Ours comes from afar. We have known each other for many years and we make a good couple, or so I think. The truth is that she, Amsterdam, would make a good match with almost anyone. Her character, at the same time liberal and calm, makes her very attractive to everyone who knows her. And that, when she wants, she also knows how to be very funny, very extroverted and cheerful, so happy that she can become overwhelming. Her secrets (many of them, open secrets) make her different and even more interesting. And, of course, she is beautiful, and a serene beauty that often leaves me stunned.
I had the good fortune to meet her many years ago, but those meetings were very fleeting. In two consecutive summers, I had the good fortune to see her, but it was all so fast that ours did not come to fruition. Those sporadic visits always left in me the feeling that I had to see her again. It was clear that there was something special between us.
And finally, I had the opportunity to see her again, to view her more thoroughly, to become intimate and to know each other well, very well I think. After my last relationship with a European (called Paris and was French), I tried to live this experience in another way. With Paris I tried to make the most of the time, to cover a lot in a short time. I think that the intensity of the experience made that idyll was not quite as expected. It was all too intense, too forced, accelerated, that almost became overwhelming.
That is why, with Amsterdam, I have raised our relationship from the beginning in a different way, with more tranquility and taking everything in a much more relaxed manner. I want to know her, but without forcing the march. I went with the idea of letting time pass, losing ourselves in squares, terraces, bars, parks, canals, and alleys and that's how it was. A much less tumultuous and intense relationship than the previous one, but possibly more endearing and that has left me a lot more pleasant.
Well, if you want to find out about how it was our thing, you just have to keep reading. And let's leave so much black and white as it does not go with the personality and the character of Amsterdam. Let's move to color, much more in line with it. It was difficult for my lady love not to know about this adventure. So I thought that the best thing was to ask her directly. As an open-minded girl, she took my affair with Amsterdam with integrity. To my surprise, she did not put any effort in accompanying me to meet her (woman of temper, no doubt).
Day 1 in Amsterdam
The alarm goes off at 5 o'clock in the morning but I can hardly get up knowing that at 8 o'clock the flight will take me to Amsterdam in the Netherlands. After the flight with a stopover and without any incident, I arrived at the Amsterdam airport. At approximately 10 am I arrive in Holland.
The first thing I do is go to the tourist information point of the Schiphol airport (airport where I had made a stopover in the trip to Nicaragua) to check if they have a more complete map than the one I have. But I realize that they are practically the same, so mine is fine. If someone wants to buy one there they cost 2.50 euros.
There they also sell the transport vouchers and take the opportunity to inform me about the best way to get to my hotel. I buy the bus ticket to go to the hotel and a voucher that allows me to use any public transport in Amsterdam for 24 hours for 15 euros. I go out to look for the bus, which is about to leave. So I like that I did not waste time to arrive in a city as I was dying to start discovering it. I ride the bus and spend about 45 minutes without looking away from the windows.
I arrive at the station and start following the instructions that I downloaded on the hotel website and I find it right away. It is close and hassle-free. I'm in a quiet neighborhood full of shops and dining options. I do the check-in, I leave the suitcase and without losing more time I go to the center of Amsterdam by subway using the travel voucher that I just bought. The Amsterdam metro is a mix of metro-train as it often circulates outside, just as we found on the trip I made to Oporto.
When leaving the station, the first image of the city is already good, with a fabulous view of the river, charming buildings and streets full of people and life. This starts well! I turn around to contemplate the building of the station itself. At that time the streets of that area were already beginning to be full of life and people going to the center, like me.
I passed in front of several boat companies that give a tour of the channels for 9 euros. I decided that it was not yet time to navigate the canals. I wanted to see the city a bit. And finally, I ended up not doing the boat trip because I was going with the idea of visiting the canals in boats not very large to enjoy the views, the sun, and the weather.
It turns out that in all the piers I found were huge boats, that did not quite convince me. I do not know if I did not find the right pier or if the boats I saw on the canals are all private. But also, I walked so much through the city and its channels that in the end, I thought that I would surely not see anything new that I had not seen already.
I have already reached a point that I am deciding what to do or not. Not because the Amsterdam travel guide says it is something to do in a city or to put it on the blog. It also starts to happen with the sites that I visit. Before I followed the guides to the spirit without leaving anything behind and I would be stressed if I could not visit everything. Now I select and if there is a site that does not seem interesting to me, I do not go.
Or if I have found somewhere I am comfortable and I want to spend more time there I stay without running away because I have to see. The trips are to enjoy them and since no two people are the same, they do not have to like the same places. Although it is true that I try to visit everything that was marked in advance. But if there are pending things there will be more reason to return!
