Amsterdam

Such a green city.
Such a green city.

After my brief stay in the lovely Hamburg, I headed west by train toward Amsterdam (the German DB is fantastic). And am I ever glad that Amsterdam is the city that rounded out my trip. Not only is it a simply gorgeous city — with colourful architecture, tonnes of trees and parks, and of course all the canals — but it is one of the most interesting places in the entire world. Its history is fascinating, and it has so much of it — from the Dutch East India Company, to the Protestant revolution, to the mystifying policy on recreational drugs, Amsterdam is just bursting with interesting stories. I took a “free tour”, which is not actually free (well, I suppose it could be if you’re really cheap), but you pay what you can (the tour guides make their money only from the tips you give). It’s definitely worth it, because the tour guides are usually awesome (mine was, and friends who have taken the tour before with other guides rave about them, too), super-knowledgeable, and are remarkably adept at making you fall in love with the city. (Not that they have to try too hard. The city largely does that for itself.)

The pickled herring vendor.
The pickled herring vendor.

Aside from the tour, I spent most of my time walking around, taking in the beautiful architecture and greenness of the city, pausing here and there to stuff myself with delicious food. I visited the Amsterdam Museum (a museum of the city’s rich history) and its bright new library (which is enormous and has a restaurant with a great view on the top floor). I sampled delicious pickled herring from a street vendor parked outside Bloemenmarkt (the world’s only floating flower market). Oh, and I tried to pretend the constant rain wasn’t soaking my jacket through, but I don’t even feel that one could call that a downside. The rain is one of the main reasons the city is so green and lovely, after all.

I adored Amsterdam (and really want to go back). Unlike Paris, it not only met my expectations, but exceeded them and then some. I liked all the bicycle infrastructure (especially in newer parts of the city; the very old centre of Amsterdam has streets that are a little too narrow for bike lanes) and the relative harmony between cyclists, drivers, public transport, and pedestrians. (Though the cycling locals do not like tourists who walk into their path, blithely unaware of their surroundings.) I liked the seemingly simplistic and yet oddly beautiful architecture, with the tall, narrow buildings that stretched deep beyond the façade. I liked that, despite how dense and cramped it is in some areas, Amsterdam is a very clean city.

These are stairs -- just in case you were mistaking them for a carpeted ladder.
These are stairs — just in case you were mistaking them for a carpeted ladder.

I even liked Amsterdam’s ridiculous version of stairs: so narrow and steep that you damn near have to go on all fours to climb up. Imagine having to go back down! (By the way, my head suffered on this Europe trip of mine. I can’t even tell you how many times I banged it against some ceiling or wall or piece of furniture. Walking down a particularly steep set of Amsterdam stairs and slamming my forehead into an unexpectedly low ceiling was the worst, though.)

There is so much that I liked about Amsterdam. If you never go anywhere else in the world, go there. It’s a fantastic place and impossible not to enjoy. (Well, maybe not impossible — but you’d have to try pretty hard.) It’s a city I definitely want to visit again.

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