Amsterdam – Likes & Dislikes
I’m trying to get back to my normal life and the usual routine, but at the same time keep remembering all the beautiful things I saw in Holland… There’s so much I have to show you that the sooner I start sorting out my photographs, the better; otherwise you might be looking at tulips in autumn, which would be completely out of order, don’t you think?
I’ll start with my thoughts about the capital – Amsterdam. I promised I would tell you what I liked and disliked, so I’ll stick to my promise and… will also try to be very honest.
:: Amsterdam is certainly a unique city with its network of canals – more than one hundred kilometres, actually! It’s territory is divided into approximately 90 islands, which are linked by more than 1,200 bridges (by the way, did you know that this city is situated 2 meters below the sea level?). I’m not sure how miserable the narrow streets running along the canals look on a grim autumn’s day (I read that it can get very foggy in November), but on a sunny and warm day there’s nothing better than a walk along the straight strips of water.
And if you get tired of walking you can always hop on a boat, that will take you round the old town, offering a different vantage point for looking at the old Dutch houses.
:: The city can be proud of its lovely and well preserved architecture. Not sure what the old narrow houses, that belonged to famous merchants, look like inside (the rooms can’t be that big in there), yet from the outside they look really pretty. These houses must have been built in the 16th century, when wooden buildings were razed and replaced with brick ones, constructed in the architectural style of the Renaissance, which can be recognized from the stepped gable façades.
The old city centre is the focal point of many architectural styles before the end of the 19th century – Baroque, Neo-gothic, Jugendstil or Art Nouveau style.
By the way, talking about modern architecture – the Dutch must have loads of very brave architects. Once you cross the boarder, coming in from Germany into Holland, you can see significant changes. Bigger towns have at least a few unusual buildings – some of their shapes resemble ships, some have asymmetrical windows.
:: Amsterdam is full of very polite people. I think everyone we met spoke English and were always happy to help. Sometimes we didn’t even need to ask for help – our confused faces and spread out city maps worked as a distress signal and we were greeted with such questions as “do you need some help?” or “what are you looking for?”.
:: There’s really lots to see in Amsterdam. The guide I picked up at the hotel claims that there are at least 60 museums in the city (from memory Stockholm has more than 70!). Of course some of them are really small or are housing exhibits that you might not want to see (for e.g. I wouldn’t rush to the Hash, Marihuana & Hemp Museum), but it seems that even on a rainy day you wouldn’t get bored in Amsterdam.
I definitely recommend going to the flower market (I thought that I’d see loads of cut flowers, but it actually sells mainly bulbs, that you can take home and plant in your garden), seeing Dam and Museum squares, Rijksmuseum and the Central Train Station (these two buildings are very impressive).
:: Amsterdam is probably the most impressive wildlife friendly capital I’ve ever been to. Can you imagine rabbits running on the lawns next to tall buildings housing hundreds of flats? Ducks and geese swimming together with their little ones in the canals? I even saw some green parakeets! (Apparently there’re at least 3000 of these pretty birds in Amsterdam.)
:: I’d say Amsterdam has a brilliant transport system. We stayed in the outskirts of the city, so to get into the old town we had to use trams. As we bought a ticket for 24 hours we could just hop on and hop off as many times as we wanted to. As every stop has a big map, that shows you where you are and gives you the titles of the end stops, it was really easy to figure out how to get from point A to point B.
“-” (Minor minuses)
:: I thought lots of things were quite expensive. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised as any other capital would also be expensive, but… Be prepared to spend not a lot less than 20 Euros going to a museum. For e.g. our trip to Rijksmuseum cost us 25 Euros each, we also went to see the late Rembrandt exhibition (regular price is 17,5 Euros). I might have been spoiled by the British – entrance to most of their museums and galleries is free, but… prices in Amsterdam stopped me from going on a boat trip, sending more postcards and buying more souvenirs.
:: Too many bikes (and scooters). I don’t know how many people get injured a week, but you need to be very careful crossing the roads and even walking on the pavements. Watch where you go! You might look silly, just like any other tourist (you can spot them straight away), but being extra careful might save your life.
:: I didn’t get to see Dam square at its best – it was turned into an amusement park. It was busy, noisy and the swings obstructed Royal Palace, the New Church and old Stock Exchange building. It can’t be there the whole year round, so I guess we were unlucky we came at the end of April, right before the King’s day.