I started to wander through the center and I found myself immediately in the Red Light District. I soon found shops with products related to cannabis, sex-shops and coffee shops. Welcome to Amsterdam! Right now it seemed a very lively neighborhood with a lot of buzz. I really wanted to see the transformation of this area at night and that same night I return to check it. I took the opportunity to buy something to eat with one of the sandwiches that I found on the road. I did not want to waste much time on food because I did not know exactly what time it was getting dark. I wanted to make the most of the daylight hours of this first day.
And while I enjoyed the streets, the atmosphere, and the first channels, I began to visit the most emblematic places in the city. Oude Kerk is the oldest church in the city. It is in the center of the red light district, and although they say it has a large organ, I decided to visit only the exterior. My next point marked on the map was the famous Dam Square that I arrived to in a few minutes.
It is the nerve center of the city and a square that I would end up going through several times during my visit to Amsterdam. In the square, there is the Royal Palace (Koninklijk Paleis), the Nieuwe Kerk church, the Madame Tussauds museum (which I visited in London and I certainly loved it), as well as bustle and street shows.
Next stop is the house museum of Anne Frank. I was hesitant to enter. Some people had told me it was a recommended visit and others that there was nothing special. So I decided to approach and decide at the time but before I went through the Westerkerk, church that is worth visiting. You can climb the tower and access the viewpoint from which you get fabulous views of the entire city.
What I did not know is that you have to go up in groups, with a guided tour. When I arrived they told me that I was in luck since there was only one entrance left to complete all the visits of the day and the entry was for 4pm. I bought it without thinking and since it was a little over an hour before 4pm, I decided to go to Anne Frank's house.
When I arrived there was a huge queue of people willing to go in. As I was not sure of making the visit the queue at the ticket office helped me to decide. I preferred to go for a walk through the most beautiful canals of the city. So finally I could not see the famous bookstore that covered the entrance to the room where Anna and her family lived hidden for two years.
At 4pm, I returned to Westerkerk. They made us leave the bags in a room that they locked and they only allowed us to take the cameras. We started a visit that I recommend without any doubt. A visit that sometimes requires some effort since it is accessed by narrow and very steep stairs where we find some ropes to grab for safety. Nothing very complicated but you have to take it into account.
We arrived at several rooms with the bell tower. The guides were explaining in English the histories of the church and the city. They gave us a small demonstration of their ability to play familiar melodies through the ensemble of bells. Some people in the group dared to try.
And finally, we reached the highest part of the tower that gave us spectacular views of the canals, streets, and houses of Amsterdam. Being such a flat city we could see it almost entirely. If you have the opportunity do not hesitate to go. There are many canals in Amsterdam and all have their charm. Some streets are more lively and have a special charm for being surrounded by mansions or floating houses adorned with flowers. One of them is the Prinsengracht (the Prince's channel), one of the three channels that form the ring of channels (Grachtengordel).
Another channel that is worth visiting is the Herengracht (channel of the knights), for the splendor of their houses that form a beautiful stamp for its architectural style. The third of the recommended ones are the Singel with old warehouses transformed into houses next to the canal. The truth is that it is a joy to walk these streets. Amsterdam is full of museums, of all kinds. At my pace, without looking for them, I will find more than one. As museums are not my weakness, I went by every time I found one. I did not enter the famous Van Gogh Museum, another of the must-see places in Amsterdam, they say.
As I say, I am not passionate about museums and I do not like Van Gogh's painting either. Therefore, why should I go, to say that I had been there? When I visit a city I prefer to spend time on its streets and its monuments and this is what I did. But luckily there will be people who enjoy museums and they are there for them. My steps took me to Begijnhof at five in the afternoon, right at its closing time. The facade was under construction and it took me a while to find it. The door was closed and I saw at the time that it was already a little late. But at that precise moment, some tourists pressed the door. It opened and they entered and I did the same behind them.
We were able to enter, but once inside they indicated that it was time to close and that we could not continue with the visit. Although I could see the beautiful patio and the gardens of this old asylum that today is a residence for single women with income less than 16,000 euros per year and has a waiting list of 5 years.
Nearby we find Plaza Spui, a lively square but with a bit more tranquility than Dam Square. It is a place located in a shopping street full of shops and bars that came to me as a ring to stop on a terrace to take something and rest a bit. I had not stopped all day and I began to notice the tiredness in my legs. That stop made the afternoon advance a little while taking a break.
