Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Places to go...Amsterdam

Amsterdam has the reputation of being the destination of the young and looking for things usually illegal in their home towns. It is the city that draws in those wanting to indulge in sex and drugs. But it is so much more.
Amsterdam is a city full of culture and fun. As with many European cities it is built on a human scale rather than an industrialised one. A person can walk from end to end of the city and enjoy every part of it in a day. Of course, the best way to travel in Amsterdam is by bicycle. As far as I am concerned Amsterdam created cycle chic. The provisions for cyclists is outstanding and it is done with purpose but not with speed. You can get from A to B on a bicycle in Amsterdam without breaking a sweat. There is no law about helmets either which is a lovely change from Melbourne and means that your hair will flow daintily in the breeze as you pass.
Amsterdam has wonderful market streets that hark back to days gone by and have existed for many years. It has galleries displaying some of the greatest painters of Europe. It has cheese and coffee and food that is to die for. It is a must to visit a Feebo; these odd little walk in shops with vending machine style hot food. So, for a euro you can get a croquette. And of course the chips, frits and served usually in cones with a little wooden fork and typically with mayonnaise. Divine.
The flowers grown in rich dutch soil is not to be missed either. to see field and fields of tulips and other flowers is such a glorious wonder. So are the water systems and dyke's used to reclaim much of the dutch soil form the sea.
Almost everyone speaks English so getting around and asking for help is a breeze and the dutch are so willing to help. Even if you are trying to practise your dutch as soon as they hear an accent they will courteously switch to English for your benefit.
A shopping must is Hema, it is like Target (I suppose) but has all the sensibility of classic dutch design in its products. To try to explain how beloved this store is I point you to a book written by a dutch ex-pat. the title of which is 'I only miss the Hema.'

Amsterdam is not the only great city in The Netherlands and any visit should venture well beyond the canals of Amsterdam. It is worth a day trip to see Dick Bruner's House and visit the golden Miffy statue in the square outside as it is to go to Den Hague to see works by Vermeer and the International Law courts.
Don't forget to check out some of the icons of Dutch culture and history, delftware, diamonds, Jip and Jannika and the canal houses. They are icons for a reason and offer unique experiences in the city.
There is something so European but also so familiar about Amsterdam, it feels like home but still has a curiously exotic flavor which means that you can still get lost for an afternoon wandering the canals without the demands of home and real life calling you back to reality.
Repeat after me "I want to go to there."

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