wild in Amsterdam

Written by Donovan January 3, 2014 Category: Europe, Netherlands Tags: , , , , Comments
Amsterdam shouldn’t really exist. The city was dragged out of marshy bogs, dried and carved into the place that we know today. It was an unconventional start and one that seems to have set the tone for things to come. Today, despite something of a conservative Dutch backlash, Amsterdam remains Europe’s most nonconformist city. Locals shun the car and choose instead to career around on bicycles. Prostituion is both legal and public, and this is the only city in the world where you can peruse a cannabis menu and smoke a joint in a coffeeshop. The Netherlands was also the first country to legalise marriage between gay couples. Alongside these progressive ways are, conversely, some of Europe’s greatest traditional attractions. The Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh museum hold two of the world’s finest art collections in the world, while smaller museums such as Anne Frank house and Rembranthuis, provide a real insight into the city’s past. Be prepared for long queues into these museums, especially the Rijksmuseum which celebrated its 50th anniversary just last year after being closed for 10 years of comprehensive renovations.
The city’s future directions seem less certain. Its ‘anything goes’ attitude is under threat from the government’s new hard line on soft drugs, which has seen a fall in the number of coffeeshops, while both main political parties are distancing themselves from the tradition of multiculturalism. Is Amsterdam becoming less tolerant, more like the rest of Europe? It somehow seems unlikely in this engaging liberal oddball of a city.
from Paris Nord to Amsterdam Centraal in 3h

 Arriving in Amsterdam Centraal station after a 3h train ride on the board the confortable Thalys train from Paris Nord station, we were excited to explore this wild and happening city. First stop: not the red light district of course, but we went to explore the Christmas market which was selling an assortment of food and traditional handmade Dutch stuff. We had kebab for dinner, but it tasted horrible and unauthentic, not like the ones I had tried in Berlin or Istanbul.

Amsterdam is synonymous with canals and boats

The red light district is as seedy as you expect; we visited it during the night and saw scantily-clad women prancing around in glass windows. Think window shopping with mannequins that come to life. Prostitues pose in windows, groups of lads barter with pimps and touts try to entice passers-by with promises of live sex shows. Yes, we saw a group of chinese tourists queuing up for a live sex show which cost 50€. I was like why not watch porn at home?

Cheese museum (Prinsengracht 112) free entry and free sampling of cheeses!
what a beautiful day today!

We wanted to visit at least one museum in Amsterdam, but looking at the queues outside Anne Frank house (estimated waiting time was 3h) despite arriving around 10am, we decided to give up and also save the money on other stuff. We chanced upon two museums along a canal – tulip museum and cheese museum, offering free entry, so we happily went in to their shop. The tulip shop was selling different kinds of tulips to be brought home and the museum section required an entrance fee. On the other hand, the cheese museum had a small informative section at the basement which was not visited by many people, so we happily went downstairs and spent quite some time there. We even dressed up in traditional Dutch farming costumes and took photos together. In the cheese shop, there are many varieties of cheese, from wasabi flavoured to spices flavoured, which we tried to our hearts’ content. Ultimately we bought a piece of cumin cheese.

My favourite snack from Netherlands was stroopwafels, which we bought many packs from the supermarket. For freshly made stroopwafels, go to Lanskroon (Singel 385), a historic canalside bakery and tearoom celebrated for its big, crispy stroopwafels (3 flavours available – linden honey, coffee caramel and fig) which are made fresh throughout the day. We met some Singaporean travelers there who gave us their table kindly as they were about to leave. The place is quite small and popular with locals.

historic buildings and modern trams

One of Amsterdam’s most popular city squares is Museumplein, where you will find the ‘I Amsterdam’ sign. This large sign that lies in front of the Rijksmuseum has become an iconic symbol of the city. There were so many kids climbing all over the sign and people sitting in or on the letters to get their photos taken, which we did as well. It is better to visit it early during the day or at night so that you can get a better photo without so many people blocking your view. Near the sign, there was a huge ice-skating rink with many locals who were here to pass their time during the weekend. 

While many tourists opt for the canal cruises that cost at least 10-20€, we skipped that and went to experience a different kind of boat ride. We took a ferry (for free!) located behind Centraal station. It brought us to parts of the city that many others don’t see. We took one of them which lasted less than ten minutes, but it was a good experience. It brought us directly across the harbour to the EYE film institute. You can choose to take the ferry that goes furthest east to Buiksloterdijk as this journey lasts the longest. Many pedestrains and cyclists alike make use of the free ferry to get to the northern district of Amsterdam.
For a day trip out of this metropolitan city, you can go to Zaanse Schans, about an hour’s bus ride from Amsterdam Centraal station. You can tour one of the five functional windmills that are open to the public. We learnt how the windmills played an important role in the countryside and how they are used to manufacture stuff. We spent about 3h taking a leisurely stroll along the polder in Zaanse Schans and caught the bus back to Amsterdam. If you just want to take photos of pretty windmills and get some souvenirs, I think one hour should suffice. Hence this sums up our three days spent in Amsterdam, no weed because we are not drawn into the tourist trap and also drugs are harmful!
Zaanse Schans and its five windmills
I Amsterdam sign so crowded!
the popular Rijksmuseum with 200 years of history and just recently reopened to the public

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