Amsterdam: Part l

Now this was one awesome place. I had high expectations for Amsterdam and I’m happy to say that those expectations were all met. The water canals, the building structures, the landmarks, the many bicycles found everywhere and the ease of getting around to see and experience Amsterdam really made my time here a memorable one.

When I pictured Netherlands in my mind I imagined: tulips and windmills and dutch bros. coffee! But Amsterdam is so much more, it is a city entwined with water, a labyrinth of water canals. Since its development in the 17th century, Amsterdam’s Canal Ring has grown to be one of the world’s most unique urban landscapes. The canals are not only a historic and beautiful water network throughout the city, they are a stunning backdrop for everyone to enjoy. The Amsterdam Canal Ring was even added to the UNESCO’s World Heritage list and celebrated its 400th birthday in 2013.

I absolutely love photography and Amsterdam is very photogenic – we made a good match! My brother and I spent several days touring various parts of this region – we were never bored and really only scratched the surface of things to do. The highlight to my travel itinerary was London, but I will go as far to say that Amsterdam came in second place and that’s after spending some time in Portugal and Spain as well. Even though all of these countries are close in proximity they are really unlike one another.

Most European countries that you visit offer a hop-on hop-off bus option to view different parts of the country. In fact, I opted for the hop-on bus tour in Portugal, Spain and London for the first day to quickly learn the city layout and map out the highlights I wanted to see. But in this part of the Netherlands, the hop-on hop-off option came in the form of a guided boat cruise and it was great. We opted for a private tour that lasted about an hour and forty five minutes. Our guide was very knowledgeable and had a great sense of humor. He pointed out all the big landmarks and added some historical facts and gave us an overall run down of the cities bright and dark history. Starting prices for the hop-on tours start at € 25.00 and of course work their way up from there.

Not only do these water canals serve as a means of getting around the city – they are also housing for many of the locals here. On the larger canals you will find bigger sized boats that have been stationed without movement for years – and people happily living in them. There is also a lot of canal-front housing, but those of course are worth a fortune. Our guide mentioned that they are worth millions now and only increase in price and value. Living in any city center is expensive, but living in this particular center is extremely expensive.

Amsterdam is known for its historical attractions, for the great art collections, and blend of modern and traditional architecture. The centuries-old water canals, buildings mixed with freedom and liberality draw so many people far and near to see this place for themselves at some point in their lifetime. I am very happy to have experienced this place for myself, it’s such a fascinating city. One thing that I did notice was the lack of monuments and figures readily found like in other popular European countries; the city already feels tightly configured and the canals serve as such a monument instead.

There are a handful of churches and museums peppered around the city and visiting a few of the many museums are among the top attractions. There are about 75 museums in Amsterdam. To say the least, there is a lot to see and do here. We only scratched the surface but experienced enough to leave with a lasting impression.

Strange and weird

On every trip that I take I pay close attention to the strange and weird things found around town, and Amsterdam has its fair share of weirdness. The open-air urinals for example are just strange to me. The abandoned canal-homes filled with moss and plants slowly growing all-over them were a strange sight, but the weirdest thing to see was the smallest house in Amsterdam. Our boat tour guide pointed it out during the cruise and we returned to take a picture and see its true small size a little closer. The house is seriously the size of the front door! The small house gradually increases into an actual decent living space however; it wasn’t made this way by accident. The owner built it this way to avoid paying higher taxes, by reducing the front portion of his home he was able to evade higher property taxes – now that’s pretty clever.

Amsterdam was great. I hope that one day you get to experience this happening city for yourself. Happy Travels!