Oh Amsterdam, I Love You

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Thank you, Amsterdam, for being so wonderful.  Your museums are divine, your food is heavenly, your pastries are the reason I can no longer zip my pants, your beauty is magical and the Dutch are magnificent.

The Dutch culture absolutely intrigues me.  All day long, bikes fly by with riders en route to work, or home, or actually, going anywhere.  The bike lane in Amsterdam is much more saturated than the streets with cars.  I mean, there is no comparison.

I have trouble riding my bike more than like two miles (and let's not even get into how ridiculously slow I am riding uphill); these amazing people ride their bikes EVERYWHERE.  Not only are they pedaling with heels, skirts and suits, but they carry things too! I will never forget watching this woman in a long skirt and heels holding one hand behind her, while she balanced a suitcase on the back of her seat.  I was so jealous.  I can barely balance myself. 

You can walk in the street and never once make eye contact with anyone.  Unlike the United States and the obsession we, as a culture, have with celebrities and gossip, they live with their eyes straight ahead.  Rarely was anyone looking around at anyone else. 

We were lucky enough to stumble upon an awesome restaurant server who kindly took a moment to let us know of a local spot to enjoy.  He gave us directions to a bar, Zoite.  We made it there within 10 minutes of saying, “thank you,” and were so grateful we asked him.

Not only did this lovely, quaint bar have a full alcohol menu carrying a spectrum of Dutch beers, but the bar food included a giant block of cheese with freshly baked bread.  YUM.  We ordered like five.

The waitress was unbelievably kind and walked us through each beer we tried.  Everywhere we went, we felt right at home and were able to speak English to just about everyone.

The beauty of the city is indescribable in words.  It is not an exaggeration when Amsterdam is dubbed, “the Venice of North.”  The canals take your breath away, and the charm of the architecture, and old boats and bikes will take you back in time. When you walk along the canals at night, all you hear is silent air with a faint sound of water moving in the canals.  The lights from the apartments shine onto the water, and the reflection is mesmerizing.  It is true bliss.

There is much to do as well.  You can visit the Anne Frank house and see her famous writing.  I must have stared at the journal for hours.

The flower mart will take you on a beautiful path of flower vendors and is the biggest in the world.  If you want to see prostitution out in the open, take a stroll anytime down the streets with a beaming red light.  The ladies will be waiting for you behind a clear, glass wall.

Vondelpark creates a peaceful presence in your mind that will remain in your memory forever.  The serenity and natural beauty of the park will make your thinking stop (finally).  Nothing else matters when you see the reflection of the trees on the wide, open lake. 

The Heineken museum was rated the best tourist attraction many years in a row; this museum is a true experience. There is a beer tasting, a walk through the original brewery, a ride, and then being treated to two, fresh and refreshing Heineken beers in a bar setting with other tourists.  

You can enjoy the Rijksmuseum which takes you on an incredible journey through Dutch history, and then take a few hours to explore the mind-blowing artistic experience the Van Gogh museum has to offer.

Although people may disagree with our choice to go in winter, I must say, it was very special.  The Christmas markets wrap you in warmth and actually give you that nostalgic holiday feeling that I’m sure many of us miss as we get caught up in life.  That’s the best way I can describe it.  Maybe Amsterdam is my version of the North Pole.  

I also visited in the summer three years ago, and it was wonderful to go outside without wearing ten layers.  However, I would still recommend experiencing Amsterdam during Christmas.  It was extraordinary.

If you get an opportunity to take a trip to Europe, I absolutely suggest making a stop in Amsterdam.  Whether you're looking to party with friends, or relax on an extremely romantic getaway, this special city absolutely cannot disappoint any traveler. 

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