Amsterdam, in my mind, was always tarnished with the automatic association to sex, drugs and seedy back streets. But that was until I decided just to ignore pre-conceived ideas, open my mind, jump on a plane and visit it for myself; and what a place I uncovered. Ok, so maybe The Fault in Our Stars helped with the opening of my mind – I mean, who wouldn’t want to see the Anne Frank house after that movie (or, is that just me...)?
Seedy? Sex, drugs and back streets? What? Of course, there’s around 300 coffee shops (none of which actually sell coffee) and the famous Red Light District, but oh my, there is so much more to this place than the touristy preconception. Plus, it’s a little entertaining settling into a family friendly restaurant with a delicious Nutella-smothered Dutch pancake (bigger than the size of my head) and catching a whiff of the ‘420 café’ next door. Remember that open mind? It’s hard not to just lighten up (even if you are more of the conservative type) and take it all in. After all, it’s all part of the experience, right?
Amsterdam – a place where bicycles have right of way over cars (and people… best keep your wits about you and get out of a bicycle’s way!), where you are in a city and yet nobody is in a rush (huh?!) and where art, culture and history thrive in every new corner turned. There are over 50 museums in Amsterdam, showing off everything from art, historical sites to, yes, even sex. They are so proud of their museums, there is even a section of Amsterdam called Museum square, which is literally a square surrounded by museums (including the famous Van Gogh museum).
What comes to mind when you think ‘city of canals’? I would say a good guess might be Venice (at least, that’s what would usually come to my mind). Amsterdam might not be a floating city, but its foundations are built on swamp lands (hence the characteristic leaning houses) and canals run through the middle of almost every street, adding to its exquisite European charm. We made the most of this unique feature of Amsterdam when visiting for the weekend and booked a room on a gorgeous 1911 paddle-steamer across the river from Central Station. What better place to stay on a boat than Amsterdam!?
My mind had opened to a whole new understanding of the famous (or, maybe infamous) Amsterdam; but it wasn’t until I took on a 2 hour bicycle tour of the city with a local, not much older than myself, that I truly got it. We weaved through narrow streets, dodged hundreds of tourists and raced across roads, trying to keep up with the natural flow of bicycles throughout the city. He informed us of the city’s history and showed us sites around every bend, explaining the unique qualities of the buildings and canal structures as we went by. At first, the thought of a 2 hour bike ride through the city made me want to curl up inside and eat more pancakes, but by the end, 2 hours wasn’t long enough; I could’ve spent all day cycling around that place.
After spending time drinking Nutella flavoured Vodka shots from ice glasses in the Ice Bar, eating the most amazing king-sized chips from a hidden stall on a side-street, photographing crooked houses, endless pancakes and waffles, freaking out in the dungeon experience and perching in a giant clog for a photo opportunity, Amsterdam’s charm quickly had me falling in love and looking forward to the next (hopefully soon) time I get to visit and experience it’s beauty. If you haven’t been, I suggest you go… now.
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