a couple of days was practically around the corner from the two biggest parks in Amsterdam – Vondel and Rembrandtpark.
Back in the day the apartment used to be a milk shop. The entrance lead right into the living room, where the business was held, while the man of the house and his family lived and slept in the small bedrooms. I loved the place: the outdated decor, shelves stuffed with all sorts of books and magazines, the outside terrace with the cute garland that adds to the evening atmosphere. Everything about that place made me feel welcomed.
Determined by history, the Dutch are used to living without curtains on their large windows. Passing through the streets it is clearly visible how people rest after a long day at work or just spend time with friends and family. Peeking into windows is considered rude, so don’t spend time staring at home decors and art from the street J. This feature of living is making the Dutch seem very open minded towards things. And what better way to show the open-mindness of the people than their approach to human rights!
Gay Pride seems like the biggest celebration in Amsterdam after Kings Day. If you would not know in advance that it’s happening in the city, you could definetely be able to tell by the constant signs. Posters and flags are everywhere, even policemen and bus drivers are wearing colorful ties to support the movement. Unfortunately, we weren’t there for the main canal parade, but we were told that the city becomes unbearably overcrowded – that’s how popular it is!
There are different celebrations taking place around the city during the Pride month. We have stumbled upon Drag Queen Olympics near Westerkerk which gathered quite a lot of viewers. In the evening we were wandering around the streets when we suddenly arrived at a street party with loud music. It was hard to squeeze in to the crowd of people singing ABBA’s „Voulez Vous“. The energy at that street was simply amazing: people dancing, enjoying their wine and just having fun on a Friday night. Being in the center of such a vibrant crowd makes you immediately want to join in. Next thing you know you are singing along to a song lyrics of which you don’t even know, and an accidentally discovered party becomes the highlight of the entire trip to Amsterdam.
People may have different opinions on this, but Gay Pride in Amsterdam is held not to prove a point or to send a message to the masses. It’s all about the celebration of freedom and sexual diversity. You just got to love Amsterdam for the freedom it gives to all people!
Amsterdam is the city of bikes. The Dutch seem to be put on a bike as soon as they are born. Unsurprisingly, there are more bikes in the country than people! Thousands of bikes are parked along the canals of Amsterdam, thousands of roads connect places in the Netherlands together. No wonder all the Dutchies are always fit!
No matter what happens on the road, the cyclist is always right! Renting a bike might not sound as such a good idea, if you do not know all the traffic rules or do not know how to ride a bike at all – like me! So an alternative option would be a pedal boat – cycle and see this amazing city from water at the same time. Boats can be rented at 3 locations: Rijksmuseum, Leidseplein and near Anne Frank House. You are given a map of possible routes and they charge you a few euros extra for returning the boat at a different location. You also need to pay a 20 euro deposit for the boat. Rules are simple: stick to the right side of the canal and always let the bigger boats pass first.
It may look easier than it is, but once you started it, there is no way of turning back! At times it will get stressful, especially when you need to act fast to get away from a big boat that’s coming your way, but all in all its an amazing and unique way to see a city from water – definetely more fun than riding the boring big boat sightseeing tours!
Holland is known for it’s diversity of cheese. Before the trip I was looking for a cheese tasting in the city, but could not find any. A cheese shop (sometimes even turned into a museum) can be found practically everywhere. You can try all sorts of cheese there for free and buy the ones you like the most. To me the best offer was the three cheese package that includes green and red pesto cow cheese (my personal favorite) and the never-seen-before goat lavender cheese that has a uncommon flavor and purple color. This package is available in all cheese shops that we came across in the city, but we purchased ours in the Zaanse Schans cheese factory.
25 km north from Amsterdam lies a unique village where you can get acquainted with the traditional Dutch way of life, which makes a great day trip away from the city. You can get there by train in about 30 minutes and within a short walk you’ll start to see windmills arising on the horizon. The entrance to Zaanse Schans park is free and it offers a lot of shops and activities for the whole family, although you have to pay the entrance fees to the majority of museums and windmills. Here you can see how traditional wood clogs are made in a special workshop, get to know the agricultural side of Dutch life in different museums, and even feed the goats. It’s both a fun and educational way to spend the day.
On the way back I suggest going by boat that will take you to Zaandam. Here make a stop at the Inntel Hotels Amsterdam Zaandam to admire a fine example of crazy Dutch design. The hotel looks quite funny and amazes the eye and is listed among the world’s most unusual hotels. From Zaandam you can take the train back to Amsterdam to enjoy your remaining time strolling around this amazing city.
Visited August 2016