I took the opportunity to review the visited places and plan a little what I had left by the day and the next day. I decided that today I would only see the red light district at night. So after the break, I take a quiet stroll without looking at the map in the direction of the red light district.
The afternoon began to fall and the window curtains began to rise and the red lights started to light up. I was quite shocked to see the girls exposed near the shop windows and the expectation of several men around them, most of the time tourists. Sexual exchange places appear on facades that during the day would not have caught your attention at all.
Moreover, during the day when I walked around the neighborhood for the first time, I was wondering if I had found it or not. Because I was not able to distinguish the locals. It is that many times there are no signs announcing them, as they do not need. At night the red lights leave no doubt. It is also true that the majority of girls in shop windows are in alleys and not in main streets.
I walked alone through these streets. Although I did not get a feeling of insecurity, it was not very pleasant to walk those streets that were more lively than I had thought at first. I did not like seeing the girls exposed and little groups of men (mostly tourists) watching them in front of the shop windows. Although the first one hits you a lot, you get used to it right away. You have to be careful with the photos since it is not allowed to photograph the girls.
It was night and I saw a different, bright, bright Amsterdam that I ended up falling in love with. There was no time left for more. And so I put an end to the first day that had left me very good taste with a good impression of the city.
Day 2 in Amsterdam
Without the alarm ringing, I wake up wishing it was a reasonable hour to get up and continue discovering Amsterdam. This is something that usually does not happen to me when I am at home. But while I'm on the road, impatience and the desire to visit the destination make my body not prioritize the hours of sleep. It seems that I understand perfectly that we have to optimize the hours of the day.
I get up and have breakfast at the hostel where I have slept well. As I told you, it's my first time in a hostel. Accommodation is expensive in Amsterdam but if we move away from the center we can find hotels at more affordable prices. Or we can also consider finding other types of accommodation such as hostels or cheap apartments in Amsterdam that are usually of high quality.
My first stop of the day is the Vondelpark. Since it is the furthest point from the center that I want to visit, I will be getting closer to the center with each new visit. The 24-hour transport voucher is valid for metro or tram. This time I use the tram since the metro stop is a bit far. The Vondelpark is the largest and oldest park in the city, where everyone can find the activity to enjoy.
I see people running, others sunbathing, reading a book, doing yoga, playing an instrument or juggling. It is a large garden with grass, lakes, and trees that make it an ideal place to relax. I love these small oases of peace within big cities such as Hyde Park in London, Royal Park of Brussels, or the one we find in Frankfurt, a city that I will talk about soon.
After the pleasant morning walk through the park, I continued with my plans for the day and walked to the museum area, located very close to Voldenpark. In this area, I find the Van Gogh Museum, Stedelijk Museum, Coster Diamonds and Museumplein, and Rijksmuseum. In the Rijksmuseum, the masterpieces of painters, such as Rembrandt are there. I guess it goes without saying that I did not enter but the building is an architectural beauty that reminds me of the aesthetics of a cathedral. While crossing it I find one of the most popular and expected images of Amsterdam, the famous letters 'I Amsterdam' in which everyone takes a photograph.
I headed to the center in search of the Bloemenmarkt, the flower market, walking again through beautiful streets with canals. Each one has its differences that make the walks very pleasant. Although the star variety is tulips and their bulbs, in this market I find many more types of flowers. Once at this point I went back to walk through the center, through streets that two days ago were totally unknown and that now I recognize right away.
And it was time to treat me in the form of a white chocolate waffle. I kept wandering to the central station and before continuing with the last visits of the day I went to have a coffee at a cafe located right next to it, with great views of the canal. I took advantage of the Wi-Fi connection there to connect to the networks and talk for a while with my friends.
Finally and after this necessary moment of rest after all day walking I decided to spend the last hours of daylight. I set out to visit the area near the station where I find the Nederlands Scheepvaartmuseum that recalls the naval history of the country with a collection of ships and replicas.
Then I saw the Amsterdam, a reproduction of the Dutch East Indies of the eighteenth century that sank on the English coast. A few meters away I came across the Science Center NEMO and the Scheepvaarthuis science museum and maritime house respectively. The first has an incredible roof terrace from which to watch the sunset. In turn, the Scheepvaarthuis has a very peculiar building simulating a prow of an approaching ship. It is worth taking a walk in this area on the banks of the Het Ij.
There was no time for more. It was night and it was time to return to the hotel for dinner, rest and prepare the suitcase because the next day my flight left in the morning. I could not visit anything else. I ended a few days discovering the Dutch capital. I brought back some tulips in my suitcase and good memories in my heart.